Kerala Farmer Shares How To Grow Potatoes, Carrots & More With Dry Leaves

C V Varghese from Wayanad has come up with a solution to grow produce using a vertical mesh tower method, which allows maximum produce in limited spaces. The method also uses dry leaves and other organic matter.

In busy cities, several residents are taking to terrace gardening. While some use their terrace or backyards, others grow produce in their balconies. Finding ways to grow the maximum amount of plants in limited space is always a challenge.

C V Varghese, a vegetable farmer in Wayanad, Kerala has come up with an innovative solution to grow potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and other vegetables in limited spaces using a vertical mesh tower method. Apart from that, he was able to grow these vegetables in dry leaves, wet and dry cow dung, goat dung, organic fertilizers like jeevamrutha and neem cake, and very little soil.

growing potatoes in dry leaves
C V Varghese, a farmer from Wayanad, Kerala.

Here’s how he did it:

Making the mesh tower

Step 1: Purchase a metal mesh wire that has 2-inch gaps and is 5ft tall.

Step 2: Cut the mesh in 1.5-metre width and paint it if you wish.

Step 3: Bend the mesh to form a cylindrical shape or tower and bind the ends together using plastic zip ties.

growing potatoes in dry leaves
Varghese showing the tower made from mesh wire.

Layering the tower

Before you begin adding the elements of the potting mix, such as the dry leaves, cut a PVC pipe of 0.75 diameters and 5 ft length. Put holes with 3.5 inches gap between them to release water. Place this inside the tower and then start layering the soilless mediums.

growing potatoes in dry leaves
Place a PVC pipe with holes inside the tower to water the plants.

Step 1: Add 4 or 5 inches of dry hay. This layer will prevent the potting mix from leaking below.

growing potatoes in dry leaves
Add 4 inches of hay.

Step 2: Then add 50cms of dry leaves. Use a long stick or pipe to shove the leaves and pack them together.

growing potatoes in dry leaves
Add 50 cms of dry leaves.

Step 3: Add a layer of wet cow dung.

growing potatoes in dry leaves
A layer of wet cow dung.

Step 4: Prepare a dry mix of goat dung, dry cow dung, neem cake, and some organic soil mix.

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growing potatoes in dry leaves
A dry mix of organic ingredients.

Step 5: Add the dry mix layer. Then, place a few sprouted potato cuttings, evenly spaces, in a circular order.

growing potatoes in dry leaves
Placing potato sprouts.

Step 6: Add dry mix again to cover the potatoes.

Step 7: Repeat the process by adding more layers of dry leaves, cow dung, dry mix and potato sprouts.

growing potatoes in dry leaves
Vertical tower to grow vegetables.

Varghese says that in one tower, he was able to plant 20 potato sprouts.

Plant maintenance

In November 2020, Varghese planted potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, capsicum and a few more vegetables in 10 towers.

“In some of the towers, I planted potatoes at the bottom and tomatoes or chillies at the top,” he says, adding that this did not affect the growth of the plants or the produce.

After planting the sprouts, Varghese watered them regularly. Within one month, the leaves started growing outside the mesh tower, and he added organic fertilizers like jeevamrutha and neem cakes to replenish the potting mix.

By the end of January, the vegetables were ready for harvest. While Varghese did not calculate how many kilograms he cultivated, he says that from the 10 towers, he was able to grow 120 potatoes.

Varghese’s 28-year-old son, Akhil Varghese says that there were so many vegetables that they could not consume it all themselves. “After taking what we needed, we shared the rest with our neighbours,” says Akhil.

If you wish to know more about how to grow plants using the mesh tower you can contact Varghese at 9744367439.

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