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From Jackfruit, Chinese Potato to Spices: Kerala Women Grows 50 Varieties of Vegetables in a Limited Space

Mini Sreekumar from Kerala is a homemaker who loves gardening. She grows 50 varieties of vegetables in the very limited space around her house.

Shruti Kandwal
Mini was raised in Alleppey's Kayamkulam. Her father, a government employee, always made time for farming. She developed an early interest in farming as a result of seeing him toil in the soil.
Mini was raised in Alleppey's Kayamkulam. Her father, a government employee, always made time for farming. She developed an early interest in farming as a result of seeing him toil in the soil.

Lack of space is usually a barrier to setting up a kitchen garden on one's own, especially for those who live in cities. However, like Mini Sreekumar from Thrikkakara, Kerala, a shortage of space has never stopped her from setting up a vegetable garden in the small area (5 feet around her house).

Mini, who has always had a passion for farming, says her 600-square-foot home has three stories.

“You do not even need a lot of room to begin growing things for yourself. Whether growing fruits, vegetables, or ornamental plants, one can always find at least a small space in the house to do so. Like I have around my house, without even leaving a spot unoccupied,” Mini told the media.

Due to the top floor's sheet roof, the home is lacking a terrace. "So, I started growing my vegetables around my house,” said the 50-year-old who currently plants over 50 different types of vegetables.

Sowing the seed early

Mini was raised in Alleppey's Kayamkulam. Her father, a government employee, always made time for farming. She developed an early interest in farming as a result of seeing him toil in the soil.

Her family changed rental homes after her father passed away. She adds, "I always planted something in the available space in every house I resided, even when I moved from one to the next. I was so incredibly happy about it. But whenever we had to leave the place, I always felt bad for leaving my plants behind.”

Mini’s vegetable garden around the house and she also nurtures plants on the staircases and even on the sunshades.
Mini’s vegetable garden around the house and she also nurtures plants on the staircases and even on the sunshades.

Finally, Mini and her husband Sreekumar built their own home in the Ernakulam neighborhood of Thrikkakara.

She always made it a point to plant at least a few vegetables around her house, despite the space limitations. But the pandemic-caused lockdown only served to increase her interest in farming.

"I started using social media platforms like Facebook at the same time. At that time, I found a good number of online groups full of farming enthusiasts just like myself. Being a part of these communities inspired me to work harder, and I eventually developed my Kutty (little) farming business," the housewife claims, adding that she discovered new agricultural techniques and learned useful advice from the social media groups.

Grow bags, drums, and plastic tins are being used to grow fruits and vegetables on all four sides of the home. In addition, she manages the plants on the sunshades and even the stairways.

"I haven't left much room at all, just enough to stroll around the house."

Tomatoes, brinjal, okra, chilies, Chinese potatoes, bitter gourds, spinach, moringa, and other plants are now grown by the gardening enthusiast. She also raises a few fruit trees, including ber apple, red lady papaya, jackfruit, mango, and guava.

Vegetables harvested from Mini’s home garden
Vegetables harvested from Mini’s home garden

She continues, " The majority of the time, we obtain enough veggies from the garden itself. I would say, with the exception of potatoes and onions, I have been able to cultivate all the vegetables that we use in the kitchen. It came in handy during the times of lockdown.”

"The jackfruit tree surprised me among the fruit trees last year when it produced fruit. Even the guava tree produced a lot of fruit,” she said.

Additionally, she plants a variety of spices in her backyard garden, including ginger, black pepper, and turmeric. "I have a long history of growing bush black pepper. It provides me with half a kg of produce at least two or three times a year,” she continues.

According to Mini, an organic farmer, one of the difficulties resulting from the limited space around the house was the lack of soil. There was no soil because the area around the home was concrete. “I obtained soil from adjacent building sites and filled grow bags and drums with it. Before planting the next plant, I also made sure to renew the soil by adding organic manure,” she continues.

She prepares the soil by mixing cow dung powder, neem cake, and lime before sowing the seeds or planting a sapling. “Neither chemical pesticides nor fertilizers have ever been used by me. I used to compost my kitchen scraps and use it as organic fertilizer for all of my plants instead.”

Mini concludes by restating that fresh, wholesome vegetables may be grown in even very little space. She says with a smile, "If I can grow this much in such a small place, think of how much people with more room or terraces can grow."

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