For 67-year-old Dr Mohini Gadhia, gardening is a part of life. She is forever grateful to her green paradise, which she says has helped in her speedy recovery from a brain stroke that happened a year ago.
This Surat native has been growing over 15 varieties of vegetables in her garden, while also preparing fertilisers and pesticides needed for the healthy growth of plants. She says that living near plants and taking care of them is important for the environment, as well as for our health.
After retiring as a professor, Dr Mohini devoted most of her time to gardening. But her illness forced her to take a break. Now that she’s healthier, she is back to doing what she loves with as much vigour as before, if not more.
“Trees, plants and the environment in total teach us different things every day. The process of gardening is therapeutic. It calms us down and makes us happy. I’ve learned so much from this task, which started as a pastime and turned into a part of my life,” says the professor.
Passionate terrace farming
Dr Mohini, a professor of Aquatic Biology, has been living in Surat since 1982. Her flat has a large terrace of about 600 square feet, where she used to grow some ornamental plants. In her busy routine, she hardly found time to do gardening. Later, she came to know of and attended a few terrace gardening workshops.
In 2017, she completed a course in terrace farming and started growing some all-season veggies.
She says, “The large terrace on our flat that faces east was a perfect spot to undertake gardening. I gained confidence to grow something other than ornamental plants after doing the course. I started off by planting brinjal. Once it gave good yield, I started growing more types of veggies.” Now Dr Mohini grows more than 15 vegetables every season.
She says that of all the things she grows, brinjals and beans yield the most harvest and that she distributes them among her neighbours. Other major crops include fenugreek, soya, mustard, spinach, radish, coriander, tomato and turmeric.
Fruits like dragon fruit, mulberry, cilantro and plum can also be spotted in this home garden. Dr Mohini says, “I have planted bananas too, but the fruits have not yet grown. More than fruits, I grow vegetables. There are more than 600 plants in my garden at present.”
She makes organic fertilisers and pesticides using whatever is available at home. For example, instead of cocopeat, she uses dry leaves. Altogether, it is a low-budget garden where the pots are actually old bins or toys.
By incorporating a little creativity and making the most out of the available space, Dr Mohini has made her garden interesting, with multiple layers. “Vegetables like bottle gourd and Chinese okra grow in the vine during the summer season. I grow brinjal, tomato and chilli under it simultaneously. Leafy vegetables grow comfortably in small pots placed between them,” says the smart gardener.
In October 2020, Dr Mohini suffered a brain stroke, after which she was not able to walk properly. Recalling those days, she says, “I couldn’t do gardening on my own for a year, so I hired a gardener. But I wasn’t satisfied and wanted to do everything myself. For the past few months, I have been back in the garden. Now I do all the work, including composting and cutting. During the months of illness, I realised that plants can also do the work of a therapist.”
Dr Mohini was inspired by her family – husband and a daughter – to rejoin gardening. She is also associated with some gardening groups in Surat.
“The major investment you need for gardening is willpower. If you want to grow something, there will definitely be a way. Also, everyone should try their hands on growing vegetables at home. Once you taste these organic veggies, there is no going back,” she concludes.
Read this story in Hindi here.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)