CHENNAI: Imagine a green carpet of vegetable and fruit bearing plants covering the terraces of Chennai’s homes — the vegetables for your afternoon meal harvested everyday from your plants — this is what SS Radhakrishnan, former IRS officer and president, Good Governance Guards, wants to make a reality. A kitchen garden for every home with at least a couple of plants in pots could mean summers with reduced temperatures and a better pollution control system for the city.
And this determined man continues to surge forward in spreading his initiative. In over three years he has helped set up 3000 kitchen gardens in the city and the number keeps growing as a trickle of visitors to his garden keep coming every day.
According to Radhakrishnan, growing one’s own vegetables can solve most problems that the country is facing. While doing this, the human resource of senior citizens, house wives and students can be exercised. In 2011, Radhakrishnan started on a mission to revolutionise the way people grow plants. A board in this man’s office reads “Only a farmer is independent, all others are dependent on him.”
He believes that only a farmer can create new wealth and everyone can be a farmer at least in his balcony. “If every household in this country can grow at least a couple of vegetables or even a small pot of mint in their houses the GDP of our country will jump to new levels, shortages will be met, prices will come down and the level of carbon di oxide in atmosphere will reduce,” says Radhakrishnan.
From developing apartment-friendly pots to finding the right mix of manure that can facilitate an easy growing environment for plants, this initiative of Radhakrishnan’s continues to draw many interested people from across the city. True to practicing what he preaches, Radhakrishnan cultivates 37 vegetable plants, 15 fruit bearing trees and 6 herb, all on the terrace of his house. The latest change in this farmer’s garden is conventional pots replaced by Israeli troughs that enable soil-less cultivation. One might wonder if any plant could survive without soil, but Radhakrishnan says yes.
“A bed made of HDPE sheets is filled with cocopeat, vermin compost and organic manure for growing vegetables. The yield is faster and more rewarding as the plants spread the roots easily. Water requirement is much less when compared to cultivation on the soil and one need not worry about the plants going dry when on vacation,” he said. With this new method of cultivation, Radhakrishnan even has corn and wheat growing in his troughs along with other vegetable plants. He says that trough farming can be done with commercial interest even on terrace and small plots of land in the city.
Radhakrishnan, who had contested as an independent candidate in South Chennai constituency in the recently concluded elections, believes that leaders like Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and Prime Minister Modi have the potential to make people act on any initiative.
“All it would take for a kitchen gardening revolution is a 15 minute address to the nation by the Prime Minister and we will have a participatory democracy that would take the country to new heights”, he says.
He wants laws that could restrict a person’s purchasing power if he is not a kitchen gardener. “Jayalalithaa made a huge impact with her rain water harvesting project. The same can be achieved in kitchen gardening with her patronage,” says Radhakrishnan.
Letters to corporates calling for sponsors for a World Environment Day event with celebrities promoting kitchen gardening have returned no response to Radhakrishnan’s call. And yet, he hopes that soon Chennai would become ‘a city of kitchen gardens’, and a model for other cities to follow suit.