Sangita1 “Yipee!” I call out loud when I manage to pull a perfect grown mooli from my little green patch. Now that’s what I call true happiness. Indeed, enjoying a bowl of crisp lettuce for salad from the backyard or sizzling gobhi paranthas from the freshly plucked cauliflower on a Sunday morning for breakfast is simply divine. What can be more of a delicacy than to relish a few freshly spotted mangoes from the mango tree that stands in your verandah or to squeeze in a few home grown lemons for a quick nimboo pani to quench your thirst in summers.

All this may seem to be a like a dream or an exclusive farm holiday for many, but for me has been a way of life ever since I shifted to Gurgaon in 2000. The so called millennium city was more like countryside then. The open skies, the far off greens, the air so fresh, life in Gurgaon was indeed bliss. The nodding sarson fields, the cauliflower blooms and endless spinach gardens all around my residence inspired me to start my own kitchen garden. Gardening was always a passion but growing veggies was something that I had never done except for a patch of Pudina in my dad’s garden.

Keen observations, my first love, Botany and a seeking mind inspired me and got me going. I observed the farms around my area and all that they grow.  My habit of going to roots of everything I do drove me again. Researching and learning from text books tells me what propagates how. When something goes wrong or right…I reason it out. As you grow, so you learn. No rules. Experiment, explore and know.

“Now if you are growing, why not grow healthy, why not grow Organic,” I said to myself.  Three years back I switched to Organic realizing that the food we pick up from the market is hardly worth eating. Being commercially produced with use of genetically modified varieties and petro chemical fertilizers the food lacks nutrition due to the absence of vitamins and minerals. And that’s not all. Toxic chemicals as pesticides are added that makes your food poisonous leading to several health problems like skin allergies to deadly diseases like Cancer.  Also we are losing on the traditional taste and sweetness of our fruits and vegetables as new hybrid varieties may excel physical appearance or crop yield but matchless in tastes.

If you grow your own food, grow it with love. Grow it without chemicals. All that come home from your own garden is fresh and tasty, full of nourishment and minus the toxicity that others swallow every day. And believe me when I say, “It’s no rocket science.” Just SOW – WATER – NURTURE – HARVEST – ENJOY.”

The 5 Qs of Kitchen Gardening

Where to Grow

Space: Look for space in your back yard, terrace, verandah, balcony, ledge or even abandoned land outside your home. Just about anything is good space for an urban farmer.

Container: Select Pet bottles, old cans or drums, buckets, pots, crates to grow-bags to raised beds, just about anything will make a container 

Sangita2What to grow and when:

All fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and pulses can be grown as per their seasons. I generally guess is from the consuming season. Leafy Fenugreek or methi as we call it is available November onwards so must be sown Sept-Oct..Similarly Gourds are sown in March to be harvested in May-June 

What to Sow:

Seeds: Cauliflower, cabbage, beans, spinach, fenugreek, mustard, jalapeno, pumpkin, cucumber, gourds, melon, water melon, tomatoes and so many more are easily available at garden shops. Take a seedling tray and plant your seeds and transplant after two to three weeks.

Sapling: Saps for most of the veggies like tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, turnip, broccoli, capsicum, brinjals, onions, lettuce, parsley, sage, mint, basil, chilies are also easily available at gardening shops.

Bulbs: Bulbs for onions, ginger, turmeric, arbi and other tubers etc are easily available at garden shops.

Fruits trees: Fruit trees like mango, guava, banana, papaya, pomegranate, kinoo, chikoo, lemon, lime are easy to grow in tropical areas with very little effort.

Soil Mix & Nutrition: Regular soil compost or cow dung manure in the ratio 2:1 is  a perfect soil mix for growing vegetables and fruits. You could also convert your everyday kitchen waste into rich and healthy compost within two-three months without much effort. And this way you shall reduce garbage waste that is becoming a menace to handle. Now this is your way to dream of a Swatchh Bharat! 

How to protect:

Sangita3Fungicides and pesticides: Doing the organic way means to use natural home remedies for plants too. Chhaas is a perfect fungicide and Neem the most general pesticide. Apart from this, chilies, garlic, turmeric and Asafoetida are a farmer’s friend. Common blooms like marigolds planted alongside veggies are pest repellants. 

Don’t wait to be an expert. Don’t think how. Just get started. Select a few leafy veggies or herbs to begin with. Ready your soil mix, sow a few saps or seeds and watch them grow. Soon the magic will rub on to you like an addiction. You will beam with the first curl of the leaf and jump at the sight of tiny mangoes on your tree. Your status updates on Facebook and WhatsApp will no longer be pics from last night party but clicks of your little surprises in the garden. You will not even know when you shall become a part of this large family of urban farmers who are always spotted with a khurpi in faded jeans and muddy crocks on a weekend. The jumping squirrel squad, fluttering butterflies and perching birds shall be an extra delight.