Having a kitchen garden on my office rooftop is probably the best thing that has happened in my life. No matter how little space you have, growing your own food has many benefits, even if it means having a small pot of herbs on your kitchen windowsill. If dipping your fingers into the earth seems too much of a stretch, this may help you change your mind.
A friend’s mom makes the best use of their small balcony
You save space
Acres of forest are razed every year, and there is a constant battle between man and nature. With the human population growing every second, the earth is heaving under pressure from our cities. Growing food in urban spaces, terraces and rooftops is a natural step towards sustainability to avoid this dangerous conflict.
Food is truly organic and fresh : Using ash to control a disease in my Brinjal plants
Most groceries that are sold at organic stores, like rice, millets, oils pulses, and so on, have to be certified by an agency as organic. But in most cases, fruits and vegetables are sold on the basis of ‘trust’ with no formal certification.
Growing your own vegetables can guarantee that you are truly eating organic. Having nurtured the plant from seed to fruit you have complete control over what goes into its maintenance. And if you have been taking care of it completely organically, then the vegetable that you harvest is also organic.
Since your produce is going straight from your garden to your frying pan, they couldn’t be more fresh. Fresh ingredients always make food extremely tasty.
Your carbon footprint shrinks : Palak grown in an old bath tub is ready for harvest in my terrace
Most of the vegetables and fruits that we pick up from our city stores usually travel a long way from the farm — first to a wholesaler, then to a retailer’s warehouse and then to a retail store. Not to mention your car journey to the store from your home. The vegetables probably needs refrigeration at every stage as well. The long journey also increases chances of spoilage. Growing your own vegetables can, considerably reduce these kind of ugly carbon footprints.
You avoid wasteful packaging : Harvest for the day’s cooking is carried in a cane basket
“But I carry my own cloth shopping bag to the store!” you may say. To facilitate transportation, fresh produce is packaged in various materials like cardboard boxes, plastic sacks, plastic boxes, and a lot of other packaging material, depending on the nature of the item. Further these items are individually packed at the retailers using materials like cling wrap, styrofoam, plastic etc which cannot be recycled. Growing your own food can help avoid this mess.
It’s a fun family activity :Photographer friend Supraja’s daughter seen with her Okra harvest
Children of this generation are unaware of where their food comes from. Involving children and other family members in the maintenance of the garden makes it not only a fun family activity, but also educates the future generation more about where their food comes from.
You waste less food : Who would want to waste this delicious food?
Since you and your family members have put your heart and soul into the garden, and have seen how long it takes to grow, you instinctively tend to leave less uneaten food on your plate.
You support a mini ecosystem: One of the many winged visitors in my garden
Having a garden at home will start bringing in many beautiful winged visitors, like bees, butterflies and birds, which are essential for pollination and balancing the fragile ecosystem. Having your own kitchen garden will also start building a community of friends and relatives who would like to visit your garden, providing more fodder for conversation.Over time a beautiful relationship will also be created among fellow gardeners where you start sharing excess produce, saplings and seeds.
It promotes composting and segregation : The Khambhas work great to compost even in small spaces. Check our site for more details
A good organic garden needs good organic compost. The best is from your kitchen waste, though you could start with compost from a nursery. It’s an amazing circle of life, where the food that you grow in your garden can be composted to nurture the very same garden. Composting requires you to segregate your waste, once you do that the next natural step would be sending most of your waste for recycling.
You save money : A bouquet of marigold made a friend really happy when I visited her
Setting up your garden the first time may require you to spend a little on pots, mud, saplings and other material. But once your garden is set, over time, there is no major expenditure, and your harvest is your bonus. Fresh flowers and vegetables from your garden also make great gifts while visiting friends and family, so you save some money there too! Moreover sending your segregated waste for recycling also gives you a decent amount of pocket money!
It’s good for the body, mind and soul : Ammu loves the cherry tomatoes from our garden
Growing your own food means you are eliminating a large chunk of pesticides and other dangerous chemicals from what you eat. Also, working in your garden is great physical activity, along with being an effective stress-buster. It creates a strong sense of connection between you and nature. There is nothing more joyful than seeing the first flower blooming in your garden, or seeing a vegetable grow until it is ready for harvest.
DID YOU KNOW?
A home that segregates its waste allows only 10% of the garbage to go to the landfill. About 60% is organic waste that can be composted.
HOW TO GET STARTED?
Greens are the easiest to start with. They grow quickly and are less prone to pests. Using a small pot, mix sand, soil, compost and coco peat in the ratio of 1:1:1:1 to create the medium.
Sprinkle the seeds on this medium and a small amount of soil over the seeds, so as to not bury them completely. Make sure you do not over-water.
Once in 10 days or so, you can feed your plant panchagavyam, a natural fertiliser. If you do see any pest on the plant, use an organic pesticide, available online.
In a few weeks, your greens will be ready for harvest.