“There is something special about learning from experience. You question things, find solutions, and end up learning lessons that will stick with you for life,” says Ashwini Gajendran.
Perched in a suburb near the periphery of Mysore, this urban gardener feeds her family with lush homegrown bounties every day. But what is even more tasteful for her is the journey of learning how to self sustain; learning how to face challenges as they come and master them to provide nothing but the best for her family at all times.
Of the countable reasons why urban dwellers indulge in home gardening, Ashwini was inspired by necessity. Her journey began with a residential relocation from Malleswaram in Bengaluru to Vidyaranyapura in 2017 — a move that brought her family to a place where the nearest grocery shops were at least 2 km away.
Thus began her homegrown project, with a few tomato, coriander and curry leaves plants marking its inception.
Today, her terrace garden has expanded to an area of 1,000 sq ft with enough variety of fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants to get the family through without having to hit the markets.
The Better India got in conversation with her for tips to grow 10 fruits at home. Here is what she has to share from her experience:
Ashwini uses a lot of organic substances in growing her strawberries — her mantra is, “more compost, less soil”. She also suggests using plant suckers that may be taken from friends and family growing the plant, which according to her perform better than nursery plants.
2.Apple Bear (Jujube)
Also known as Chinese dates, these fruits make for great dried candies. Grafted plants of the same are easily available in the market, and are a better option for home growing. Ashwini says, “I grow my jujubes in a small bucket. For more fruits I transfer them to a bigger drum. I have come to realise that you just have to play with space to adjust how much yield you want.”
It’s said that if you dig deep, you’ll find a way. Ashwini tells us that despite having a lush green plant erected on her terrace, she couldn’t get it to bear fruit for the longest time. “Eventually, I did research; talked to people. This taught me that the cucumber plant requires pollination.” Female flowers are pollinated when bees or other insects carry pollen from the male flower to the female. “So I went ahead and planted a lot more plants around it to ensure that bees thrived on my terrace,” she says.
Ashwini says that grape vines require regular cutting. The plant should be trimmed every time it bears fruit. “The more you cut the more it flourishes,” she reveals.
5. Dragon Fruit
A single piece of dragon fruit can cost anywhere between Rs 80 to Rs 150 in local markets. Ashwini suggests that hence, the space investment required for growing a plant at home is worth it. “They yield very well. After planting, you can leave it unattended for days and still come back to the same hefty results. Being from the cactus family, the plants of dragon fruit have thorns. Hence, it’s best to plant them somewhere along the edge of your terrace.”
According to this seasoned gardener, it’s possible to grow bananas on your terrace. What’s important is that you use a large-sized grow bag or container. “It took a year and a half, but I did get a yield. The banana plant regenerates so you can just cut the top off and use it for the leaves as well,” she explains.
“Sun and proper trimming” is all that matters for growing mulberries, which are drought-resistant fruits that do not require much fussing over. Since the fruit itself doesn’t have a long shelf-life, Ashwini finds them to be a great gardening snack that is “fresh from farm to fork”.
Growing apples, like any other plant, requires sunlight but what’s important is how much and what kind of sunlight the plant receives. “Apple trees thrive best in a little shade where too much direct sunlight doesn’t hit them for too long,” the gardener explains. This means that direct afternoon sun should be avoided for this fruit.
Getting your papaya plant to bear fruit can often seem elusive. She suggests poking the stem with a nail or knife in such a case. The affliction hastens the process of regeneration and gets the plant to fruit faster. “Anecdotal explanations say that the plants think they’re going to die, and so they begin to fruit and leave seeds behind for the next generation,” Ashwini claims. “I slit my plant with a knife just above the topsoil recently. For the first time the plant has yielded three huge fruits.”
10. Sweet Lime and other citrus fruits
Ashwini says that “all citrus fruits are highly drought resistant”. She adds, “This means that they do not need to be watered excessively or even daily.” The lustrous leaves of these plants helps them retain water, thus making them an ideal pick for your home garden.
She goes on to suggest being mindful of the plants you choose to grow. This is because local plants have a stronger ability to thrive in your environment than exotic ones.
Edited by Yoshita Rao