Several have found a unique way to pass the time amid the pandemic-induced lockdown – home gardening and growing organic vegetables. This could be partly due to a quest to find a hobby, and partly because of an increased focus on health and nutrition amid a global health crisis.
The Surti family of Surat are part of that section of society that has found solace and a healthy lifestyle within the confines of their home. The family of five, which spans three generations, has taken advantage of the period of confinement to expand their garden at home.
Subhash Surti, together with his father Harishchandra, his wife Raksha and their two children, grows 15 medicinal plants, almost all seasonal vegetables, eight varieties of fruits and several flowering plants. In total, there are over 400 trees and plants in this house.
âWhile I have been growing plants around the house for a long time, all of my family, including my children, only started helping out when the pandemic arrived. Many of our neighbors have also started the activity in their own homes, âsays Subhash.
The real meaning of magic comes from a special element of this family garden: the potato in the vines.
Three generations of amateur gardeners
Usually, potatoes are grown underground. However, this particular variety, imported from a mountainous region, took almost two years to give a decent harvest, he says.
Subhash attended a weeklong terrace gardening course from Surat Krishi Vigyan Kendra, where he learned the technical know-how, good potting techniques, knowledge of seasonal farming, etc.
He says that because the family has limited space around the house, they grow plants in the yard and patio. âWe bought this house 15 years ago and have been gardening ever since. We try to grow at least 30 percent of the vegetables we need for our own daily use, âhe explains.
Of the âaerial potato,â he says he found it while trekking, which is another of his favorite hobbies. âWhile traveling in Gir Forest three years ago, I saw potatoes growing in vines. Local people explained that this type of potato is rich in starch. I planted a sapling at home, which showed good growth for a year, but no potatoes grew. We took extra care of the plant and after two years it has paid off, âsays Subhash.
He uses about 1,000 square feet of his patio and a 3 Ã 14 foot yard at the side of the house to grow plants. Here, he grows seasonal vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, fenugreek, brinjal, beans, cilantro, chili peppers, and bitter gourd, as well as regular vegetables like lady’s finger, pumpkin, gourd, onion, beans and taro root.
Among the fruits mainly cultivated by the family are pomegranate, phalsa, guava, amla, star fruit, banana, mulberry and bael. Apart from these, tall trees like moringa, guava and amla can be seen towering over the house.
Subhash, an engineer by profession, says: âAs the fruits need good sunlight, I grow them on the terrace. The rest of the vegetables are planted in the yard, where only limited sunlight is available.
Subhash and his father are very fond of medicinal plants. In their garden, they grow two varieties of Aparajita plants, as well as turmeric, lemongrass, five types of basil, giloy, malabar nut, brahmi, ajwain, paan camphor, mint and big cardamom. Subhash says his wife loves flowering plants.
Asked about the benefits of home-grown vegetables, he replied: âWe can easily spot the difference. Organic vegetables taste better than those on the market. We can also eat them raw with confidence. These vegetables take less time to cook.
His two children Hetav and Swara began to take the time to garden during confinement and now water each plant regularly, he adds.
Meanwhile, Subhash’s father, who is 78, says, âIt gives me great pleasure to see so many plants in the house. Before, we only grew a few seasonal vegetables.
âWhen we started living here 15 years ago, none of the 16 houses in this company were gardening except our own. But today almost all houses have a small garden. All the credit goes to the pandemic, as people have become more health conscious, âSubhash said.
Read this story in Hindi here.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)