Vijay Sharma and his mother have always been fond of cluster beans. But over the years, they noticed the quality of the market-bought vegetable deteriorating.
“The quality of the vegetables in the market is not good. So, in 2017 I decided to plant cluster bean seeds in my home garden,” he says.
Their small experiment sowed the seeds of a home gardening project at the Sharma house.
A swimming coach by profession in SP College in Bikaner, Rajasthan, Vijay was motivated by the project’s success and expanded his plantation. “Our quality of cluster beans was far better and fresh than market produce. Inspired by the results, I started growing spinach, okra, chillies and other varieties of vegetables,” he says.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, he spent more time expanding his home garden, which today has over 150 varieties of vegetable and medicinal plants spread across a 1,500 square feet area.
“The college activities came to a standstill owing to lockdown restrictions, and I was confined to my home. To keep busy and alleviate stress, I started spending more time in the garden,” he explains.
He says that he started increasing his plantation with more fruits and vegetable varieties. “I began learning on social media to plant carrots, raddish, coriander, cauliflower vegetables along with fruit varieties such as mangoes, pomegranates, oranges and mandarins,” he says.
Besides, he started growing medicinal plants like holy basil, giloy and others.
When the lockdown imposed more limitations on accessing resources, Vijay then started using drums, discarded tyres and broken plastic containers to grow plants. When those fell short, he created moulds using cement and towel to build pots. Eventually, he managed to source environmentally-friendly pots made from Pokhran red soil.
He says that he used a mix of 50 per cent cow dung manure or coco peat along with soil for his plants, a practice he continues to date. He has also installed a drip irrigation system to ensure efficient watering of plants.
He adds that the home garden has brought him many benefits apart from having a source of fresh vegetable produce.
“My day begins with spending time in the garden tending the plants. It helps me relieve stress as I surround myself with greenery. The plants, creepers and other vegetation create a microclimate that helps reduce harsh heat during the summer season when temperatures peak close to 50 degrees Celsius. The creepers protect the plants from direct sunlight by sheltering and cooling the temperature in the garden,” he says.
“My dependency on the market has reduced, and I save about Rs 1,500 every month on vegetables,” he says, adding that he plans to lease a 2.5-acre land to practice organic farming.
For beginners, Vijay advises starting with seasonal vegetables. “The vegetable plants need occasional trimming. Watering the plants is equally important for their healthy growth,” he says.
He suggests gardeners grow fruit plants during the monsoon. “The plants tend to develop stronger roots during rainy seasons,” he says.
He is glad that he learned and expanded his garden during the lockdown, and adds, “I have learned new skills and now grow my food, which gives me immense pride and satisfaction.”
Edited by Yoshita Rao