Urban farming for healthy life

Rapid urbanization, industrialization, land ceiling, construction of multi-storeyed buildings, wide roads, offices, markets have resulted in the non-availability of land for gardening work in big cities and towns. Ever-increasing population in cities and increasing vehicles have resulted in an alarming increase in pollution. There is a great need to break the monotony and provide relaxation for the tiring mind. Roof top gardening is an affordable option for the urban dwellers, providing several benefits.

Gardening is an age-old practice to produce healthy horticultural produce. Gardening in the backyard of the home can help to produce healthy and chemical free vegetables for our daily diet. But, in the urban areas where the land is a constraint, it’s impossible to establish a garden. However, spaces like rooftops could be used to produce healthy vegetables.

Lockdown during June 2020 triggered the idea of rooftop gardening. Being an agriculture graduate with a passion for growing crops, I started my rooftop garden during the lockdown period. I started utilizing my terrace for cultivating vegetables, on a small scale initially and expanded gradually.

Effective management of kitchen waste is one of the advantages of growing home gardens organically

Setting up a rooftop garden

For the establishment of a rooftop garden we considered a number of criteria like the space available, containers to be used, plants to be grown, water availability etc. Defining the space available for terrace gardening is most important, since it helps us to plan the number of pots that can be occupied per unit area. The space was selected in such a way that plants get sufficient sunlight and water.

Next, we had to look upon the media for growing crops on the terrace. Numerous containers are available in the market for terrace gardening but it usually depends upon the type of vegetables grown. We selected UV stabilized LDPE bags that were lightweight with the dimension of 24 cm X 24 cm X 30 cm (LXBXH) and thickness of 150 Micron and 600 gauge. This size is suitable for most of the vegetable crops and can hold up to 18 kg of the potting mixture. This type of material has a life span of 4-5 years and it is also economical.

The pots were filled with soil, coco peat, and compost in a 1:1:1 ratio, to provide essential nutrients. To this, Trichoderma @ 1kg/100kg of mixture was added to help in controlling soil borne diseases. The mixture was filled up to 2/3rd of the bag.

Box 1: List of vegetables for various seasons
Kharif (June- end Oct.) Eggplant, Tomato, Chilli, Okra, Dolichos bean, Cluster bean, Methi, Amaranthus, pole bean etc.
Rabi (Oct. –March) Radish, Palak, Dill, Coriander, Knol khol, Potato, Onion, Cabbage, Cauliflower, chenopodium,
Beetroot, Peas, Broccoli etc.
Summer All types of gourds, cucumber, melons,
tomatoes, French beans etc.

A detailed planning was done during sowing, so as to get diverse vegetables on a regular basis for home consumption. The selection of vegetables was based on the prevailing season which helps to achieve its yield potential. Also it was based on the crops ability to grow quickly so that harvest can be made soon. The seed material was selected from certified companies and government institutes like IIHR, since they supply quality seed material which has a good yielding potential.

A number of diverse vegetable varieties were grown in 60 bags. Around 50 – 60 grow bags are sufficient to produce vegetables for a small family of four to five members. Creeper vegetables such as pole beans; gourds were placed in corners so that they get good support for creeping.  Rest of the bags were placed based on the sunshine requirement (full sun, partial shade, and cool place). Inclusion of legume vegetables such as field beans, methi, peas, etc., helps to improve soil fertility through its symbiotic N fixation, besides providing vegetables.

The diverse crops were grown in the following way.

  • 15 bags used for green leafy vegetables including Palak, Amaranthus, coriander, Dill, fenugreek, mint, Rajgiri, etc., depending upon the season.
  • 20 bags for the cultivation of okra, brinjal, tomato, chili (5 bags each)
  • 10 bags for pole beans and French bean
  • 2 bags for Dolicohos bean (spreading type)
  • 8 bags for radish and Knol khol
  • 5 bags for onions

Crop care

Every home generates organic waste daily which can be kitchen waste, dried leaves and residues. These wastes  can be efficiently recycled. They can be used as feeding material to worms to produce vermicompost. Also, this kitchen waste can also act as mulch for chilly, eggplant, tomatoes, and okra. Daily waste is dumped as mulch in these crops. After partial decomposition, this waste is filled into a vermicompost bin, above the layer of cow dung slurry, which enhances the performance of worms in composting. The vermi-compost bin should be placed in a shady place where rainwater does not directly enter the bin. After 2-3 months, this bin is emptied and used as vermicast. Also, vermiwash, a kind of liquid manure which is collected from the outlet of the bin is used to spray @ 10% rate which acts as growth promoter apart from supplying nutrients to plants.

Besides vermicompost, FYM and compost can be used after each crop. Wood ash is an excellent source of lime and potash for garden. It is mixed along with compost in small proportion and applied to growing crops.

In terrace garden, we always rely upon organic inputs, so pest and disease is very common. However, owing to plant diversity, there is less incidence of pest and disease damage. For example, leaf curl in chilli, white fly in beans – this problem is solved by using botanicals (Box 2) and natural control of pest and diseases by predators and parasitoids. Timely sowing of vegetables helps to avoid pest attack. We do not use any pesticides.

 Harvesting benefits

Planning during sowing ensured a flow of vegetable harvests for a long period of time. My terrace garden is diverse with various vegetable crops for example: all leafy vegetable come to harvest once in 30 days but subsequent cutting come within 15 days. Beans starts bearing after 50 days onwards and harvested in 2-3 days’ intervals. Other vegetables come to harvest based on its duration and produce vegetable for at least one month.

Box 2: Botanicals-Some examples

Neem leaf extract: 250 gm of neem leaf is soaked in a half-liter of water. Cover the mouth with cloth and ferment for 3 days-this can be used after dilution by 10 times helps to control sucking pests.

Sour buttermilk: Spraying sour buttermilk after dilution help in the control of some fungal disease in plants.

Wood ash: Wood ash is dusted to Brinjal, gourds, and for okra to control some of the pests such as armyworm, aphids, cucumber beetle, etc. due to its anti-feeding property.

The yield level is as good as the field grown crop, owing to intensive care. Also, the vegetables are fresh and nutritious and tastes good, compared to market produce. The vegetables produced are being used for home consumption. Excess vegetables are shared among the neighbours.

The costs and returns have been worked out. The total cost of setting up rooftop garden and producing vegetables on the rooftop over a period of one year, amounted to Rs.5223. This included all the operational costs categorized under different headings as given in Table 1. The value of vegetables produced is around Rs. 8480, which proves that growing vegetables on the roof top is a profitable venture.

Rooftop gardening has many other benefits such as minimizing the side effects on health, utilization of leisure time and space and production of healthy food. Effective management of kitchen waste is one of the important advantages of growing home gardens organically. Also it acts as a stress buster for those who work in the urban areas.

Having gained practical experience in roof top gardening, I have started training people in my locality to practise gardening for a healthy life. In future, I plan to start a terrace gardening consultancy in Bangalore.

Table 1: The Total Operational Cost of Cultivation and Total Income from Rooftop Gardening during the first year (01st June 2020 to 31st May 2021)

Particulars Cost (Rs.) Quantity Yield(In Kgs/Cuttings) Price (Rs.) Returns
Polybag 1500/- 60
Manure 750/- 300
Tie 100/- 1
Hand sprayer 200/- 1
Biofertilizers 200/- 2
Red soil 500/- 300
Coco pit 900/- 300
Irrigation 800/- 2 man-days
Weeding 800/- 2 man-days
Seeds of all the crop
1.Beans(pole+ french) 165/- 300gm 30kg 60 1800/-
2. Coriander 30/- 100gm 10 cuttings 25 250/-
3. Palak 100/- 500gm 25 cuttings 15 375/-
4. Amaranthus 150/- 200gm 21cuttings 10 210/-
5. Rajgiri 70/- 100gm 22 cuttings 15 330/-
6. Menthi 60/- 250gm 20 cuttings 20 400/-
7. Tomato 260/- 10gm 20kg 30 600/-
8. Pudina 10/- 10 cuttings 10 cuttings 10 100/-
9. Bhendi 48/- 150gm 12kg 45 540/-
10. Dolichos 20/- 100gm 6kg 100 600/-
11. Onion 60/- 25gm 5kg 50 250/-
12. Brinjal 200/- 25gm 15kg 40 600/-
13. Sabaske soppu 200/- 200gm 10 cuttings 15 150/-
14. Radish 50/- 50gm 20*20 400/-
15. Knol khol 50/- 50gm 15*45 675/-
16. Chilies 100/- 25gm 30kg*40 1200/-
            Total 5223/-       8480/-

Acknowledgements: The author gratefully acknowledges the support of Mr. Santhosha K M in establishing the garden and in developing this article.

Rundan V

Rundan, V.

Ph.D. Scholar, Department of Agronomy

University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad.

Email: rundangowda10@gmail.com



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