Each and every plant that blooms in the terrace garden of K. Gopalan, a resident of Kuruvikkadu, Vattiyoorkavu, is reminiscent of the fragrance and flavour of his childhood in Alappuzha. Two months ago, Gopalan’s garden was like one of those nostalgic sepia-toned pictures when long sprays of the sesamum bloomed with their beautiful pale pink flowers and shiny pubescent green capsules.
Gopalan’s is perhaps the only terrace garden in the city to farm sesamum or gingelly (also known as ellu in local parlance). From 51 plants raised in sacks, Gopalan got two kg of dried sesamum seeds.
A retired block development officer, and a native of Onattukara, Gopalan has been into terrace cultivation on his 1,000 sq feet terrace for the past 10 years. He says he has always had a passion for farming.
Memories of childhood
“The scent of golden paddy fields and golden yellow gingelly oil always take me back to my childhood days,” he says.
Onattukara, the region comprising Karunagappally, Kayamkulam, Karthikapally and Mavelikara, and often known as Onamoottukara , is known for its rice and sesamum cultivation. The farmers there grow sesamum in the harvested paddy field during summer.
This year, Gopalan followed the same crop rotation of Onattukara, with regards to sesamum-rice. He sourced the sesamum seeds from his father who lives and farms near the Chettikulangara temple in Mavelikara. In February, Gopalan sowed around 200 gm of seed in 51 sacks, each half-filled with soil and compost.
“Filling only half the sack ensures better watering,” he explains.
The sacks were placed on light-weight roof tiles. “The sack and terrace surface never come in contact. The plants need ample sunshine, water and organic manure. When the plants attained six-leaf stage, I applied ash. Each plant was watered daily, in the morning and in the evening. No other special care or plant protection measures are needed. Within three months, when the lower leaves and capsules turn yellow, the plants are ready to harvest,” says Gopalan.
The plants were cut at the collar region, stacked into bundles and dried for four days until the leaves fall off. They were dried in the sun for a further four days till the seeds burst out of the capsules.
Currently, Gopalan is growing purple-coloured amaranthus, following which he plans to sow Kanchana variety of paddy, the seeds of which he procured from the Central Cropping Systems Research Station, Karamana.
Over the years he has cultivated tomato, ladyfinger, tapioca, sweet potato, turmeric and paddy. Staunch support from all the family members is a motivation, says Gopalan.
“I get a lot of support from my wife, Lekshmi, an accounts officer at AG’s Office, my children Ashwini and Ashwin, and son-in-law Pramod, a technical assistant at ISRO,” says Gopalan. Gopalan can be contacted at 9447242114