Several found a unique way to pass time amid the pandemic induced lockdown — home gardening and growing organic vegetables. This could be in part due to a quest to find a hobby, and in part because of an increased focus on health and nutrition amid a global health crisis.
Part of this section of society that found solace and a healthy lifestyle right within the confines of their home is Surat-based Surti family. This family of five, spanning three generations, has utilised the lockdown period to expand their garden at home.
Subhash Surti, along with his father Harishchandra, wife Raksha, and two children, grows 15 medicinal plants, almost every seasonal vegetable, eight varieties of fruits, and several flowering plants. In total, there are more than 400 trees and plants in this house.
“While I have been growing plants around the house for a long time, everyone in my family, including my children, started to lend a hand only when the pandemic arrived. Many of our neighbours have also taken to the activity in their own homes,” says Subhash.
The true sense of magic comes from a special item in this home garden — potato in vines.
Three generations of home gardeners
Usually, potatoes are grown underground. However, this peculiar variety, brought from a mountain area, took almost two years before it yielded a decent harvest, he says.
Subhash completed a one-week course on terrace gardening from Surat Krishi Vigyan Kendra, where he picked up the technical know-how, proper potting techniques, knowledge about seasonal farming, and more.
He says that because the family has limited space around the house, they grow plants on the courtyard and terrace. “We bought this house 15 years back and have been engaged in gardening ever since. We try to grow at least 30 per cent of the vegetables required for our own daily use,” he explains.
About the ‘air potato’, he says that he found it while trekking, which is another beloved hobby of his. “While traveling through Gir Forest three years ago, I saw potatoes growing in vines. The local people explained that this type of potato is rich in starch. I planted a sapling at home, which showed good growth for one year, but no potatoes grew. We gave the plant extra care and after two years, it bore fruit,” Subhash says.
He uses about 1,000 square feet of his terrace and a courtyard of 3×14 feet on the side of the house to grow plants. Here, he grows seasonal vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, fenugreek, brinjal, beans, coriander, chillies, and bitter gourd, as well as regular ones like lady’s finger, pumpkin, bottle gourd, onion, beans and taro root.
Among fruits majorly cultivated by the family are pomegranate, phalsa, guava, amla, star fruit, banana, mulberry, and bael. Apart from these, big trees like moringa, guava and amla can be seen towering before the house.
Subhash, an engineer by profession, says, “Since the fruits need good sunlight, I grow them on the terrace. Rest of the vegetables are planted in the courtyard, where only limited sunlight is available.”
Subhash and his father are very fond of medicinal plants. In their garden, they grow two varieties of Aparajita plants, as well as turmeric, lemongrass, five types of basil, giloy, malabar nut, brahmi, ajwain, camphor paan, mint, and big cardamom. Subhash says his wife adores flowering plants.
When asked about the benefits of home-grown vegetables, he says, “We can spot the difference easily. Organic veggies taste better than market-bought ones. We can confidently eat them raw too. These veggies take less time to cook.”
His two children Hetav and Swara started taking time out for gardening during the lockdown and now water every plant regularly, he adds.
Meanwhile, Subhash’s father, who is 78 years old, says, “It gives me immense pleasure to see so many plants in the house. We used to grow only a few seasonal vegetables earlier.”
“When we started living here 15 years ago, not one among the 16 houses of this society was gardening, except ours. But today, almost all houses have a small garden. All credit goes to the pandemic, as people became more health-conscious,” Subhash opines.
Read this story in Hindi here.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)