Crossroads in life. How often we encounter this situation! Every time, grappling with the dilemma of choosing an option that will, hopefully, be the right one.
During one of my “Crossroads” moments, in 2012, I was caught between the choice of the safety net of a Corporate job as an HR professional, which I had done for 22 odd years, or dabbling with something completely new. I opted for the latter. Except, I had no clue what the “something completely new” was! All I knew deep inside was that anything I did, should enrich my life experiences and in turn, perhaps, influence some others.
After much research on sustainable living, I decided to start home composting. Before I realised it, I started working on the next logical project - a basic kitchen garden. All organic. Chemical free, pesticide free. Since I live in an apartment and am lucky to have a decent size overhead terrace, I had to figure the nuts & bolts of starting one. It involved a lot of research on container gardening and conversations with people who were doing it and eventually, I was in the thick of it. Literally. Mixing heaps of soil, compost and coco peat, using a shovel for the first time in my life, to create the ideal potting mix. Augmented newly purchased pots with unused scrap around the house that could be used; old buckets, discarded flush tank and so on. If it’s sustainable, it has to stand out as one.
The choice of plants was very clearly fruits and vegetables. So, with some saplings sourced from different nurseries and seeds from seed shops around the city, I potted pomegranate, orange, sweet lime, sour lime and everyday vegetables like okra, brinjal, beans, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, green chilies, spinach, methi, lal math, sweet peas, beet root etc. I also tried growing broccoli, onions, garlic and potatoes too. For about 2 years, most of my kitchen requirements were met by the produce at home. All the hard work is worth the freshly plucked vegetable or fruit! The joy and reward is incomparable.
Terrace gardening isn’t always easy. One has to constantly deal with the elements, often beyond our control. While sun is essential to good produce, too much sun can damage plants. Similarly, while water is essential, constant and heavy rains during monsoons can equally kill plants. The learning curve can be cruel too. How does one create an Eco system that aids organic farming, such as ensuring presence of bees and butterflies to pollinate the flowers? How much to water, when to water, when to fertilize, how to manage garden pests, are a source of constant stress to an amateur gardener. Ironically, no matter how much quality advice one receives, going through heartbreak after losing plants, is often, the only way to learn.
Once I gained reasonable confidence in my gardening capability, I decided to start a venture to help people set up their own kitchen gardens. However, shortly after completing a couple of such projects, personal situation necessitated a move abroad. It was heart wrenching to dismantle what had been created but I drew solace from the fact that my plants found good homes and that some would reap the harvest, literally.
Back in town after that break and armed with additional qualifications as a fitness coach, as well as additional knowledge about organic food, I am now recreating the kitchen garden in a manner where my clients can enjoy a good workout too! Amidst nature. The long term objective is to offer herb and vegetable saplings and packaged micro greens, to interested, health conscious folks.
Sarika is open for consultations and you can reach out to her at email@example.com
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