Whenever you think of apple, you must have thought that it can be grown only in mountainous areas like Himalayas. But 57-year-old concept artist and photographer Vivek Vilasini has managed to grow apples in the balcony of his Bengaluru home.
Vivek says, “Seven years ago, I started growing exotic varieties of fruits as part of a concept-based art project. My farm is in Munnar, Kerala, so I usually start tree planting with trials. After this, I grow these plants in my balcony and then I shift them to the field. My recent project involves growing ‘low chill’ varieties of apples, which are meant for regions with tropical climates.”
He planted ‘Anna apple’ variety in 2018 and it started bearing fruit before September 2020. Vivek has The Better India Told about it in detail.
How to grow apples in the balcony?
He found a variety of ‘Anna apple’ at a farm in Southern California, which he wanted to buy for one of his art projects in Munnar. But when Vivek contacted the owner of the farm, as it was illegal to ship the saplings, he refused to export it to India. Vivek said, “He told me about some farm in India, where ‘Anna apple’ is grown. I started searching on those farms. The variety was not found in most of the farms of North India, but was found in a nursery in Coorg.
Vivek planted a sapling of ‘Anna apple’ in his apartment in Kothnoor. They planted the plants in small spikes or containers (air-pots) with holes at the edges. In this air reaches the roots of the plant.
Vivek says, “These pots allow plants to grow faster. Root development of three years, can be achieved within two years. In addition, these pots also ensure that the roots do not grow tall. The roots are cut at the edges, making them thicker. By doing this, while shifting the plant to my farm in Munnar, the roots of the tree will be healthy and fruit will be produced faster. “
There was no soil in the pots in which Vivek used to plant them. He used to add a mixture of peat, perlite and compost to the pots. He watered the plants regularly, but did not add too much.
Journey from flower to fruit
In March 2020, when the apple tree started flowering, Vivek and his wife had to move to the US for work. At that time, he asked his friends to help him water the plants until he returned after three weeks. However, after the lockdown was announced in India, both had to stay in the US for four months.
Vivek says, “In the later months, the flowers bore fruit, but my wife and I could not see them. Most of them were small, because we could not provide the necessary organic nutrients for the plant at that time. Despite this, the fruits were healthy. We requested our friends to pluck all the fruits. Also, told them to leave some fruits on the tree so that when we return, we can see them.” He further said that he is looking forward to planting these in his farm in Munnar and watching them turn into fruits themselves.
Apart from Anna apples, Vivek has also grown HRMN-99 variety, Granny Smith, Gala and Dorset Golden apples. In HRMN-99, the fruits have also set, while the rest are still flowering. So far, Vivek has tried to grow 300 types of fruits, which includes six types of avocados and 40 types of citrus fruits.
Original article: Roshni Muthukumar
Editing – G N Jha
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