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The Delhi Homemaker Who Grows around 100 Varieties of Fruits, Herbs and Vegetables on her 1000 Square Foot Terrace

Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan
Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan

Sumathi Chelliah always had an interest in farming as her family down south owned lands and farmed and is very passionate towards the art of gardening and farming. As Sumathi got married and moved to Delhi and that’s when she says she realized the difference between food grown at home and that comes from the market. She noticed a stark difference in the quality and was determined to give her family clean food. A family of four was in need of more vegetables and so she expanded her area over into two terraces adjacent and started growing almost all varieties of vegetables and fruits according to the season.

In Just five years her terrace garden has expanded to include 100 Varieties of Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs. She also passes on the credit to her husband, Mr. Chelliah Sellamuthu, Director Horticulture, NDMC and her two children and her parents. She reiterates how her Dad keeps sending her notes and clippings on different techniques in Horticulture an also about the new varieties. She reminds us one needs passion to grow and no courses in Agriculture nor growing of plants will be of any help.

The first time she says, they used to buy gardening kits when gardening exhibitions used to come to Delhi. She remembers the initial kits were bought from Tamilnadu stall of Terrace Gardening group of Chennai (Maadipakkom) had come to Delhi for an exhibition and then when she wanted more and they were send through parcel in trains too. It was in early 2015 that she started dabbling into terrace gardening. But now she procures good quality cow dung and garden soil for her plants from her own Farm near Manesar and her home compost too.

She uses all sorts of containers, to grow produce. She likes sourcing old containers from Kabadiwala, the food takeaway containers, cartons, thermocol planters, pots in earthen and plastic also. The important thing to give importance is the layout and space that should be used to arrange the plants. Initially what was being used were grow bags, but she found that her plants weren’t growing to its maximum capacity in grow bags and so she shifted them to grow in containers. Water from the grow bag were also a problem, but now she says she has lined up bricks underneath  the containers so that bricks  absorb water and helps it from being seeping down.

Well decomposed Cow dung is used as manure and they are replenished every month to every pot. She also makes Panchagavya and sprays it in an interval of 15 days till flowering and after fruiting it is applied once a month. In the change of season, pests are a problem but she has grown many herbs and marigolds alternatively to keep the pests out. Sometimes sticky traps which are blue or yellow in colour are used to attract pests and insects. She also goes on to tell about buttermilk being sprinkled on the plants also.

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