Tomato in the rooftop and spinach in the garden

By Times Of India on 13 Aug 2017 | read
When mothers are empowered and understand the importance of eating right, no one in the family can fall sick, is what most people believe. Which is why Chennai mothers are now growing their own greens to procure fresh and chemical-free vegetables.


It has been four years since 51-year-old Leelu Shankar, living in Koyambedu, realised the importance of eating chemical-free vegetables. Her tutor is Youtube videos on kitchen gardening.So enthused is she that she has made space for plants and hybrid trees on her kitchen balcony . There is a hybrid mango tree, a six-ft tall drumsticks tree, tomatoes saplings, bottle gourd, green chillies, peas, radish, beetroots, and more. "My forefathers from Andhra Pradesh were into agriculture. After migrating to a metro like Chennai, where we rarely get to live in spacious homes. So, it is not possible to think of agriculture. But I am planning to come up with a vertical garden where we use structures or columnar trees to create vertical garden rooms," she shares. She starts her day at 5am and spends an hour dabbling in her favourite hobby , gardening. The family consumes everything they grow in their kitchen garden.


After being a part of an NGO, Archana Stalin realised the importance of conserving nature and finding a way to bring plants inside her home. So, she, along with her husband Stalin Kalidoss, launched `myHarvest' project that is helping city dwellers grow their own chemical-free green vegetables and fruits in their homes.

In her 1,000-sq-ft terrace garden in KK Nagar, they have been growing vegetables like eggplants, spinach, bittergourd, beans, cabbages, okra, peppers, green chillies and other vegetables for the past three years now. " After working with organic farmers and experts who understand how kitchen terrace garden works, we decided to venture into something that helps others eat fresh and healthy like we do. This is how `myHarvest' started. Once someone approaches us, we go and visit their place to understand what kind of vegetables they can grow in their space. Then the customer purchases a package that contains soil, seeds, fertilizers and other necessary equipment required for setting up a terrace or kitchen garden. Our job is to set up the garden in their house and guide them how to take care of it," explains Archana.

They prepare the soil and fertilisers like panchagavya, source seeds from the local suppliers and organic vendors in Chennai. They are also working with schools, colleges and corporates to make them understand the concept of growing their own veggies.


For 54-year old Christie Manohar, agriculture is not new. She has grown up watching her parents growing their own vegetables in their backyard, using organic manure. Recalling the childhood memories, Christie shares, "My mother used to pluck vegetables and cook for all of us." It was in the month of May this year when she came across an advertisement in a newspaper that said the state government was selling saplings, manure and sack bags at concession price. "This is just a start, if it goes well, we will try organic farming in our five-acre land in Padappai town. All of us in the family are interested in gardening.We use neem oil, soapy water and plain water solutions to spray on the plants to keep them insect-free. To start your own kitchen garden, one need to invest a minimum of `600 to maximum `1,500," she shares.

There's tender okra, tomatoes, green chillies, radish, eggplants and bitter-gourd in her 200-sq-ft terrace garden in Shanthi Colony, Anna Nagar. "Just two weeks ago, Amma cooked spinach she had grown on her the terrace garden for two consecutive days. She was excited as it was the first vegetable she grew on her own at home. It is a successful trial," said Flonitha Wilson, her daughterin-law.