We speak to Avanee Jain of Upaj Farm and Malini Parmar and Rupal Ralph of Stone Soup for their expert advice on terrace gardening.
One of our readers from Kerala, Anil Kutty, wanted to know how to get his terrace gardens to yield maximum results. And we spoke to three experts to find him a solution.
Our first expert is Avanee Jain, an architect, who started Upaj Farm in 2009. To reconnect with nature, she transformed a family-owned piece of land in Vadodara, Gujarat, into Upaj Farm. Their GIY (Grow It Yourself) Kits especially help in making gardening a part of urban lifestyles; and come with easy instructions to start farming.
Our second and third experts are Malini Parmar and Rupal Ralph from Aaditi Stone Soup, a company founded by a group of working women with a collective vision to reduce waste in their neighbourhood. Their impact was so widespread that they catapulted from being eco-warriors to eco-entrepreneurs. They create products and solutions that enable people to become changemakers themselves. They have a wide variety of home composting kits and other eco-friendly products that can really amp up your home garden game.
‘Grow It Yourself’ Kits
When we asked Jain for some inputs to get maximum yield from a terrace garden, she said that herb kits such as basil and coriander, or square pots and small round coir pots are great for terrace gardens because they fit into a small space and yet are perfect for growing your own vegetables, leafy greens and even microgreens.
While most of these plants can be grown in the pot itself, some large ones must be transferred to bigger pots because they need more space, and consequently more soil and nutrition.
Jain says the most low-maintenance plants to grow include chillies, cherry tomatoes, spinach, lettuce and fenugreek. She estimates that you may need about a month to grow these plants properly, especially in the winter season, since they’re short season crops. In summer though, Jain cautions to cover these plants from 12-4 pm since they’re super sensitive to the afternoon sun.
Apart from veggies, Jain also advocates for simple flower plants such as sunflower and marigold. Her kits are the most convenient to use for both budding and seasoner gardeners. They come complete with a coconut biodegradable pot, organic growing medium, seed packets, organic fertiliser, planting tag, instructions and an observation manual.
Another aspect of maintaining a terrace garden that Jain can’t stress enough on is mulching. Mulching is basically spreading an at least two inch layer of organic compost on top of the soil, so that the latter is not exposed to the sun. “If it’s a pot, add a leaf mould – basically, crushed dried leaves – to the soil. That way the soil doesn’t heat up fast, and the root hair doesn’t burn off either. Water also doesn’t evaporate quickly.”
Malini Parmar, from Stonesoup, is all for composting at home. She says nothing can be better than making your own compost at home and then using that in your terrace garden. It not only ensures that the manure your plants are getting are free of additives and chemicals but also use up the home waste in a more effective way than sending it to the landfills.
Their Compost Maker Block is an interesting organic culture of microorganisms that makes composting faster. You simply add it to your aerobic composter to improve the moisture content of the compost and keep your plants hydrated for longer.
Rupal Ralph, on the other hand, swears by Te’ Stackable Home Composting Kit which she has been using for a long time. “Since it’s aerobic composting it doesn’t stink and has sufficient holes for aeration.” She says if we can manage to put the base layer properly in the bin as per the instruction – there will not be any leaching.
The last word
On asking what she grows in her terrace garden, Ralph says, “I have grown mangoes oranges, papaya, strawberries, custard apples, drumsticks, chillies brinjals, berries, greens all on the terrace. It doesn’t take much to become a pro at terrace gardening.”
Ralph also mentions some simple pointers to keep in mind for terrace gardening. She says it’s always best to avoid watering the plants too much or too little. And to keep the pots on raised beds or platforms. She also says removing all weeds isn’t necessary since not all weeds are bad. In fact, a few of them even help in pollination by attracting bees – “growing flowers along with veggies is a great idea since the bees and other pollination carriers help you in getting good yield.”
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)