Population in the cities is increasing exponentially. Everyone is busy. More than half of them are migrants from villages in search of livelihood. They left a green and calm environment and entered the concrete forest. Most of them feel that their children miss the experience and benefits of natural healthy rural life. Parents visiting city homes of their children cannot tolerate polluted city atmosphere even for a week. We find dust and smoke everywhere. Even healthy persons experience suffocation. People with Asthma and Allergy find it difficult to breadth. Village life is just a sweet memory for senior citizens who left their villages decades ago. They cannot go back now. A small relief for all these feelings is having a kitchen garden.
There is no space left for the ever-increasing population itself. Then where do you plant a garden? The answer is Terrace Garden or Rooftop Garden. Farming is also in trouble in recent years. Hence they use chemicals and poisons to their crops and soils abundantly. These persistent pollutants have affected the health of farmers and consumers. It is common to find chemical residues in vegetables like tomato and brinjal and fruits like pomegranate and grapes etc. Organic farming is discussed a lot now. But the ground reality is something different. Realizing all these nature lovers of the cities started growing organic food at least for their own consumption. Hence terrace gardening is becoming popular. In spite of the shortage of space, water, time and patience many of them are getting into rooftop gardening.
In principle, there is no much difference between the kitchen garden on the ground and the terrace garden. Due to a shortage of space and light on the ground, the garden has moved to the rooftop. However terrace garden cannot be as natural as the garden on the ground. Obviously, it is a bit artificial. There is a limitation for the selection of plants for the terrace garden. Closely spaced tall buildings permit very less light penetration to space in between. Hence terrace gardening is the only option left for the people of the big cities, it enables us to grow and use poison-free fresh vegetables and fruits.
The terrace garden is a great opportunity for senior citizens to spend their time and helps to maintain good health. It gives sufficient physical exercise to homemakers of the cities. Children get exposure to the world of plants. It creates interest and curiosity in them about plants, insects, birds and nature. Terrace gardening is an interesting change of work for employed youth at the weekend. Terrace gardeners get the satisfaction of reducing pollution of the city to a little extent. The terrace garden creates a cool micro-climate on the open hot terrace. Thereby it keeps the home below cool.
A rooftop garden can be a good place for morning exercise and meeting with friends in the evening. Even if the yield of plants is not up to the expectations the other benefits are assured. If the yield is sizable by proper planning and maintenance, it saves the spending on vegetables every week. One can grow and use medicinal plants like Basil, sweet flag, ginger, Brahmi, mint, neem, Giloya etc. as well. Apart from all these the emotional touch with these plants and vines gives freshness to the busy mind of the city people.
Local crops and varieties are preferred as more yield and profits are not the targets. Indigenous varieties have more disease and pest tolerance. They withstand water shortage. The yield may be less. But we find a lot of diversity in local crops and varieties in their colour, taste etc.
You can grow leafy vegetables like coriander, mint, Methi, Brahmi, spinach, colocasia, different types of amaranthus etc. One can go for common vegetables like tomato, brinjal, okra, chilli, capsicum, cluster bean, cauliflower, cabbage, knol-khol, radish, carrot, beetroot, onion, garlic, turmeric, ginger, potato, green peas etc. We can opt for climbers like bitter gourd, chow-chow, ridge gourd, snake gourd, bottle gourd, different types of beans, cucumber, pumpkin, watermelon, muskmelon etc. Perennial plants like Indian spinach, little gourd, Indian borage, drumstick, curry leaf etc. are also successful with bigger containers.
Terrace gardeners can go for perennial fruit plants like banana, guava, sapota, pomegranate, papaya, avocado, clustered apple, mosambi, orange, lime, cherry, strawberry, fig, vanilla, grape, sugarcane etc. But these plants need more space and the gardener must have the patience to wait till they bear fruits. High-speed wind on the terrace tears out banana leaves leading to small fingers. Plant only grafts while opting for fruit plants. Normally grafted plants are bushy in nature and bear fruits early. Keep on pruning the tips of vertical shoots and lateral branches to restrict it to a bush of 5 to 6 feet high.
We can accommodate medicinal plants like neem, basil, aloe vera, Giloya, sweet flag, black pepper, betel vine etc. Likewise, the gardener can have most of the plants matching his interest. But give preference to those plants liked by all members of the family.
The terrace will be hot enough in the peak summer. True. But if you maintain optimum watering the plants will not suffer a lot. It may show slow growth and lesser yield in the hot season. You may grow soft leafy vegetables under a shade net. However, it is not compulsory. Few people ask whether this terrace gardening is profitable. If you use locally available containers, seeds, manures etc. and work yourself definitely terrace gardening is profitable. A rooftop garden on a 30×40 site house can meet 50 to 60% of the vegetable requirement of the family.
Availability of light is also a crucial factor in big cities due to adjacent tall buildings. Most of the plants like full sunlight. They need sunshine at least for 3 hours a day. Allot less light area to shade-tolerant leafy and stem vegetables. Keep plants yielding fruits and tubers under full sunlight.
Systematic, attractive and costly containers of different types are available. But we preferred locally available pots for visualization. Select the container based on the type of plant, root zone, speed of growth etc. Wide boxes with 6 to 12-inch depth are good for short duration leafy vegetables. But for other plants which remain for 3 to 4 months use containers with at least 12-inch depth. Vines such as bitter gourd, ridge gourd which continue up to 5 to 6 months need bigger containers of 2×2 feet and at least 1-foot depth. Perennial plants like papaya and banana which grow tall need containers with 5 to 6 feet depth. Otherwise, they fall on the ground by the wind. Black boxes get heated up under the direct sun. Hence containers of other colours are preferred. A drainage hole at the bottom is compulsory to drain excess water.
Plastic and fibre containers are light in weight and easy to handle. But they are a bit costlier. They do last long if kept wet always. These coconut fibre pots are very attractive and comfortable for plants. But it is costly again. Soft wooden planks used once for packing fruits and other materials are available at a cheaper cost. Growing boxes of preferred size are prepared with these planks. These wooden boxes impart a natural look to the terrace garden and not get heated up even in hot summer. Metal tins are strong enough, but get rusted soon due to soil and water. Put inner lining of plastic to the wooden boxes and metal tins.
Transplanting of seedlings is recommended in brinjal, tomato, chilli, capsicum, onion, garlic, lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, knol-khol etc. plastic pro-tray or net pot is used for nursery raising. Put light growing media such as vermin-compost or coco peat. Sow one seed in each hole. Spread a thin layer of the same media again. Water it lightly and keep the tray under partial shade. We get healthy and stout seedling in this method. Transplant them at 15 days stage. Carefully take out the seedling with the media ball around the root. Plant the same in the pot and water it regularly. We can protect the costly seeds from ants and other insects easily in this method. Let us understand the composition of growing media now.
If you fill the pot only with soil, it becomes hard to affect the growth of the plant. To prepare potting mixture 1 part soil, 1 part sand or coco peat and 1 part compost or vermin-compost. Mix it thoroughly with a spade. The water holding capacity of the coco peat is excellent which retains moisture for a long in the pot. However, do not fill only compost or coco peat. Soil is necessary to give firmness to the media. A drainage hole is compulsory for any type of container. Put broken pieces of pot, stone pebbles etc. at the bottom to avoid clogging the drain hole. Take care of transplanted seedling till its recovery. Do not water too much. Let a little amount of water come out of the drainage hole. Overwatering blocks aeration to the roots.
Normally watering twice a day in the summer, once a day in the winter and against the requirement in the rainy season is advised. Water transplanted seedlings and soft succulent plants on priority. The plant should not face water shortage at flowering and fruit set. Watering in the early morning and in cool hours in the evening is good. Avoid watering in hot sunny hours and at night. If the plant remains wet at night it attracts fungal diseases. Some people keep perforated water bottles or cans at the plant base. Water percolates slowly and maintains moisture.