Most people do not believe Sandeep Chavan, a former journalist in Nashik, when he claims of growing three vegetables in one square foot. He patiently waits for people to finish their mocking to tell them about the concept of 3-tier or multi-layer farming and explains the following steps:
- Take any plant pot and plant seeds of fruit vegetables like tomatoes in the middle
- On its left, sow seeds of any leafy vegetables, and on the right side, plant the seeds of any root veggies
- Add organic fertilisers to keep away pests
- Use waste leaves and kitchen waste as soil to enhance the growth cycle
- Water the pot twice a day
“Apart from saving space in your balcony or terrace, this type of farming needs less water, and can save up to 60 per cent of water. During extreme heatwaves, the dry leaves used as mulch will prevent moisturisation,” Sandeep tells The Better India.
On his 350 square foot terrace, Sandeep grows 35 varieties of organic veggies round the year by using wastewater and waste food from his kitchen. His rooftop boasts of brinjals, papayas, tomatoes, chillies, turmeric, beans, spinach, bottle gourd, cabbage, and cauliflower to name a few.
With the help of multi-layering farming, Sandeep claims to have grown 50 kilos of turmeric in a 6×6 sq feet space last year. The harvest cycle is such that on any given day, his garden will reap at least four fresh vegetables.
The 40-year-old started farming in the early 2000s, a hobby which later translated into a full-time practice.
It was his son who spotted a stark difference between naturally grown produce and that infused with chemicals.
Recalling the incident he says, “On that particular day, I had harvested a few tomatoes and kept them in the kitchen. My wife purchased some tomatoes from her vendor as well. Interestingly, my son ended up eating both types. Children’s taste buds are more sensitive than ours and he almost thought that the outside tomato was rotten. This incident inspired me to grow more veggies.”
Of course, the main problem was the lack of space and time. Thankfully, that did not deter him from addressing his concerns about chemically-grown food.
Developing A Low-Cost & Smart Model From Waste
Instead of going for composting units available in the market, Sandeep used alternatives like a drum, a bucket, vegetable crates, mud pots.
He dries the wet waste in a container and then finely chops all the dried bits. He also prepares fertiliser at home using jeevaamrut (a mixture of cow dung and cow urine). The properties of this mixture quicken the process and increase bacterial activities.
For a healthier option, Sandeep ferments wastewater from his kitchen and adds it to the compost, which is ready in about 30 days. He uses it to grow his vegetables.
Sandeep has upcycled discarded items from his home like shoes, purses, and plastic bottles, using them to grow plants.
One of his best ideas was reusing plastic milk pouches, “I took seven pouches and kept them on top of each other. The mountain is the height of a pen and I have grown spinach in it. Nature is ready to come anywhere, provided it is given the right care and water.”
While all this sounds so simple, success did not come to him in the first. It was only after months of experimentation that his garden started giving veggies regularly and in significant proportions.
A few years ago, Sandeep escalated his practice by starting 5-layer farming or growing five veggies together in minimal space. For this, he prepared a four-foot bed to accumulate the five types of seeds.
Here are the steps he followed:
- Lay a plastic sheet on the ground
- Place three bricks to cover it add coconut coir
- Add a layer of dry leaves and cover it further with compost or soil
- Sow five kinds of seeds and witness your garden give you a fresh harvest
What started as a hobby has now turned into a full-fledged servicing firm called ‘Gacchi-varchi baug’ which translates to ‘the terrace garden’. Sandeep provides enthusiastic gardeners with gardening kits and consultancy to grow their own food. He says he finds that people are increasingly becoming environmentally sensitive.
“Using garbage to grow food fulfills twin purposes–treating waste at source and growing natural and healthy food. Rooftop farming also increases biodiversity as it attracts birds. Urban areas in India are slowly catching up on the fad of ‘Grow Your Own Food’. This is the sign of a healthy environment,” concludes Sandeep.
Get expert advice from him on 98505 69644 or click here.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)