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25 Mar 2019, Edition - 1350, Monday

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Coimbatore

Rooftop gardening gaining popularity in Coimbatore

Archana Rohit

Ankur, Ragini, Nandini, Sangita and Abhinav are easily spotted nowadays basking in the sun either on balconies, patios, rooftop, terrace, decks or even windowsills. They help one eat healthy!

They are not well-known personalities, but are the names of the best quality and high-yield variety seeds. “Terrace gardens not only make the place aesthetically appealing, but also are exercises in growing and eating vegetables or fruits from my own garden. This gives me a lot of satisfaction and gardening helps me to de-stress,”.says R Purshottam, a rooftop enthusiastic.

Terrace gardens are benefitting urban inhabitants, especially in metro cities like Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Hyderabad where space is a luxury. The fad has caught on in Coimbatore as well.

Vegetables like brinjal, green chilies, tomatoes, and ladyfingers take as little as 2 sqft. Whereas, beans, cluster beans, beetroot, radish can be grown in 3X3 inches of space. Green leafy vegetables like mint, coriander, spinach and fenugreek and various herbs like basil etc can be grown in the kitchen itself. The Covai Post got in touch with an expert S. Sankaran to find out more.

Q. Which types apartments/buildings are suitable for rooftop gardening?
A. Apartments with as low as 30sqft terrace and houses with balconies are good start to rooftop and indoor gardening respectively.

Q. How much space does one need for rooftop gardening?
A. Earlier, we were requiring at least 100sqft space to start it. Thanks to the vertical gardening, you can grow 4 plants in 1 sqft.

Q. Does Coimbatore have a climate suitable for organic rooftop gardening?
A. Yes absolutely. Perhaps, people in Chennai are envious about Coimbatore’s climate since it is hot and cold just on the same day. It keeps the plants in the right condition.

Q. Which plants should be grown?
A. To tell you the right plants to be grown, start with easier ones that fetch you results round the year like chillies, Okra, coriander, brinjal and then extend to herbal plants and gradually to trees. And yes, you can grow trees on larger containers and they add beauty to your rooftop garden.

Q.When should I start my garden? Is there a specific month which would be more suitable to grow?
A. Start in the month that has moderate temperature. With respect to Coimbatore, do not start on a rainy day. Your plants will be soaked badly. Start on a sunny day. Let the process activate within the plant and it will automatically grow.

January: (Dec, Jan): Eggplant, Chili, Bittergourd, Tomatoes, pumpkin, Radishes, Greens.
February: (Jan, Feb): Eggplant, Tomato, Chili, Bitter gourd, Okra, Cluster bean, Ribbedgourd, Greens.
March: (Feb, Mar): Okra, Bitter gourd, Tomatoes, Ribbed gourd.
April: (Mar, Apr): Plant drumstick, Cluster bean, Okra.
May: (Apr, May): Plant drumstick, Eggplant, Tomatoes, Cluster bean.
June: (May, Jun): Eggplant, Tomato, Pumpkin, Spinach, Okra.
July: (Jun, Jul): Chili, Bitter gourd, Pumpkin, Ribbed gourd, Radish, Okra, Cluster, Tomatoes.
August: (Jul, Aug): Radish, Ribbed gourd, Bitter gourd, Chili, Okra.
September: (August, September): Moringa, Eggplant, Radish, Spinach, Ribbed gourd, Pumpkin.
October: (September, October): Moringa, Eggplant, Radish.
November: (Oct, Nov): Eggplant, Tomato, Radish, Pumpkin.
December: (Nov, Dec): Eggplant, Tomatoes, Pumpkin, Radish, Chili

Q. How should one prepare the roof before I start gardening?
A. First thing is to decide the plants you are going to sow. For instance, garden comprising of plants in pots does not require much of preparation. However, when you are planning for creepers, you need to create a pathway for it.

The ideal thing is if you have 20 sqft, start with 7 plants for 15 sqft roughly. Use 5 sqft for garden accessories like manure, vermicompost. Arrange sufficient breathing space between one another.

Q. What kind of containers should one use?
A. The trend now is grow bags. However, I would always prefer recycled containers. Used water cans are the best and sustainable. Grow bags do have warranty but I personally feel spending 10 INR towards can and avoiding dump is better than spending 60 INR roughly towards a grow bag. Use recycled containers as much as possible. Once you buy, paint it with a darker color so it can bear the sunlight.

Q. Different plants have different requirement for sunlight and water? How does one take care of that at rooftop gardens?
A. When you extend your rooftop garden, you may have to keep the trees under complete sunlight while the rest in partial shade. Green garden net is ideal. Choose it in such a way it allows 50% sunlight.

For water, tree saplings consume more than the rest. Any plant that has a broader propagation of root will consume more water.

Q. Are the plant roots dangerous for the building?
A. Not at all. Place 2 bricks and keep the container above the brick. Keep a tray just below the container so that excess water does not leak to the ground. If your building is too old, avoid tree saplings. Otherwise, plant roots are living beings too and they are good to our family and the building.

Q. Is it safe to grow food on the roof?
A. Of course. It is not just safe but also healthy as you know what you grow and you don’t have to be worried about the adulteration in the market.

Q. How much does costs are involved in organic terrace gardening?
A. Spend as low as 1,000 INR to begin and add new plants to your garden every 15 days. In fact, you get motivated to expand once you see your first harvest. It is a beautiful experience, nevertheless.

Q. What other supplies would one need?
A. If you do not like to take soil on your hand, use gloves. Otherwise, you may need pruning and watering tools at a later stage.

Q. What about weeds?
A. Open space around, poor maintenance, insufficient nutrition are few reasons for weeds to come. There are some insects that do good to your plants too.

Q. How would one tackle the bugs, slugs and other insect that would creep in the balcony?
A. If you find bugs in your plants, add few drops of neem oil to water and spray on those areas. If you still feel that they do not move, you can buy an organic insecticide from your local shop or order from us. It has the best solution to let the wrong insects move away.

Q. Benefits of rooftop gardening?
A. No chemicals. You eat what you grow. It is natural and transforms into a legacy that needs to be passed to the next generations. You can make money. And more!

Q. Can one convert their rooftop into a business?
A. Yes, By raising saplings and selling them in local nurseries! Through organic manure and vermicompost supply to the gardeners. Through the production of organic fertilizers like panchakavya to the local market. And of course, selling the produce to customers. You are gifting health and making money!

The benefits of terrace garden outweighs the cons. It makes your home 6-8 degrees cooler. It’s organic, healthy and environment friendly.

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