Urban gardening has gained momentum in recent times and those with the luxury of a spacious balcony or terrace are getting actively involved in growing vegetables and fruits. The reasons why people are turning to self-farming in whatever space they can find are practical. Firstly, you become self-sufficient in your daily culinary needs. Secondly, you need not spend a bomb on organic products. We, at The Better India (TBI), have been covering the stories of people who are now growing their food. Each one of them has a unique story, but with a common motivator—to have guaranteed fresh organic vegetables.
Srinivas and Padma Pinnaka are one such couple.
Until 2014, Padma, who always had a green thumb, and Srinivas passionately nurtured their small garden in the balcony of their Hyderabad apartment. However, the small space in their home restricted them from going any further.
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Speaking to TBI), Srinivas, now retired, says, “We always had plans for a grand terrace garden. But for over ten years, we had to limit ourselves to the few pots in our balcony. Padma loves gardening, and she wanted to go beyond the flowers we had planted in our house back then. In 2014, when we shifted to the new house, she could finally build the organic paradise she was always yearning for.”
Today, the couple grows over 500 plants of 40 varieties of fruits and vegetables in their independent house terrace. The organic terrace garden received an overwhelmingly positive response from hundreds of people in Hyderabad, so much so that it prompted the couple to start their YouTube channel to share tips.
Barely two months old, their channel, Po Palleturatnam Lu by Pinnaka Padma, already has over 12,000 subscribers. Every video of hers has thousands of views.
Although Padma’s garden has about 500 plants in her house, she believes in a low-budget, low-wastage model. For instance, every pot of hers has a bowl beneath it to collect the extra water seepage. During summers, she prefers to spray water on the plants thrice a day instead of using a can which saves a considerable amount of water.
150-litres of water daily is enough for the plants and while Padma is responsible for watering the plants, Srinivas has taken charge of keeping the pests away. They tell me that their gardening practices follow a circle-of-life kind of philosophy. While they use the fruits, vegetables and spices they grow, all the wet waste is turned into vermicompost for the plants.
We don’t have a sprawling terrace to accommodate many plants. I have also tried a pot-in-pot technique wherein a large pot also has a couple of small pots placed inside it. This saves me a lot of space, and when I water the plants, I have to water the topmost one. The rest is taken care of, Padma elaborates.
“I experiment with new methods and learn them from social media. But the majority of the garden is fertilised using vermicompost and kitchen waste,” says the 54-year-old Padma, who adds that no matter what the methods, she ensures they are chemical-free and completely organic.
Some of the fruits that the couple grows are five varieties of mangoes, two varieties of grapes, avocado, coconut, banana, papaya, star fruit, dragon fruit, Malaysia apple, Shimla apple, jackfruit, passion fruit, wood apple, strawberry, tamarind, pomegranate, sweet lime, two varieties of lime and oranges among others. Amongst the vegetables, they have tomato, brinjal, green chilli, bitter gourd, cucumber, broccoli, ridge gourd, various greens, ladies finger, french beans, cherry tomato, ginger, and turmeric.
The 54-year-old feels growing and nurturing a garden has many benefits apart from the more pragmatic ones. Padma finds that gardening is an excellent boost for your health as you know what is going in your food. Furthermore, it also makes one exercise.
“Going from plant to plant, twice a day, watering them and observing their growth is meditative in many ways. Not to forget the fact that having your organic garden is extremely beneficial for your children’s health,” Padma shares. The couple also tells me that although their garden meets their food requirements for about 4-5 days, in summers, they purchase produce from the market quite often.
Soon after the garden started flourishing, their neighbours flocked to their house, asking for tips on garden terraces.
It wasn’t long before word spread across Hyderabad and strangers came to their home to learn more about organic urban farming.
“I would receive 20-25 calls daily, asking for tips on terrace farming. Finally, as my son suggested, I learned how to operate a YouTube channel and started one in June 2019,” Padma informs.
“My plants remain green and lush even when the summer is upon us. Mulching during summers, vermicomposting throughout the year and multi-cropping techniques are wonderful methods to give a boost to your urban farm. I hope to share my knowledge with as many people as I can,” the homemaker says and adds that YouTube has been an incredible platform for this.
Pinnakas’ terrace is a calming break from the monotony of urban life in Hyderabad. With over 500 potted plants, the couple is showing how even a small terrace can be transformed into a mini-farm that satisfies the weekly needs of a house. If you wish to follow their Telugu channel on YouTube, follow the link here.
Picture & Video Courtesy: Padma Pinnaka.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)