CHENNAI: Shobana Raj, a financial advisor, is a passionate gardener who finds solace in her hobby that helps her with her job. “My husband Arputharaj and I are both financial advisors. Our job is to help people plan their financial goals. During our years of practice, we have come across people from different walks of life and many are concerned about medical bills. It was clear to us that environmental pollution and chemical-laden foods pose great risks to human health. Hence, we decided to make small lifestyle changes and one of them was to grow our own vegetables,” she shares.
When she lived in Teynampet in an apartment complex, the residents were apprehensive about Shobana nurturing a garden in the common terrace. Once she moved to Raja Annamalai Puram, two years ago, she was able to pursue her dream of having a garden, as her house had a 2,000 sq ft private terrace. With the help of her friend, she geared up to start her vegetable garden. She now grows eggplants, okra, varieties of pumpkins, bitter gourd, cucumbers, radish, onions, ginger, turmeric, mint, curry leaves, coriander and other greens organically.
“As I believe in healthy living, I have a few flowers, vegetables and greens, but I primarily grow herbs and medicinal plants. Our garden also attracts lots of birds, butterflies, honey bees and squirrels. Recently, we had two monkeys taste our organic pomegranates,” she laughs. She grows many medicinal plants such as adathodai (adusa), keezhanelli (gale of the wind), chitharathai (Thai ginger), karpooravalli (oregano), mudakathan keerai (balloon vine), pirandai (adamant creeper), and so on.
Shobana prepares compost on her own, by layering her daily kitchen and household waste in two drums and adding mud and coco peat every layer. It takes two months for one drum to be filled, by which time the other will have compost which can be used. “I once used Epsom salt for my tomatoes. The yield was more, but bees and butterflies stopped coming to my garden, and so I stopped using any artificial chemicals,” she said. Shobana makes her own grow bags out of tarpaulin sheets, and prefers to use more grow bags and coco peat to reduce the garden’s weight.
“The greens and vegetables that grow in my garden might not be as attractive as the ones from the market, but it will taste better and be healthier.
“Healthy eating and cost savings are obvious benefits of gardening, but it makes us more aware of our environment. Above all, it feels amazing to be connected with nature. I am sure I will be gardening for the rest of my life,” she said.