Thodupuzha-native Punnoose Jacob wanted to pursue farming as a hobby after his retirement.
Since the land was unavailable to start large-scale farming, he decided to take it slow and picked vegetable cultivation on a terrace.
“There is a three-storeyed building we have rented out just opposite my house. It has a wide 3,500 sq ft terrace. That’s where I chose to farm,” says the 63-year-old gardener.
Punnoose initially planted vegetable seeds of tomato, chilli, brinjal, okra and cucumber in a few grow bags, and within two years the number expanded.
Today, the gardener grows vegetables like zucchini and cauliflower, and sells them under a brand called ‘Mangalam Foods’ for a fixed price.
“Every day, an average of 20–25 kg of vegetables are harvested from my terrace. It is packed and taken to the nearest margin-free supermarket, where they are sold out within hours,” says the gardener.
But what stands out in his gardening is the pepper spray technique.
The pesticide is made from ghost pepper, one of the spiciest chillies in the world, grown in Rajasthan.
“I have a few saplings of it, grown for pesticide purposes. After drying and powdering the chillies, it is diluted in water and sprayed on the leaves of the plants,” he says.
Another speciality of Punnose’s garden is that he uses the same soil over and again.
“After one cycle of harvest, I mix fertilisers in the soil and leave them in a corner to regain their nutrition. So only half of the total soil is utilised at a time, and the other half is left for rest,” he says.
Recently, Punnoose received the Kerala government’s Best Terrace Farmer of the District award.