Vijay Rai, who lives in Patna, has been doing gardening on his terrace for the past 20 years. His garden is full of ornamental plants, bonsai, seasonal vegetables to many types of flowers and fruit trees. Hardly a day goes by in their house when they do not get any fruit or vegetable from their garden. Due to the garden at home, their dependence on the market for fruits and vegetables is very less. He says that almost 90% of his kitchen needs are being met from his own garden.
Not only in their own house but also the neighbors and relatives are eating organic and nutritious vegetables grown in their garden. Speaking to The Better India, Vijay said, “I basically belong to a farmer family. But after completing his studies, he got a job as a Marine Engineer. I used to spend most of my time on the ship and whenever I came home on vacation I felt that something should be done. That’s why when I built my house years ago, it was decided at the time of construction of the house that trees and plants would be planted on the roof and a small pool was also built.
Vijay Rai got his roof built under the guidance of an expert civil engineer so that later gardening could be done by putting soil on the roof. Along with this, a small pond was also built, in which he is currently doing fish farming. He told, “I got the idea of a small pool on the roof from the ship itself. Because there used to be a swimming pool on the ship and many times we used to take a bath in it. So I thought when there could be a pool on the ship, why not on the roof of the house. Last year only I put some fish in it.”
Upright earthen beds made on the terrace with pots
Vijay says that he has planted trees and plants on the roof of his house. They have made beds by pouring soil directly on the roof. In these, he has put soil up to a height of about one and a half feet. Apart from this, more than 200 small and big pots are also planted in his garden. “In the beginning, I had brought soil from the village and put it on the terrace and kept some pots. After this, every year cow dung and earthworm manure comes from the village and this is mixed with the already existing soil to prepare a potting mix,” he said.
Apart from fruit trees like Banana, Guava, Pomegranate, Lemon, Sitaphal, Jamun, Amla, Mango, Apple Plum, Karonda, Papaya, Drumstick, Mausambi and Chiku, Banyan, Peepal trees are also there on their terrace. Vijay Rai told that he gets about 10 kg of guava, eight kg of mango, 4-5 kg of apple plum and about 300 bananas every year from the guava trees planted on his terrace. Apart from this, their pomegranate, jamun, cilantro, lemon, and karonda trees also bear fruit. Soon, they will start getting fruits from the papaya trees they have planted. Because of this, it is very rare that they have to go to the market for fruits.
Some of his fruit trees are directly planted in beds of soil, while some of them have been planted in big pots. Apart from fruit trees, they also have all kinds of seasonal vegetables on their terrace. He told that he plants vegetables like bottle gourd, Luffa, bitter gourd, brinjal, okra, cucumber, and turmeric in his garden. “I get 10 to 12 gourds, pumpkins in one go from the garden. It becomes too much for my family, so we distribute it to the people in the neighbourhood. This time many kilos of Lorai have come off the roof, so we also brought Torai to our relatives’ houses nearby,” he said.
Wet garbage has not gone out for 20 years
Regarding taking care of the garden, Vijay says that he himself spends a lot of time in taking care of the garden. He gives water to the plants every morning after spending one to one and a half hours. In addition, they also prepare nutrient-rich liquid manure for the plants. He told that he uses waste decomposer, mustard cake etc. to prepare liquid manure. This liquid manure is given regularly to all the plants along with water. Apart from this, every year he gets cow dung manure and earthworm manure from his village.
“I never needed to get clay again. Just every year some sack of manure comes from the village and we mix this with the soil of all the pots and beds. The garden is also cleaned thoroughly by weeding and hoeing in between. A lot of leaves, twigs and grass etc come out from the garden. Instead of burning or throwing it all, it is buried in the soil of the garden itself. Gradually all this decomposes and turns into manure. Similarly, the peel of fruits and vegetables from the kitchen is also used in the garden,” he says.
No wet or organic waste has gone out of his house for the last 20 years. He says that it has become a cycle now that the produce from the garden goes to the kitchen and the waste left in the kitchen comes back to the garden and becomes manure. In the last few years, the hobby of fish farming has increased a lot in Bihar. He said, “I thought why not raise some fish in our rooftop pool. So, as a trial, a few months back, I have also started fish farming.
In the end, he advises that if you are getting your house built, then build it in this way so that you can do roof gardening in future. Because there is no competition for fruits and vegetables grown at home by organic methods. That’s why everyone must do some gardening. If you want to get in touch with them, you can visit their Facebook page.
Editing – G N Jha
Also read: Composting learned from The Better India and turned the terrace into a green garden
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