"The last set of the harvest that I got was 80kg tomatoes, 20 kg ladies finger, 10kg green chillies and 10 kgs of brinjal. Now you wouldn't expect such a huge amount of harvest from a studio terrace right?"
If you ever visit the White Magic Shooting Floor Studio in Ramanatukaara, a picturesque town in Kerala, you can be sure that you won’t be leaving with just pictures. The studio is also home to a terrace garden filled with organic fruits and vegetables and is, naturally, famous among the town dwellers.
The terrace garden is the labour of love of owner and photographer of the studio, Shibi M. Vaidyar, 42, from Kozhikode. The reason for the terrace’s popularity, besides the novelty of a studio-cum-organic garden, is that Shibi distributes the harvest for free to his customers and neighbours.
“The last set of the harvest that I got was 80kg tomatoes, 20 kg ladies finger, 10kg green chillies and 10 kgs of brinjal. Now you wouldn’t expect such a huge amount of harvest from the studio terrace right?” laughs Shibi.
Saving Water With A Terrace Garden
The idea of utilising the terrace space to grow plants germinated due to the overflowing of the water tank. Shibi wanted to stop the wastage and tried to think of ways to conserve it. That’s when he came up with the idea of setting up his own terrace garden where he can use the excess water from the tank as well as the water used to clean the studio.
Shibi’s studio which is situated on the airport road in Ramanattukara has been open for almost 10 years now but the terrace garden was started just about 3 years back.
“The first plant was tomato, I saw it sprout within a few weeks and this got me really excited because I have no previous experience in farming or even planting anything for that matter and this actually came as a surprise. So I slowly started expanding the garden and now we have a whole variety of plants,” explains Shibi.
Now that his garden has flourished, he harvests around 120kg of veggies in a month!
When the garden expanded, Shibi needed more water. He asked the other shop owners in his building and then collected all the excess water flowing from all the tanks in the building in a separate tank exclusively dedicated for the terrace garden. That way, there would be no wastage of water from the entire building.
Keeping the momentum of water conservation going, Shibi has also started rainwater harvesting to store enough water for the summers.
“Things are a lot easier for me because the soil here is very rich in nutrients. All I do is add a little bit of peanut cake manure and neem leaf manure to the grow bags. The terrace is not my own. The owner of the building, Hajiyar was so amazed by the harvest that he has given me the terrace for cultivation absolutely free of cost,” explains Shibi.
All the produce from Shibi’s farm is completely organic and he is very keen on avoiding the use of chemicals and other artificial fertilisers.
“Even if I decide to expand this as a business, I won’t use any harmful chemicals. I spend around Rs 4000 every month for the garden and I think that’s a small price to pay for a lifelong source of healthy vegetables,” he adds.
Simple Idea Big Results
Today, Shibi uses up all his free time in the garden and says that he plans on expanding the garden even further with more varieties of plants that can easily be grown in bags.
“Most of the time, Shibi closes up the building because he’ll be the last one out after watering all the plants and giving them all the required nourishment. It’s truly amazing to see his dedication and what he has done with the small space on the terrace,” says Hajiyar, owner of the building.
“Photography is and always will be my passion but the love for farming is something that I didn’t even know I had in me which surprises me every day,” he concludes.
Overflowing tanks are a common sight in most buildings in our country. Shibi’s simple idea to resolve this issue by creating a terrace garden has brought a huge difference and impacted his life in an unexpected way. Such simple and innovative ideas can save up on our precious resources.
Also Read: Kolkata Society Takes Kids From Textbooks to Fields, Teaches Them to Farm!
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)