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Pune’s captain planet on how to save earth using your rooftop garden

Entrepreneur Ajay Aggarwal has converted three of his terraces into a lush terrace garden spread across 4,000 sq ft. It houses over 300 varieties of vegetables, fruits and a number of micro herbs and plants

pune Updated: Jul 22, 2018 17:13 IST
Anjali Shetty
Anjali Shetty
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Captain Planet,rooftop garden
Spread across 4,000 sq ft, Ajay Aggarwal, a Pune-based entrepreneur, has converted three terraces of his home to form his terrace garden. Every morning, from 6.30 am-9.30 am, he spends time in his little heaven.(Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)

In the latter part of 2016, Ajay Aggarwal, a city-based entrepreneur, started planting a few seeds of vegetables at his garden. He did this purely out of his passion for gardening. A year later, now, the 62-year-old’s garden boasts of over 300 plants of fruits and vegetables on his terrace. What started as a hobby has now turned into a full-fledged professional setup.

Spread across 4,000 sq ft, Aggarwal has converted three terraces of his home to form his terrace garden. Every morning, from 6.30 am-9.30 am, he spends time in his little heaven. “I had no idea it would reach such grandeur. I started it out of my love for greenery. With the initiative, I want to encourage more and more people in the city to adopt such terrace gardening techniques. It is as simple as it seems, there is no rocket science involved,” said Aggarwal.

Hydronic growing on Ajay Aggarwal’s terrace. (Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)

To start with, he showed his big potted plants, moved on to his hydroponic section, and then, his mini herbs and plants. Aggarwal used to single-handedly tend to all his plants till a few months ago. “I recently appointed a help who comes for maintenance. He helps me with the pruning and other nitty-gritty. To be honest, this doesn’t require much attendance or maintenance. It is a one-time investment and you can reap benefits lifelong.”

Aggarwal uses only cow dung and coco peat (mixture of dust as well as the non-useable fibre ends) as manure. “The idea is to have organic fruits and vegetables which are healthy. Today, I use only 10 per cent of the produce and the rest sold. I have started outsourcing to neighbouring restaurants too. I am not doing this for any commercial purpose, but purely to encourage people to take it up as a habit. I noticed a drop in my home temperature since the start of the project. We did not have to use the air conditioner in summer this year. There are many other benefits for having a terrace garden.”

How does he deal with pests? “To control pests, I spray my plants with a red chilli powder solution once a week,” Aggarwal.

Aggarwal has also started using the procedure of hydroponics in one part of the terrace. “Hydroponics is not only cost effective, but is also very convenient. There is no soil involved in the method. All you have to do is have water supply and the setup (box). It is a simple way to grow healthy plants with minimum maintenance,” he said.

Aggarwal uses only cow dung and coco peat (mixture of dust as well as the non-useable fibre ends) as manure. (Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)

Now, Aggarwal wants to encourage residents to create similar spaces in and around their homes. “It is not just to have your own food, but also to have your own clean and healthy environment. If you have the space and the will, you can do this too, with very little effort. We believe in sharing our experience and skills with everyone and our dream is that residents living in urban cities will get inspired to grow their own food and make the world a healthy place,” he added.

Interestingly, for the past 15 years, Aggarwal has been gifting plants to friends and families. “It is like a ritual for us now. I have an Excel sheet to ensure that the same person doesn’t get the same plant again,” Aggarwal said smiling.

Sharing the benefits, he added, “It is therapeutic and everyone can do it. We often hear complaints such as excessive time consumption, but trust me, it is not. One needs to just develop a basic interest in it first.”

Hydroponic growing

Rooftop garden: How to go about it?

Monthly expenditure: Rs 2,000 per month for plants and vegetables

Manure: Cow dung and coco peats

Maintenance: Pruning, watering and careful inspection

Benefits: Supply of vegetables and fruits throughout the year

What can be grown?

Vegetables: Okra, eggplant, green chilli, fenugreek, tomato, beetroot, raddish, all gourds

Herbs: Mustard, sunflower, basil, salad leaves, celery, lettuce

Fruits: Custard apple, mulberries, passion fruit and pomegranate

Hybrid: Cucumelon

Tips to remember for terrace gardening

1. Get bigger pots for sturdy plants, will reduce the work and effort on it

2. Use chilli powder water as pesticide

3. Maintain cleanliness

4. Use nets and wires wherever required to avoid pests or birds

First Published: Jul 22, 2018 17:13 IST