Organic gardening is not new to Bengaluru. But quite frequently we need to be reminded of how our food is adulterated with pesticides that pose a health hazards. At a recently-held workshop ‘It’s Thyme to Garden’ by Anu Ganapathy, delved into the do’s and don’ts of the process of organic gardening. Anu, a former HR Executive, at HappyHealthyMe Organics, quit her corporate job to do what she loves - organic gardening.
She spends her time growing a wide variety of herbs, fruits and vegetables on her terrace garden. Talking about her foray into organic gardening, Anu says, “I started with home composting and then I didn’t know what to do with all the compost. So, I started growing plants because that’s the next natural step. You get scared as you keep watching all the videos on television and WhatsApp videos on how people have mixed chemicals in plants and are washing them in dirty water. I took it seriously. And began growing my own vegetables,” says Anu, who has been growing vegetables and fruits since the last two years.
The participants at the workshop ranged from beginners to experienced gardeners. The workshop started with an introduction to organic gardening and gave an insight on choosing the right containers for plants, preparing the soil and harvesting seeds. Anu adds, “The main objective is to help people start organic farming.” She guided the participants through the process of getting the right potting mix which included soil, vermi compost and coco peat.
She further adds, “Organic gardening is important especially in today’s times because we see people add chemicals to hasten the process as everything takes time to grow.”
To start gardening, it is important to have a clear objective, says Anu, adding that gardening is therapeutic and a meditative practice which helps you to connect with nature. She elucidated on how to start it simple, keep it easy, grow what you eat and not be afraid to experiment. “The right type of soilis crucial since it is the nutrients that help the plant to grow. The right type of soil requires regular soil and vermi compost in equal quantities,” she says. She advised the participants to use neem cake, made from neem seed kernel. Neem cake is a cost effective bio-fertilizer which is a rich source of micro nutrients, improves organic content, and controls soil pests.
For first timers, says Anu, it is safer and better to start with a single vegetable. “Plants like spinach, turmeric, eggplants, tomatoes are easier to grow than others. Talking about providing immunity to the plant system, she states, “Panchagavya, made of cow urine,dung, ghee, curds, jaggery and banana, is one of the most commonly used organic growth providers which can be directly applied to soil or sprayed on foliage. It is a must for everyone to have Panchagavya at their homes.” One can also grow banana and guava trees. Sounds fun, right? It is also important to treat plants post sunset, label and write down the dates of sowing and harvesting the seed.
Crop rotation is another factor that must be borne in mind. “You need to understand how often you should sow the next crop,” explains Anu.
The workshop also provided information on the common garden pests such as mealybugs and aphid, tips on watering regularly and ensuring your garden receives enough sunlight. She educated the participants on the commonly available pesticides such as neem oil, tobacco-based pesticide, leaf-based pesticide.
One can grow anything on your terrace garden ranging from okhra, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, amaranths, to strawberries and litchis. All you need is some spare time, patience, minimal investment, and little care to be a skilful terrace gardener.