Anand Maheshwari from Rajasthan set up his 800 sq ft rooftop garden during the lockdown. He shares how he's recycling milk packets, snack boxes, detergent covers and thermocol containers to grow ornamental and flowering plants.
In Rajasthan, the hottest state of India, it is challenging to take up gardening as a hobby and maintain a fully-fledged garden. But Barmer-resident Anand Maheshwari is up for the challenge.
It was during the COVID-19-induced lockdown that Anand forayed into gardening. “I realised the importance of breathing fresh air and having organic food then. What started as a hobby has now turned into a part-time job too, says the 40-year-old.
Today, his garden is made up of over 1,000 plants of 150 varieties and all of them are grown in discarded cans, containers, bags and boxes.
A Rajasthani oasis
A readymade garments dealer by profession, Anand was interested in gardening since childhood. But as his father got frequent transfers it was difficult to sustain the hobby. “Instead of carrying the plants to the next city, we gifted those to neighbours. Eight years ago, when we settled in Barmer, I started planting a few items like marigold, rose and basil, and only recently has my garden expanded,” he says.
Anand made use of 800 square feet of his terrace to put together the garden. As he had no technical knowledge or experience in the field, he used to collect whatever plants that were available in the nursery and plant them. But most of these saplings died quickly.
“It is not easy to retain a garden in the heat of Rajasthan. Most of the places sell cement pots in which a plant can’t survive for more than 1.5 years. This is how I thought of using waste boxes and bags to grow them which became instantly successful,” says the gardener.
He then started recycling waste materials to grow his garden.
“My family teased me when I began collecting boxes and covers from the garbage. But when the results of gardening in those were better than that in cement pots, they extended their full support,” says Anand, who grows plants in milk bags, snack packets, detergent packets and cold drink bottles. He even uses empty thermocol cans collected from nearby medical stores to grow the plant saplings.
Several YouTubers now visit his house to cover his methods of gardening.
Anand is majorly focusing on growing flowering and ornamental plants like cacti, succulents, spider plants, money plant varieties and hanging plants now. Vegetables for daily use like brinjal, chilli, ladies’ finger, curry leaves, coriander leaves and tomatoes are also grown.
YouTube videos to the rescue
Every gardening technique Anand employs are from several YouTube videos. “I have watched thousands of such videos, especially during the lockdown period. Every day, I try a new method and flowering plants were the first picks. Later, I shifted to ornamental plants and vegetables too,” he gushes.
Anand even set up a hydroponic farm on his terrace. He installed a drip irrigation system after watching multiple tutorial videos.
“My goal is to engage children in gardening. The future generation should understand its significance and start practising even if it’s in small quantities,” he adds. “I also help senior citizens build their own home garden.”
He adds, “Gardening is so therapeutic and having it as a hobby will energise a person mentally and physically. This will also help seniors overcome boredom.”
The gardener even gives free saplings to interested kids and senior citizens.
He shares one of his garden-building experiences: “I was called by a 75-year-old lady telling me her old house is being demolished to build a new one. She doesn’t want the whole construction to damage even a single plant from her garden. Now, I’m helping her to build the garden in the new house.”
For the past few months, he is also teaching gardening to children in a city school and is taking care of their school garden. Anand explains, “In a project I had asked children to bring empty cold drink bottles from home. We collected 300 plastic bottles this way. Later, we put hanging plants in those bottles and placed them outside the children’s classrooms. Each of them takes the responsibility of regularly pouring the remaining water from their water bottles into the DIY pots.”
Anand is always busy experimenting with new methods in gardening and increasing his collection along with sharing tips with those interested.
Read this story in Hindi here.
Edited by Yoshita Rao