Every time she walks on to her terrace, Muthu Nagappan, a homemaker from Tiruchi, takes a deep breath and is transported to her childhood. It is the scent of wet mud and greenery that she experienced as a child, and 30 years later, she is in the middle of it again.
Her mornings begin with watering her lush green garden and plucking fresh vegetables like brinjal, okra or spinach, for lunch. She makes the second round in the evening to check the health of the plants and sprays homemade fertilizers.
While the garden has certainly fulfilled Muthu’s dream of growing her own produce, it has also turned out to be a major boon in the lockdown. Thanks to her efforts, the family is reaping the benefits of organic vegetables and does not have to rely on the market, as every two days, her garden gives quarter kilo of each vegetable.
“Our garden gives us 90 per cent of vegetables for the entire family. We rarely, if ever, step out to purchase vegetables. It also has a calming effect on all of us” Muthu tells The Better India.
In a 500 square feet area, Muthu grows almost 25 varieties of vegetables and has more than 100 grow bags and 3-4 vegetable crates. At no point does she use any chemicals or harmful pesticides to fasten the growth and keep the insects at bay.
How She Started
Muthu shifted to Tiruchi from Chennai after her wedding, and greatly missed her parents home, which had a flourishing vegetable garden. She even tried to grow some vegetables on the terrace, but her first few attempts were unsuccessful.
Considering how challenging it is to grow vegetables at home, most people in her position would give up on their dream. However, Muthu found a solution in Ganga Organic Farms in Thiruverumbur. The organisation helps people set up vegetable gardens by providing training and essential materials.
“Last year I took a month’s training and learnt that farming at home is much more than just sowing seeds. It needs to have proper soil, organic fertilizer, good quality seeds and so on. After a few trial and error methods, I understood the process,” she recollects.
The firm gave Muthu a soil mix, grow bags and seeds.
“The minimum area required to accommodate 20 grow bags is 100 sq ft. We highly recommend grow bags as they are lightweight and can retain the moisture for a longer period. We also give a mixture of soil, cocopeat and vermicompost (1:3:5 ratio) that increases microbial activity and gives enriched nutrients to the plants,” says Harihara Karthikeyan,the founder of the Ganga Organic Farms to The Better India.
Ensuring Organic Growth
For most gardeners, having a steady growth and keeping the insects away are two big problems and often they end up using chemical fertilizers. This defeats the entire purpose of growing vegetables at home.
Muthu, however, is particular about making her own organic fertilizers at home. She converts all her kitchen waste into compost.
“I have two small composting units that work on a rotational basis. I purchased a bag of microbes for Rs 100. I add a layer of microbes on the kitchen waste daily. It does not smell and I keep the area around the compost bins clean,” Muthu says.
Muthu also collects the liquid that the compost bin releases every alternate day, mixes it with water and sprays it on plants. The mixture acts as an organic fertilizer.
With these methods, Muthu’s garden has given her a wide range of vegetables like chillies, long beans), spinach, drumstick, lemongrass and fruits like papaya, pomegranate, guava and tomatoes.
Muthu’s garden blooms with colourful plants and attracts a lot of birds and butterflies. “I certainly feel close to nature. It is amazing to see how much can a garden affect us mentally and how it plays a role in improving our diet.”
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)