Pushpa Sahu is a home gardener who grows over 100 types of plants, trees and shrubs, including a variety of organic fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants on her terrace, earning her the name 'Hariyali Didi'.
Pushpa Sahu’s homegrown garden is a quintessential example of the beneficial home gardening lifestyle.
Sprawled across the terrace of her house in Raipur, this garden is home to over a 100 types of trees, herbs, and shrubs that bear a variety of fruits and vegetables. This is where most of the family’s food is sourced from, providing them benefits of health, cost, and efficiency.
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The home gardener has about 10 types of fruits and 12 types of medicinal plants growing in her greenscape. The space is studded with fruiting plants of guava, tangerine, mango, lemon, apple, papaya, dragon fruit, and gooseberry, among others, as well as over 20 types of vegetables like tomato, chilli, brinjal, bottle gourd, okra, and beans. Added to this are some ornamental plants, leafy greens like coriander, spinach and fenugreek, and aesthetically pleasing shrubs.
Pushpa has been building this garden since 2013 to feed her family with fresh organic produce and reduce their dependence on market visits.
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Why home gardening?
Pushpa says farmers often need to use chemical fertilisers to save their crop from damage, but street vendors selling their produce tend to add unnecessary amounts of chemicals to keep the food fresh and attractive. This observation was the main cause for her to start growing her own plants for organic consumption.
Her journey began like any other home gardener’s; a few fruits were planted under the devoted care of her and her husband, Rajesh. Slowly, with their success, vegetables and other plants were introduced.
Most urban homes, including Pushpa’s, lack big courtyard spaces characteristic of suburban homes. Using the terrace is often related to structural damage of the house due to the weight of plants as well as water logging incidents.
But the tactical strategy employed by the quinquagenarian breaks all skepticisms about home gardening. She uses the raised platforms built on her terrace as pedestals for her plants, which are grown in oil drums easily available with local ragmen. A 200-litre drum is most suitably for smaller plants, while larger fruiting plants can be placed in 1,000-litre containers.
Placing the plants above ground level prevents any water logging, while the light weight of drum barrels as compared to ceramic pots balances the weight problem.
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From experience, she has come to realise that a lot of urban gardeners feel apprehensive about growing fruiting plants due to their large size. This becomes one of the main reasons why they remain deprived of farm to table food and lush greenery to feast their eyes on. “But recently, improved varieties of almost all fruits grow into trees no taller than six feet in height. With careful pruning, this size can be easily maintained within the space of one’s home,” her husband clarifies.
Apart from this, medicinal plants like tulsi, aloe vera, malabar nut, Indian ginseng and asparagus racemosus are easily grown in small sized grow bags.
The courage of Pushpa’s convictions has allowed the family to not only inculcate better eating habits, but also save on the expenses of buying market-sold produce. “I am able to save around Rs 3,000 per month. Due to good eating, our visits to the doctor have lessened. Also, the increase in the price of fruits and vegetables in the market does not affect us. We did not have to go anywhere even in the lockdown as our garden provided for everything,” she told The Better India.
The Sahu family believes that they have been able to reap great benefits in proportion to the amount of effort they put into going organic. They feel the air around them is cleaner, the environment greener, and their health better due to pure eating.
Over time, Pushpa’s determination has inspired friends and family members to take up gardening. Her mini farm has also been appreciated by local municipal authorities and mediapersons, who have given her the witty name of ‘Hariyali Didi’.
In her opinion, anyone who wishes to begin gardening should do so without doubts; the key is to begin small. Her own aim has remained to build a home garden without the use of external additives and without risking her house or health, and she believes that if she can do it, anyone can. She consistently strives to spread enough awareness about the benefits of kitchen gardening in the hopes of having every household of the country plant at least one or two trees at their home.
Edited by Divya Sethu