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Get Gardening

Friday, May 27, 2016

You may think of gardening as a hobby to turn to after you’ve retired, but having a green thumb is more beneficial than you think — and you’ll be left with a pretty garden at the end of it too! The Mumbai Mix Team tells you how to get started

While the first few steps can be a bit challenging, once you’ve started, gardening is an addictive hobby. There’s something therapeutic about planting and tending to a garden, so it’s no wonder that the hobby is popular with those who are retired. However, that doesn’t mean you have to wait till you’re a senior citizen to get started on a pretty garden in your balcony. We spoke to a few people across the city to find out more about their gardening practices and tell you how to get started.

For 50-year-old Gulam Mohammed Gaziani, tending to a garden is more than just a hobby. “As a child, I was extremely close to nature, but when I thought about my children growing up in a city like Mumbai, I realised that even though the city would provide them with opportunities to succeed, there will always be something missing — a connection with nature. Five years ago, I was blessed with a baby boy, Waseem. I decided to clear out our old terrace and convert it into a beautiful terrace garden. As I saw my little boy growing, the garden grew hand-in-hand with him. There, little Waseem learnt about germination and various scientific realities including the botanical oxygen cycle and environment. In our garden, we have chickoo, mango, chilli, curry leaves and several different flowers. We try using the organic waste to nourish the plants in an attempt to create less waste and turn Mumbai into a healthy living space. You just need the will and the right attitude to get started!”

“Fresh & Local (F&L) began as a way to learn more about organic farming in Mumbai, make gardening easy and accessible, and transform urban spaces into green community places,” founder Adrienne Thadani tells us. It brought together a team of four like-minded, passionate souls — Nicola Antaki, Ganesh Lokare, Aditi Punj and of course, Adrienne. They also welcome residents (and now have a constantly growing community) who learn how to incorporate greenery in the midst of their concrete spaces. “We’re trying to develop this space as a demonstration of what can grow on rooftops here in Mumbai. We get asked all the time, ‘what can we grow?’. Then when someone comes to Flyover Farm and sees banana, drumstick, chikoo, mango and tamarind trees along with seasonal vegetables and herbs, it becomes clear that so much is possible! The plants we’ve chosen help remove chemical toxins such as xylene and toluene from  the air— the Areca Palm plant releases copious amounts of moisture into the air; the Mother in Law’s Tongue plant produces oxygen and removes carbon dioxide at night; the money plant is easily available and grows indoors as well. Our philosophy is based on the idea that anyone can engage in some form of gardening. With the right guidance, any place can turn into a green haven and be used to grow food. We appreciate when other buildings participate in this or start segregating their waste. When you get involved in gardening, you learn about your place in the cycle of life, which includes production as well as waste. By segregating waste, composting it and then putting it back into a garden, a large gap in the cycle is bridged,” Aditi Punj tells us.

“Gardening has always been a hobby in our family. I actually learned about it from my mother at a very young age, back in the day when we were staying in Juhu. It started as a hobby and today, it has grown into a passion. I started growing simple things like Bougainvillea when I was young. Then, I got drawn into the art of Bonsai. After shifting to a house in Pune with a large terrace and more space for plants, I continued gardening with Bonsai and started growing fruits and vegetables in pots. I grow chickoo, fresh lime, pomegranate, tomatoes, chillies, bell peppers, bitter gourd and spinach. I am also an adenium collector; I have started cultivating them at home. I am also planning to start grafting two types to get a third colour. I am very passionate about my adeniums. Gardening is magical to me. I immediately feel relaxed when I am with my plants and it has helped me to be less stressed out and calmer in general,” 48-year-old Zubin Watchmaker tells us.

“Gardening is a great stress buster, though I initially needed some motivation to get started. But, once I got myself into it, time just flew! Since I’m busy with my full-time job, my choice of plants is restricted to low maintenance varieties like succulents, agave, photinia, conifers, cordylines, camellias, agapanthus, hibiscus and frangipani. There’s always plenty of green throughout the year. It cheers me up to see my plants budding. Give something love and nurture it, and it will reward you by bearing flowers, fruit and joy. Gardening keeps me optimistic,” 43-year-old Daisy Rajan tells us.

54-year-old Nipoon Mankad shares his experience with us, saying, “I am a country boy at heart, so I like to surround myself with lots of greenery. In the city, it’s difficult to create space for a garden, and I have been lucky enough to have a small one of my own. To me, gardening is a huge stress buster; it’s a relaxing, refreshing and invigorating activity. I have planted a variety of plants, trees and shrubs in my garden — I have roses, camellia and jasmine, star jasmine, Bougainvillea, succulents, cacti, frangipani and hibiscus. I also have a couple of lemon trees as well as shrubs such as mint, baby spinach, basil, curry leaves and a tulsi plant, along with a couple of chilli varieties. Planting a lemon sapling and watching it grow into a tree is quite an experience. It’s like watching your children grow up. When I come home, it’s a fantastic feeling to see the beautiful colours and smell the fragrant flowers.”

For 42-year-old Shamal Grewal, gardening is about more than just planting something; it’s about being close to nature. “Imagine waking up in the morning and seeing so many different species of birds in your garden! We have regular flowers such as jassod, migrant, bare masi and Christmas trees. Gardening has definitely made a difference to me. Walking barefoot on the lawns in the morning is good for the body. Doing early morning yoga here is an experience that I cannot express in words. Overall, having a garden has added a different charm to our lives.”

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