Meet 44-year-old Jagadish Shri, whose entry into organic terrace gardening more than a year ago was, well...organic! Having set up a rainwater harvesting (RWH) system at his independent house in Banashankari 2nd stage, he was wondering what he could experiment with next. He was also concerned about the high pricing of organic food, when a visitor to his blog pointed him to organic terrace gardening and a company that helps set up such gardens.

Banashankari resident Jagadish Shri set up his own terrace garden where he grows organic vegetables like beans and carrots. Pic: Chetan Boray

On visiting the company's office off of Bannerghatta Road and seeing their terrace garden, he was spurred to begin his own experiment. "Healthy food locally produced without incurring any transportation carbon miles was the primary reason to get started on this journey", says Shri, who works as a technical manager at Wipro Technologies in Madiwala.

In August 2009 he set up his 40 sq ft organic vegetable terrace garden, where he now grows beans, ladiesfinger, carrot, knolkhol (Kohlrabi) and brinjal. He uses these vegetables in his own kitchen.

One of the many interesting aspects of this garden is the use of two different types of containers.  Initially, being unable to use the boxes Shri purchased, from the company near Bannerghatta Road, due to their interference with his RWH system, he began with 22 regular earthen pots that he placed in a sunny patch on the terrace. 

And then, earlier this year, at a workshop by Dr B N Vishwanath (a pioneer in promoting urban agriculture, who regularly conducts workshops on organic terrace gardening), Shri got further impetus to expand his terrace garden experiment! He learnt to make his own terrace garden containers with deal wood (recycled packing material) and a metal frame, that he now uses on his terrace.

The terrace garden container that Jagadish Shri has made himself using deal wood and metal frame. Pic: Jagadish Shri

The initial investment he made for the pots, boxes, compost and said was around Rs 5000. Now he spends anywhere between Rs 100-200 every three months.

Shri is next looking to make his garden as self-sustaining as possible and minimise the inputs needed from outside such as soil and fertiliser. He also does not want to increase the water consumption significantly for the garden. He has just started experiementing with growing fruits like guava, pomegranate and sapota.

At a personal level, Shri believes his experiment with organic terrace gardening is yielding a lot of insights into a mini eco-system and the time spent in the garden is one of the most relaxing times for him in the day. He usually immerses himself in his garden over weekends and evenings after he returns from work. His wife Vani helps him out with the planning and sowing of seeds, while his four-year-old daughter enjoys the occasional watering of plants if allowed to! His 12-year-old son, on the other hand, is more neutral towards this exercise, says Shri.

Contact Jagadish Shri at jaga_vani9[at]yahoo[dot]co[uk]
You can also attend the upcoming National Seminar on Organic Terrace Gardening in Bangalore (September 9-10) where you will get to meet with and learn from Jagadish and other such keen organic gardeners in the city.
For more details, see here.

Here are some pointers from the man himself, for those interested in setting up their own organic terrace garden:

Start small with a few pots for vegetables like greens, chillies and tomatoes. Then slowly expand the garden based on your experience and confidence.

  • Start small with a few pots for vegetables like greens, chillies and tomatoes. Then slowly expand the garden based on your experience and confidence.
  • More importantly - ask yourself what the real purpose of organic gardening is for you - Is it a measure of ROI (cost of inputs to market value of output), value of time spent in the garden versus doing some other 'productive job'? And what is the purpose of growing the plants - is it to provide us with food, feed the various insects (so called "pests") to propagate themselves or something else?

Potted plants in Jagadish's terrace garden. Pic: Jagadish Shri

Shri quotes Woody Tasch, founder of Slow Money (a US-based company): "Each head of broccoli that I grow costs me at least ten times what I could purchase an equivalent head for at the supermarket (or a lower multiple of an equivalent head at the health food store). In terms of economic rationality, my time working in the garden is wasted: I am investing thousands of dollars' worth of time to produce vegetables with a market value of hundreds of dollars.

To a "ground zero" way of thinking, there is no such thing as an "equivalent" head of broccoli available from any purveyor, and what is incalculably valuable is the satisfaction that comes with the good work that is connected to the land. If it is not rooted in respite from good work, leisure becomes as cheap as the cheap food that makes it possible. If it is fresh, organic, and the product of my own nurturing over a few-month period, then broccoli is something more than just a product to be valued in terms of its market price and the market value of my labour".