Bengaluru has steadily grown vertically with more and more high-rise apartment complexes being built. Garden enthusiasts regret the loss of green cover and space to grow their own flowers and vegetables. But residents with green thumbs up in the Ittina Anai apartment at Bellandur have shown that they can create their own paradise on their terrace. Apartment resident Aditya Rao, who is part of this patio garden initiative, shares their story.
After growing up on a farm with lots of trees and abundant vegetable stains, the apartment was an adaptation. While I longed to recreate our childhood experiences of living among green spaces, space was a challenge. Our apartment complex is built over 1.87 acres, which houses 72 apartments in four towers. So we ended up planting a garden on the patio.
What started as an initiative from one family has today grown into a community initiative where five families have patio gardens on the roof. We grow vegetables and fruits including beans, radishes, beets, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, peanuts, tomatoes, yams, ginger, garlic, onions, celery, mint, coriander, spinach, amaranth, corn, brinjal, chili, peppers, basil, different types of pumpkins, peas, lilies, moringa and papaya.
Read more: How an apartment in Bengaluru created a ‘food forest’
How to create a patio garden
Step 1: Identify the location of the garden
In addition to the driveways, there are very few open spaces in our apartment. In addition to a small 2000 sq ft space on the ground floor, we have a large space of 42000 sq ft patio space. This was ideal for growing plants in pots and we got the approval of the apartment association.
Step 2: Identification of plants
Care was taken to identify seasonal crops. Here is a list of vegetables we have harvested over a period of three and a half years:
|Beans, gourds, fingerlings, tomatoes, potatoes, coriander, mint, basil, curry leaves, brinjals, garlic, ginger, chili and a few other year-round crops||All year long by using crop rotation techniques to regenerate the soil||6 months to a year|
|Cauliflower, corn, cabbage, radish – mooli, radish English, beetroot, sweet potato, paprika and other winter vegetables||Post the rain and they are harvested from October to February||4-6 months|
|Green leafy vegetables: Palak, Amaranthus – Green & Red, Dill, Fenugreek, Mustard||Seen every other month all year round||Two months|
* On average, a large pot yields about 4-6 kilos of vegetables.
Step 3: Cost Management
Our goal was to create an economically viable, sustainable garden by using the 3R method – Reduce, reuse and reuse the method.
- We recycled old chlorine barrels and drums as containers for the plants. This not only saved us the cost of the pots, but it saved us having to dispose of them at a cost.
- By using coconut peat, we reduce the dependence on soil; Since cocopeat is lighter than soil and has better water retention properties, it also reduces the need for frequent use of fertilizers, as the same is retained by cocopeat for longer periods of time.
- Our wastewater treatment plant (STP) generates 200-250 kg of sludge in a year, which has great nutritional value for growing plants. By reusing these, not only did our facilities thrive, we also saved on the effort and cost of having to dispose of our STP sludge via tankers or other means for the last 3.5 years!
- We contacted our neighbors from Bangalore Apartment Federation (BAF) – Rohan Jharoka (1 & 2) to procure about 1500-2000 kg of compost from their Organic Waste Compost (OWC) every 4-6 months.
- We spend an average of 15,000 a year on cocoa beans, labor, seeds and seedlings, organic fertilizers such as seaweed, pesticides such as neem oil, containers, etc.
- We reuse our STP-treated water, via taps on the terrace, this not only reduces waste, but also reduces the consumption / cost of fresh water.
- We spend about an hour or so every day in the morning tending the garden. We also hire a part-time gardener.
Read more: Bengaluru home gardeners find their mojo during the pandemic
The benefits of a patio garden
The garden layer has helped to cool the building down. The upper floors of the apartment have experienced a drop in summer temperature by 3-5 degrees Celsius.
The garden has been a source of fresh organic food! By using natural methods of pest control such as; Neem oil spray and let the birds and honey bees that have started to frequent the patio garden take care of most pests and insects, we have a clean, green buzzing garden! We exchange products among other patio gardeners, sell to other residents, donate to our staff and share with our friends and family who visit us!
Not only have we built a community garden in Ittina Annai, we expanded our circle to other Bangalore Apartment Federation (BAF) Cluster members in our locality by using their excess compost and reusing our own STP sludge to burn the same. Our patio garden is 100% organic !!
- Getting started is the biggest obstacle. When you start, there are plenty of resources that are available online and through the State Horticulture Department.
- Make sure the patio is sufficiently waterproof to avoid leakage.
- Always make sure to keep the place clean and free of dirt, soil and leaves by sweeping the terrace at least once a day so that the rainwater collection is not affected.
We are currently experimenting with perennial fruit-bearing trees such as: Guava, Lime, Orange, Pomegranate to name a few, and the results will take two years to yield.
You can also create a patio garden!
As a community, we are very proud of our garden as it gives us exercise and exposure to sunlight, in addition to providing the satisfaction of doing something unique and enjoying the fruits of one’s work.
You can also decorate a terrace garden. It just requires some old containers, coconut peat, compost, STP sludge and some time and elbow grease!