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Don't Eat Chemicals, Do Organic Terrace Garden

Why Terrace Gardening?

The population of the city is increasing exponentially. Everyone is busy. More than half of them are migrated in search of livelihood. they left green and calm environment and enter into that concrete forest. Most of them feel that their children must be experienced and benefited from natural rural life. Parents visiting city homes of their children cannot tolerate polluted atmosphere even for a week. We find dust and smoke everywhere. Even healthy persons experience suffocation. People with asthma and allergy find it difficult to breathe. Village life is just a sweet memory for senior citizens who left their village decades ago. They cannot go back now. A small relief for all these people is all that having a kitchen garden. There is no space left for ever increasing population itself. Then where do you plant a garden? The answer is terrace garden or roof top garden. 

pesticides


Farming is also in trouble in recent years. Profit has gone down drastically. Farmers are stuck in the illusion of maximum production for higher profits. Hence they use chemical and poisons to their crops and soils abundantly. These persistent pollutants have affected the farmers and consumer. It is common to find chemical residues in a vegetable like a tomato and brinjals and fruits like grapes. Organic farming is discussed a lot not. But the ground reality is something different. Realizing all these nature lovers of the cities started growing organic foods at least for their own consumption. Hence Tarrance gardening is becoming popular. In spite of the shortage of space, water, time and patience many of them engaging themselves to roof top gardening. This article is going to discuss all aspects of terrace gardening. 

We at Vittal Mallya Scientific Research Foundation VMSRF Bangalore are committed to two important things which are related to etiology and environment. Even in urban scenario where we've got buildings and buildings, no space left for agriculture, terrace gardening in fact is an ideal scenario in which you can grow your food you can grow them in an environmentally friendly organic way and enjoy that fruit in an aesthetic way and add value to your garden and value to your life and the quality of life you living. - Dr. Anil Kush, Research Director, VMSRF, Bengaluru

In principle, there is no much difference between kitchen garden on the ground and terrace garden. Due to a shortage of space and light on the ground, the garden has moved to the roof top. however terrace garden cannot be as natural as the garden on the ground. Obviously, it is a bit artificial. There is a limitation for the selection of plants for the terrace garden. Closely spaced tall buildings permit very less light penetration to space in between. Parking of vehicle occupies unbelted space. Hence terrace gardening is the only option left for the people of the big cities. Remember roof top gardening is not for maximum production or profit like regular farming. Earning livelihood also is not the aim. It is just a useful and wonderful hobby. But it enables us to grow and use poison free vegetables and fruits.

Terrace Gardening is a grid opportunity for the senior citizens
Image from www.thebetterindia.com

Terrace gardening is a grid opportunity to the senior citizens to spend their time and help to maintain good health. It gives sufficient physical exercise to home makers of the cities. Children get exposure to the world of plants. It creates interests and curiosity in them about plants, insects, birds, and nature. Terrace gardening is an interesting change of work for employed youth at the weekend. Terrace gardener gets the satisfaction of reducing pollution of the city to a little extent. Terrace garden creates a cool micro climate on the open hot terrace. Thereby it keeps the home below cool. Roof top garden can be a good place for morning exercise and meeting with friends in the evening. Even if the yield of the plant is not up to the expectation, the other benefits are sure. If the yield sizable by proper planning and maintenance it saves the spending on vegetables on every week. One can grow and use medicinal plants like Basel, sweet flag, ginger, bramme, mint, mean, kiloy etc as well. Apart from all these the emotion touch with this plants and minds gives freshness to the busy mind of the city people. 

Let us answer a few doubts about terrace gardening first - 

Can these terraces bear the read of plants and containers?

No problems, you gathered two/three hundred people on the same terrace during your family functions. These plants and pots do not way more than that. Only fifty percent of that base on the terrace is available for pets. The remaining fifty percent is utilized to attend them. A terrace of 30/40 feet house accommodates 100 to 150 pots. It will not be one ton altogether. Hence do not worry about the weight. However, do not place all bigger containers on a single area of the terrace

Now there is a question of seepage of water. If your terrace finds leakage of water in the rainy season the terrace garden will not do that?

You will not put such an amount of water like rain to these plants. Water is only to the necessary extent. However, you may go for the water proofing before initiated the terrace garden. Few people doubt that it may block drainage pipe or rain water harvesting system. Clean the terrace before the rainy season. Little quantity of soil with the rain water will not lock the drainage pipe. Invariably the rain water harvesting system will have a filter. 

The terrace will be hot enough in the summer.

True. But if you maintain optimum watering the plant will not suffer a lot. It may show growth and lesser yield in the hot season. You may grow soft leafy vegetables under the sheds net. However, it is not compulsory. Few people ask whether this terrace gardening is profitable. If you use locally available containers, seeds etc and work yourself definitely terrace gardening is profitable. A roof top garden on a 30/40 feet house can meet 50-60% vegetable requirement of the family. Now we find many consultants for terrace gardening as well. Many of them recommended costly containers, Manyos, medicines etc and supply themselves. Many of them suggest for the automated irrigation system. All these defeats the very purpose of terrace gardening. If you go with such people may drain your pocket. The decision is yours. However, roof top gardening is not for making profits. Even if the production costs and the value of the produced are equal the other benefit makes it meaningful. Another problem could be watering these plants when you out of the station. Automatic watering systems are available.     But it needs investments. It is better to request friends and neighbors for watering. The next problem is a shortage of time. If you can give half an hour in the morning and the evening terrace garden can run smoothly. 

Terrace gardening is basically growing crops in few container, few pots. So it is not correct to go for mechanized irrigation systems, deep irrigation, springal irrigation and this kind of things. It is correct to go with a bucket and mug to water and do all the activities directed to growing vegetable crops. So that is more practical discuss physical exercise and also an opportunity to observe every crop. Dr. Rajendra Hegde, Senior Scientist, VMSRF, Bengaluru. 

Selection of Crops

Terrace Gardening


Lets us see the selection of Crops and verities now. One can grow most of the plants include big ornamental and flowering plants. But we’ve visualized only vegetables and fruit plants to make it a useful one. You need to employ your common sense with choosing plants. Keep preference to vegetables commonly is used in your kitchen. You can grow leafy vegetables like coriander, mint, meaty, Brahms, spinach, Colocasia, different types of Amaranthus etc. One can go for common vegetables like tomato, brinjal, Hokra, chili, capsicum, cluster been, cauliflower, cabbage, knol Kohl, radish, carrot, beetroot, onion, garlic, turmeric, ginger, potato, green peas etc. We cannot forget the climbers like bitter gourd, chow chow, ridge gourd, snake gourd, bottle gourd, different types of beans, cucumber, pumpkin, water melon, musk melon etc; Perennial plants like Indian spinach, little gourd, drumsticks, curry leaves etc. 

Terrace Garden


Terrace gardener can go for Perennial fruit plants like banana, guava, sapota, pomegranate, papaya, avocado,  custard apple, mousambi, orange, lime, cherry, strawberry, vanilla, grape, sugarcane etc. But these plants need more space and the gardener must have the patience to wait till their bare fruit. High-speed wind on the terrace dries out the banana leaves leading to a little finger. Normally Grafted Plants are bushy in nature and bear fruits early. Keep on pruning the tips of vertical shears and lateral branches to restrict to be a bush of 5/6 feet high. We can accommodate medicinal plants like neem, vessel. aloe vera, Gilroy, sweet flag, black pamper, black pepper etc. Give preference to those plants that are liked by the all members of the family. Restricts a number of crops and verities yourself. Too many crops will affect the growth of all plants. Plant the perennial and the climates at the edge of the terrace. So that the others are comfortable in the middle. 

Light

Availability of light is also a big factor in the big cities due to adjacent tall buildings. Most of the plants like full sunlight. They need the sunshine at least for three hours a day. A lot light area needs to be shaded for tolerant leafy and stamp vegetable. Keep yielding fruits and tubas under full sunshine. 

Structure 

Structure of a Terrace Garden


There is no ready design or formula for structuring a terrace garden. Apply your mind and learn the art by trial and error. 

It is better to adopt an organic farming method for terrace plants. Local crops and verities are preferred. As more yields and profits are not the target indigenous varieties have more disease tolerance. The withstand water shortage yields may be less but be find a lot of diversity in local crops and verities in their color taste etc.

Seeds Collection  

Seeds Collection


Buying seeds every time is not advisable. Retain the fruits of first crops of healthy plants for seed collection. Harvest the ripen fruits in a sunny day. Collect the seeds from the ripe fruits and dry them under sheds. Store these seeds in an air tight bottle or Polly purses and keep in cool place or in the fridge. Use the seeds for sowing after 6 months. We can get seeds of hardly few crops and verities in agro seed shops. The quantity of seeds is low but the cost is more. It is better to get seeds from other terrace gardeners and farmers of the villages. We find an excellent collection of indigenous crops and verities from community seed banks. Dwarf and bushy verities are preferred for terrace gardening. 

Containers

container


Let us study the containers for terrace garden plants now. Systematic, attractive and costly containers of different containers are available. But we prefer locally available spots for visualization. Very small pots are not good for terrace gardening. It holds fewer soils and gets dries very fast. Select the container based on the type of plants, root zone, speed of growth etc. Wide boxes with 6-12 inch depth are good for short duration leafy vegetables. But for other plants which remain for 3 to 4 months use containers with at least 12-inch depth. Vines such as bottle gourd, ridge gourd which continue up to 5-6 months need bigger containers of 2 by 2 feet and at least one feet depth. Perennial plants like papaya and banana which grow tall need container of 5-6 feet depth. Otherwise, they fall on the ground by the wind. Black boxes get heated up under direct sun. Hence containers of other colors are preferred. Drainage hole at the bottom is compulsory to drain excess water. Earthen pots are very common and cheap. But it gets broken frequently due to wet and dry, However, mud posts are allowed better root irrigation. RCC pots are very strong and durable. But it is not preferred for terrace garden due to its heavy weights. Plastic and fiber containers are lighter weight and easy to handle. But they are a bit costly. They do last longer if kept wet always. Coconut pots are very attractive and comfortable for the plants. But it is costly again. Soft wooden boxes used once for packing fruits and other materials are available at cheaper cost. These wooden boxes impaired a natural look to the terrace garden and do not get heated up in a hot summer. Metal tins are strong enough but get rusted soon due to soil and water. Put inner lining of plastic to the wooden box and metal tins. Meet Mr. Vinay Magadi, a terrace gardener of Bengaluru. He popularizes PVC pipe for terrace gardening. You can keep this on a stand or hang it from the top. It accommodates 25 plants. This is like a vertical garden on the terrace. Of course, the containers are not compulsory for all plants. We can raise leafy vegetables in raised beds on the terrace. Concrete or brick lining can form the bed. These beds are better for spreading of roots and growths of plants. Hobby terrace gardener did not spend a lot on containers. One can use all available boxes, tins, bottles etc of different types and sizes. Empty paint tins, buckets, wooden box, rexine bags, PVC pipe, big water bottle and even an old fridge may be your good container for terrace gardening. You can use barrel cutting half and that can be very strong container for terrace gardening. Even plastic bags and cement bags can be a good choice for short duration plants. However, if you are worried about the aesthetic look of your terrace garden then buy systematic and uniform containers. 

Tools you need for terrace gardening

We need a few hand tools for terrace gardening. They are a garden fork, spade, garden hoe, scissor for pruning and harvesting, a knife for crafting, water gun, hose pipe etc. Small hand held sprayers and hanging sprayers are available. Polly House and Green House are not necessary for terrace garden and not convenient also. Sheds house is not also mandatory. However, you may have sheds structure with 25% sheds nets for a small bash of the terrace. Capsicum and few sensitive plants come up well under sheds. It is useful even for keeping compost bin and nursery trays. We can keep soft leafy vegetables under sheds in hot summer. 

Seasons

We can grow most of the vegetables throughout the years. Though it is better to avoid winter crops like cabbage, cauliflower in big summer. Tomato, chili and few other plants are affected by insects a lot in summer months. 

Seedlings 
It is recommended to sow some seeds directly in some crops and transplanting of seedlings of few others. Direct sowing of seeds is advised in bitter gourd, bottle gourd, cucumber, bins varieties, pumpkins, water melon, snake gourd, beet root, carrot, radish, Okra, Green peas etc. Transplanting of seedlings is recommended in brinjal, tomato, chili, capsicum, onion, garlic, Letus, Cabbage, Cauliflower etc. 

Steps for seedlings

Seedlings


Plastic seedling trays are useful for the seedling. Put light growing medium such as Vermicompost on the tray. Sow one seed in each hole. Spread a thin layer of the same media again. Water it lightly and keep the trays under the shed. We can get healthy seedlings in this method. Transplant then in 15 days stage. Carefully take out the seedlings with the media ball around the root, plant the same in the pot and water it regularly. We can produce the costly seeds from ant and another insect easily in this method. 

 

Let us understand the composition of growing media

compost


If you fill the pot fully with the soil it becomes hard affecting the growth of the plant to prepare the potting mixer to keep one part soil, one part sand or cocopeat and one part compost or vermicompost. Mix it thoroughly with a spade. Water holding capacity of the coco peat is excellent. Which retains moisture for long in the pot. However do not feel only compost or cocopeat. The soil is necessary to give firmness to the media. Any soil is okay if the fertile soil is not available. 

Watering

Watering garden


Drainage hole is compulsory for any type of container. Put broken pieces of posts or stones at the bottom to avoid clogging of the drain hole. Otherwise, excess water may not drain or soils or media may come out with the water. Fill only 3/4th of the posts initially. The remaining 1/4th will be filled during the at the time of flowering and fruit settings. See that the pot is full at the cropping stage. Water the filled pot and sow the seeds or transplant seedlings. Protect the seeds from and when direct sowing is done. Take care of transplanted seedlings tills its recovery. 

Do not water too much. Let the little amount of water come out of the drainage hole. Over water is harmful to your plant. A better method of watering is with bucket and mug. It enables individual care of each plant. Normally watering twice a day in summer and once a day in winter and as needed in the rainy season is advised. Water transplanted seedlings and soft succulents plants on priority. The plant should not face water shortage at flowering and fruit setting. Watering in the early morning and in the cool hours in the evening is good. Avoid watering on hot sunny hours and at night. If the plant remains wet at night it attracts fungal diseases. Automatic Irrigation systems are available now but it is costly and defeats the very purpose of terrace gardening. However, this system is useful while you are out of the station. Put grass, waste paper etc to the bottom of the plant. It minimizes evaporation of the water. 

Nutrition for the plants

Let us study the nutrition part now. We cannot use chemicals for the plants which we ourselves eat. It is not essential also. Feed the plants with well-decomposed compost, vermicompost, cow dung etc.  In addition, you can use vermicompost extract, cow urine, and coconut water etc. It is also advised to use biofertilizers such as Rhizobium, Azotobacter, Azospirillum, Phosphate Solubilizing Bacteria (PSB) etc for all the plants. These are available at any agricultural labs or any agro shops in your city. The micro organism in these bio fertilizers supplies nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potash and other nutrients to the plants.   

Conclusion 

A well planned and well-managed terrace garden produce 50 kilograms of vegetables for one square meter area per year. The best terrace garden can yield even more. With low-cost containers and own work, the establishment cost of a 30/40 feet terrace garden will be only USD 200 only depending on your choice.  If you opt for systematic design and costly containers the investment will be more. Our suggestion is that please don’t keep your terrace empty. Fill it with a nice and beautiful terrace garden. 


Sources

  1. Sample Clip of Organic Terrace Garden  - shramajeevi.com
  2. Free images from Pixebay.com
  3. Image of seedlings from cormsquare.com
  4. Youtube.com Videos 

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