City’s terrace gardening movement turns 25
Entrepreneur Ashwini Gajendran, a resident of Vidyaranyapura, steps out to the market only to buy onion, garlic, potatoes and fruits such as apples. For the rest, her rooftop garden spread across around 900 sq.ft. provides enough for her family of four.
“I started gardening in August 2017 when I moved out of Malleswaram. It initially started with composting as waste collection was irregular, and starting a vegetable garden went hand-in-hand. I started growing basic vegetables like tomatoes. During the lockdown, for Ugadi, I didn’t have to step out. We had all supplies at home,” she says.
Farm to plate was a dream for urban dwellers, but a steady movement has made ‘oota from your thota’ a reality for thousands of Bengalureans in the last two decades. That movement has now stepped into its 25th year.
Rajendra Hegde, trustee of Garden City Farmers, an NGO formed under B.N. Vishwanath, considered the pioneer of organic terrace gardening in the city, said Dr. Vishwanath had started the movement around August 1995. However, with his passing away in August, urban farmers decided to celebrate the milestone with what they’ve come to be known for – inspiring new gardeners while handholding the existing ones.
“We are organising 25 one-hour sessions on food gardening every Sunday from 10.30 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. We held the first one this week. We want to expose urbanites to different gardens. As those inspired by the movement are in different parts of the world today, we will try and organise sessions in the evening too if, for example, someone in America wants to showcase their garden. We want to show the journey of 25 years of urban foodscape and see how we can sustain this for the next 25 years,” he said.
Today, there are around 50,000 food gardens in the city. “When I started in 2005, Dr. Vishwanath had said around 60 people had started food gardens. But when we started handholding people and organising ‘oota from your thota’ events, more people began adopting the concept. Today, there are around 20 groups on organic terrace gardening on WhatsApp, which organise meets and seed sharing,” Mr. Hegde added.
The COVID effect
The COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown, forced work from home and online classes have caused a spike in interest.
“We can see increased interest based on enquiries. We are getting around five enquiries a day from people calling to learn more about manure, seed sharing, as they have more time now as they are at home. Apart from new gardeners, there are gardeners who were disappointed midway and want to give gardening another try. Even colleges are organising sessions through us,” Mr. Hegde added.
Srivatsa Seshagiri, a resident of Rajajinagar and financial planner, set up a garden two months back spread over two floors. “It was a part of the design of the house when we built it, but we got around to doing it now as we found time. In the food garden, we have around 15 varieties,” he said.
The decision, he said, has had a positive impact on his family. “We are learning about how long it takes to grow different food. The greenery makes us happy and it has a positive influence on the children. I’m trying to influence my friends and family to take it up, as this would contribute to the city’s greenery,” he added.
What happens once their routines go back to normal? “We have hired help to visit once a week. We are also using drip irrigation,” he said.
For the sessions: https://www.youtube.com/c/OrganicTerraceGardening/