Just a few weeks ago, I would eagerly wait for holidays to be able to spend time in my small garden. Normally, on workdays, I water my plants and dash only to return after dark.
But now, the 21-day Coronavirus lockdown has given me the opportunity to spend more time on my plants.
Homebound and relatively free, we can try many different things during the lockdown period. If you were ever thinking of growing vegetables, herbs or flowers in your home but never had the chance, this is an opportune time.
The Better India (TBI) got in touch with four urban gardeners who are growing a variety of plants in their homes and got them to share the initiatives they have taken during this homebound period.
Here’s what they had to say:
More Time for Cleaning the Garden
Saraswati Kuwalekar is Deputy Director of news (IIS) at Doordarshan, Mumbai. The need to eat homegrown and organic food came up after her friend’s son was diagnosed with cancer. Thus, she started growing vegetables in her small 3 ft X 6 ft balcony.
Apart from genetics and the environment, chemical-induced food also gives rise to serious diseases, she realised and thus started growing organic vegetables. With her busy work schedule, she could spend just 10 minutes in her garden every day. But the lockdown has given her an opportunity to undertake the time-consuming cleaning the garden.
“The pots tend to make a ring on the ground which I never have the time to clean. I am utilising these days to wipe the soil from beneath the pots and clean out my garden. I know of people who are also taking the time to remove pests from their plants and weeding the gardens,” the Mumbai resident tells TBI.
On the other hand, Rajendra Singh, an urban gardener from Sonipat, Haryana, grows over 400 plants on his terrace. The lockdown period has only given him an opportunity to be around his plants more.
He tells us, “As a matter of routine, I devote four hours to my gardening activities. With the beginning of spring season, unexpected weeds grow all around in the pots. I started to weed out pot by pot and have completed almost all weeding work. Then, I started hosing the pots with vigour but with care. This resulted in new offshoots by the plants and I have a feeling of having accomplished something. The more time I devote to my plants, the more I want to be with them.”
Preparing the Base of Gardening
Shilpa Maheshwari of Bengaluru is utilising this time to replant along with her family. Shilpa grows about 50 organic vegetables in her home with the help of her husband and she has noticed a pleasant change in her garden
“The air quality has improved tremendously and that is showing results on my plants. Even without manure, flowers are blooming. Gourds are taking less time to get ready for harvest. In fact, we just harvested a 2-and-a-half feet long ridge gourd, a length difficult to achieve even in big farms!” she shares with TBI.
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She adds that since all family members (or housemates) are now together at home, you can get their help too. “Get the kids engaged in gardening without making it a chore. Mine are always so thrilled to work in the garden!”
Preparing the soil requires loosening the clumps, adding nutrient-rich compost, manure or other organic fertilisers, setting it up in containers and keeping them watered until the sowing season comes.
Making the Garden Greener
Every garden can do with one more plant. And urban gardeners like Shilpa and Saraswati are utilising the lockdown period to the fullest to make their garden lusher.
Says Saraswati, “Now that we have a lot of time for trial and error, we can utilise it to grow more plants. Take this opportunity to plant vegetables and herbs – they grow well in small spaces too. You will also get enough time to water the plants every day. By the time this is over, it will have turned into a habit!”
It’s never too late to start eating healthy, pesticide-free food and growing it yourself is the easiest way to achieve that. Microgreens, lemongrass, Holy Basil etc are easy to grow and strengthen your immunity. You have the power to build your immune system through your own garden. Why waste it?
Mirroring Saraswati’s thoughts, Shilpa too adds that her garden is her saviour. “Many people in my social circle are struggling for fresh vegetables. I told them not to worry and am giving out my organic vegetables to them. There’s a lesson here for all of us. While we all hope that the situation we are in does not repeat, it is always a good idea to grow your own organic food,” she says.
Composting Because Waste can be Wealth
Composting was the first thing that Saraswati mentioned when I asked her about her initiatives during the lockdown. “I have been composting for the past 14-15 years. But in a time when waste pickers don’t come to your home and your bins are overflowing with wet waste, we understand the importance of utilising wet waste and using it as compost. Once you understand how to prepare it, it doesn’t seem like a hassle. In fact, the way it makes your garden bloom, homemade compost is an unparalleled treasure,” she says in conversation with TBI.
Rajendra says, “The sowing time of bottle gourd, sponge gourd, cucumber, ivy gourd coincided with the period of nationwide lockdown. So I thought it is the best way to use my time by taking up the sowing of these crops and adding manure to my other plants. I prepare my own compost from kitchen garbage which consists of vegetables and fruit peels and used tea leaves. So compost was added to pots prior to sowing of aforementioned vegetables. Thus, though there is nothing to rejoice, this lockdown period proved to be a boon in disguise to me so far as gardening activities are concerned.”
A little time spent with plants may go a long way to keep you active and grounded during this isolation period. Whether you are an expert gardener or a novice, there’s no time like now to add a plant in your garden, give the plants a much-needed trim or clean out the weeds.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)