Every morning, 84-year-old Hema Rao climbs up one ground of her home in Bengaluru with a small basket in hand. Once she reaches the terrace of her residence complicated, she walks round, fastidiously inspecting the blue colored drums of lush vegetable crops, unfold throughout 12,000 sq ft.
She picks the ripest greens, pulls out a pair of scissors, snips the branches and collects what she wants in her basket. Then, she brings the harvest again residence.
The octogenarian has adopted this routine for the previous few years, offering recent greens for her household day-after-day.
Her son Aditya says, “The other day, my mother brought five eggplants and three bitter gourds. Knowing that these would be insufficient to feed our family of five, she innovated a unique recipe combining the two with jaggery and kitchen spices. It turned out to be delicious.”
Aditya says that these are the small joys of getting an natural terrace backyard. “Call it a hobby or whatever you want, having a garden with chemical-free vegetables has brought multiple benefits for us,” he tells The Better India.
On the terrace of Ittina Anai Apartments in Bellandur, a number of residents, impressed by the Rao household, have come collectively to develop quite a lot of greens to cut back their dependence on market produce, in a bid to maneuver in direction of natural farming. While the Raos started with 6,000 sqft of area, a number of others joined in later.
The Raos harvest round 12 kilos of greens in per week, and say that their prices of groceries and such family bills have decreased by 60 per cent.
An immensely rewarding exercise
Aditya (47) says, “My family belongs to Hyderabad, and we moved to Bengaluru in 1999. We had a 2-acre bungalow back then, where my mother grew all the vegetables in her kitchen garden. Around 2012, we moved here in an apartment complex, and she started missing how she grew her own food, something she loved the most back in Hyderabad.”
This, he says, impressed the household to transform their terrace into an edible backyard that not solely provides them candy solace, but additionally immense well being advantages.
Hema and her daughter-in-law Chitralekha started rising meals as a each day exercise. “The apartment structure restricted my mother, and she missed the open space to roam around during morning and evening hours. So I brought home a few recycled drums, in which she started growing vegetables. These have now become a full-fledged garden with green leafy vegetables such as coriander, basil, mint, spinach, and gourds, as well as tubers like beetroot, radish, carrot and potato,” he says.
Aditya says the terrace additionally has tomatoes, peanuts, yams, amaranthus, chilli, capsicum, peas, various kinds of beans, and fruits equivalent to papaya.
He explains that each one the greens are grown utilizing natural strategies. “We used recycled plastic drums to fill them with coco peat and mix the sludge extracted from a sewage treatment plant installed in our society,” he says.
He provides, “The lighter soil mix makes repotting and handling the drums convenient. Plus, it prevents soil stains on the floor and reduces the water consumption.”
Aditya says sludge is the by-product obtained after processing sewage and has wealthy vitamins equivalent to ammonia, nitrogen, phosphorus and others, important for the expansion of the crops. “We use minimal soil to combine the fertile mixture, which makes the drums much lighter. If we use soil alone, each drum would weigh about 50 kilos, whereas using the mixture reduces it to approximately 15 kilos. We have to be careful with weight as the load adds to the building structure,” he says.
The crops obtain handled water from the STP. “We refrain from using fresh water from the civic body. This step reduces water consumption and saves precious resources. Unlike other residential societies, we do not hire transport to treat our sludge and other waste. All waste is treated at its source,” he says.
Aditya makes use of neem oil, water blended with chilli and different pure strategies for pest administration. “We do not mind sharing food with squirrels, monkeys, pigeons or other biodiversity elements. But it is the bugs and infections such as fungus or infestation by worms, which needs remedial action,” he provides.
Aditya says that whereas natural farming is difficult and yields much less harvest, it’s rewarding by way of well being. “At present, we harvest 12 kilos of vegetables in a week. We could have achieved 50-70 per cent more yield using chemical fertilisers. But then the objective of consuming fresh, healthy food would be defeated,” he provides.
He additionally notes that rising their very own meals has decreased their want for making journeys to the market. “We still rely on the market to buy onion, potato, ginger and a few other vegetables,” he says.
Moreover, train has supplied well being advantages to the household. “My mother and wife were diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency. But since they started spending time on the terrace, the health issue has been resolved. Family members fall ill less frequently, and require fewer trips to the hospital,” he says.
He claims that the inexperienced cowl over the terrace additionally helps the flats on the highest ground stay cooler by 3-5 levels Celsius. “So far, we have not spent more than Rs 25,000 on maintaining our garden, and the rewards are unmeasurable,” he says.
Inspiring others to affix in
Aditya provides that their initiative has additionally impressed ten members within the residential complicated. “Some of them dropped out later, but together, we are growing food on 12,000 square feet of space. All the residents living in 72 apartments spread across four buildings are direct and indirect beneficiaries. The surplus produce is used for selling, sharing or distributing by the food growers,” he notes.
Sudha Anand Bala, who took inspiration from the Rao household, says, “I was highly impressed when I saw their terrace garden, and started gardening immediately. Since 2021, I have grown eggplants, tomatoes, spinach, peas, bottle gourd, bitter gourd, okra, fenugreek and coriander.”
Sudha says she took classes from Aditya on utilizing natural fertilisers and experimented with rising a number of greens. “I gave away surplus chillies and other vegetables to neighbours. Some of them visited my garden and took an interest too,” she provides.
She additionally notes that the extra profit is that extra individuals have grow to be excited by terrace gardening. “Earlier, no person visited the empty terrace space. But now, many residents climb up to take an evening walk around the greenery. It also makes children excited, and some of them show interest in wanting to grow vegetables,” he says.
However, Aditya needs fanatics to grasp that sustaining an natural terrace or kitchen backyard requires immense ardour and dedication. “Many people inquire and question the cost-effectiveness and returns of the activity. However, it is for every person to realise that such an exercise is not on a commercial scale and can only suffice the needs of a limited number of consumers,” he says.
Edited by Divya Sethu