A few tips on growing veggies on your rooftop or terrace.

As the air, water and soil around us gets more polluted, we need to counter the chemical poisoning on a daily basis. An organic terrace garden is one of the small ways in which to do this. Easy to create and maintain, all they need is proper planning and some regular care.

Terrace gardens can be large or small depending on the space available, and they are excellent for flowers or vegetables. This week, let’s look at kitchen gardens. In coming weeks, we can look at flowers, lawns and even trees on your roof.

As rule, when planning a roof garden, even if it’s just potted plants, it’s important to check the weather-proofing and drainage. If this is done perfectly, it’s as good as any garden on the ground level.

Look for large containers in material such as terracotta, clay, porcelain, cement, tin or even plastic (although I am not a fan). Discarded cisterns, tyres, or leaky buckets all make good planters. Whatever the material, the container should allow water to drain properly. Make a hole at the bottom, if it does not already have one.

Next, fill them with garden soil or red earth, river sand, and manure in a 1:1:1 ratio. Mix these well. You can add half a portion of coco-peat if available, since it helps to retain moisture in the soil. Fill the pot with this mixture, but leave at least four inches of room from the top to allow for watering and aeration.

Now choose the vegetables you want to grow. Perennials such as tomatoes and herbs like mint and coriander are easiest to start with. Root vegetables such as potatoes and onions are easy to manage but need time and space. Carrots and turnips need much more care and temperature control. All-time favourites such as brinjal, ladies’ finger, green chilly, or curry leaves grow easily and are an absolute delight. Make two or three holes about 6 inches deep in the soil mix if you are planting saplings; and about 2-3 inches deep if you are using seeds.

Water your seeds or saplings, and leave them to take root. Make sure the earth is moist but not too soggy. Too much water can rot the saplings but too little will make them wilt. In about a week’s time, the saplings will take root and the pods will come up. Water regularly. Watering in the early mornings is best since evaporation is less and plants get more time to absorb the water. If this is difficult, however, you can water them in the evenings after the heat wears off. In about three to six months, your first veggies should be out.

Vegetables that grow on creepers are an easy addition. All they need is support in the form of some pergolas or pandals (bamboo arches will do). Plants like ash gourd (podalangai), double beans (avarakkai), French beans, bitter gourd (pavakkai), cluster beans (kotthavarangai), pumpkins (poosanikkai), bottle gourd (sorrakai), and cucumber can all be grown on the terrace with a little help and support. Some of these are seasonal and need a lot of summer sunlight.

Make sure the roots are well covered with soil. Last but not the least, take time to weed your plants regularly. Go ahead, enjoy the veggies of your labour!