6-12 June 2014 #710

Hanging gardens of Kathmandu

Save money and stay healthy growing organic vegetables in your verandah
Santa Gaha Magar

Self sufficient: Sharada Maharjan of Dallu has been growing vegetables on her terrace for the past two years.
Everyday we are bombarded with alarming reports in the media about how bad what we eat is for our health. The vegetables we buy are laced with pesticide residue, poultry products are practically marinated in hormones and antibiotics, the sweets are unhygienic, and even water has e coli.

But we have to eat to stay alive. Health concerns and rising vegetable prices are driving more and more people in Kathmandu to opt for rooftop organic gardening.

When Dilip Shrestha, 61, designed his house in Ratopul, he remembered to keep a wide and sunny terrace. After a career in the Nepal Food Corporation he knew first hand about inflation and shortages. He wanted to reduce his dependence on the market, so he started growing seasonal vegetables on his 200 sq ft rooftop.

What started out as a hobby in 2010 has now turned into a necessity. In clay pots and plastic trunks, Shrestha grows cucumber, ginger, garlic, coriander, onions, tomatoes, chili, and other vegetables like beans, okra, pumpkin and a variety of lettuce. Friends bring him new seeds and plant varieties to try out and the yield is so high he is able to give away baskets full of fresh greens. 

The Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) has now trained 500 homeowners on how to convert their terraces into kitchen gardens.

“Every time there is a banda or landslides block the highway, the prices in Kalanki rise as if we have a blockade,” says KMC’s Rabin Man Shrestha. “Creating garden on your roof will make you independent, healthy and it will actually help keep your home cool in summer.”

Reducing the collection of recyclable domestic waste is one of KMC’s top priorities and it encourages city-dwellers to turn organic waste into compost and vermiculture fertiliser for roof gardens. It has also exempted plants from nurseries from VAT.

Shesh Narayan Maharjan, who trains people in kitchen gardens, says rain and water from kitchens are more than enough for rooftop gardens. Another way to improve yield is to rotate crops on vegetable pots.

Roof gardens don’t just save you money, they can even generate income from selling the produce. There are hundreds of households in Kathmandu to prove that this works.


HOW TO MAKE A ROOF GARDEN

A roof garden can make you self-sufficient, provide greenery, insulate your home, and grow pesticide-free veggies for your family. Here are simple tips: 

** Make sure roof is waterproof

** Sot must contain 30 per cent soil, 20 per cent compost, 20 per cent leaf compost, 10 per cent ash, 10 per cent sand, 10 per cent coconut  husk fibre

** Soil must be at least 6in deep

** No more than 2.5kg per sq ft

** Avoid grafted plants that grow into trees

** Plant small and improved varieties

** Don’t place tall plants on east and south sides

** 5 to 7 plants of chilli, tomatoes, beans, cucumber, and pumpkin

on a 280 sq ft garden is enough for a family of 5

** 30 min daily maintenance time

** Ensure pots are secure so they don’t fall off roof

Read also:

Lethal veggies

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