Why waste time finding organic stores to buy your vegetables when you can grow them yourself? With a little space and a lot of patience, you could enjoy fresh produce at home
If you are concerned about the quality of food you eat or are fretting about the rising price of vegetables, maybe it’s time you started growing your own. But before you pack your bags and set off to buy acres of land in a village somewhere, give it a shot in the comfort of your city home.
Urban and peri-urban agriculture involves growing vegetables and herbs in containers or on small plots of land. It is a way of ensuring that the food requirements of urban populations are met. With about 80% of the population living in urban areas, governments and organisations are slowly recognising the importance of urban farming for food security and food safety. While majority of people involved in urban agriculture are the urban poor, more people are now growing plants in their homes and on terraces to ensure that they get fresh organic produce.
Growing vegetables and herbs in your home is not a very time-consuming hobby, though it requires a lot of patience. The first thing to do is to identify a suitable spot. You don’t need a garden to farm; just a terrace or a balcony or even a window sill that gets plenty of sunlight will do. Though you may be able to grow larger fruit trees only on a large terrace or in a garden, leafy vegetables, herbs and small vegetables will flourish even on window sills.
Choose containers that will be large enough to support the fully grown plant. It is not necessary to buy earthen pots. Plants can be grown in large polythene bags which are open at both ends, plastic containers with holes in the sides, buckets or large steel drums.
Soil is probably the most crucial component for a good city farm. According to Dr R T Doshi, who is recognised as one of the pioneers of urban farming in India, one can use biodegradable waste generated at home to enrich the soil for growing plants. He advocates filling the bottom half of the container with biomass like vegetable waste or sugarcane residue. The next quarter of the container should be filled with compost, which is decomposed biomass. You could either buy compost or make it at home; put cowdung, organic waste and leaves in a plastic bag, sprinkle some water and keep the bag closed for 2-3 weeks. As the third layer, put nursery/garden/regular soil over the compost.
Plants like tomatoes, cabbage, brinjal, ladyfinger, green leafy vegetables and herbs like curry leaves, basil and chillies will grow well in the Hyderabad climate. Plant the seeds around 1/2 to 3/4 inch below the surface of the soil. Keep the saplings in the shade and sprinkle water. Use more water as the plants grow larger.
Read up on the plant you plan to grow, as each one will have its own requirements. Ensure you have enough time to tend to your plants and monitor their progress. Apart from the satisfaction of having grown your own food, you’ll soon be able to enjoy delicious, organic vegetables.
Good for you, good for the earth
Growing vegetables at home is not only good for you, but also for the environment. A lot of fuel and energy is required to transport foodstuff from village farms to the cities. By cultivating your own greens, you can cut down your carbon footprint drastically. It is also an effective waste management method — almost all the organic waste generated in your home can be used to enrich the soil for growing plants. Rooftop farms also help control the temperature of the building, thus reducing electricity usage.