Kochi-based architect, Elizabeth Cherian, always created beautiful terrace gardens and vegetable patches for her clients but she could hardly find time to create her own little paradise.
However, confined at home during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, the 33-year-old decided to pursue her longing desire to have a terrace garden of her own.
In October 2020, she found her way to the nearest nursery and bought seeds of various vegetables and fruits. By December that year, she had 30 varieties of vegetables and fruits growing on her 10-cent terrace land.
“I always set gardens and landscaping for my clients and thought — why shouldn’t I do it for myself? With my gardening success, the majority of my daily vegetable needs are sufficed by the home garden. Apart from potato, onion, ginger and garlic, I do not buy any vegetables from the market,” says Elizabeth, who lives with her brother, husband and two kids.
She adds that her garden produce has been so overwhelming that she is regularly distributing vegetables to her extended family living in the same colony.
“On my daily visit to the terrace garden, I find at least 20 ripe tomatoes waiting to be harvested. What will I do with so many tomatoes? I distribute the surplus to seven families that include two uncles, grandparents and my brothers,” she exclaims.
Elizabeth grows all the leafy vegetables that include mint and coriander as well. Some of the other vegetables in her garden are tapioca, aubergine, gourds, chillies, beans and okra.
“As a Keralite, dosa and sambar are a staple breakfast in the family. We have at least two vegetables and curry for lunch whereas, for dinner, we consume meat or pulses. Thanks to my garden we have not faced any deficit in our vegetable needs,” Elizabeth says.
How to be an organic urban gardener?
About her experience with growing vegetables, the architect explains, “I wanted to grow all the plants organically, and I started treating the seeds accordingly. I soaked the seeds in rice water for six hours or overnight as needed. I prepared the soil by mixing rice husk, compost and soil. I added water cow dung, peat cake and other organic matter, like vermicompost, to provide the right nutrients to the soil.”
Elizabeth says the abundant vegetable produce is due to the organic nutrients given to the soil. “I spray neem oil every week to prevent pests on the plants. As the plants and vegetables are chemical-free, the bees, insects and other birds thrive on the food. Out of 10 fruits in the garden, we only get two to eat. Sometimes I end up finding only the skin of the beans as the birds have eaten them,” she laughs.
“I have lived here for many years and did not see any bird apart from the crow. But now there are visitors like parrots and other local birds to feed on the garden food. I am glad that I can help support the ecology in a little way,” Elizabeth tells The Better India.
The urban gardener says that she plans to try growing ginger and potato in her garden. “I am sure that I will succeed and hopefully I can grow more vegetables in future to become self-sufficient,” she beams with confidence.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)