Shashi Manchanda started her gardening journey in her 60s when she finally had access to a 1,000 sq ft terrace. She now grows a variety of vegetables and flowers.
In a less crowded street of Gurugram, there lies a two-storeyed house enveloped by a multitude of plants and trees. The resident Shashi Manchanda, a 68-year-old woman is a mother to all these plants.
She was always fond of beautiful flowers and gardens. Her ancestral home in Delhi had open space with a good collection of ornamental and flowering plants. “As a kid, I remember helping my mother with simple gardening activities like watering and fertilising. This eventually became my favourite pastime,” Shashi tells The Better India.
After getting married, she lived in small apartments and her busy schedule did not give her enough time to pursue gardening. However, she used to collect a few plants and place them in the available space.
But now after entering her 60s, she has finally taken up gardening seriously.
Cultivating organic garden from scratch
“To put together a small yet attractive garden was one of my dreams. It was in 2019 that I, along with my family, moved to Gurugram from Delhi as a getaway from the long years of city life. My family comprises my husband, daughter, son and daughter-in-law. We all love the calmness of this place and truly enjoy it,” she says.
The family now stays in a house which has a wide terrace of 1,000 square feet, good enough to grow as many plants as Shashi wishes.
“Even though I was interested in gardening, I had no prior experience doing it all by myself. And I wanted to do the whole process organically. So, in 2019 I attended a workshop at Daulat Ram College in Delhi and learned how to make compost from wet waste,” explains the gardener.
This was Shashi’s first step towards making a lush garden. She prepared a rich compost and used the soil from it as fertiliser. Shashi also found organic pesticide options by speaking with fellow gardeners in her locality.
She says, “Other than simply cultivating a garden full of flowers, I also wanted my family to eat healthily. I grow all the vegetables needed in day-to-day cooking on the terrace. This includes summer veggies like lauki (bottle gourd), tori (sponge gourd), karela (bitter gourd), kaddu (pumpkin), baingan (brinjal), okra, amaranth (spinach), mint leaves, and winter vegetables like tomatoes, coriander, palak (spinach), mustard, broccoli, all lettuce varieties, knol khol (kohlrabi), beetroot, mooli (radish), carrot, turmeric, adrak (ginger) and so on.”
While the vegetables are grown in grow bags placed on the terrace, ornamental and flowering plants are planted in pots in the front yard. There are over 100 grow bags and 50 pots in Shashi’s garden now.
Sharing the joy of gardening
To gain more knowledge in the field and share whatever she knows, Shashi became a member of a gardening community with like-minded people from the locality. Seeds or saplings of certain plants are also shared among the members, which cut down the cost of buying new ones. She says that most of the members are homemakers like her, and she is one of the oldest members of the group.
“Several neighbours, friends and family members visit my house just to see the garden. Whenever a surplus amount of veggies are harvested, I share them. It’s really hard to find chemical-free organic veggies and fruits. The only way to easily source them is by growing them in your own yard,” she says.
Shashi also adds that everyone at the house contributes to taking care of her plant babies. “Like how I used to help my mother in gardening, my children now assist me whenever they find the time.”
She says, “People of my age are prone to several diseases because of lifestyle choices. All these can be controlled to an extent if we eat healthily. That’s what I am trying to do. Also, what I understood from these years is that you shouldn’t wait for the perfect time to begin something you’re passionate about. Also, never feel that it’s too late to start.”
Shashi desires to expand her garden adding new varieties of exotic plants in the coming months. “I don’t want to waste even a small space on the terrace. It is my family’s favourite place to be. The satisfaction and peace gained from gardening are unmatchable,” she says.
Read this story in Hindi here.
Edited by Pranita Bhat; Picture Courtesy: Shashi Manchanda