There are three places where we have been doing organic gardening. One on either sides of the house, two on the terrace and three outside of our compound wall. I already gave an update on the garden on either sides of the house. Since I’d like to keep you guys up to date, in this post I am giving an update on the terrace garden and the garden that is outside. Now for the bad news. We recently stopped doing the terrace gardening. There are a few reasons which I will get to in a minute. Meanwhile, our outside garden is still doing fine, but not to the level we want.
So what happened? First things first. Our plan was to grow bigger trees like fruit trees on a vacant space outside our house. That space really is our next door neighbor’s plot. Since the owner purchased the land but never built a house on it and we decided to use their empty land to grow some trees. We waited for a couple of years to get in touch with the owner to let them know that we are planning to grow fruit trees there. But couldn’t find the contact information; neither did we see the owner in the last 12 years since we have been living here. Anyway, long story short, we decided to grow some big trees there.
We wanted to grow all the small vegetable plants like 3 types of tomatoes, 2 types of brinjal, lady fingers, turmeric, ginger, 3 types of beans, 5 types of green leafy vegetables, two types of potatoes, etc on the terrace. Given that these small plants cannot handle the hot summer sun all day long (no shadows on our terrace), we decided to build a shade net. It is all well and good and we got a really good yield that year (2019). However, there was one problem. Every year around September or October during the monsoon season here in Bangalore, we have strong winds and the shade nets tear apart completely.
So when our shade net got destroyed, in September of 2019, we built another one with better design, after the monsoon season was over. Again in 2020, this shade net was torn as well. So we repaired all the posts and installed new shade nets. What do you think happened in 2021? Again it got torn :). Since COVID-19 was at the peak during that time, we decided not to do any repairs and lets whatever plants can survive the summer heat. Some plants withered away and the ones that survived had a good run. Only problem is that we needed to water aggressively since there was no shade net to protect the moisture in the soil from evaporating.
By this time we started wondering if there is a better way to grow a vegetable farm. May be grow them in the shade of large trees and not under artificial shade of a shade net. We were also wondering if buying the shade net every year and adding to waste (all the torn shade net) and the pollution (in manufacturing them) is really the right thing for environment. Not to mention the unnecessary load on my wallet. This does not feel like sustainable living to me.
Then in 2022, Bangalore received record rainfall and our roof would not dry up because the grow bags while being on top of drain cells still retained a lot of moisture underneath. We were not comfortable with the situation because while the roof is waterproofed, we are not sure if all that stagnant moisture was causing any weakness in the roof. Moreover I had very bad allergies during that time and we wondered if having a roof that can easily dry would have helped the dampness in the living rooms. We were thinking the terrace garden might be a problem in those times where there is a heavy rainfall.
The final nail in the coffin is that the grow bags are nearing their end of life. They were supposed to have a 3 to 5 year lifespan and they were starting to show their age. It is now almost 5 years since we installed them and they were deteriorating and contaminating the soil in the bags. So it was time to replace all the bags. The bags were just tearing out when you try to pull or lift them.
Eventually, after contemplating for a long time and going back and forth many times, we decided to remove the grow bags from the terrace. It was a hard decision, but the decision was accelerated by another event that was unfolding in our lives. I will get to what that event was in my next post, but suffice to say, we were not too sad with our decision to end the organic terrace gardening. The terrace garden gave us so many beautiful memories and so much harvest that was very special to us because we were eating what we grew. Very nice feeling. So far we have cleaned up half the terrace. Still another couple of weeks worth of work left to clean up the rest of the terrace. Hopefully by the end of the year we will be done.
Now coming to the organic garden outside our compound, that is going well. Although, it is not getting the kind of attention it used to get. All the trees have grown up and only require some weeding and compost once in a while. Otherwise they are growing well. Since these are mostly fruit trees, the harvest is very uneven. In some seasons we have fruits and in other seasons, there is nothing at all. So of all the organic garden related work, this is the only one that is still surviving. We intentionally had to cut down some projects due to various reasons. But the experience we gained is invaluable. Hope to apply our learnings some other time.