Spots of Green in the Sky
Terrace gardening is gaining popularity as both passion and necessity
In the daily chaos of city life, a spot of greenery is what all eyes desire. But lack of space often prohibits adequate planting of trees in urban spaces. Hence, as in the rest of the world, India, too is seeing growth of terrace gardens set amidst the skyscrapers. While most do it to beautify their homes, for some it is also about going organic and taking little steps towards mitigating pollution.
For long, terraces have been used in India, as in many other countries, as an additional storage area within the house. Terraces laden with junk are rather the norm than the exception. From old nonfunctioning electronics to wires running from one end to the other pinned for drying clothes, terraces are utilised for various odd purposes.
However, there are some who despite the squeezed city spaces, are converting their terraces into getaway spots. “Gardening is my passion. I draw inspiration from the Jain spiritual teacher Mahavira, who in the pursuit of spiritual awakening, led a minimalistic life. Similarly, Buddha and so many other saints survived with limited supplies. Borrowing the concept, I grow plants and talk to them believing that if you shower them with a lot of love and just little water everyday, they can bear flowers and fruits for you,” says Vaneet Jain, a businessman, who has converted his terrace in north west Delhi, into a four-level garden.
“I grow all seasonal vegetables and fruits – a total of 30 types, apart from ornamental and medicinal plants. Other than apple and cherry trees, which gave a lot of flowers but not fruits, we have many other fruits such as the common fig, phalsa (Grewia Asiatica), mulberry, citric fruits, pomegranate, guava, grapes, mango, starfruit, avocado, camphor, rudraksh (Elaeocarpus Ganitrus Roxb) and pineapple,” he adds. “I have been into gardening since I was a child and started developing this garden in 2006. Today I have plants that have grown up to 30 feet. On the fourth level I have a kitchen garden and medicinal plants, orchids on the third level and ornamental on the first. I have trained my domestic help for gardening and he helps me; every Monday on my weekly day off, I spend the entire day in the garden.”
As we step out of Jain’s terrace, we see another comparatively smaller garden adjacent to us. Though the terrace was closed, we managed to peek inside through the bars in the door. The space had all shades of green; we couldn’t tell if all those plants were ornamental or fruit-bearing but were definitely a pleasure for the eyes.
While for some it is their passion, for others green spaces are a need as cities in India continue to witness increasing pollution levels. “We grow different types of flowers in our garden; we love relaxing amidst the scent of them. It is the best when it rains; we have butterflies and even peacocks sometimes that fly here. This garden is my peaceful escape. We also sometimes use it for get-togethers,” says Kamlesh, whose house has a backyard in central Delhi.
Gardening has caught the fancy of many in the country. Not only do they aim to beautify their places but they also spread the message of organic farming.
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“These plants freshen you up instantly. They also sometimes help you save a trip to the grocery. We consume our own produce – we like making dishes out of them and also distribute them amongst friends and neighbours. There is definitely a difference in both taste and quality because this is 100 percent organic. We never use chemicals, but only organic manure like cow dung. Even when I have to use pesticides, I make it on my own by burning cow dung and then adding some camphor to it,” Jain tells India & You.
Many desire a lush green setting around their house but are deterred by either the maintenance part of it or lack of space. “In today’s times, cities lack gardens and from our balconies all we can see are high rise buildings. I don’t have a terrace but thankfully a big enough balcony to plant flowers and some vegetables. Last winter we had tomatoes and we regularly get green chilies. It feels good to use our own produce while cooking. Gardening is a therapy,” says Kavita Kapoor, a resident of west Delhi.
Witnessing the growth in terrace gardening as well as vertical gardens in some areas, many companies in India that offer garden development and maintenance services for hotels and resorts, have also come up with assistance and products for house terrace gardens, balconies and commercial establishments.
Not only in households, but the trend is also growing amongst organisations and even schools in India. Some schools in Chennai, Tamil Nadu (south India) are teaching their students to grow vegetables with the help of a self-help group (SHG) that trains students to grow vegetables in their own gardens. “Members of the SHG train students who are a part of ecoclubs and the national green corps. These children are provided with seeds and pots. They grow the plants either in pots in terraces of the schools or in a small patch of land available inside the school premises,” says Maheswari Ravikumar, deputy commissioner (education), Chennai.