The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced some new words to the dictionary. Social distancing, Flattening the Curve, Lockdown, Institutional Quarantine and Self-Quarantine, among others. On the other end of the spectrum are terms which have more positive connotations like quarancleaning, quarantine baking, quarantine cooking, and my favourite, quarantine gardening.
I mean, what better way to spend the lockdown than invest in a greener and better future?
Nagpur-based friends Manisha Kulkarni and Ankita Masurkar thought the same. The founders of Green Gifts – an ornamental plants nursery, found themselves confined to their houses during the lockdown. Not ones to sit idle, the duo decided to utilise their spare time at home in adorning their backyards, verandahs and terraces with fresh blooms, fruits and vegetables – all grown 100 per cent organically.
“At present, my front yard garden and backyard fruit grove are flourishing with vegetables, fruits, shrubs and other indoor and outdoor plants. At the same time, Ankita has turned her apartment terrace into a thriving urban garden,” says Manisha, in a conversation with The Better India (TBI).
Helping Change Gifting Habits in Millennials
Both Manisha and Ankita have shared a special bond with plants since childhood. Manisha, for instance, grew up in a household filled with plants since her father was in the nursery business.
For the HR professional, the switch to becoming a full-time home gardener/entrepreneur came gradually.
Working in the demanding corporate world, she always found comfort in nurturing the blooms and kitchen herbs in her little garden. Moreover, as a doting mother to two kids, she wished to be engaged in a vocation which gave her ample time to be a hands-on mom. She also wanted her work to be something she truly loved.
Interestingly, Manisha had always been known in her circles for gifting the most beautiful plant arrangements on special occasions. “My friends would request me to customise these for their home decor or personal gifting purposes. So, I thought of turning it into an enterprise.”
And that’s how she decided to turn her green hobby to a full-fledged business. Manisha thought of launching an enterprise along with her friend Ankita – a kindred spirit whose passion for gardening was akin to her own. Together, the duo launched Green Gifts in 2018 – a one-stop-shop for all eco-friendly gifting solutions like a fairy garden, miniature garden, terrariums, bonsai, bespoke green gifting etc.
Introducing her Kids to Lockdown Gardening
Maharashtra is one of the worst COVID-19 affected regions in India, and the lockdown restrictions have been imposed with maximum supervision. Manisha and Ankita had to put a halt to their business as well. A week into the lockdown, they decided to dedicate their efforts towards greening their abodes.
“I have an independent bungalow with around 1000 sq ft of gardening space available in the front and back yard. I was already growing some vegetables and flowers there, but I decided to upgrade the space in lockdown,” says Manisha.
Since sourcing seeds from vendors was out of the question, she started procuring seeds from her own kitchen. She collected tomato, brinjal, bell pepper and chilli seeds after cooking, dried and sowed them in the soil. The saplings sprouted in no time, much to her delight. “My bell peppers are flourishing right now,” she chuckles.
For organic seeds and saplings, a friend in the same city who practices organic farming came to Manisha’s aid. Soon, her garden boasted of fresh saplings of broccoli, cabbage, capsicum, aubergine, tomato etc.
She also asked her kids to not throw any fruit seeds away after eating, but plant them instead. “Except for apples, all the seeds planted by my kids have grown into healthy plants now. They are on cloud nine seeing the papaya, pomegranate, Mausambi and orange plants growing well in the tropical climate of Nagpur.”
Preparing Organic Compost & Insecticides at Home
The absence of the garbage collector during lockdown proved to be a boon for Manisha’s garden. She collected all the fallen leaves in her garden and combined it with the wet waste – thereby preparing fertile compost and mulch. She adds this organic, homemade compost to all her plants, including the ornamental plants in her nursery.
To keep her plants safe from pest attacks, Manisha sprays a homemade decoction of organic liquid soap, baking soda and water.
Manisha’s Organic Insecticide
For less harmful pests:
- 2 tablespoons of a mild liquid soap
- 1 tablespoon of baking soda
- 1 litre of water
For more persistent infestation:
- Raw tobacco soaked in water overnight
- Extract diluted in another litre of water
Ankita Masurkar is also adopting similar practices of home composting and preparing organic insecticides at home. Her terrace garden comprises more of indoor plants and flowering shrubs. She even engages in grafting, layering, budding and other plantation methods.
The duo has resumed their nursery services on a smaller scale from the first week of May and is following all sanitisation protocols before preparing and delivering orders across Nagpur.
Like Manisha and Ankita, many Indians are testing their green thumbs in the lockdown by engaging in quarantine gardening. Be it an urban jungle in a studio apartment or an expansive garden in a suburban estate – each organic garden has its own beauty.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)