Atop a residential building in Dwarka, Delhi, thrives a mini-ecosystem on Rashmi Shukla’s 1000 square ft terrace. A quaint bamboo hut in the centre holds space to spend a quiet evening amidst nature. This structure is surrounded by close to 700 plants of different varieties and a host of chirping birds that have made this mini forest their home.
While the metropolitan has come to be associated with polluted air and noisy environment, Rashmi’s terrace garden is an example of how small steps can lead to making one’s surroundings greener and more livable.
A Thriving Ecosystem
This urban gardener tries to ensure that her garden flourishes under natural conditions as much as possible. “I choose not to touch chemical substances unless a drastic situation like an infestation arises. In my opinion, insects and birds choose to visit only those spaces where they feel safe and healthy. It is important that a garden is raised with care and natural substances to welcome them,” she tells The Better India.
For nutrition, she uses organic compost made at home from fallen leaves and kitchen waste. The potting mix found in her garden is made by mixing coco peat and cow dung in the soil.
To keep insects away from leaves, she sprays 10 ml of milk diluted in 1 litre of water. “Apart from being a great source of calcium for the plants, the milk leaves behind proteins on their leaves which insects find hard to digest,” she reveals.
The synergy of this thriving forest is maintained as much by this woman’s love for greenery as it is by calculated efforts. It boasts a symphony of flowers like marigold and dahlia, foliage, and fruiting trees like lemon, pomegranate and chikoo, herbs, vegetables and other vines.
She says it is important to be mindful of the plants you grow and how you take care of them. If tended to correctly, such green spaces become self-sustaining over time. She says, “The flowers help my vegetable plants by promoting pollination through bees. Fragrant herbs like lemongrass and mint keep insects away in the areas that I plant them. In this way, biodiversity takes care of itself on my terrace.”
Rashmi’s experience also tells her that sunflowers tend to attract parrots. Apart from this, nightingales are often found chirping in this garden and birds like wild doves and tailor birds have created their nests.
“When I came into the city 15 years ago, I hardly knew anything about gardening. But coming from Patna, I had brought with me a great appreciation for nature,” says the passionate gardener.
Like any other person lured towards the gifts of nature, Rashmi had always dreamt of having a safe haven of greenery around her. But the manifestation of this dream began with a mere five to six pots of plants.
In her opinion, the idea of creating a natural ecosystem seems intimidating for most people who feel the need to start big. However, she advises beginners to choose a few plants at first, and learn to take care of them. “Research well on how to grow these plants well. In the process of raising them, you will get more comfortable with nurturing life and will even develop an intuition apart from experience-based knowledge,” she says.
Over the years, Rashmi has managed to juggle the plethora of responsibilities that come with being a homemaker and still managed to build something she can call her own. She is also able to feed her family with these clean bounties of nature.
In her eyes, this garden is not just a beautiful space to be cherished, but also a great stress reliever for people out there who are looking for a pleasant escape from the daily bustle of life.
To share her learnings and promote a gardening culture, she has also started a YouTube channel called Create to Decorate.
Read this article in Hindi here.
Edited by Yoshita Rao