Across the window, there’s …no coconut tree, but another window, of the adjacent house. Stand on the balcony and all you see is a concrete jungle. Hey Citywallah, want to change that Fateline you think has been permanently etched on your head, to stand mute witness to the smog, garbage stink and someone else’s garden? Where there is a Vegetable & Fruit Promotion Council, Keralam (VFPCK), there’s a way. Ask Rose Mary, Deputy Manager, VFPCK and she says, “Have a terrace? Then a vegetable garden is yours for the asking.” How?
Pots at your doorstep
“For a moderate sum of Rs. 3,750, we supply 30 average sized pots, planted with vegetable seedlings and also give you technical guidance on how to maintain the garden on your terrace,” she says. These potted plants will be brought to your doorstep, if you live in or around the city. If you want just a few pots, you can buy it from the VFPCK office at Kakkanad, near the Doordarshan Kendra. (for more details, see www.vfpck.org or Ph: 0484-2427455, mob: 9633040030) Pots filled with manure, earth and sand in the right proportion, costs Rs. 125 each.
Most of the common vegetable seedlings are available: Beans, pea, lady’s finger, bitter gourd, pumpkin, chilli, snake gourd, ridge gourd, cucumber, ash gourd, different kinds of spinach and the common ‘koval’. Only cuttings from a good mother plant will give you good ‘kovakka’, says Rose Mary.
Explains N.Vijayan, Director and CEO, VFPCK, “Right now, this project, called Harithanagari, is limited to the corporation area, but we have plans to expand it to all the districts in the State. We are thinking of involving the residents’ associations in this scheme so that all those who want to try this can,” he says. The project’s other aim is to promote organic farming this way. Even the pesticides are organic. (See box)
These terrace gardens do well because the plants get direct sunlight and during the rains, the plants don’t decay, as the terrace does not get soggy. More than 300 people, mostly housewives, are into vegetable gardening on the terraces and the little space available around their houses in the corporation area.
The VFPCK advocates organic farming and guides you, should you need technical help in setting up compost pits. “We advice only organic pesticides,” Rose Mary says. The plants in the office complex are a fine example of the result of organic farming, she adds. There is a compost pit divided into different sections. All the weeds and wild growth on the plot go into making compost.
Flowers of the fennel plants on the office terrace attract bees and so there is a small apiary on the terrace itself, something that anyone can emulate, anywhere.
On Prassanna’s terrace harvest an ash gourd, if you please! Yes, she has been cultivating a terrace garden for a few years now. “It’s a joy and the kids don’t like vegetables bought from the market now. I’ve been growing all kinds of vegetables for the last three years. Well, there are tomatoes, brinjal, all kinds of gourds, chilli,” Prassanna, a housewife, goes on. She has harvested baskets full of koorkka from the pots on her terrace. (Reminds you of the scenes in ‘Achuvinte Amma’ where the thrifty mother buys lots of koorkka much to the chagrin of the daughter who does not like it) . And wait…it sounds incredible but you can even grow carrots, cauliflower and beetroot in the winter months, should you fancy it.
B. K. Nair, retired engineer from the Central PWD says it’s true, for he has done it. “When I built my house, I made sure the terrace had a slight slope towards one end, so that water drained off quickly. For three years, Nair also, like Prassanna, has been farming on his terrace, with help from the VFPCK, Kakkanad.
“I harvest, on an average one to one-and-a-half kilos of vegetables from my terrace garden. He has pots and also sacks filled with sand mud and compost which he uses to grow the vegetables. “The taste of organic vegetables is really different,” remarks Nair.
Keep heat off
Instead of that ungainly aluminium roof over the terrace, a vegetable garden can help keep the heat off the summer sun. What joy to see the plants grow and how much more joy to eat what you have grown, your very own organic vegetables.