A terrace garden is a thing of beauty in the midst of an urban jungle. I am extremely grateful for the terrace space we have in our new home. I woke up this morning to the sweet scent of jasmine and parijatha filling the air in the terrace, clear skies, the setting moon, and a not whiff of the polluted air; my mornings have become magical ever since we moved in as the day begins by tending to the beautiful plants that grace this space.
The feeling of seeing the flowers on the Mango tree transform into a 1 cm fruit, or the beautiful pink flowers in the Starfruit plant take shape into teeny-tiny fruits is beyond description. When I held the first harvest of the garden – a few cherry tomatoes and french beans in my palm, it was akin to holding my son for the first time in some measures.
Isn’t it amazing what greenery can do to your senses and general well-being! If you have a terrace or a balcony, here’s how you can transform the same into your own zen space:
1. Plan the space: garden + seating +overall decor: the key to an amazing garden is planning. Zero in on the location for plants such that they receive ample sunlight. If you plan to have planter boxes, then waterproofing is necessary.
2. Bring in colour with interesting artefacts such as distressed windows or colourful planters.
3. Earmark a seating area to relax and entertain. It can be casual, using weathered furniture or you can have a more formal seating such as a gazebo based on your budget.
4. Get creative with planters: plants can be grown in a variety of pots or grow bags. Repurpose household items such as old paint buckets, tetra packs, etc. as containers.
Discover the secrets to a healthy garden: The beauty of a garden lies in healthy plants as much as its decor. Nurturing a garden is like nurturing a family with love and care. And it shows in the harvest. Here are a few TLC tips for beginners to take care of their plants:
Get the soil right: the right potting mixture makes a world of difference. An equal mixture of soil, cocopeat, and vermicompost or compost keeps the potting medium well aerated and provides the nutrients necessary for a plant’s growth.
Grow what you eat: one of the questions I’m often asked is, “what is easy to grow?”. My answer is always the same, “grow what you eat”. If your family does not eat turnip or cabbage, there is little satisfaction you will derive from growing one. Also, choose your plants based on the climatic and soil conditions of where you live. Certain plants such as cauliflower, broccoli, strawberry grow well during winter. There are some staple plants that are relatively easy to grow such as basil, radish, spinach chillis, tomatoes, okra, and french beans.
Know how much to water: I hate to admit but this is the biggest mistake most novice gardeners make out of enthusiasm, one that I have been guilty of many times. Plants take time to grow and produce; overwatering will not hasten the process, but will only rot the roots and wash away the nutrients. Reduce watering during monsoons and shield them from strong winds; similarly, increase watering to two times a day during the peak of summer.
Nurture them: feed them adequate nutrients once a week. Examples of organic nutrients include homemade compost, panchagavya, dried cow dung, buttermilk, eggshells, dried vegetable peels etc. Over-fertilizing will burn the leaves so take care in feeding the right proportions.
Keep the pests away: just as we fall sick, plants are also prone to many diseases. The common one being an attack by aphids and mealy bug. These are white insects that make the back of the leaves their home. Never water the leaves as this leads to diseases. Catch them young by observing any small change in the appearance of the plants such as curled leaves, browning tips, yellowing leaves, lines running along the length of the leaves etc.
Be aware of your resources: engage actively in your local community to exchange seeds, share knowledge on effective pest control methods, or why a plant is facing stunted growth.
Let your garden grow and age gracefully like us with time. Start slow; every small success, every harvest will be an encouragement to take on more and try on something new. Starting on a large scale can be overwhelming for a novice gardener. Happy gardening!