HYDERABAD: Edible Urban Gardening is the need of the hour. The forced time at home with children during the Covid-19 lockdown can be used to start such projects that are educative and fun.
What you need
- Four recycled containers (it could be tetra packs, small tins, coconut shells or even take-away boxes)
- Two tablespoons each of fennel seeds (sauf); coriander seeds (dhania); sunflower seeds and fenugreek seeds (methi)
- Some soil, vegetable waste from kitchen or compost if you have it readily available
- Old Ice cream sticks for labelling (optional)
- Poke a small hole or two in each container. In case you are using coconut shells be careful so as to not crack the whole shell while making the hole. One part of the shell will have three natural depressions out of which one can be made use of to poke a hole. This hole would help drain excess water.
- Fill the containers with a handful of soil. Then top it with kitchen bio waste or compost in such a way that 3/4 th of the container is filled. If using kitchen waste fill only till half, then top it with more soil to cover the kitchen waste completely.
- Sow (about half cm deep) the Fenugreek, Sunflower and Fennel seeds in three separate containers prepared as mentioned above.
- Place the coriander seeds in the middle portion of a dry cloth. It could be a rag cloth. Fold the cloth. Take a rolling pin and roll over the cloth gently. This will break the outer cover of the coriander seeds. Open the folded cloth and carefully gather all of the remains into a small container or plate. Sow all of it into the 4th container. Sprinkle some soil just to ensure that all the seeds are covered. Next sprinkle some water. If you have some dry leaves, you can layer them on top. This will help reduce the evaporation of water. If you cannot find dry leaves, you can omit this.
- If you wish to create labels, write on the ice cream sticks and insert them gently into the respective containers. Now place the containers in a sunlit space. You can make use of window sills or balconies if you are staying in apartments with limited space. Sprinkle water daily to wet the top layer of the containers. Do not over water.
- In about 3 to 4 days you will see the seeds sprouting. Coriander takes longer. Make sure to be gentle while sprinkling water. You can use kitchen wastewater to water these. Each seed will have a different germination time. Note the time taken for each of these varieties to germinate.
- When the greens are about 4 inches tall, they are ready to be harvested and used. Ideally they can be used in salads. When eaten raw they are more nutritive.
Note: You can grow tomatoes and chillies, in the same manner, using seeds from ripe tomatoes or chillies in the kitchen. Chillies can be grown from dry red chillies too which you will find in any Indian kitchen. Use larger containers and fewer seeds while growing tomatoes and chillies since these are larger plants than the greens and we do not harvest the entire plant unlike in the case of greens. Older children can write down recipes using these ingredients. They can also write an article on the nutritional benefits of these greens. Some of these have therapeutic value. These can also be researched into and information documented. Encourage children to take photos or draw pictures of each stage and add these to the documentation. Learning can thus be systematically written down and can be presented aesthetically.
Gardening is fun and exciting. It becomes an activity that one looks forward to each day. Gardening with children will also gradually encourage them to eat healthy and develop a taste for fresh salads. You can plan sowing seeds in such a way that you have a continuous harvest. Making children learn from such Do It Yourself Projects improves concentration and memory. Even so-called slow learners and children with learning difficulties will find such learning fun and effective.
— Seetha Anand Vaidyam
(Seetha lives in Hyderabad and heads Ananda, Foundation for Holistic and Healthy Learning & Learning which works in the areas of education, health and environment)