It is not so difficult to grow your own vegetables at home, says Chitra Krishnaswamy to Parshathy. J. Nath

Last June, Chitra Krishnaswamy, a home maker, decided to take up terrace farming. What began as a hobby soon grew into a passion. Six months later, Chitra’s terrace garden has grown in to a full-fledged farm with 14 types of greens, varieties of tomatoes, chillies, radishes, ladies finger, pineapples, and sapotas. Now Chithra spends almost the entire day on her terrace, tending to her greens and fruits.

Her family has not bought any vegetables from the market, for the last two months, says Chitra. “At times we get so many vegetables that I end up gifting them away. There is a big difference in taste between these and the ones you get in the market. These are so fresh and juicy!”

More than terrace gardening, what caught her interest was kitchen waste composting. She ordered around 30 - 40 terracotta kambas (jars) from Daily Dump, an organisation based out of Bangalore. In a shed outside her house, she has around 38 kambas and 100 leave-it pots for storing the manure. “These have holes that facilitate the process of aeration, which is essential for composting.” Chitra is the only dealer for these containers in the city.

Chitra says every house- hold can reduce the garbage in the neighbourhood, if they made use of their kitchen wastes. “Many families hesitate to make manure out of kitchen wastes as they feel storing these wastes will produce a bad odour or it is unhygienic. However, they can’t be more wrong. The minute you mix it with dry leaves and microbes and leave it for composting, the bacteria start their work. In a day it turns into compost and, there won’t be any foul smell. ”

Anyone can grow a container garden in their terrace or on a balcony. However, you need to take some precautions too, she warns. “You should be careful that the containers are kept in such a way that rain water falls gently or just drizzles into the pot. If the water falls too heavily into the soil, it can affect the plant.”

Chitra also demonstrates how to manufacture kitchen manure and start terrace gardens to school students and house wives.

She says, “If we put our minds to it, we can do it. Nature gives us so much. We need to give something back. And this way, our future generations can have nutritious vegetables that do not contain pesticides or fertilizers.”

Manure out of kitchen waste

* Collect previous day’s kitchen waste, including vegetable and fruit peels and egg shells.

* Do not use fruits that are maggot-infested, as they can affect the quality of the manure.

* Put the wastes into a colander or any container with holes in it.

* Add dry leaves to this. This will prevent the worms and maggots from thriving on damp kitchen waste.

* Add compost accelerator. It could be a packet of microbes or even cow urine or cow dung.

* Mix well and store the mixture in the containers.

* Turn over the mixture once every four days so that the bottom half also gets enough oxygen required for composting.

* The manure will be ready in 40 to 45 days.

How to create a container garden?

Mix 50 per cent of coir pith, 25 per cent of red soil and 25 per cent of manure to prepare the growing medium

Lay this inside the container in which you are planting the seeds.

Plant the seeds.

Keep the container in an area where there is enough sunlight and water.

In the coming months, Chitra recommends cabbages and cauliflowers. Monsoon is the best time to grow these vegetables as the pests called aphides that attack them will be washed away by the rain. She also suggests adding a dash of colour to the garden by growing radishes, keerais, beetroots and carrots.

To know more about container gardening and kitchen waste composting, contact Chitra Krishnaswamy at 98655-24323.