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15 Nov 2019, Edition - 1585, Friday

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Coimbatore

“Vegetables can be grown on a 150-200 sq ft space for a family of four”

Umaima Shafiq

Chitra Krishnaswamy recommends terrace gardening for first-time gardeners, and there is nothing to beat the quality of home-grown vegetables.

Enthusiastic first gardeners can opt for terrace gardening, says Chitra Krishnaswamy, a Coimbatore resident and member of Siruthuli NGO, as healthy vegetables can be grown quickly and easily.
She tells The Covai Post, “I have had my terrace garden for nearly seven to eight years. My actual work was composting and kitchen gardening. We should not throw our rich green waste instead we can compost and grow our own healthy vegetables. So I began my terrace garden since I have a lot of free time in the evenings.”

She admits that she had zero knowledge about it and learnt by trial and error. Today her garden has all vegetables and fruits available in the market for the Indian palate.

“My terrace gardening is done in containers and pots kept on shelves and stands. I believe in one plant per pot. My garden has vegetables like tomato, brinjal, green chilli, curry leaves, greens and spinach, mint and others. I also have fruit trees like pomegranate, passion fruit, guava, oranges among others, besides trees like drumstick (murungakai), bitter gourd and bottle gourd. My green chillies harvest every week is around 2 kilos. There is nothing I have not grown, even rhizomes like yams can be grown in pots,” says Chitra.

She is wary of having a terrace garden on soil beds as it may weaken the building. She also says that terrace gardens do not need green covers.

“It is necessary abroad because of reduced sunlight, but here we have adequate hot weather and the yield is better without green cover. I have tried and tested it. Some say green cover can prevent flies and pests but I solve that by covering budding fruits with paper and resinous sheets kept near the pots. I learnt these tips from agricultural offices. I usually replace trees after eight years as the pots can become heavy. Also regular pruning of plants can last us for some years,” she adds.

Chitra’s other useful tips are minimal watering, because her growing medium of equal portions of coir pith, red soil and home compost are enough.

“So instead of watering every day, once in two days will do or just wetting the soil. I use natural fertilizers like panchkavya, pseudomonas and water soluble nutrients every 10 days. These can be made at home or are available in Siruthuli and agricultural offices. Panchkavya is nothing but a mixture of cow dung, urine, milk, curd and ghee fermented with bananas and jaggery for 45 days,” says Chitra.

Her advice to first time gardeners, “Don’t be wary of gardening, I am the best example for that. Begin with five or six pots and grow daily essentials like tomato, green chilli, spinach, coriander, mint and curry leaves and radish. These can be harvested within 30-40 days. Then if you feel confident, expand your garden. I assure you that the taste of home grown organic vegetables is always better than market produce. So about 150-200 sq ft space is enough for a family of four.”

Chitra has a session every Friday in Siruthuli office called Sittukul Siruthuli with six others who have similar hobbies. Besides she gives lectures on terrace gardening at schools, colleges, rotary clubs and other institutions.

She believes that home composting and terrace gardening is like an ecosystem where the vegetables grown upstairs are eaten downstairs, their waste is composted and reused as fertilizers.
Her number is 9865524323.

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