The Kitchen Gardener: Priya Anand and her pest friends

Kitchen Gardener Priya Anand tells us how she got rid of her garden’s pests without resorting to chemical filled pesticides.


“I don’t use any pesticide, I just let nature do the job: pests in my garden are removed by natural predators like birds and other insects, turning my garden into a self-propelled natural ecosystem.”

Growing plants and vegetables has always been Bangalorean Priya Anand’s way to learn more about the natural world. “Having a garden at home is not just healthy, it is an educative tool by itself which teaches you things every day. Today my 2-year-old son can dig the soil, identify common vegetables and he regularly helps me sow and harvest. I am glad I am starting him off at such a young age.” Priya Anand’s garden is quite a wild jungle: a green sanctuary for birds, insects, snakes, frogs and even a pair on mongoose at one point!

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We talk to Priya Anand, Kitchen Gardener of the week, to tell us more about her journey into growing food in her own backyard:

“I started with growing ornamental”

Both my grandparents had farms when I was young, and my mother loved growing ornamental plants and flowering varieties at home. I took after her and developed an interest from a very young age. Ten years ago, when my husband and I got our own place, vegetables like tomatoes, chillies, and greens started to sprout without any effort on our part. I realised the manure I had bought had seeds within and that is how my food garden started off; quite by accident.

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Growing a forest in the backyard

We started planting a lot of trees, which today attracts 50 species of birds into my garden, many varieties of butterflies, bats, frogs etc. We even had snakes and a pair of mongoose making our garden their home at one point. The small water body which we built is an attraction for insects and frogs and along with them we had bigger animals visiting. Many of the land areas around our house used to wild and green, once these were lost to construction a lot of animals lost their homes and shifted into our garden. We let them be, and in time the garden has turned into a natural self sufficient environment of sorts.

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Gardening’s biggest lessons: you don’t need pesticides

About 10 years ago I walked into a shop in Whitefield to purchase garden equipment: seeds, soil, and other equipment and the person who helped me purchase everything realised I was a completely new at this. He also gave me bottles of pesticide sprays and told me to use them on my plants to keep pests away.

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Being completely clueless I followed his advice, but every time I sprayed this on my plants I would feel awkward and wrong. Also the vegetables would not taste that good and there was always this bad smell left behind. After some research and reading up I decided to stop using these sprays and threw all the chemical bottles into the garbage. This was the best decision I took, the very presence and growth of my wild garden at home an expression of gratitude from the environment.

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What grows in my garden

I have always strived to maintain a self sufficient garden which is basically all my vegetable requirements for the house, this was possible for about 2 years at one point. Now again in the last 2-3 weeks I have not gone to the market for anything. There are about 30 different types of fruit vegetables that I grow, these are ones which grow under the soil like onion, garlic, potatoes etc. I grow all the greens and vegetables possible and learnt about native varieties which grew by chance in the beginning.

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I have 4 kinds of tomatoes , brinjals, cucumber, gourds beans two types of chillies, cucumber, gourds, beans, pumpkin, cauliflower, radish, carrot, beets, kohl kohl. Also corn and groundnuts, 20-30 types of native greens, over 10 different tubers & rhizomes and over 10 fruiting plants/trees.

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Advice for first-timers

  • Always mix your planting patterns as much as possible, like flowering plants and vegetables should be grown together, same applies for ornamentals and greens
  • This leads to bigger diversity and keeps pests confused. Pollination is highly effective this way also
  • Plant trees – Papaya, Coconut, other fruit trees are the best they attract birds and squirrels
  • Patience and compassion – If you are passionate about gardening and work hard, you get to enjoy the benefits of having one. Even if it takes a few years, have the patience and wait.
  • Flowers to plant for ideal natural pest control – Marigolds, Cosmos, Tulsi and basil varieties
  • With the monsoon, almost all the veggies can be grown now till winter. Gourds, Tomatoes, Chilli, Brinjals and some beans do well now.

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.

 


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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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