A rooftop farmer rises with rice

Terrace of college employee’s house in Mangaluru yields 30 kg-50 kg of paddy from grow bags

September 24, 2017 11:42 pm | Updated September 25, 2017 11:35 am IST - Mangaluru

Looking up: Krishnappa Gowda Paddambail with his paddy crop at Maroli in Mangaluru.

Looking up: Krishnappa Gowda Paddambail with his paddy crop at Maroli in Mangaluru.

A flourishing paddy crop in 200 grow bags has turned the terrace garden of a government employee in Manguluru into an attraction. Krishnappa Gowda Paddambail, who works at the Government College of Teacher Education here, has been cultivating 30-50 kilos of paddy on the roof of his home in the Maroli area for five years. He does not sell his produce.

Childhood memories of paddy cultivation at his family’s ancestral farmland near Sullia, and the memory of waiting for hours at a place of worship to procure stalks of paddy for a ritual, made him plant paddy in ten grow bags in 2014. The number of bags increased as his home-made bio-manure gave him bountiful harvests, free from paddy blast fungus and other diseases.

Unlike traditional cultivation, Mr. Paddambail uses water minimally, and his bags of soil mixture, sand and cow dung last four years with careful maintenance. He turns coconut husk into hanging planters. After de-husking, he fills soil and ties up the husk to hang it around the house.

Crop rotation

The 120-day paddy cultivation cycle begins in April-May and he grows only one crop, distributing the harvest among friends and relatives. He then uses the same bags to grow radish, a three-month crop. “Last year, I harvested 10 kilos of radish,” Mr. Paddambail says. He also grows fruits, vegetables and turmeric on his 1,200 sq. ft. terrace. Last year, he got eight kilos of turmeric.

The urban farmer has three grow bags of sugarcane, which he has stopped purchasing for the Ganesha festival. The garden provides drumstick, yam and guavas, too.

Mr. Paddambail’s garden boasts a pomegranate tree, although the coastal region is a non-traditional area for the fruit. The yield is low. “I have been getting five or six fruits for three years. Unlike pomegranates of the dry belts in central and north Karnataka, its taste is very sour. But it makes a good juice,” he says.

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