Before he shifted to Bengaluru about five years ago, Sadhan Radhakrishan had gardens all over his home in Mumbai. “We had four balconies, and all of them had gardens,” he reminisces. When he made his way to the Garden City, he missed the lush patches as much as working out his green thumb. Not one to be deterred, Sadhan planned his own means to greening his surroundings—vertical gardening.
Over the years, Sadhan—a resident of the city’s Rajijinagar neighbourhood—has grown hundreds of plants in plastic bottles and coconut shells.
Gardening has been a time-tested and greatly loved hobby for Sadhan, who works at an e-commerce company in Bengaluru. “I live in a rented house, and space can be a major constraint,” he says, echoing the thought of countless urban dwellers whose hopes for their own gardens are cut short by the perennial lack of space.
Having seen vertical gardens, Sadhan decided to try them around his home. His choice of plastic planters elevated his eco-friendly initiative. “We have a lot of plastic bottles at home,” he says. “The problem, they never decompose and burning them is toxic too.”Using a simple DIY method, he trimmed the tops of the bottles and filled them with soil and organic manure to plant a variety of ornamental plants and herbs.
He adds, “I have a couple of trees outside my house. I tied a rope around those and secured the plants to the trees firmly.”
The result: Sadhan’s home is ensconced in a beautiful green space. Flowering plants and herbs grow in bottles, which would have otherwise choked up the landfills. The gardener spoke to environmentalists and rests assured that plants are not harmed by any toxic elements from the plastic.
Sadhan has nurtured around 250 flowering plants, herbs and vegetables in his vertical gardens.
The number of plants tends to change, as people often take their pick of the plants perched on trees and ledges and leave. The plastic bottles are not left behind either. “My garden is like the stock market,” Sadhan chuckles, hopeful that the people who take the plants take care of them in their own homes.
Having practiced this for half a decade, Sadhan is familiar with the intricacies of vertical gardening. And it’s simpler than one might imagine—he fills the bottles with soil and cocopeat, sourced from local nurseries and gardens, and gets the process started. “Having low-maintenance plants helps for people who may not have the luxury of time,” he says.
Some of the plants he recommends include herbs like ajwain, coriander or small vegetables like cherry tomatoes and ginger. Crotons, a variety of flowering plants, are especially great as they thrive in small spaces and limited sunlight. Sadhan chooses his plants with great care, from garden and green spots around the city, with a green barter method.
“I go up to people and ask if they can give me a cutting or seeds from their gardens,” he says. “Most people are happy to share, and in turn I give them something from my garden too.”
In an effort to get more people hooked to gardening, Sadhan also frequently presents seeds and cuttings of his plants to those who want to try it out. In the last year or so, he has also started using coconut shells as planters. “Usually when people drink coconut water at roadside stalls, the empty husks are left on the road and cleaned in a day or two,” he says, about the idea.
What started as one man’s gardening effort has now inspired people in the neighbourhood to take up vertical gardening.
Sadhan has also been approached by the local corporator to replicate the initiative on a larger scale in the neighbourhood. The method is simple enough to be replicated around the city, thus also taking care of countless abandoned plastic bottles.
Creativity is crucial to building a pretty vertical garden, says Sadhan, especially when one is limited to a small area. “I used the mango and teak tree in front of my house, but these plants can even be tied to grlls,” he suggests. The other thing to consider is the size—plants growing in small plastic bottles may turn out to be smaller than those planted on the or in bigger space. However, one must remember that the size is not deterrent to quality.
Applauding the efforts of Bengaluru metro to construct vertical gardens around the stations, Sadhan says, “The food we eat today is filled with chemicals. Gardening is an economical way to grow your own organic food.” Even small vegetables and herbs and make a difference, and green surroundings also ensure access to cleaner air. A plastic bottle, in good shape, can last a few years with ease.
The benefits of gardening are numerous, and Sadhan successful experiment shows that space or lack or pots and planter are but small hindrances to the determined. All it takes to reclaim our green spaces is a hint of creativity!
To get in touch with Sadhan Radhakrishnan, please click here.