Lack of space is often a limitation for people, especially those living in cities, to set up a kitchen garden on their own. But for Mini Sreekumar from Thrikkakara, Kerala, lack of space has never been an issue to not set up a small vegetable garden in the tiny space (approx 5 ft perimeter space) around her house.
Her 600 sqft house is built on three storeys, says Mini, who has always been passionate about farming.
“It is not necessary that you need a lot of space to start growing something on your own. Be it vegetables, fruits or ornamental plants, one can always find at least a small corner of the house to make it happen. Like I have done, around my house, without even leaving a spot unused,” Mini tells The Better India.
The house doesn’t have a terrace as the top floor has a sheet roof. “So I decided to grow my veggies around my house,” says the 50-year-old who currently grows over 50 varieties of vegetables.
Sowing the seed early
Mini grew up in Kayamkulam in Alleppey. Her father, a government employee always found time to engage in agriculture. Watching him toil in the land, inspired her to take an interest in farming right from her childhood.
After she lost her father, her family moved to different rental houses. Even while moving from one house to another, she says, “I always planted something or the other in the available space in every house I stayed. It gave me immense happiness. But I always felt sad for leaving my plants behind when we had to leave the place.”
Finally after her marriage, Mini and her husband Sreekumar built their own house in Thrikkakara in Ernakulam.
Though there were spatial limitations, she always made it a point to grow at least a few vegetables around her house. But it was the pandemic-induced lockdown that made her even more engrossed in farming.
“I started using social media platforms like Facebook almost around the same time. That’s when I discovered a lot of online groups for farming enthusiasts like me. Being a part of such groups motivated me to do more and that’s how I expanded my kutty (small) farming venture,” says the homemaker, adding that she learned different farming methods, tips and tricks through the social media groups.
The four sides of the house are now occupied with grow bags, drums and plastic tins growing vegetables and fruits. Besides, she nurtures plants on the staircases and even on the sunshades.
“I haven’t left any space except a little to walk around the house,” she laughs.
The home gardener now grows tomatoes, brinjal, okra, chillies, Chinese potato, bitter gourd, spinach, moringa and more. She also grows a few fruit trees like jackfruit, mango, guava, red lady papaya, peanut butter fruit and ber apple.
“I would say, except potato and onion, I have been able to grow all the vegetables that we use in the kitchen,” she points out, adding, “Most of the days we get enough vegetables from the garden itself. It was a blessing during the lockdown days.”
“Among the fruit trees, the jackfruit tree surprised me when it had fruits last year. Even the guava tree gave a lot of fruit,” she says.
Additionally, turmeric, black pepper and ginger are some of the spices that she grows in her home garden. “I have been growing bush black pepper for a long time. It yields at least twice or thrice a year giving me half kg each,” she adds.
One of the challenges due to limited space around the house was the lack of soil, says Mini who does organic farming. “The space around the house was concrete, so there was no soil. I brought soil from nearby construction sites and filled it in grow bags and drums. I also made sure that I recycled the same soil by adding organic manure before growing the next plant in it,” she elaborates.
Before sowing the seeds or planting a sapling, she prepares the soil by mixing cow dung powder, neem cake and lime. “I have never used any chemical fertilisers or pesticides. Instead, I use to turn my kitchen waste into compost and use it as organic manure for all my plants.”
In the end, Mini reiterates that it is possible to grow fresh and healthy vegetables even in a very limited space. “If I can grow this much in a very limited space, imagine how much people with freer spaces or terraces can grow,” she says with a smile.
Edited by Yoshita Rao