Kirti Bhave, Prabhat Road, Pune
Meet Kirti Bhave, a passionate gardener, mother of two energetic kids. It is not possible to make terrace garden on her apartment building. Hence, Kirti has set up her garden on the terrace in her mother’s building, who stays 4-5 buildings away.
This is the option many of us never think of. Due to opposition from neighbors or some policy, if it is not possible to utilize our own terrace, let not that stop you from having a garden. We can always turn to friends and family. Can we borrow somebody’s terrace and share the produce as a way of “Thank You”?
In next few blogs, we would also discuss “Vertical gardens” to make maximum use of balconies and window panes.
Kirti’s vertical garden model
Here is why and how Kirti started her terrace garden
Gardening always excited her. In her college days, she had created garden in pots on meagre space that was available. Then, she was staying in Narayan peth, a densely populated locality in Pune. Houses are cramped together so tightly, that Kirti did not even have a balcony. She had her plants on the roof and had to climb on that tin roof to water the plants. She used to make compost on the ground and then carry it all the way to the plants on the roof.
So, when 1400 sq. ft terrace on her mother’s building was available, there was no stopping Kirti.
Waterproofing was done by the builder. She has used black, 500 microns thick sheet for plant beds. The same is used for farm-ponds by the farmers.
Like any other project, deciding objective is necessary for terrace garden. Here we do not have acres and acres of land at disposal. Hence to get maximum out of a few hundred sq. feet, we need to decide exactly what we wish to cultivate.
For Kirti, vegetables, fruits and various herbs were must. She also wanted flowering plants, so that her mother could get flowers for her daily pooja. Kirti loves lotus and Water Lilies. So, she reserved place for them while planning the garden.
Succulents is one more of her passions. She collects different, uniquely shaped containers from exhibitions for equally diverse variety of succulents. A corner in her terrace garden is devoted to them. This corner sure adds color and beauty to the garden.
Her garden comprises of plant beds, clay pots, grow bags, plastic tubs. She has made use of old, discarded bath-tub for water lilies.
Plant beds are demarcated with bricks. They are simply placed on top of each other. No cementing is done. This provides aeration.
Plants beds with bricks, discarded bathtub serving as container for the water lilies
Lettuce in bamboo basket
Coriander in used areca leaf plate. Compost the container when it wears out. No waste
For soil-less gardens, some planning before-hand is necessary. Visit to nursery to buy plants and seeds is very exciting. But unlike soil garden, here we need to prepare compost before we can start plantation or sowing.
How does Kirti prepare compost?
Deposit alternate layers of dry leaves and kitchen waste. Apply jeevamrut (mixture of cow dung + cow urine + gram flour + jaggery) once a week. Compost will be ready within 2-3 months.
Kirti is a DIY person. She has experimented with a lot of composters. Currently she has 2 composters on her terrace, constructed by her and her 13- year old son. Kirti says cost is one factor. But doing something creative with your kid, is priceless. It provides kids joy of working side by side with parent, encourages them to experiment, innovate and most importantly, teaches them patience.
Pigeon-mesh and PVC pipe composter
Material: Pigeon mesh, PVC pipe and metal angles, zip ties. While pigeon mesh and PVC pipes are available in any hardware shop, angles are available only with a few. If you are in Pune, your destination would be “Bohori Ali”.
Create skeleton using pipes and angles. Wrap around pigeon mesh on this skeleton and secure it with zip ties.
Tumbler composter using plastic drum
Material: 100 litre plastic drum, wooden plates, PVC pipe
Create base using wooden plates. Install bin horizontally on the base. Cut PVC pipe in length and attach them at 3-4 places inside the drum. It prevents kitchen waste getting stuck in one place inside the drum.
Drum can be locked and rotated. This movement provides aeration to the content and helps decomposition.
Preparing Plant Beds and Containers
- Place thick plastic sheet (300 microns) at the base
- Create rectangular boundary on 3 sides by placing bricks
- Height of each bed is 3 rows of bricks
- Bricks are not cemented together, but are simply placed on top of the other to allow aeration
- Place sugarcane residue at the bottom, then layer of dry leaves and compost
For container/ pots
Process is similar as with the plant bed. Lowest layer of sugarcane residue, then dry leaves and then compost.
Where to get dry leaves?
In tropical regions, deciduous trees shed leaves in winter. Leaf fall starts around November and continues till June. Dry leaves is challenge for people. Often dry leaves are burnt since that seems a convenient option. At the same time, there are people like Kirti, who need dry leaves for compost.
Why not bring “availability” and “requirement” together? That is what Kirti does. She collects dry leaves from apartments, societies nearby who have trees. It is a permanent understanding between leaf-donors and her. Donors collect dry leaves in gunny bags and inform Kirti. Kirti then collects those gunny bags. In last 2 years, she has utilized around 300 gunny bags of dry leaves this way, which otherwise would have been burnt or dumped. For details about this initiative, HOME
Kirti’s garden is completely chemical-fertilizer-free. She uses jeevamrut to boost microbial activity in the soil. Jeevamrut and Neem oil spray on plants acts as pesticide.
Kirti is a vegetarian. So not much protein and calcium (from bones and egg shells) are part of her kitchen waste. She collects egg shells from the “anda Burji” cart near her place. She adds eggshells to the compost. They provide calcium to the plants.
This is a win-win situation. Managing wet waste is a challenge for cart owners. Kirti’s garden is enriched, cart owner’s problem is solved. All are happy, isn’t it? We can always find such resources for free. Similar arrangement can be made with our regular vegetable vendors. Vegetables not fit for sale, can go to compost. Greens provide much needed nitrogen.
For tomato plants, additional calcium supplement is necessary. Kirti uses limestone (Calcium Hydroxide) for the same. Epson salt too is advisable.
Kirti recommends implementation of drip/ sprinkler irrigation and mulching (for details of mulching, http://brownleaf.org/mulch/).
In summer, while Kirti was on a week-long holiday with her family, her domestic help accidentally switched-off the motor that runs the drip. Plants were without water for a week, exactly in the period they needed it the most. Kirti was heart-broken with the thought of how much her plants suffered. Barring a few, almost all plants recovered. She gives all its credit to mulching. Due to the layer of dry leaves in each bed and container, sun-rays could not reach the soil and soil could retain moisture.
Kirti feels there is yet a lot to learn. There are so many things in plants life that remain beyond our perception.
Watering is a challenge when on holiday. Kirti has solved this problem by implementing drip and sprinkler irrigation with timer.
Produce from terrace garden
White Gourd, Ridge Gourd, Pumpkin, Coriander, Spinach, Fenugreek, Lettuce, Radishes, Chavali, Tomato, Brinjal
Guava, Pomegranate, Watermelon, Muskmelon, Fig, Papaya
Lotus, Water Lilies, Roses, Hibiscus
Kirti adds that she is so much in love with process of composting and gardening that produce from the garden is now secondary to her. She enjoys doing everything herself. By involving her kids in construction of composters, plant beds, she has made this an enjoyable family activity. With her kids developing such a great connection with nature, we know these are responsible, environmentally-sensitive future citizens in making.
Creator, Brown Leaf