They harvest grapes on rooftop, give them free

They harvest grapes on rooftop, give them free

Small vines yielding grapes is nothing new. But harvesting the fruit on a small terrace in a grand manner is something special. The hard-work will always bear fruit. For Selvaraj Gowda it is sour and sweet as he took up the challenge and recently brought home the bacon of harvesting more than 300 kg grapes in a season on the terrace of his house at Pulliyampatti, a small village near Vedanchandhur Taluk in Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu.

A tractor driver by profession, the 42-year-old god-fearing person Selvaraj hails from a poor family and his love for nature began at a tender age. His passion for growing vegetables started when he was in the fifth standard.

However, the idea of growing grapes on the terrace was suggested by his wife, Soundeshwari, a couple of years back. “My wife gave me a small bunch of grapes and asked me to taste it. She told me that the sweet grapes were grown in clay pots at her friend's place,” Selvaraj, who also does voluntary work at temples, said.

“When I took interest in growing grapes in our place, we had constraints of space to make a grape garden around my house,” he said. That made him almost drop the idea. However, his wife was not the one who was willing to give up easily. Soundeshwari promised full cooperation in developing a grape garden on his terrace and Selvaraj decided to take a plunge into grape cultivation and that too on his house rooftop.

“Initially, I spent Rs 15,000 to set up steel beams and other necessary equipment on my terrace,” Selvaraj said. To mobilise additional funds for his new venture, he slogged and worked extra hours. That helped him in arranging the seed fund for the path-breaking initiative. He had about 900 sq feet available on the roof but decided to use only about 700 sq ft for the cultivation.

Luckily, it clicked and he harvested good crop. As the terrace faces south, there is good sunshine throughout the day. “I spent a few thousand rupees to ensure shade for roots of the plants. This was needed as continuous exposure to sunlight would have meant the plant would dry  up,” he said.

Besides, the couple tied wire crisscross on the terrace to enable the plant to creep, spread and grow without hitches. They made grape cuttings and planted them in the tank constructed on the terrace.

Selvaraj and his wife's hardwork was not in vain. The first harvest fetched him 50 kg good grapes. “I and my wife were very happy when the flowers slowly turned into grapes,” he said. He credited his wife for the achievement and stressed “without Soundeshwari nothing could have been done.”

“I used simple bio-fertilisers like cow dung and regular watering during summer as it is essential for healthy grape growing,” he said. Natural tropical climate and regular wind and sun prevented pest attack on plants.

“There is a big advantage in our place,” he said. “We had options to regulate and make changes required for cultivation of grapes. Everything from water management to nutrient factor were under our control,” he said.

Selvaraj also efficiently undertook pest control measures. He says that the common pests of grape farming are flea beetles, thrips, mealy bugs and leaf hoppers. According to him, the sugar content in grapes determines when the fruit is ready to be harvested. “The grapes are ready to harvest in about five to six months,” he said.  Selvaraj cleverly chose to grow “Panneer Grapes,” a popular fruit across the south India, by considering local growing conditions.

Explaining about the second harvest, he said “after the harvest is over, it is important to trim all green growth that you do not want to be part of the main trunk.” Interestingly, the couple do not sell the grapes but give them to poor children in the area. “We have decided not to sell even a single grape that is grown on our roof. Even if I grow one tonne, it will be given to children and poor people,” Selvaraj asserted.

Selvaraj’s efforts were recognised by the local farmers association, which pitched in to help him in the second harvest. “After hearing about my success, local farmers helped me in giving organic fertiliser and equipment so that I could do better in the next harvest by getting 150 kg of grape,” he said.

“My friends and neighbours came forward to help me. Some of them offered me steel poles, a few others natural fertilisers and even grape seeds,” he said.

Recently, Selvaraj cultivated 300 kg in his third harvest. He claims during the latest harvest, each bunch of grapes weighed about 250 grams. “We are planning to achieve about 500 kg,” he added.

As per an expert's advice, Selvaraj allowed the grapes to grow freely in his latest cultivating season, without removing canes. He supported the vine with extra bamboo stake. “Extra growth of leaves in this season will also make roots stronger and ensure that the plant gets a good start in the next season,” he said.

Keeping in mind the help from his friends and neighbours, Selvaraj shared the fruits. “This time I had enough grapes to give to more people and children", he said. Selvaraj adds that rooftop grape harvesting will also be a learning environment where kids from local schools, who love nature, could understand utilisation of space. Selvaraj also grows vegetables around his house. “I have some space around my house to grow vegetables,” he said.
Selvaraj's daughter, who is in the ninth standard, helps her father.

Brinjal, carrot, snake gourd, red pumpkin, cucumber, tomato and ladies finger are the latest entry to Selvaraj's garden.



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