Gone are those days when you could afford to have a nice independent house with enough space around for a lush green kitchen garden. In the good old days, some of our parents were blessed with fresh vegetables plucked right from own their kitchen gardens!
Today, if we have a pot of Tulsi or money plant (devil’s ivy) at our cranked apartments, that’s considered a luxury! In our hectic daily lives today, can we afford to have a tiny little kitchen garden in our balcony and grow some vegetables?
Does gardening mean to you toiling in the hot sun to till the soil, manuring and watering it, planting the seeds, then weeding the soil and then regular watering and then finally cutting the harvest? No, relax, sometimes life does provide an easy way out!
Surprisingly, kitchen gardening in an urban setting is quite easy. There are people who not only have grown vegetables, but also successfully maintained a lush green terrace garden or even grown Ragi! The images below tell better tales than words do!
Anusuya Sharma and her husband are pioneers in roof top kitchen garden in Bangalore. Due to their regular activities and articles published in the media, their tiny kitchen garden on top of their 30×40 feet sized house is now a demonstration site for agriculture students!
Abhinav Gangumalla, the founder of Hyderabad Goes Green is another pioneer in our own city. He has innovated a water-proof garden known as ‘Square Foot Garden”. In his small plot around his shop in Banjara Hills, he has cultivated many ornamental plants and vegetables.
Siddartha Sikdar, an IT consultant has created a terrace garden haven in Pune! He has been self-learning Permaculture and practicing it in his suburban building, which is a row house in a gated community.
What are the different plants that can be grown at home? Mostly they would be flowering plants and ornamental shrubs, right?
Wrong! A lot many plants including many types of vegetables can be grown at home in pots and in limited space. There are people who not only have grown and harvested vegetables, but also successfully maintained a lush green terrace garden!
Plants can be categorized based on climatic type, seasonal and their commercial value. For our purpose of urban farming, we can broadly divide them into two types –
- Perennial plants – these plants have long span of life usually lasting more than a one year and are not affected by seasons. Typically, most ornamental plants are perennial.
- Seasonal plants – these plants have a short span of life typically lasting only one season. Typically, most food bearing plants are seasonal.
Eligibility criteria for kitchen gardeners
A housewife, an IT consultant and a retail entrepreneur – these examples prove that there is no typical kitchen gardener. Although any tom, dick and harish can aspire to become a good kitchen gardener, only a few can really attain the professional status due to some eligibility criteria –
- Patience – a must have criteria since potting, planting, watering, and then ripening all are slow processes. A green gram seed germinates in a day, while coriander takes 28 days! |
- Muddy hands – as they say you can enjoy the fruits without muddying your hands, kitchen gardeners should not mind a little mess of handling wet soil and compost once in a while!
- Sunlit space – you should have a balcony or a washing space where direct sunlight comes in at least in the morning.
- Spare time – you should be able to spare 20 minutes every day in the morning to check your plant’s growth and one hour’s time every weekend to tend the plants.
- Stomach for failures – no task in this world can be failure free, but gardening can be disheartening sometimes due to nature’s vagaries.
- Chemical resistance – you must resist the temptation to buy any kind of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, growth hormones which are promoted as stimulators for your plant’s growth.
Step 1 – Ground preparation
Since there is no real ground to prepare in an apartment or a terrace, this task implies the work to be done to create a layout for your plants. You can begin with a just a single pot of plant and slowly add more later, or you could buy a bunch of pots and begin simultaneously. If you are worried about earthen pots breaking up, you can prefer cement or plastic pots. The ideal ones are large flat cement panes and plastic containers.
Step 2 – Soil mixture and potting process
Ideally you should have a 1:1:1 mixture of red sand, soil and compost. Place the 1 portion sand at the bottom of the pot, the next level is 1 portion soil and final portion is the compost or manure. It can be decayed cow dung, vermicompost from earthworms or plain compost. In the beginning you can buy compost to fill your pots, but the next time, you should be preparing it yourself!
Step 3 – Planting and gardening
You should be selecting the right plants that are suitable to your kitchen garden. Ideally, regular vegetables such as tomato, chillies, potato, mint, coriander, brinjal, lady’s finger, methi can all be grown in pots. However, it is better to experiment with just two in the beginning. Seeds of these plants can be bought in any agricultural shop or horticultural nursery where they sell flowering plants.
Step 4 – Pest care and harvesting
Pests and diseases such as leaf rot, aphid infection are rare for hardy vegetable plants. However, if they occur, they can be controlled by bio-pesticide spray made of neem, turmeric ash, etc. The last step is to pluck and enjoy the harvest!
Finally, if you have already begun your journey of urban farming, please await our expert guidance to move on to the advanced level.
Meanwhile did you know that World Kitchen Garden Day is celebrated on the last Sunday of every August by the Kitchen Gardeners International! So it’s high time for our Aloo Pyaaz from our humble kitchen to go international!
This article is a synopsis of a lecture presented at the ‘LearnSocial‘ training workshop in Hyderabad.