With the congestion of urban city life, vegetable gardens for apartment dwellers seem like an impossible prospect. However, the concept of kitchen gardens is picking up in India, as more people staying in apartments want their own home-grown vegetables.
Gardens can grow on a balcony, along a fence, or even in containers in an apartment window. With a little bit of research and creativity, you can enjoy fresh herbs and vegetables even in your own high-rise building.
Deciding on what to grow: If you stay in an apartment, you will not have the freedom to grow a full-fledged kitchen garden, but you can grow certain veggies in smaller areas. You can grow vegetables like brinjal, tomato, spring onion, radish and capsicum, salad greens like cucumber and lettuce leaf and essential herbs like coriander, mint, curry leaf, green chilly etc. But, it will be difficult to grow onions and potatoes.
Selecting containers: You need to consider two factors while selecting containers — the vegetable you want to grow and the space available. Plants like curry leaf or chilly will require a much smaller pot, as compared to vegetables like cucumber and capsicum, which will require a bigger pot.
- Window boxes are ideal for flats as they look attractive and are convenient. - Stone pots or terracotta pots allow plants to breathe freely, but are difficult to shift. - Wooden containers shield plants from heat but they might give out a foul smell. - Place plastic saucers under the pot as this will prevent water and soil spillage. - You can also use old buckets and wire baskets for hanging smaller plants. - Try to avoid using containers with a small opening. - Make drain holes in all the pots.
Seeds: Seedlings are easily available in various nurseries and should be planted carefully, without harming the tender roots. Even seeds from tomatoes or bitter gourd can be used.
Soil: It is the most important thing to be considered. Soil should be light, disease-free and have the capacity to hold moisture. Organic manure or compost can make for wonderful growing medium. You can add organic kitchen waste to it.
Watering: Plants need constant moisture, with most plants requiring daily watering. But excessive watering is not good either and may lead to diseases.
Fertilisers: Most chemical fertilisers are easily available in the market but liquid organic fertilisers are the best option. Another option would be to water the plants with a solution made with neem leaves or flowers.
Insects and diseases: Regular checks on the plants is a must. ‘Companion gardening’ is the best bet to keep insects away. For example, planting garlic between tomatoes will keep pests away.
Five quick tips:
1. The months of April, May and June are considered the best for planting new saplings. 2. As far as possible, avoid planting trees on the terrace, as the overexposure to sunlight might hamper growth. 3. Water the plants twice a day and keep the soil moist. 4. Plants should ideally be kept in a place where there is moderate sunlight; enough for them to perform photosynthesis. 5. Finally, the growth of the plant completely depends on the type of seeds you use, hence, select a high-quality seed.