A slow but steadily growing interest in organic food is making more Hyderabadis have their own kitchen garden
Will palak dal taste better if the spinach is plucked from your own kitchen garden? Is it better to use baby spinach, cherry tomatoes and lettuce from your backyard to toss up a salad, where you know the leaves haven’t been sprayed with pesticides? Ask those who have a garden in their terrace, balcony or backyard and they’ll vouch that home-grown vegetables taste better and are healthier.
A full-fledged garden for those who have space and a few pots to grow fresh herbs for others are small steps which, in the larger scheme of things, contribute towards reducing food miles, carbon footprint and tackling food inflation.
The kitchen garden movement in Hyderabad is not as vibrant as in Bangalore or Chennai but there’s a definite surge in interest.
A few days ago, Lamakaan saw an enthusiastic gathering sharing dos and don’ts of kitchen gardens, exchanging saplings and over 200 varieties of seeds.
The meet was organised by ‘Intipanta’. “The group is two years old and has more than 5800 members on Facebook. The recent meet had many newcomers,” says Sandeep Motamarri, an IT professional who grows different varieties of greens and vegetables at home.
It all begins with the first seed or sapling. Once there’s a harvest that meets at least a part of the household cooking needs, novices feel encouraged to add more fruits and vegetables to their gardens.
Vijayalakshmi, a retired lecturer, had a lawn surrounded by ornamental plants. Three years ago, encouraged by her daughter, she started growing vegetables. Now, she has cleared the lawn because “once you begin looking at things from an eco-friendly point of view, a lawn doesn’t fit in.” The idea is to grow vegetables and fruits apart from ornamental plants.
Vijayalakshmi’s backyard has beds for coriander, spinach, lettuce, pakchoy and segregated areas for white and purple brinjals, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans and fruits like pomegranate, lemon and custard apple. The produce is enough to meet the needs of her family and the rest is sold at different organic bazaars in the city.
For those who don’t know where to begin, Sandeep suggests getting kits from the horticulture department or seeking advice from likeminded people. “The fact that people are asking where they can get organic seeds or manure shows there is interest. It’s rewarding to grow vegetables. I haven’t purchased leafy vegetables from the market in the last three years. I grow coriander, palak, methi, amaranthus, bachali, mint, gongura and chukka kura apart from okra, tomatoes, brinjal, chillies, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, ribbed gourd and beans. The vegetables cook faster and taste better. And gardening is my workout and stress buster,” he says.
Shyam Penubolu of Jiva Organics feels that though the city lags behind Bangalore in the organic kitchen garden movement, there are sustained efforts. Jiva Organics helps those interested with the know-hows of gardening. “We help people understand the basics of soil preparation and composting. Vegetables have to be planted according to seasons. For instance, cabbage and cauliflower are ideal from September. This year, gardens took a beating due to extended summer. But unlike in big farms, it is possible to create micro environment at home by growing plants in a shade,” he says.
Vijayalakshmi has conducted training sessions for focused groups and wonders if the growing interest in organic gardening is a passing fad. “Some people want everything readymade. One has to make an effort to segregate waste and prepare compost. I am asked if plants need manure regularly. How does one expect a plant to give a yield throughout its life span with one-time manure?” she asks. A little dedication towards the garden, she emphasises, is irreplaceable.
The Facebook group ‘Intipanta’ serves as a help group. Be it learning names of plants, how to tackle pests and sourcing seeds, members in this group help each another. The group also organises meets from time to time.
Jiva Organics (jivaorganics.in) helps those interested with the know-how of kitchen gardens, planting according to seasons and tools.
Hyderabad Goes Green (hyderabadgoesgreen.com) sells tools, compost, seedlings trays and ‘square foot garden’ for those who want to grow herbs and vegetables within limited space.