We grew up in a urban home and the best of our memories of having a kitchen garden is this beautiful climber of Tori (Rridge guard) in the corner of our land lady Mrs. Negi’s little garden on a huge guava tree. Don’t raise that brow as I was a little girl to whom that appeared to be a huge tree!!
I still remember the pride in Negi auntie’s eyes with which she will distribute all the produce in neighborhood, and at the end of the season, Mom, helping her to collect all the dried skeletons of the last few over ripe ones, and carefully she would store those seeds for the next season….
I am sure we all had tales of small or big, but some vegetable or other in our balcony, or courtyard at granny’s home, or a guava tree in neighborhood…
Imagine how beautiful are these memories of something so simple is etched in our minds, and all these years busy in our own lives and blaming it to our yet urban lifestyle, we never attempted to recreate those moments.
I too like any other over worked up mom, busy growing my own blossoms, my kids, till one day, the gardener in me came across a beautiful basil plant at a neighbor’s home. Kiran Aunty instantly agreed to share a small sapling growing in the pot, and I happily nurtured the plant.
This plant somehow had survived the rough air of my city, almost lost it many a times, and I have developed this fear of losing something precious in order to salvage my little basil plant all these years. I have shared many of these with all I knew will love to own one….
We are luckily in an uppermost storey of the building and have a huge roof top, but couldn’t gather the courage of growing anything apart from seasonal flowers and some ornamental plants.
My better half SM would always tease to have spent his childhood in a township in Bhatinda and how they had a huge kitchen garden, with him collecting vegetables, and abundance of fruits. It never really occurs to me till I saw a few posts on how people flaunt their little world of creations…I could sense same pride what I did as a little girl in Negi Auntie’s eyes..
Like a calculative present world home maker, after having those few basil plants, I started with mint plantation..( I will call a few trays of mint, a full plantation, in my capacity). This small green step, and SM’s persuasion, gave me courage to sow some greens a few seasons ago. In no time I had my roof sprung with great greens like methi( Fenugreek), and palak( Spinach), along with Mint…But I realised we would have a produce one week and then wait for many weeks for a next harvest. It felt like us waiting for our favourite movie to be aired on Doordarshan in the olden days..
We happily applauded ourselves for whatever we could reap…A spoilt tomato crop brought down the whole excitement, but like a true player I started my summer plantation with some gourds. All my house help would see me as a foolish urban madam trying hard to grow, what was a very normal household possession back in their villages..Madam , “Hamaare yahaan to bahut sabjee ugtaa hey..Aap ka to hafte me ek do hee hota hey”( We have all this in abundance in village, what you get in just one or two each week)
And like a true warrior I refused to give up, and joined all possible social Kitchen Garden groups, thinking that it will help me boost my desire to keep going ..But believe me looking at the pictures posted on the groups and thinking what went wrong with mine..Feels like how you feel when the girl in your bus gets better marks, and she becomes everyone favourite…least did you ever realise that she studied harder than you..
I recollected all my courage and started afresh. This time with better goals, a bit polished information, and lot of perseverance. Not trying to share any gyan, but just hoping for everyone wishing to start a little green patch can get going from the very beginning, and enjoy whatever comes with their way, like a premier show on Netflix at the click of a button… (Though it’s not that easy… and my analogy is the result of a movie which I just finished watching in a quite home after years as the whole family was away…)
WHAT IT TAKES TO GET GOING….
Ok after all the flops and falls, let’s rise to a great success…The first key to the thought of starting a kitchen garden is to set realistic goals for yourself..
- The city in which you live makes an important decision point in terms of vegetables one can plan. As down south with high humidity most of the herbs grow through the year verses’ Delhi where we see both extremes of weather.
- A little balcony with some descent shade and sunlight, should be good to start with few herbs and one simple vegetable which gives you a descent produce for a family of four…
- Also grow what you consume, not what sounds fancy…Like growing parsley, when you never ever would use it, makes any sense…where as having simpler things like mint and enjoying it is a step towards a successful kitchen garden.
- Create space based on available sunlight. Minimum 3-4 hours of sunlight is required for any plant.
- Once you have analysed the space, and listed what is feasible, arrange for cubical pots or trays as they provide maximum surface area and even depth for the roots.
- Key rule is allowing the plant to grow in minimum required space to have good produce and not to clutter many in a pot.
Some plants like tomato will require minimum of 1.5 cubic areas (that means a pot of 16 inches height width and length.
Some plants need more surface area vs. depth…Like herbs like oregano, mint, coriander, parsley.
If using larger pots which can accommodate more plants, one can effectively use it have multiple crop. Like Ridge gourd can grow along with small plant of chilli without hindering its growth.
- Make a high quality potting mix, with the help of good soil, Cow dung manure, and vermi-compost.
- Pots should have a good drainage and soil mix. Add some dry leaves if available in the layers between the soil to provide water retention, especially in summers or dry weather conditions.
- Some easy to grow plants for beginners in city like Delhi for coming summers or warm weather conditions are
- Ridge gourd
Various options of pots to start a small kitchen garden is available, and recycle pots in form of plastic containers, lined with a porous cloth, Tins, and plastic buckets can also be used, after creating proper drainage at the base.
Regular care and some patience is all it takes and soon you shall have a beautiful nature’s bounty springing in your balcony…
Next in the series is the guide to planning of all kinds of space, understanding the sun, water and other requirements of the various vegetables, and tips to take care against bug attack, and the revolution in kitchen waste composting….
For now, take a deep breath and start your green patch…
Pictures of Tomato Plant and the Cabbage plant is taken at Dr Vinita’s Kitchen Garden in Balcony of her house at Vasant Kunj.
Pictures of the Cubical Pot is been shared By Dr Vinita and is from her friend Shuchi Varghese’s Home garden in Dwarka.