Veera Lakshmi and Pushpa, winners of roof-top garden competition, tell L. Kanthimathi a little bit of greenery is often all it takes to enrich a life.

Veera Lakshmi recently bagged a cash prize of Rs. 25,000 for coming first in the gardening competition, which was among a slew of events organised by the Chennai Corporation over a fortnight ago to celebrate Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa’s birthday.

Veera Lakshmi plans to celebrate the achievement by spending the entire amount on her garden.

With summer just a month away, Lakshmi feels that the garden needs to be provided proper shade from the blazing sun and she will be buying sheets to cover it.

Pushpa, who won the second prize, was presented with a cash prize of Rs.10,000; she plans to spend it towards bamboo pots, now the in-thing in gardening.

The two had competed under the ‘green leaves’ category. While a lush green and dense solanum nigrum (manathakkali keerai) with fruits and amaranth leaves (mulai keerai) fetched the title for Veera Lakshmi, ponnankani keerai, pasali keerai and akhathi keerai won Pushpa the second spot.

“I had displayed red and white varieties of akhathi keerai which is not usually sold in the market,” says Pushpa, a manager at Indian Overseas Bank.

Both abstain from using chemical fertilisers. They nurtured their plants with organic manure which they made by composting the degradable waste generated from their households.

For Veera Lakshmi, it was her strong sense of obligation towards nature that inspired her to raise a garden.

“I raised the garden to do my bit to protect the environment. Threats from green house gases, depletion of natural resources and vanishing bio-diversity cannot be ignored,” she said. “Next, I want to focus on growing fruit-bearing plants.”

“I learnt the art of kitchen gardening from workshops conducted by the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University Information and Training Centre at Anna Nagar,” she said. Today, Veera Lakshmi is a small-time entrepreneur who sells seeds, manure and saplings.

“I will say that Nagercoil in Kanyakumari district, where I come from, is a source of inspiration. It is verdant and fertile. There, almost every house has a kitchen garden. We have tapioca, yam, lady’s finger, brinjal, pumpkin, plantains, and coconut and jackfruit trees. People hardly depend on the market.

“Here, in order to do away with dry and lifeless environment of a city life, I have cultivated plants that bear vegetables and fruits,” Pushpa said.

Both the winners suggest that the Government should promote kitchen gardening and in cities by encouraging participation of residents.

This would be a way to bring down costs of food items, they said.