April Cool

If and when the Cauvery Management Board is constituted, one of the questions that the Board may have to tackle is: What is the quantum of water that will have to be released for agriculture in Chennai?

“Agriculture in Chennai? Surely you intended to say agriculture in Thanjavur, right?” I can hear you exclaim. Just chill, I meant Chennai only, and I know what I am speaking about, it is just that you don’t understand how much of a frenzied fad that terrace gardening and organic farming have become in these parts.

Many of those living in many of the high-rise apartments here, probably overcome by guilt that their buildings have mostly come up on former lakes and farming lands, seem convinced that the best route for their atonement lies in somehow transforming their concrete terraces into delta lands.

And some of them have become dangerously passionate about it that they don’t mind bringing up the topic of terrace gardening anywhere, including at funerals, thereby joining the likes of MLM salespersons and alternative medicine practitioners, as the guys you pray to God that you never run into.

But if you promise that you will not become like these insufferable blokes, we will tell you how to take up terrace gardening, which you will quickly realise is not only a good way to grow your own vegetables, fruits and flowers but also an unfailingly efficient method to bring in random insects into your home.

Okay, with that harmless joke we will get down in right earnest to terrace gardening, the first step to which is to buy a few pots and fill it with some soil. Before you put seeds into it, you must prepare the soil and the best way to go about it is to dig it with a sharp tilling implement. Usually your neighbour will have one.  Get it from him. If he doesn’t, suggest that he get one immediately.

Once the soil is ready, you will want to fill it with seeds that you can get at the local nursery. The seeds come in colourful packets with attractive pictures of flowers and vegetables, the kind your produce will never look like.

But never mind, start sowing the seeds, but do remember each vegetable/flower/fruit needs to be sowed differently, and we suggest that you read the instructions on the seed packets carefully and you will quickly realise that user manuals, be it technology or in agriculture, are never written for human comprehension.

Once you sow the seeds, you must start supplying the soil with nutrients. But being an environment conscious person, you may want to avoid chemical fertilizers, and instead opt for organic manure. You can ask the local nursery for it and you will be supplied a good load of some live worms and excreta like stuff. Don’t blanch. It is organic manure. And you will also now know why people chose pesticides despite them being harmful.

Now that you are done with manuring, your next task is to ward off insects and fleas from targeting your plants. There are many methods suggested for this, the beauty of which is none is really effective. In desperation, you may even want to scythe down the plants, but we will advise you to persevere. One, because agriculture requires patience. Two, you are the one who has to do all the hard work and not us.

You may wonder what are typically the veggies that are conducive to be grown in terrace gardens. Potato, carrot, colocasia (seppankizhangu), cauliflower, and all other vegetables that come under the botanical family of ‘fit for human consumption’ are basically ruled out. In the case of colocasia, we are not even sure whether it is farmed anywhere. We strongly suspect it is produced in some industry.

Your terrace garden is intrinsically structured to produce vegetables like brinjal, bitter gourd, broad beans, exactly the kind of stuff that push you towards consuming oats knowing full well that it is basically minced cardboard. Turnip is also another vegetable that your terrace garden will throw up, sometimes even without you planting any seeds for the same.

As far as fruits go, you may want to try out the likes of  strawberry and kiwi as long as you take the basic precaution of watering the plants regularly and living somewhere in England. Otherwise, you will have to make do with bananas and papayas, the latter when ripe is particularly recommended if you want to know what an open septic tanks smells like.

All told, terrace gardening is a fun, healthy and cool exercise. If you do it well, the government will even give you subsidy and who knows, may even begin to see you as a real farmer and treat you appropriately — as a vote bank.

But before we wind up, we have just one final advice to give you: Don’t forget to return your neighbour’s tilling equipment.