Gardens

The balcony scene

All you need is five pots to start. So says Chitra Krishnaswamy to a gathering of women from FICCI Ladies Organisation and Siruthuli. Chitra is well known in the city for her fabulous terrace garden that grows everything from chillies to big,fat pumpkins.

Listening to Chitra makes one want to do gardening, even if one has never done it before. For those of us out there who find the elaborate instructions and dos and don’ts intimidating, Chitra’s tips make it sound ridiculously simple. She says she was the same way with not a clue about gardening. When the kids grew up and she found herself with plenty of time, she decided to give vegetable gardening a go on a whim.

“I just went to the nearest nursery and picked up almost all the seeds I could lay my hands on and plenty of pots. But I realise now that that is not the right way to go about it. It gets overwhelming,” says Chitra who has since then become an expert on home gardens. What about space? Especially for those who live in apartments?

“Get five pots. And grow the five things you use every day in your cooking,” she suggests. For example, curry leaves, coriander, chillies, tomatoes and greens like palak. Chitra explains how to start step-by-step. “It is not just about the thrill of gardening. It is a larger issue. Growing vegetables oneself ensures better health for our family, better budgeting and less wastage. If we all decide to do it, the volume of garbage we create will come down considerably,” she says. “No garbage should go out of our house, or at least it should be minimal,” says Chitra who believes that consciously looking at garbage, brings it down. “If we compost our wet waste and send the rest to recycling, Coimbatore will be so much cleaner. And, greener. If all of us had a garden in our balconies/terrace/compound how lovely it would be.”



Things to get before you start

♣ Five flower pots (preferably with three of four holes at the bottom for efficient drainage)

♣ Planting soil (available at nurseries)

♣ Coir pith

♣ Organic manure (available in nurseries/ or make your own)

♣ Neem powder

♣ Pseudomonas (enriches the soil)

♣ Panjakavyam (makes plants healthy)

Things to do

♣ Use one plant in one pot (do not put multiple seeds in the same pot. It does not auger well for the plant)

♣ Prepare the pot by putting pebbles or broken pieces of terracotta at the bottom to avoid stagnation of water

♣ Prepare the soil by mixing one part each of coir pith, manure and soil; add a fistful of pseudomonas and neem powder and then put the mixed soil into the pot

♣ Put the plant/seed of your choice into the soil a few inches apart.

♣ Water lightly. Remember too much water is as bad as too little. Even if it is the hot season it is just the top layer of soil that will dry out. The coir pith in the soil retains moisture.

♣ Set a schedule and it will be easy for you to get into a rhythm. Add a fistful of manure in the pot once a week Spray panchakavyam once a week (dilute 30 ml to one litre of water and then spray on plants)

Composting

♣ Three or four tiered composting pots are available. But one can compost in simple pots or buckets too.

♣ Ensure the pot/bucket has holes in it to breathe.

♣ Layer your wet waste for the day into it.

♣ Add dried leaves or saw dust on top. This will absorb any excess moisture.

♣ Put in a spoonful of compost microbes or dried cow-dung powder and put a layer of newspaper on top.

♣ Remember to turn the pile every day to ensure proper composting.

♣ Do NOT add onion peel, citrus fruit, tamarind, bones to your composting.

♣ It is preferable not to put cooked food into your composting pot as it may attract maggots. But if you do, just ensure you put a little more saw dust or dry leaves.

Chitra says there will be no smell at all as the wet wastes decompose and turn into compost.



All your gardening needs are met at the Siruthuli office. For details call: 0422-2318222/2318333


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Printable version | Sep 13, 2021 2:38:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/gardens/the-balcony-scene-growing-vegetables-in-a-small-space/article7342320.ece

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