Think how good it would be to produce our own food. Worried about chemical sprayed vegetables? Worried about the lack of space for gardening? It’s not at all a problem. We can have our garden right at our rooftop/terrace. Besides ornamental plants we can grow utility crops like vegetables and some of the spices and medicinal plants to meet the day to day needs of the family.
#1. The growing media used for Rooftop Garden can be a combination of soil, coir pith and farm yard manure in the ratio of 1:1:1. Coir pith has to be treated with water and vermicompost and must be kept covered for about 10 days. Fill the grow bags with sand at the bottom, then with coir pith mixed with vermicompost and soil.
#2. Instead of going for vermicomposting, it is feasible and reliable when the compost is made using the kitchen wastes. Along with the kitchen wastes, litters from trees and other plant debris can also be added to the kitchen wastes. It takes around six months for complete composting. Oh..! Do I have to wait for 6 months ? No. We have a shortcut. When the kitchen waste materials and leaf litters are well pulverized and mixed regularly, the compost will be ready within two months time.
#3. Spread a polythene sheet or tarpaulin sheets over the growing areas to avoid water seepage through ceiling. Or keep the containers at elevated heights from ground level. Also take care that excess water gets drained without stagnation at roof.
#4. Shade is an important factor that decides the plant growth and its survival in a rooftop garden. It is advisable to use two layer of shade nets for different seasons. One layer of the shade net should be permanent and the other layer should be removable periodically in order to use it for different seasons. There is also an easy way. Plan location of plants such that, it remains in shade at least during afternoon.
#5. Then sow the seeds directly in grow bags ( ideally 4 to 5 seeds) or containers directly. Or raise it in portray for 15 days and transplant in the container. If you can’t buy portray, you can raise seedlings in small plastic bags or tumblers. For directly sown seeds, thinning can be done after a week. The seedlings over an inch above the surface of soil showing 2-3 healthy leaves is ready for transplanting. If it is still weak and spindly leave it for another week.
#6. Watering must be done in the early morning or in the evenings after 4 p.m. In hot summers you can water it twice a day, in other seasons, water the plants when you feel the soil is dry.
#7. To control pests and diseases, it is always advisable to use Biofertilizers like Azospirillum, and Biocontrol agents like Pseudomonas, etc and the plants can be sprayed with Neem oil to control sucking pests which is a major problem in terrace gardening. Mix Neem oil in 10 liters of water and add 10g of soap mixture and spray over affected plants. Spray made out of ginger, garlic and chili paste diluted in water is also effective for pest control.
#8. So, finally, plants suitable for Rooftop Garden…! Sun-loving crops like tomato, chilli, brinjal, bhendi, cluster bean, coriander, fenugreek, palak and amaranthus are usually ideal for rooftop gardening. Large grow bags/troughs can be used to grow upto five different plants in it (like Calendula, Marigold, Tulsi, Mint, garlic). Only annuals and veggies…? Certainly not. Old gunny bags, large drums filled with media can be used to grow drumstick (moringa), banana and papaya. One can even grow mango and sapota in rooftop garden with additional care.
If properly maintained, terrace gardening will be great pastime and it will be a place for joy and recreation.
A.Rahima is a Horticultural graduate. Working as an Agricultural Extension Officer in Canara Bank. She is also a passionate gardener. firstname.lastname@example.org