The green side of quarantine

Poorna Kulkarni
Tuesday, 14 April 2020

While you stay home to stay safe, how about growing some veggies in whatever space is available to you? We ask experts and people who have been doing it for years.

While doing our daily chores and office work from home, many of us have taken up some productive activities during the coronavirus lockdown, like sketching, painting, music, or joining online classes to learn the arts. But there is one more activity that one can do – home gardening. 

Of course, not everyone is privileged to have a backyard or a front-side garden or even a terrace to grow plants. But if you have the will, even the window sill is good enough to make the beginning. 

Gardening is a fun activity that will keep you preoccupied and give you great joy. Plus there are additional advantages – if you do it the right way, in a few weeks, you will actually be able to reap the benefits of this exercise, eat what you grow and who knows, you may even want to do it professionally later!

EXPERT-SPEAK
Sakal Times spoke to a few experts to find out how one can get into gardening. Nishtha Patravali, business development executive, working in the food certification department at TUV India Pvt Ltd, says that we can utilise the quarantine period more productively by growing vegetables at home as we can’t step out often. 

“Grow basic vegetables whose seeds are easily available at home, for instance, coriander seeds, methi seeds and so on. We can also grow chillies, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, pudina (mint), bhindi, beans, and a few more. Most of these take nearly 15 days to a month to grow, while it takes nearly two to three months for the tomatoes to grow properly,” she says.

She provides some very basic tips. “Cut the potato and put it into the soil and leave it to grow. Similar is the case with ginger. Then, rub the coriander seeds into halves and sow them in the soil to get fresh coriander in a few days,” she says. 

“But we are in April, and the summer heat is going to peak in a few days. How do we ensure that the plants get optimal sunlight, but don’t burn under the scorching sun? “

“One must make sure that the plants are growing in the shady area, or create some kind of covering that won’t let the plants burn during the day time,” says Patravali.

The one advice that those growing small plants must follow is to grind a few garlic cloves and chillies, extract the juice of the same and mix with some water. Once diluted, it can be used as a disinfectant spray, she suggests.

MANURE MAKING
Plants also need manure. “In order to get natural fertilisers for the soil, one can use used tea leaves, remains of vegetables or smaller parts of the stems of leafy vegetables and add coco peat powder to the soil so that it retains moisture,” says Patravali. 

Seconding her, Vidyavathi Kambalimath, a horticulture graduate who works as an assistant technology manager with a private company in Karnataka, says that she uses whatever food and vegetable remains are available in the kitchen. 

Kambalimath has a home garden and says that it’s been nearly two months since she planted vegetables like tomatoes, bitter guard, chillies and a few more. Speaking about developing manure at home, she says, “I have a drum where I have set the soil with the required amount of manure. I use this soil to sow the available seeds. For the manure, I include wastes of vegetables, rotten tomatoes and remains of unused vegetables. I put all of them in the drum and add a layer of soil to it. I keep it turning over at regular intervals; else it would give out a stench. After about two months, you get a good quality of manure. Also, since it is summer, I spray small amounts of buttermilk to the plants to keep them cool.” 

Kambalimath says that one can create one’s own small garden in small buckets, discarded plastic bottles or even small mugs. “These small experiments in the house can be useful in tracking our steps so that the next time we are planting, we won’t repeat the mistakes we made earlier. Since it’s summer and it’s a lockdown, there’s a lot of scope for experimenting with pumpkin-like vegetables,” she points out.

GROWER-SPEAK
Satish Tadphale, a retired senior corporation engineer from Mumbai, says that he got into home gardening after shifting to Pune because had ample amount of time on hand. Today, he has varieties of vegetables and fruits at his home.

“I like organic products, so I decided to grow my own vegetables and fruits. The interesting part is, when we have relatives and friends coming over, instead of gifts, we give them homegrown veggies and trust me, they are very happy,” says Tadphale.

When asked how is his home gardening going during the quarantine period, he says, “Actually quarantine period has not affected my gardening in any way. I had already sown the seeds, so right now I’m just taking care of my plants. Also, we don’t need to go to the market during this time as we already have all the regularly needed vegetables in our garden. With the shortage of onions in the market and the rising prices, onion is the new addition in my garden. This apart, I have veggies like tomatoes, ladyfinger, corn, brinjal, cauliflower, coriander, lemon, chillies and bottle guard in my garden.” 

His advises that during summer, one must spray water and cover plants with green cloth to protect them from extreme heat. “And opt for seasonal vegetables as they are easy to grow and healthy to eat,” Tadphale says.

DRY THE SEEDS TO SOW THEM
Vivek Puradbhat, a Nagpur resident, is actively involved in home gardening for the last 15 years. “Home gardening is like a nice physical exercise for me. One can sun-dry the seeds of vegetables and replant them. I have veggies like brinjal, spinach, bitter guard, coriander, lemon, ladyfinger, guava, custard apple, orange, mango, pomegranate, chillies and many more. At times, I store the seeds and use what is available,” he says.

Apart from covering the plants with green cloth to reduce the heat effect, Puradbhat makes sure he waters plants carefully. For fertilisers, apart from kitchen waste, he uses cow dung. His advice for people staying in cities is that they need to plan and use plastic containers and start small with gardening. 

“It all depends on one’s interest to start home gardening. But if you grow your own veggies, you will realise that there is a huge difference between the taste of the vegetables grown at home and that of veggies bought from the market. You feel the freshness while consuming them. I get immense satisfaction while having the food made out of stuff grown in my garden,” says Puradbhat. 

He concludes by saying like many do it yourself things, one learns gardening through trial and error.

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