The Kitchen Gardener: Indira Ashok on growing food while saving every drop

Kitchen gardener Indira Ashok gives us plenty of tips, tricks, and nifty advice from her 8 years of experience!

“Gardening goes back generations in my family. My father was brought up in Jayanagar (Bangalore) and my grandmother was from Kerala, where I spent much of my growing years. My grandmother taught me the A to Z about gardening including using water wisely. We would grow all kinds of vegetables and fruits like all the bean varieties, sweet potato, bananas, and yam. Pujas at home meant nothing bought from the market since all this was readily available in our garden.” Indira Ashok, a gardener in Bangalore for over 8 years now, believes that food and bounty should be shared with everyone. We talk to her about growing using every drop of water wisely.

Growing food, saving water

“I grew up seeing people respect water. Water would be used to wash/ rinse and the same water would be filtered and used all over again for gardening. Thanks to thrift learnt in childhood, water for my garden today comes from my kitchen!” she says proudly. From growing bananas to many kinds of sopu, she enjoys multicropping on a small land besides her house and experimenting with different fruits and vegetables.

A typical day in the garden

“My morning starts with a walk. At 8 AM, I set out to visit the garden and inspect all my plants, followed by pruning and watering. I am glad for help when it comes to reaching to tall branches and pulling weeds. Weekends are spent planting and harvesting.” Ashok grows bananas, drumsticks also, bottle gourd, brinjal, spinach, beans and onion.

Soil Secrets: “I prefer using red soil which consists of 80% of the soil this has all the minerals and yields the best. The rest is cow dung or sheep dung that I get from a nearby farm. Plants thrive on red soil and manure that is all you need. Ash is a good pest repellent and good for the soil health. This should be used regularly besides panchagavya and garlic-chilli spray every two days.”

Gardening pet peeve: complaints about the same vegetable!

“If I have harvested say 20-30 kg of beans then I end up making beans in different ways, my husband complains of the same thing being cooked everyday but I hate wasting any of my harvest with the work put into cultivating them. I also tend to give them away to neighbours as much as possible,” says Ashok.

Garden Secrets

Gardening teaches you a lot, small experiments can prove to be vastly successful. Because of my earlier days of growing and planting flowers I found marigold to be an excellent pest repellent: just plant them in between your plants and make sure you practise multi-cropping and crop rotation so your plants and soil get the right nutrients.

Never plant the same seeds in the soil, plant different vegetables so the soil gets its nutrients from different sources. This ensures longevity of the soil and keeps it healthy.

Using cow/sheep manure: When you buy manure make sure you spread it out so it dries, and then you add it to your plants and water.

Get to know all the locals plants and flowers. Bangalore is perfect that way with flowers blooming from December onwards, there are so many local varieties in Bangalore that we are unaware of. In fact the white flower which blooms in the month of March makes the best pest repellent and should be used as much as possible!

What can you grow here – every vegetable and plant can be grown in Bangalore, even over the summer! The weather is so conducive and the climate is the best so plants can be grown throughout the year.

The Kitchen Gardener is a fortnightly series on urban farmers who grow fresh produce in their backyards leading to growing people, community and a more sustainable earth. From journeys of starting to challenges along the way and practical wisdom, the kitchen gardening series helps you kickstart your own food patch wherever you live.

Kavya is a student of sustainable development studies, interested in meeting, travelling, networking with individuals in the sustainable space and engaging people in environmental activities. more


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Kavya is a student of sustainable development studies, interested in meeting, travelling, networking with individuals in the sustainable space and engaging people in environmental activities. more

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  • kamal


  • kamal


  • meena

    How do you make the garlic chilli spray for pests?