In 2013, Chennai native Mythreyan NM laid out a garden on his 1200 square foot terrace. His sole purpose was to let his children know where the food they eat comes from and how to grow it.
It started with a few seasonal vegetables and then expanded to fruits, flowers and other trees. Today, apart from a full-fledged terrace garden, he also owns a garden shop in Chennai that sells items for setting up a terrace garden. The store also has a large collection of organic seeds, seedlings and fertilizers.
“All varieties are grown in grow bags, drums, pots and planters. We upgrade the garden every year with new stock of plants and pots,” says the owner of one of Chennai’s finest terrace gardens.
The store sells cow dung, various potting soils, grow bags, bio-fertilizers, neem oil, neem cake, cow dung cake and other miscellaneous items useful for hobbyists and gardeners seasoned terrace.
“Some of my friends are also associated with gardening and we do it together. The harvest is shared between our families. The store is also run by all of us,” says Mythreyan who works in a multinational.
He also shares that the first three years in agriculture were quite difficult. “The trial and error method works well in farming, at least for me. Don’t lose hope even if the initial harvest is low. This will increase over time.
Several types of fruit are grown on the terrace, mainly inside barrels. This includes chikoo, mulberry, raspberry, rambutan, lemon, papaya, mango, and many more. “Among all of these, the papaya was grown naturally. The seeds are perhaps removed by the birds and the trees have become so healthy. I planted the saplings in a drum and took great care of them. Now they carry big, sweet papayas all year round,” says the 43-year-old gardener.
Papaya is a healthy tropical fruit loaded with antioxidants. The fruit contains lycopene which has anticancer properties. Papaya improves digestion and fights constipation and bloating.
“My family, especially the children, love this fruit. I also share the fruits with my friends and neighbours. Even if there is only one tree, it is enough to feed a family,” he shares.
Here are some gardening tips for growing healthy papaya trees on a patio:
- First and foremost, educate yourself on papaya gardening and find out which variety grows well given the local weather conditions. I would suggest red papaya which grows quickly and produces healthy fruit.
- Get a container/drum/pot at least two feet tall to plant the sapling.
- Fill it with a mixture of soil, coco peat, any organic fertilizer and wet sand, all in equal proportions.
- Usually, papaya does not face any major pest attacks. In case this happens, spray natural insecticides made from neem cake.
- Place the drum with the sapling in a non-windy area. Papaya trees cannot withstand the wind and it will damage their roots.
- Place them in an area with sufficient sunlight.
- Once a month, provide two handfuls of manure to young trees. It can be vermicompost, cow dung or any other organic manure.
- Papaya leaves can be used as an insecticide. Soak neem cake and papaya leaves in cow urine for a month. Dilute it in water and spray it on the leaves.
- Watch out for ants and small pests on the leaves. Carefully examine the plant once a week.
- Collect young trees from experienced gardeners or nurseries.
- If possible, make your own compost at home using kitchen scraps and dry leaves. It is an excellent manure for all vegetables and fruits.
Edited by Yoshita Rao
All photo credits: Mythreyan NM