When we were designing our house, my husband Amit and I disagreed over many things. The one thing we argued about the most was the garden. For a long time, Amit tried to talk me out of it. ‘Lawns weren’t practical,’ he said. Our architect, who was also a water conservationist, shared the same view. However, having grown up in a government bungalow with a sprawling garden in Chandigarh, I could compromise on many things, but not a garden.
At first, Amit suggested planting grass on the terrace. I wasn’t entirely convinced. Who would go all the way up to the terrace just to enjoy a bit of greenery? And besides, our terrace was too small. I wanted the grass somewhere more visible; a sea of green to greet me as I entered the gate. Amit wanted a vegetable garden — as it would be value for money. Later, he grudgingly agreed to plant a few flowers too.
But I wanted trees — huge, colourful ones. Gulmohar, jacaranda, java cassia, and bougainvillea were on my dream list. I wanted the garden to be a riot of colours in summer. In my opinion, there was no glamour in growing vegetables.
Today, our garden has three patches of grass — one that greets you right as you enter the gate (the one I originally wanted), a smaller patch at the back that the living room looks out onto, and an even smaller patch in our secret garden, one attached to the basement. Along one side, we have a reed bed that filters our greywater. We also have all the trees from my wish list and more — papaya, banana, sapodilla, lemon, sweet lime, custard apple, mango, and neem. While the fruit trees are still too young to provide fruit, the flowering plants like plumeria and jasmine give our garden some much-needed colour. Little pots of flowers line the porch outside our front door. Pink and white bougainvilleas bedeck our front compound wall. A leafy creeper with tiny white flowers has already enveloped the railing around the basement garden.
Apart from these flowering plants, we grow organic vegetables too. The main lawn has a bamboo fence, behind which we grow spinach, tomatoes, carrots, and beans. The planters on the first floor veranda, originally intended for flowers, now hold onions. We also grow egg plant, cabbage, and red capsicum in pots. We use homemade compost as fertiliser and boil up a noxious concoction of onion, garlic, chillies etc to spray as pesticide. Our veggies are irrigated with only fresh, pure rain water — no borewell or tanker water. We aren’t self-sufficient yet when it comes to our vegetable produce. We buy potatoes, ginger, garlic, cauliflower, and other veggies from the market. We supplement our stock of homegrown onions and beans from the market too. However, I am convinced that we are on the right track. It’s a great feeling to know that the food you put on the table is fresh, free from insecticides and pesticides, and grown with love. And of course, it tastes so much better.
This is the last of a five-part series about the green initiatives the writer has used for her home in Bangalore