Working for over two decades in Kudumbam, a non-governmental organisation devoted to organic farming has helped Poppy John to set up her own mini-nursery of plants and rooftop garden with over 110 pots at her home in K. K. Nagar. There are at least 10 varieties of vegetables, 15 herbs and 3 trees under the care of Mrs. Poppy and her husband John Xavier.
Except for the trees and ornamental plants, everything else is grown in planter bags on the rooftop.
“It is a great feeling to see something flourishing under your care,” Mrs. Poppy told The Hindu. “We have decided to increase the number of pots this year, because the harvest of one or two plants is not enough to feed our family of seven members,” she said. Maintaining a vermin composting plant in a plastic barrel in one corner of the terrace, the couple has designed its own trellis using leftover building materials and wire to raise a crop of cucumbers and what appears to be miniature watermelons. The months of July to August are ideal for planting and harvests can be expected up to January, said Mrs. Poppy. “It’s better to reduce the number of plants as the weather gets hotter. Cowpea, okra and chilli do well in the direct sunlight, but the others may need some shade control,” she said. The entire process is kept as free of chemicals as possible. Red soil is mixed with vermicompost and coconut peat, procured in pressed blocks from a supplier in Musiri.
Mr. John prefers to water the plants individually by hand, carrying up the water from the ground floor early in the morning. “It’s a nice way to exercise as well,” he smiled. The couple has never really calculated the cost of their hobby, though they advise newcomers to start slow. “Spinach is the easiest to grow, and one or two pots will yield enough to feed a family comfortably,” said Mr. John. “Once you see the plants responding to your care, start adding others.”