On any given day, Bengaluru-based Pratima Adiga’s home garden is an explosion of colours, from orange sweet potatoes to blue gingers, purple carrots, pink radish and all possible greens.
There are also spices like turmeric and fruits like pumpkins, strawberries, lichi, papaya and guava that further make her 800 square feet garden (divided between the 3rd and 4th floor) rather eye-pleasing.
And if there is one thing that the lockdown has not changed in the Adiga household, it is the constant supply for freshly harvested fruits and vegetables. Her garden offers her an average of 14-15 varieties of veggies every day, thus making the family self-sufficient.
Pratima, a former celebrity chef-turned-homemaker, started gardening four years ago to provide healthy and organic food to her family. Little did she know that unleashing her long-lost passion for gardening would one day give exorbitant returns.
For example, the highest produce Pratima has harvested in one cycle is 23 kilos of Turmeric and 30 kilos of ash gourd! During the lockdown, the garden produced close to 27 kilos of pumpkin, of which the family has already consumed 12 kilos. Meanwhile, the rest is kept for the future.
But we are not talking just about making money from her garden (though she is saving significantly as the garden fulfils 98 per cent of the family’s food needs). The phenomenal results Pratima talks about is her family’s health.
“Virals and coughs have reduced significantly and we feel more energised than ever before. It is like all my life I have consumed the wrong food, and I am finally eating naturally grown food that has a completely different taste. Plus, we enjoy pure air and a pleasant temperature even despite the rising heat in Bengaluru,” Pratima tells The Better India.
Varieties That Will Blow Your Mind
Growing food that has a longer shelf life is one of the early lessons Pratima learnt. Coming to the varieties, Pratima has grown 70+ varieties of tomatoes, eight of sweet potato, 29 of bottle gourd, five of ginger and eight of turmeric. She also grows herbs like oregano, lavender, basil, celery and lemongrass.
Recycled Containers to Grow Bags
For nearly 18 years, Pratima cooked mouth-watering dishes for different Kannada TV channel cookery shows. But they gave her very little idea about how the vegetables she was using grew. The closest she ever came to gardening was at her parent’s house where they grew a few plants.
So, Pratima underwent a gardening workshop conducted by experts Dr Rajendra Hegde and the late Dr Vishwanath in 2016, “It is important to learn basic concepts of gardening to avoid seed wastage and plant damage. The workshop helped me get started with 20 pots.”
Pratima consciously tried not to get too excited by growing ambitious plants. She started with the easiest ones like tomatoes, brinjal and radish.
She joined gardening groups comprising urban gardeners like her on Facebook and WhatsApp. This helped establish a strong network of people not just from India but also other countries like the United States.
For quick hacks and tips, Pratima would often post queries and on most days she would learn something new. The networking helped as she procured authentic heirloom seeds and nutrient-rich soil from the members. Some were kind enough to connect her with the right vendors.
Once she acquired expertise, Pratima ventured in other vegetables and fruits. Growing different varieties of each veggie became a goal.
As the plants in her garden increased, she recycled paint buckets, vegetable crates and plastic containers. She also added grow bags in the collection.
Going one step ahead, Pratima turns all her kitchen waste into compost for her plants. She makes a tonic to keep insects at bay from fruit and vegetable peels. Apart from this, she has also tied up with a local cowshed to source jeevamrutha. The proceed goes towards the cows’ welfare.
Here are a few gardening tips/hacks by Pratima:
Pratima’s secret behind growing so many varieties of vegetables is her willingness to take the risk.
“How will you learn if you do not fail? The workshop did help me understand the water, soil and sunlight requirements but the care and maintenance I learnt on my own. The more you pay attention to how your plant behaves or reacts daily, the easier it will be to grow food,” she adds.
Edited by Vinayak Hegde