In 2016, Ganesh Kulkarni (41), a librarian and resident of Aurangabad’s Phulambri taluka, decided to take up gardening as a new hobby. He bought a rose plant and started watering it every day, but slowly, the plant’s health deteriorated and it died.
With no experience in gardening or a friend to turn to for help, Ganesh began his research online, where he found many groups on gardening on Facebook. He joined ‘Gacchivaril Baug’ (terrace garden) and started seeking inputs from urban gardeners all over India.
He slowly gained a better understanding of how to care for his plants, and soon had around 400 pots of flowers and a variety of plants on his terrace. After his endeavour became popular among his friends and family, he created a WhatsApp group where residents of the city could exchange plants and discuss topics related to gardening.
Shortly after the COVID-19 lockdown, Ganesh moved to a new home, where he decided to also grow vegetables alongside his existing plants. Today, his 800 sq-ft terrace boasts of all the seasonal vegetables that you might think of.
‘A part of the green revolution’
Ganesh’s collection of plants includes five types of gourds, as well as brinjal, tomato, okra, and pumpkin. Alongside, he has leafy vegetables such as spinach, mint, ginger, coriander, fenugreek, chillies, cabbage, curry leaves, onion, and garlic among 200 types of vegetables, fruits and flowers.
He says that he plants different vegetables every fortnight and that the food he grows is adequate to feed his family of four.
About his experience of learning on Facebook, Ganesh says that his queries were politely addressed and people helped him at each step. “I learned to make organic fertiliser, use cow dung and prepare vermicompost. I have dedicated 300 square feet of space for preparing compost. Moreover, I sought inputs on pest control by sending pictures and seeking remedies,” he says.
But growing all the vegetables would require a huge quantity of soil which could weigh the roof down and thus threaten the structural integrity of his newly built house.
“I took advice from the architect and made structural amendments. Also, instead of grow bags and pots, I built permanent pits along the walls. I use a mix of vermicompost, sand and leaves to avoid use of soil and thereby reduce the overall weight on the roof,” Ganesh says.
Ganesh says that his hobby has turned into an obsession. “I have started growing aloe vera, drumstick and other plants on a 4 acre area of the Sant Savtamali Gramin Mahavidyalaya, an educational institute where I work,” he says. “I have also set up an NGO, Green Trust, which has contributed to plant 1,500 saplings in the college premises with the help of volunteers.”
Ganesh says that today, he has 10 groups of 1,500 WhatsApp members within the city. “We started with eight members and eventually inspired others through word of mouth and references. I understand the potential of social media and it has helped me remain occupied and pursue gardening despite the lockdown. Today, we have become a community who help each other for gardening queries and motivate each other to grow our own food,” he says.
From being an amateur and seeking help on social media, he has become a mentor to newcomers. “I feel proud and glad to be able to guide them. Gardening has given me friends in different parts of India and the confidence to become part of an urban green revolution,” he adds.