In the mad jumble of a city that is Chennai, residents are attempting to make up for the balding green cover by opting for plants which arrange themselves within four walls, and vegetables which sprout out of pots the size of the vessels they are cooked in. The backyard and the balcony is the new farm, and it has got everyone from I.A.S aspirants to retired professionals reaching out for their pruners and hoes.

The Information and Training Centre of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Anna Nagar, which imparts training in courses ranging from kitchen gardening to cultivating mushroom, in the words of Shanthi Balasubramanian, Professor and Head, sometimes attracts so many applicants that they sometimes have to organise the course for the second time without ‘informing the press’ about it.

The one-day course on ‘Kitchen Gardens’ which was conducted on Wednesday covers aspects such as advantages of growing your own vegetables, plants suited for cultivation, choice of location, soil conditions, maintenance and harvesting. The centre also provides candidates with a list of useful websites and agro-input outlets from where they can source seeds and necessary items.

M. Velmurugan, Assistant Professor (Horticulture) who is the facilitator at the centre for the courses on gardening and cultivation says that while many people have gardens, not many know how to take care of it.

Designed to be interactive, the session splices in presentations, interactions and demos explaining the different aspects of gardening.

Sufficient space though a prerequisite, must not become a deterrent, he notes. “While vacant land is ideal for cultivation, vegetables can also be grown in containers for those living in apartment complexes Anything from earthen pots to used buckets to old sinks and rice bags can be used to grow plants,” he says.

While vacant land is suitable for cultivating fruits, most vegetables and medicinal plants can be easily grown in containers. Harvesting the yield at the right time, however, is most crucial. “Once the course is over, we continue to give them support over the phone, or they can even come in person with their doubts,” he adds.

The centre opened in 2000, says Ms. Shanthi and has trained 15,000 to 17,000 people. The fee is Rs. 400 for general category, Rs. 300 for SHGs, and Rs. 200 for students.

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