Home gardeners in Bengaluru find their mojo during pandemic
For the seven and four-year-olds of restaurateur Abhilash VK, it was the idea of waking up every morning, running to their balcony and picking fresh strawberries in their vegetable garden. Their breakfast was incomplete without them.
Abhilash started his patio gardening project shortly before the pandemic. He hired the services of a gardening company to arrange the garden. They have taken care of the soil and other infrastructure and provide a monthly service for fertilizer application and pest management. Since the pandemic, home visits have stopped, he says, so he can only maintain his fruit garden now.
Its collection of fruit trees is quite interesting: it has star fruit, strawberry guava, seedless lemon, mulberry, butter guava, and dragon fruit, among others.
Professional mechanical engineer Pradeep Chowdary wanted to use the skills he knows to build his own hydroponic garden. During the confinement, he obtained the necessary elements, some seeds, and patiently waited for its germination process. He took advantage of the lockdown period to understand the technique and see if he could explore it on a commercial basis.
“Unfortunately, my plan didn’t work. My schedule was busy and I was unable to complete the installation on time. I could have tried the ordinary soil in a pot method, but it was a learning process that I wanted to explore, ”says Pradeep.
As it looks like he will continue to work from home, he plans to restart the project. He says, “I know what I did wrong and I need to improve my time management. I have to make sure that the growing phase has better soil and also find a way for the plants to survive even though I can’t watch them very closely all the time. A hydroponic system is perfect for this; it allows me to control the environment.
Harish Kalyanpur, a software engineer, is starting small. He uses his 700 square foot patio to grow red okra, bananas, papaya, lemon, brinjal, and tomato, among others. Speaking about his gardening experience, he says, “The biggest challenge is controlling pests and worms. You need to make sure the ground is straight and give them enough (room to) maneuver.
Harish takes the help of online videos to figure out how to improve his garden. “The vegetables we harvested are really good,” he says.
Sourcing for daily needs
IT professional Bharathi P quit her job and decided to use her plot of land near Devanahalli to grow vegetables. She says, “I remember visiting farmland when I was a child because my father would take us there during summer vacation. But 25 years of business life has never given me the opportunity to pursue this interest further. So after quitting my job and after a little stint in home gardening, I decided to clear up the 2,500 square feet of land and start cultivating.
She planted young coconut trees and later vegetables like gourd, bitter gourd, chili, cilantro, tomato and pumpkin. “I had planted the pumpkin right before the lockdown and by the time I came back we had so many pumpkins growing on the dirt,” she recalls.
The challenges abound in an ordinary farm, in a row in a terraced garden. Bharathi said, “You have to determine which plant needs more light. You need to make sure that the water does not clog and, most importantly, understand soil management. In my plot I found a lot of rocks when planting. I had to manage my crops accordingly and make sure they had a good environment to grow. Whatever Bharathi cultivates in the field is sufficient for his family and close friends.
Improve agricultural land
Sangita Sharma from Annadana teaches exactly that. She says: “People who grow their own produce will only contribute to food security. You can eventually produce more seeds and continue the cultivation process. Through online consultations and virtual seminars, Annadana teaches urban gardeners how to transform their balconies and terraces into their fruit and vegetable market.
Read more: Everything you need to know about composting garden waste
Sangita says: “What I have noticed the most about this pandemic is the interest that working professionals show in agriculture. Many of those who have returned to their hometowns focus on improving their farmland. They help their parents to plant, pick and build boundaries between each section / area.
She recommends that members of the Resident Welfare Association take the initiative to create their own gardens or generate organic compost. “The backyard of a police station can also be used to grow vegetables for workers,” she adds.
Garden landscaping at home
As for those who need help understanding different soils, companies like My Dream Garden are helpful. Saravana Kumar, the company’s research manager, says they provide end-to-end services, including its maintenance, provision of gardening items, and pest, nutrient and disease management.
“We used to visit people’s homes before delivering their required items so that we could suggest which plant is best for their home and lifestyle. Now (during lockdown) we’re taking video consultations, webinars, and workshops to help them. We have around 40 graduates in agriculture and horticulture working with us, ”explains Saravana.
Read more: Locked up at home during COVID? Rooftop gardening can give you a break
From 90 to 100 vegetable gardens each month before the pandemic, they are helping to build 180 to 200 gardens per month now.
Gardening Dos and Don’ts for Beginners
The people above mentioned how helpful it is to have your own garden where you can be sure where your produce is coming from. Food blogger and author Nandita Iyer has some tips for those starting a garden.
She says: Don’t overwhelm yourself with a bunch of articles. Start with the smallest and easiest so you know you’ll be able to monitor their growth. Green leafy vegetables like spinach, lettuce, and radishes are a great way to start. Sometimes you don’t even need seeds to get started – any leftover vegetable root you use at home is enough to grow a new one.
She points out that the germination process will take a few weeks, but when supervised properly, with the right amount of water, soil, and sun, the end result will be worth it.
“Herbs are also easy to care for. It will also add to be a decorative element in your home. Put the herbs in a small pot and place it somewhere in your house like a table top and it will instantly brighten up the room, ”adds Nandita.
Microgreens are another great addition to your vegetable garden. “Mustard, fennel and fenugreek seeds are easy to manage and the microgreens will enhance the flavor of almost any dish,” she says.
It is very important to understand pest control, nutrient control and the necessary soil required. While taking care of plants is quite tedious and time consuming, it’s easy to manage once you get the hang of it, she says.
Another important aspect is the regular watering of the plants. Nandita says, “Check the soil moisture and pour in the required water. It doesn’t matter what time of day you do it. If you give your plants enough care, that will also pay attention to you. And what’s more, it’s great for the environment.
In 2011, the late Dr BN Vishwanath (pioneer of organic terraced gardening in Bengaluru) and other passionate gardeners established a trust called the Garden City Farmers Trust. They planned a community event for World Vegetable Garden Day, celebrated each year in August. Citizen Matters was the media partner.
The first event named Oota from your Thota took place on August 28, 2011 at BTM Layout, in southern Bengaluru
Over the years, it has grown into a quarterly event moving to different locations in the city, providing a reliable source of organic seeds, saplings, medicinal plants, compost and composters, potting soil, a variety of planters, organic food and books a meeting place for organic gardening enthusiasts.
Bengaluru’s organic vegetable garden community has only grown stronger over the years. The Organic Terrace Gardeners (OTG) Facebook group has over 37,000 members!