CHENNAI: Our desire to give back to Mother Nature is often hindered because we don’t have the means and materials to maintain a space dedicated to environmental growth. On World Environment Day, you can further your ideas for urban planning and gardening and take a step forward by establishing rooftop gardens and balcony gardens to care for yourself and the environment around you.
Start with something simple and do research
Now that you’ve heard the benefits, let’s address the tricky question getting started.
Ramya assuringly laughs, “Don’t think about it too much! It may seem tough in the beginning, but it is, in fact, a simple process. Take it step-by-step and research before you start off with anything” Here are the steps that ensure the route to establishing a rooftop garden is easy:
Start with something simple. “Maybe try attending a masterclass for rooftop gardening to get a basic understanding of how to go about the process. It will give you confidence as well!” Ramya says. Select plants based on how much time and labour you can afford. According to John, “The crop that gives the most yield in terms of produce is any type of keerai (greens). The success ratio is very high when it comes to the keerai crop. And you can even grow it in a place with less sunlight on the balcony.”
You can also use flowering plants to give your garden a more aesthetic purpose. If you grow trees, they need periodic repotting. According to Ramya, “The things you will need apart from growing bags and soil are a gardening kit, broom and dustpan, and a hose pipe. You will need to replenish the soil periodically, for which you have to buy manure.”
Start composting at home. That way, you will get manure for the garden as a fertiliser. John says, “The basic ingredients for your fertilisers are nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus — the trifecta, NPK. So, even when you are composting, research is required to make sure that there is not an excess of any of these nutrients, for it will lead to an unhealthy crop.”
Be wary of pest control and use appropriate pest control methods. John suggests traditional pesticides like neem oil do the trick. Further, physically protecting plants from birds and even using certain insects that are beneficial to the plant and kill harmful organisms can be used. So, harness your green thumb and give back to the environment. Let us, as a city and community, try our best to ensure that we try to save our Earth.
Benefits of Rooftop Gardening
1 Composting uses all three R’s —Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. With a rooftop garden, your kitchen food waste can be converted to compost and used as a fertiliser, points out Ramya Athulan, a rooftop garden enthusiast. She is a firm believer in reducing food waste. “I use all the vegetable and fruit scraps from my kitchen as material for compost which I then use as fertiliser,” she says.
Helps with mental health
2 Potting plants while listening to music is sure to improve your mood. Growing plants can be therapeutic for individuals and contribute to improving their mental health. As Ramya says, “Maintaining a rooftop garden has significantly relaxed my mind. It helps me focus on myself and is now one of my favourite hobbies. In fact, gardening has helped me reduce my screen time!” So go ahead and put on your favourite tunes as you water your plant babies.
Helps with food production
3 According to John Yesudas, the CEO of IGO Agri TechFarms, a company that offers services to establish rooftop gardens, “Rooftop gardens can have two types: urban commercial farming, and organic rooftop garden. With the growing market for organic food, companies like mine strive to establish a system where it is easier to farm from your own home and produce your food. On average, for commercial farms, the revenue for the produce will be Rs 50-Rs 70 per square feet.” So, not only does rooftop farming aid in feeding your family, it helps earn some extra cash on the side.
Aids with decor
4 At the risk of sounding high-handed, I will admit that I consider myself a pioneering advocate of interior design that involves growing plants at home. There is something about cultivating a green thumb that screams “green flag!” from a distance. With that being said, John laughingly suggests, “Hanging pots from your balconies definitely help with the decor of your house. In fact, a lot of people in Chennai living in apartments do not have a terrace of their own to grow and cultivate a garden. Permits need to be issued and there is a problem of communal living. This is where balcony gardens come into play. Not only do they provide you with all the benefits of a roof garden, but they can also be arranged in such a way that it adds to the aesthetic of your home.”