Stairway to a green haven- The New Indian Express

Express News Service

A  beetroot growing in a bottle, a small lemon tree flourishing in a pot, a tree full of Chinese oranges, bright petunias, red hibiscus, and other ornamental plants—these are a few of the greens that will catch your eye if you get a chance to visit 60-year-old Irene Gupta’s terrace in Chittaranjan Park.

This thriving garden, which Gupta started building in 2014, has grown into a mini orchard in time—she has around 40 different kinds of fruits and vegetables. “My mother was an avid gardener. After we renovated the flat in 2012, she would often mention how much she missed the garden she nurtured earlier, in our old home,” shared Gupta, when we visited her house last week. However, she points out that a green thumb was part of her genes, adding that her interest in growing vegetables increased courtesy of her maternal grandmother. 

Irene Gupta inspecting the cabbage in her garden

Weaving the ‘organic’ magic
The 1,600sqft terrace owned by Gupta can rightly be referred to as a green haven—vegetables such as cabbage, tomatoes, leafy vegetables, carrots, turnips, potatoes, broccoli as well as herbs including turmeric, coriander, etc.,—will be found here almost all year round. Apart from this, she also grows fruits such as pineapples, grapes, bananas, oranges, mangoes, and more. “When I started gardening, I did not have a lot of knowledge about it. Soon, I began watching videos and reading articles about terrace gardens in Australia and the US so as to learn their tricks,” said Gupta. 

The planters Gupta favoured at the start were pots made of terracotta. While she still has a few of these, the urban gardener prefers recycled crates and mineral water bottles as it helps take the weight off the roof. Additionally, she mixes soil with coconut husks to reduce the weight. Gupta also makes her own compost by adding used tea leaves, discarded vegetable peels, leftover cardboard, and cow dung together in a pile. 

Picking up the green baton 
Even though Gupta considers herself hands-on as she has personally nurtured this terrace garden, a gardener comes to work twice a week. In a day, Gupta visits her sprawling green space twice—in the morning and evening. 

Speaking about the importance of home gardens, Gupta shared, “It is a great way of teaching children about the food they eat. If they see the food they eat growing in front of their eyes, they will develop a greater appreciation for it.”

Along with friends Inder Mohan Gauba and Sushmita Choudhuri, Gupta has started ‘Kaloli Care’, a green initiative, in April. The objectives  are to promote organic farming and help others utilise small idle spaces to grow vegetables. 

“When I go to my terrace, I  see other unused spaces that have potential. I want to share the marvels of home gardening with others around me as well,” she concluded.

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