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The International Writers Magazine: Eat At Home

The Balcony Farmer
• Shivani
A few months ago I planted tomatoes in the small balcony of my house in Bangalore, India. I kept aside a couple of seeds from the tomato I was chopping for dinner that day. Since planting, watering plants and relocating them is not advisable after sundown, I impatiently waited until the next day morning and planted them.

For this I emptied an old, unused pot and broke all the lumps of mud into free-flowing mud, and poured it all back ensuring there were a few broken pieces (from a mud pot) at the bottom and some opening for excess water to drain. Just before I slapped on the last layer of mud, I spread the tomato seeds and nicely wet the mud.

I wake up eagerly everyday to see the progress and water it, leaving the earthworms and all other forms of life alone. I make sure it gets its daily dose of sunlight. No. There was no magic. But slowly and surely it has grown into a big plant and has little buds now. Soon there will be flowers, and little berries (yes, tomatoes are berries) and tomatoes from my very own plant.

While I wait impatiently, I think it would be a great idea for all of us to have a little kitchen garden. I mean grow a little of what we eat. Chillies, some small melons, okra (ladies finger), eggplant (brinjal), cucumbers, a sprig of coriander or mint or curry leaves. Make use of the little space cities have left for us.

I came across this article by Helen Babbs in the Ecologist called How to grow food in strange places.
It revealed how people from different parts of the world are growing their own food in whatever space they possibly can. When we grow our own food, we will be extra cautious and ensure that we don't spray nasty chemicals on the juicy pomegranate because we are going to eat it! This will help in collectively reducing stress on the limited land available to us (every year hundreds acres of forest are mowed for agriculture alone or to grow cattle feed like in the Amazon).

Also, it is important to grow what the climate of the place permits. This helps in reducing the stress on the environment and ensures that what we eat is healthy. For instance, chillies grow through the year but cucumbers are best suited for summers. Forcing things to grow out of season – mangoes in the winter for instance is not good for the environment or for our health.

Even if it's for the joy of it, just plant something and watch it grow. It won't be long before it's winter. And, I can't help but think of planting some strawberries!

© froggy Shivani August 2013

How to Grow your Own Food in Strange Places

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