1. Success Story

From Spinach in PVC Pipes to Strawberries in Bottles, Woman Grows 1 Kg Vegetables Daily at Home

Growing a thriving vegetable and fruit garden on her terrace has been extremely rewarding and satisfying for 70-year-old Lizy John from Bengaluru, Karnataka.

Shruti Kandwal
Lizy established her terrace garden in Bengaluru in 1998 with some basic veggies like chilies, curry leaves, spinach, and so on.
Lizy established her terrace garden in Bengaluru in 1998 with some basic veggies like chilies, curry leaves, spinach, and so on.

Lily made the decision to retire after over 25 years of running a snack business to concentrate on growing her agricultural business. She claims that even though there wasn't enough room, it wasn't challenging at all.

"Even though our terrace is 1,200 square feet, I only have room for 1,000 square feet of vegetable growing because the remaining space is taken up by the solar panels and water tanks. But for me, it was more than enough. Since I started growing my food at home, I have to say that I am happier and more at peace, told Lizy.

Her father was a teacher and a farming enthusiast who worked extremely hard on their farmland as she grew up in Kerala. Because of her husband's business, she frequently moved homes and locations, but she was so motivated by this that she made an effort to cultivate something in each small space.

Finally, Lizy established her terrace garden in Bengaluru in 1998 with some basic veggies like chilies, curry leaves, spinach, and so on. She extended the terrace garden, which currently has nearly all the veggies and numerous fruit trees, around nine years ago.

1 kg of veggies per day

She currently gathers about 1 kg of veggies each day from her terrace garden, which, according to her, is more than enough for the five people in her family.

“We only use the market to buy onions and maybe potatoes. The rest are found in our garden.”

"I have been cultivating practically all vegetables, from common to rare, but I haven't kept track of the numbers. Each sort of vegetable, spice, and herb comes in a variety of forms, and there are many fruit trees as well. We have therefore been eating solely fresh, non-toxic food that is daily picked from our terrace for the past few years,” she explains.

On her terrace, Lizy has been growing her vegetables primarily in grow bags that are stored on elevated stands. In addition, to growing bags, she also grows fruit, spices, herbs, and leafy greens in buckets, drums, PVC pipes, and even plastic bottles.

"I always use anything and everything, according to my policy. I never throw away plastic water bottles; instead, I use them to create miniature pots, particularly for growing berries. Additionally, I grow leafy vegetables like spinach, coriander, etc. in PVC pipes," she continues, noting that although these are her ideas, her husband John has been helping her in putting them into reality.

Uses only organic fertilizers

Lizy claims that she only uses organic fertilizers and insecticides in her garden to fight against pest attacks and plant diseases. She claims that her extensive farming research over the years has helped her in developing the best organic mixes, fertilizers, and insecticides.

“Despite being one of the best organic manures, cow dung hasn't always been easy to buy in the city. Therefore, to feed the soil and promote the growth of my vegetables and fruit trees, I have been mostly relying on organic products like homemade compost, peanut cake, rice water, etc.,” says Lizy.

She uses a special method to ensure a steady supply of organic fertilizers, particularly for fruit trees. "I cut the bottoms off of plastic bottles. After that, secure the open mouth in the planter's soil. The bottle should be filled with regular kitchen waste, dried leaves, etc. before being filled with jaggery, buttermilk, or cow dung. Then use a coconut shell to seal the bottle's bottom. According to her, she refills the mixture once or twice a week. "The slurry generated inside the bottle will flow into the soil, nourishing the growth of the plant," she explains.

Lizy claims that before planting anything, she thoroughly prepares the soil.
Lizy claims that before planting anything, she thoroughly prepares the soil.

Lizy claims that she employs a variety of techniques to fight off pests. One is the use of a yellow trap, which, in her opinion, helps in deterring some pests.  “Other than that, I make a mix using 5 ml of neem oil in one liter of water and add some soap or detergent. Spraying this mix onto plants once in a while would resist pest attacks. One can also ferment rice water, dilute it in water, and spray it onto the plant,” she adds.

Lizy claims that before planting anything, she thoroughly prepares the soil. Lizy, who always makes sure to only acquire top-notch seeds and saplings, explains, "For that, I mix soil with lime and dry it.”

"I purchase vegetable seeds and saplings from people I know or from trusted online farming groups. Additionally, I gather fruit tree saplings from various locations I visit when I travel, she adds.

All vegetables in one place

On her terrace, Lizy plants a wide range of vegetables, including several species of tomatoes, brinjal, peas, okra, beans, spinach, chilies, bitter gourd, chow chow, air potatoes, cucumber, drumstick, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, and more.

She also cultivates spices including cardamom, pippali (long pepper), ginger, turmeric, and pepper.

Her collection of strawberries, which are usually cultivated in water bottles or on PVC pipes, is one of the terrace garden's standout features. On her terrace, in addition to strawberries, there are also guavas, pomegranates, mangoes, jamuns, grapes, custard apples, water apples, western cherries, avocados, dragon fruits, oranges, blackberries, mulberries, etc.

Lizy has received numerous medals and recognitions from various organizations in Kerala and Karnataka.
Lizy has received numerous medals and recognitions from various organizations in Kerala and Karnataka.

Lizy has won several awards

For her rooftop gardening venture, Lizy has received numerous medals and recognitions from various organizations in Kerala and Karnataka. She continues, "I have so far won over 15 honors, including the Mathrubhumi award, the Haritha Keralam award, the Hope Charitable Trust award, and the Sarojini Damodaran foundation's award.”

She claims that anyone can grow their food, even in small spaces, with a lot of effort and patience. "Even if it's just a chili plant when it blooms or produces its first fruit, it makes us feel satisfied and happy in some way. Although challenging, growing one's food is quite rewarding in terms of health. It keeps me going, “she says with a smile.

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