Nirmala H S, 38, a HSR Layout-resident has always been interested in gardening but had never been able to pursue it. That changed recently when she started volunteering at an organic community gardening initiative in JP Nagar. This is a 50x80 plot of land or ‘patch' located midst prime real estate on 17th Main Road on JP Nagar II phase.

Pic: Jyothi Nagaraj

Nirmala and a number of other volunteers are together growing tomatoes, chillies, radish, coriander, dhantu soppu, and other produce at the patch now. "When I grew up in Davanagere, in central Karnataka, I watched my father and grandmother growing vegetables" says Nirmala, adding that despite the interest. She used to work for a major IT firm and is now a homemaker.

Also getting into growing vegetables at the community patch is BTM-layout based Aparna George, 35. Aparna, like Nirmala, also used to work in the IT industry earlier and is now a homemaker. Her tryst with gardening started last August at the Oota from your Thota event held at BTM Layout. "These plants did very well, and built up my enthusiasm to get into this in a bigger way". Aparna heard about the community and decided to dive in.

“I am interested in finding more spaces to grow and encourage organic farming” Jyothi Nagaraj, 37, an IT consultant and Secretary of Garden City Farmers Trust. She is also an amateur radio operator, painter and hiker.

The community garden is the initiative of avid gardening enthusiast Jyothi Nagaraj, 37, and her colleagues at Garden City Farmers Trust, a green NGO which promotes organic farming, conservation of bio-diversity, and increasing green-cover in Bangalore and Karnataka. Jyothi is a resident of RBI Layout in JP Nagar and Secretary of GCF. GCF is led by Dr B N Vishwanath and S Lakshminarayan, who along with Jyothi are helping set up urban farms and terrace gardens. It is Vishwanath's talk that inspired Nirmala to get in touch with GCF.

"The idea is for a group of garden enthusiasts to get together and grow vegetables and fruits in the identified piece of land collectively, thus increasing the green space in the area apart from reaping the benefits of organic vegetables and fruits", says Jyothi. Like Aparna and Nirmala, Jyothi is also an IT professional. She was a manager at HP before she swiched to IT consulting and pursue her other interests.

At work in the community garden patch on 17th Main Road, at JP Nagar II Phase. Pic: Jyothi Nagaraj.

Jyothi has also been inspired the organic vegetable farming movement in Cuba, a nation of 11 million, not much more populated than all of Bangalore, at 8.5 million. "Inner-city organic vegetable patches in Havana feed 90% of the city's population", reported the BBC in 2009. Jyothi feels Cuba is a role model for Bangalore and other Indian cities.

The plot is owned by one of the residents on the same road. It has high tension lines going over it and as a result cannot be used for a building as per city rules. The owner, who did not wish to be named, was interested in supporting the initiative.

The JP Nagar initiative comes at a time when interest in gardening and growing vegetables in Bengaluru has itself quietly grown from strength to strength. GCF's Oota from your Thota events (Citizen Matters is media partner) have been a success attracting gardening enthusiasts from all over.

Everyone from apartment residents to people with independent homes with patches of land in their backyards are getting interested in kitchen gardens and growing for themselves and their neighbours. At Chaithanya Samarpan, a gated home community in Kadugodi, Whitefield over a dozen families are growing vegetables and fruits, some for fun, and others industriously.

For her part, Jyothi wants to take this further. "I am interested in find more spaces to grow and encourage organic farming", she says. BBMP parks would be a good choice, but getting permissions is complicated, she worries. Instead, she wants to work with gated layouts and apartments where decision making may happen faster. "I am also happy to talk to owners of plots of land in the city who have no plans to build", she adds.

In its own way, the initiative is also helping volunteers along their own journeys. Nirmala has her own dreams. "I want to promote gardening in schools" she says. Aparna, also wants to promote the cause, even though for the moment she is eyeing the produce to come. "The only big dreams at the moment are concerning future ‘veggie' harvests", she quips.