1) Let’s start at the very beginning. What prompted you to set up your edible garden in the balcony of your home? Any initial hiccups? What were your key learnings ?
2) What is the basic requirement to start off before we can follow your lead – minimum space, soil type needed, full day sunlight? How about daily care for plants?
3) What all do you grow in your apartment?
Tomatoes, pomegranate, cucumber, passionfruit, mulberry, lettuce, pok choy, kale, beans and a variety of herbs – mint, basil, rosemary, thyme
4) Before we saw your home garden, we thought one must invest in a vertical planter / aero planter to grow food in an apartment [if one wants more than basic herbs]. Have you come across and tried these products – would you recommend them for new gardeners?
I have tried to keep my gardening very cost-effective and simple, using mostly recycled materials i.e. compost, so have not invested in any form of system! I am keen to try hydroponics as it is very water efficient and know of people who have had good success. However, the use of liquid chemicals to grow the plants puts me off – need to research more on the subject before going on to hydroponics in a big way.
5) That brings us to another remarkable feat that you have achieved- composting in your balcony. Tell us how you go about it step by step?
6) Do you have to deal with yucky stuff during composting- creepy crawlies in your house for instance?
There are bugs and creepy crawlers of course as they are the ones that do the composting but they are contained within the compost bin. There are some lizards that come to feast on the bugs and I don’t mind them as they remain in the balcony there being plenty of food for them and never enter the house 🙂
7) Is organic gardening at home a pipe dream or a real possibility? How do you deal with pests / insects / ensuring minimum nutrients for your produce?
It is a real possibility but one has to be realistic – herbs and some vegetables can be grown in pots for regular consumption – lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes to name a few but truth be told, one needs a landed garden to grow most vegetables one needs at home.
8) You are a full-time practicing obstetrician with two kids, a busy husband and (perhaps) dozens of commitments as well. How do you make time to manage a full-fledged edible garden [which as we just discovered is also organic]?
I am an early riser – and garden from 7-7.15am just before leaving for work. On the weekend, I do garden for a couple of hours while the kids are doing their own thing, but it is really not as time intensive as people think.
9) Any easy tips for stark beginners? [which plants to start with, tips like spinach needs nitrogen so use coffee remains, recommended reading, etc]
– Start with easy plants – beans, lady finger, cucumber – these are quick and easy. Once you see the fruits of your labor, you will be hooked!
– Use good quality soil and organic fertilizer – like seaweed/ chicken poop etc which provide the nutrients.
– Care for the plants yourself – water yourself, do not delegate – when you do it yourself, you see how the plant is doing and can make changes where needed, instead of loosing the plant.
– And most importantly read – as much as you can about the plant so you know how to care for and what to look out for
10) Where do you want to take this? Do you have a mission / dream?