Now a ‘soldier’ for rooftop farming
By Asha P Nair | ENS | Published: 05th December 2012 10:50 AM |
The mango season is still three months away, but the oblong-shaped Mallika, the super sweet Alphonso and the more common Neelam varieties are already ripe and mellowed at Thomas’ house. On the terrace of his house, to be precise.
An ex-serviceman, 70-year-old K T Thomas has turned the 1,500- square feet terrace of his house at Valiyathura into a fruit garden. Six varieties of hybrid mango trees, including Kottukonam, Himapasand and Banganapally, grow in rubber bags on the terrace, a rare sight indeed. They are hale and hearty alongside apple, orange, guava, sapota and rambutan and a long list of other fruit-bearing plants.
Thomas’ passion for cultivation is not many years old. After seventeen years in the military, he had begun his pensioner’s life with no exciting ideas. However, he took to vegetable cultivation on his terrace and like many others had basketsful of fresh vegetables for the kitchen. So much so that his wife Thelma did not know what to do with them. She distributed the produce among neighbours and still had much left. It was then that Thomas took to cultivation of fruit-bearing trees two years ago and got his terrace cleared for them.
He bought hybrid varieties of mango trees from exhibitions in the city and some from Agro Bazaar at Fort, cleared his doubts at a course conducted by Horticulture Mission and took to cultivating fruit trees with all vigour. ‘’It seems my mango trees are special, for they seem to bloom and bear fruits under my care,’’ says a visibly elated Thomas.
‘’Look at the temperature here - it is between 33 and 35 degrees Celsius. The soil is not red soil, but beach soil, yet see the growth of the trees. The Mallika mangoes are so big that I gave them extra support to keep them off the ground,’’ he says.
The neatly-kept fruit garden is no easy job, it takes up many hours of his day. He has placed two chairs, a jug of water and a small shelf at one side of the terrace - an indicator that the place is one of his comfortable zones in the house.
Shamam, sabarjelly, sweet lime, Nagpur orange, ‘Chinese narakam’, ‘njaval’, gooseberry and sugarcane are some other members of his fruit garden. Then there are ‘karuvapatta’, ‘ramacham’, tulsi and some vegetables - cabbage, capsicum and amaranthus - that he also tenders. And of course, it is a strict no-no to chemicals; he uses only organic manure.
A native of Ranni, Pathanamthitta, Thomas is settled in the city now, while his two sons are working outside the state. The man, who is a storehouse of farming tips, is only eager to share his experiences with others. His house, Kanjirathumootil House, would sure leave one confident to try a hand at cultivation.