How We Built a Self-Sustaining Terrace Garden With Over 450 Plants

Interested in terrace gardening? Meet Bhubhaneshwar's Jayanti Sahu who has created a green paradise of over 450 plants of vegetables, fruits and flowers.

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever,” is a phrase that noted poet John Keats wrote in his poem Endymion in 1818. One look at the terrace garden that has been beautifully nurtured by Jayanti Sahu and her husband Chittaranjan brings this phrase to life.

Speaking to The Better India, Jayanti (53), a resident of Bhubaneswar, says, “I have been tending to my garden for over 25 years now. I remember each pot and plant that occupies space on my terrace. I will also be able to tell you exactly when I planted it or where I got it from.”

The home that the Sahus reside in has been transformed into a green paradise with all kinds of flowers, fruits and vegetables growing here.

A beautiful pink lotus blooming on Jayanti Sahu's terrace garden
One of the beauties in the Sahu terrace garden.

While Jayanti has been a homemaker all these years, Chittaranjan (60) retired from his bank job just a year ago. Having won several awards for her plants over the years from the Plant Lovers Association, Bhubaneswar and NALCO, Jayanti says, “I have now consciously stopped going for these competitions because it then takes away the chance from other enthusiastic and younger growers. I am content with all I have won, and now find happiness in spending time on my terrace with my plants.”

For Jayanti, the passion to take up gardening was instilled in her by her father, who used to grow vegetables and fruits that the family consumed. “I would watch him spend hours tending to the plants. I am glad that the green thumb he had has been passed on to me,” she says with a slight smile.

‘How the pandemic gave us a boost’

Some brinjal, lady's finger and flowers from the terrace garden.
A look at what is grown in the terrace garden.

Until March 2020, the couple’s terrace garden was filled with seasonal flowers and plants. It was only during the lockdown that Jayanti decided to focus on planting more vegetables and fruits. “During the lockdown, we were all confined to our homes and stepping out even to buy our daily vegetables was proving to be a problem. That was when I increased the number of vegetables I was growing.”

Jayanti is very clear that only those vegetables consumed by everyone are grown on her terrace. “For instance, as a family we do not consume too much cauliflower, so we do not grow that. However, lady’s finger (bhindi), tomato, brinjal, cucumber, pumpkin, and greens like spinach, radish and methi are all things we like, so I grow them.”

Jayanti has over 450 pots on the terrace, with flowering pots in crates, alongside longer ones that can hold upto 20 plants in one. “I have never actually counted how many there are, but I know there are many.” She also says that with winter setting in, the number of flowering plants is increasing.

“I have more than 10 varieties of bougainvillea and over 25 pots with adeniums.

Marigold and bougenvila on the terrace garden.
Jaynati with some of her favourite flowers.

Alongside there are various kinds of water lilies, lotus flowers, orchids, passion flower, rose, jasmine, Brahma Kamal and even marigolds,” she says.

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The couple enjoys the time they spend on their terrace garden and Jayanti says, “Even though we do not drink tea, we love the time we spend on the terrace amongst the beauty.”

Making modifications to grow fruiting plants

A look at the terrace garden
A look at some of the modifications made.

Growing a fruiting plant on the terrace was posing to be a challenge in the beginning, but Chittaranjan found a way to work around it. Jayanti says, “There was a fear of the terrace floor not being able to take the weight of the fruiting plants. To address this, we put a mixture of soil, compost, cocopeat and dried leaves in a large plastic container and started using those containers to grow them. This reduced the load on the terrace considerably.”

The couple is now growing guava, mango, chikoo, lemon, and papaya. “Our chikoo plant bears us very sweet fruits which are enjoyed by everyone at home,” says Jayanti.

For all this, she says she spends close to two hours every morning, and almost one and a half hours every evening on her terrace garden.

She says, “My children have always respected my time, and when I am on the terrace, they do not even bother to call me for anything. That time that I get to myself is very precious and I am glad everyone understands that at home.” When asked if she has hired help to tend to the plants, she says, “These are my babies, and I do everything on my own. The joy of seeing them grow is something I wouldn’t like to miss out on.”

“Working on the terrace is also a great way for my husband and me to get the exercise we need,” she says with a laugh.

(Edited by Divya Sethu)

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