Nandlal Master from Nagepur village in Uttar Pradesh moved to Varanasi. He shifted base for professional reasons and built a three-storey house in 2011. But soon he started missing his rural lifestyle. Belonging to a farming background, he wanted access to the fresh vegetables harvested from the farm.
“The vegetables I bought from the market were not as fresh as the ones in my village. Moreover, they were chemical-laden and had less nutritional value. I missed the fresh food grown in the village,” Nandlal tells The Better India.
Moreover, the waste generated from his kitchen in the village was decomposed on his farm. But in an urban set-up, Nandlal found difficulty segregating and putting it in a bin, unaware of its fate.
So, Nandlal decided to use his 1,000-square-foot terrace to grow vegetables. Today, his terrace is a lush green paradise filled with an abundance of chemical-free vegetables basking in the sun of 200 pots. More importantly, the kitchen waste from his house goes into a compost unit that enriches the nutritional value of his plants.
Sharing his journey about kitchen gardening, Nandlal says, “Initially, I grew flowering and other gardening plants. However, my curiosity crept on to explore if I could grow vegetables on my terrace. So, I began experimenting,” the 43-year-old says.
Nandlal, a social worker with an NGO, began growing leafy vegetables. “They were simpler to grow and gave me the confidence to grow other varieties,” he says. Later on, he began growing brinjal, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, cauliflower, okra, garlic, cucumber, tomato and other seasonal vegetables.
To treat the kitchen waste, he created a 30-feet bed for composting waste and creating organic manure. “I used compost to provide nutrients to the plants, which reduced my dependency on sourcing the manure externally. I made organic pest control solutions conceived out of neem, cow urine and other natural farm products,” he says, adding, “My farming experience from the village and a workshop attended on zero budget natural farming helped in identifying solutions.”
To improve the nutrient content in his pots, he rotates the crop varieties besides adding the compost.
The overall solutions help him grow 100 kilos of vegetables a week. “I grow seasonal vegetables and use about eight pots for each variety. Recently, I harvested about 70 kilos of cauliflower, 3 kilos of brinjal, and about 12 kilos of gourds. I also received a kilo of okra per day,” he shares.
Nandlal says his surplus harvest is more than enough to meet the vegetable demands for his wife Ranju and him.
“We started giving away the fresh produce to neighbours. They appreciated the quality of food. Some were also impressed with the pictures I shared on WhatsApp and Facebook,” he says.
Nandlal started receiving inquiries from people and has guided 20 families to grow organic vegetables.
Lal Bahadur, one of the neighbours inspired by Nandlal, says, “Like Nandlal, I was also concerned about the quality of vegetable produce available in the market. Initially, I was sceptical about growing vegetables on the terrace but I requested him to help me through the process.”
He adds that today he grows seven types of vegetables slowly, extending his terrace garden. “I aim to become as independent as Nandlal in terms of vegetable needs in future,” he adds.
Nandlal feels glad to have inspired his neighbourhood to take a step towards a chemical-free lifestyle. “My terrace farm also serves as a mini garden that provides respite and relief from the toxic air pollution,” he adds.
He hopes to inspire many more and increase his reach via social media.
For more gardening tips, call Nandlal on 9415300520.
Edited by Yoshita Rao