Most aspiring gardeners look for plants that are easy-to-grow and ones which require minimal maintenance. The most common recommendations being tomatoes, chillies and brinjals. Besides the real taste of the vegetable, a positive result becomes an encouraging factor for any beginner to pursue gardening further.
Bengaluru-based Bhaskar Reddy was also advised the same but, even with no prior experience or knowledge of growing food, he preferred taking a rather unusual route. All he knew was that bananas flourished in the area where he resides — Yelahnak.
He saw plantations flourishing on the road with no caretaker and took that as a good sign. This could only mean that the sunlight and geographical condition was apt for growing bananas.
Fast forward three years, today the 60-year-old is a proud owner of 15 banana trees in his front yard. After experimenting with the local variety, he bought the ‘amrutpani’ variety from his native in Andhra Pradesh.
“Since I used only natural methods to grow bananas, the fruit’s overall lifespan has risen. In fact, the sweetness increases by the day. Every month, we get 30 kilos of bananas that we distribute among family and friends,” Bhaskar tells The Better India.
Coming from an agrarian family, Bhaskar always wanted to grow food but his hectic professional life never gave him the chance to do so. So, as soon as he retired, he actively engaged himself in gardening at home, along with his wife, Sowjanya.
Together they have more than 60 varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers at home since 2017, which meet 90 per cent of their food needs!
A Garden Without Pots
Sowjanya and Bhasker surrendered themselves to tutorials and approached their friends, who are into gardening, to acquire basic knowledge. Bhasker even attended lectures and workshops in the city on gardening.
Once the couple figured out the sunlight, water and soil requirements, they started with bananas.
Since their first tree was planted on the ground, they continued this ritual for all the other plants as well. So, when you enter his compound, you will find fruits and vegetables blooming directly from the ground. For this, Bhasker got red soil for his plants as it is rich in natural nutrients like iron.
Next, he arranged for cow dung as a natural fertiliser, which he has been using ever since. Oil and cake made from neem are recent additions.
The couple reveals that mulching is an important aspect when growing food on the ground. Sowjanya explains, “Mulch acts as a protective layer that is spread on top of the soil. It helps retain moisture for a longer period and increases the fertility and health of the soil. Earlier we covered it with plastic sheets available at home but now we have replaced it with an eco-friendly material like dry banana leaves.”
As for the seeds, Bhaskar recommends procuring them directly from farmers or nurseries. One can also preserve seeds from fruits and vegetables instead of discarding them as waste.
The Reddy’s homegrown food list is impressive not only because they have so many plants but also because of the multiple varieties of plants like tomatoes and bananas.
The garden boasts of carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, all kinds of gourds, French beans, chillies, brinjals, ladies finger. Their leafy veggies selection includes curry leaves, mulberry spinach, coriander, spinach, methi, fenugreek and gongura hibiscus.
Fruits like Indian gooseberry, mango, sweet lime, custard apple, ramphal, while turmeric, cardamom, tulsi (Holy Basil), ashwagandha (Withania), ginger and drumsticks are also grown here.
Meanwhile, the aromatic ones like roses, Mysore Mallige and lilies keep the garden fragrant throughout the year.
Multiple fragrances, colours, and of course the quality of food prepared from the fresh produce of their own garden has had a direct impact on the health of the Reddy couple. In addition to this, they share that the shelf life of all their produce has increased due to organic farming.
Edited by Yoshita Rao