Cyclone got winston started on his garden
Cyclone Vardah damaging more than 1000 trees in the city was a wake up call for a city-based techie Winston Benjamin. His interest in gardening began when he was young, but three months ago, his friends encouraged him to set up a terrace garden.
BENGALURU: Cyclone Vardah damaging more than 1000 trees in the city was a wake up call for a city-based techie Winston Benjamin. His interest in gardening began when he was young, but three months ago, his friends encouraged him to set up a terrace garden. “Those few days, it was even hard to get out to buy vegetables. That’s when this idea came about,” says the 24-year-old.
He has a sprawling terrace garden with a variety of vegetables, fruits and spices. “Now I have different variety of spinach, ladies finger, Thai basil, cinnamon, chillies, brinjal, bayleaf, pomegranate and more,” he says.
An encounter with Bernard D Clerke, a naturalist in Puducherry, helped him learn more about organic farming. “The amount of soil in my pots is very less.
Instead I use dry leaves- the blackened ones, which turn to soil on decomposing. So in my pots, it's 1/3 of soil and 2/3 of dry leaves. Because of this I don’t have to change the soil frequently as the nutrients required for the plants stay intact,” he explains.
Winston also conducted experiments of his own to understand why dry leaves are important. “I had two pots of brinjal. While in one I used coconut husk along with soil, in the other it was with dry leaves. The latter was fresher,” he shares. He collects the dry leaves from the poongam tree and neem tree right outside his house.
With the city having water shortage, the dry leaves also help in less consumption. “The soil is covered with a 15cm bed of dry leaves. I water the plants every morning, the dry leaves absorbs them and keeps the soil moist till the evening,” he says.
Winston shares that it is important to invite insects as that also helps in plant growth. While small insects can harm the plants, he has a homemade disinfectant for the plants.
“I make a concoction with turmeric, vasambu (Calamus) and neem leaves. I purchase turmeric sticks and grind them along with vasambu. At home, I boil the neem leaves in water and make it into a concentrated solution. For every 300ml of the solution I add 10 litres of water and the ground powder and pour it over all plants. As both neem and turmeric are good disinfectants they kill the tiny insects that harm the plants,” he explains.
Winston’s friends help him acquire good quality seeds. While this is the first time he has planted so many trees, for the past year he has consumed ladies finger and tomatoes grown at his home. Now, his neighbours are also inspired by him and have started planting trees on the terrace.