Progressive farmer turns terrace into a farm

By TheHindu on 27 Feb 2017

It may not be vertical farming that scientists are proposing as an answer to food security, but “square foot roof gardening” could be the next best thing for congested cities where vegetables are slowly going out of the common man's reach.

Industrialist-turned-progressive farmer Chalasani Dutt has been successfully growing all varieties of vegetables and even fruits using the method of gardening popularised by a U.S. based gardener Mel Bartholomew.

Square Foot Gardening (SFG) is the practice of developing small and intensively planned gardens. The phrase “square foot gardening” was popularised by Mr Bartholomew in a book he wrote in 1981.

The practice combines concepts from various organic gardening methods with a strong focus on the use of compost in closely planted raised beds and bio-intensive (process of getting maximum yield from minimum area while continuously improving the soil) gardening.

Mr Dutt says that 16 varieties of vegetables could be grown in six to eight weeks in SFG. He was able to cultivate Brinjal, Tomato, Snake Gourd,

Chilli, Lady's Finger, Cluster Beans, varieties of leafy vegetables, red gram and even paddy (on an experimental basis) on the terrace of his house in Prajasakthinagar, the heart of the city.

The amount of vegetables cultivated using the conventional single row garden can be cultivated in a SFG using just 20 per cent of the area.“Manuring, watering and labour are reduced by 80 per cent,” Mr Dutt said.

All one needed for this type of gardening was 40 standard-sized clay bricks, 20 square feet of polythene sheet, 40 feet of plastic pipe and eight cubic feet of compost. No soil was required, he says.

Using techniques from ‘vedic agriculture', bio-dynamism, vermiculture and rain water harvesting, Mr Dutt is able to produce vegetables for his kitchen.

Mr Dutt has been championing the cause of organic farming saying that the manufacture of chemical fertilisers was very expensive. Organic farming on the other hand was cost effective and eco-friendly.

He says compost made excellent “mulching” that helped in the conservation of soil moisture.

Just as homoeopathy was to human health, bio-dynamism was to agriculture trying to explain the concept in brief.

There was a marked change in the approach of agricultural experts the world over.

The man who is known as the father of the green revolution M.S.Swaminathan was also stressing on sustainable farming, Mr Dutt says.

G.Venkataramana Rao