The Kitchen Gardener: Vani Murthy – ‘Once you compost, you HAVE to garden!’

Vani Murthy’s is the extraordinary story of a homemaker, caregiver, mother, wife, friend and much more who has transformed over the last 3 years to practice, guide and inspire many to pioneer with her the cause of waste management, home composting and terrace gardening.


A cleaner and greener tomorrow – that is her dream, and within her lies the strength, patience and passion to reach for the stars and bring about a change.  Vani Murthy’s unassuming attitude and positive energy unwind the extraordinary story of a homemaker, caregiver, mother, wife, friend and much more. She has transformed over the last 3 years to practice, guide and inspire many to pioneer with her the cause of waste management, home composting and terrace gardening.

Vani Murthy

Her airy terrace is a clear giveaway of Vani Murthy’s interests. The space is filled with planting beds and pots. A stout snake gourd hangs over some basil plants. Every conceivable local vegetable, herb and fruit seems to be flourishing here – beans, chillies, cauliflowers, gourds, tomatoes. Four composting solutions are in operation, with another one on trial. Many people come to visit her terrace, hoping to start their own gardens or composting efforts.  Her visitors are usually treated to a hot cup of coffee, and plenty of encouraging words about the feasibility of composting and cultivating a vegetable garden.

Every little open space in her home has something growing or composting in it. When asked about the first deterrent with starting any gardening venture – space constraint, she says, “You can grow in any small plants even a small ledge, as long as it receives lots of sunlight”.

Finding soul in the soil

Vani’s journey with everything green began with a trip to Vellore with Dr Meenakshi Bharath, where for the first time they saw a dry waste collection center and brought back lessons on waste management and some wiggly worms, only to lose them all to birds the very next day. She bought a Kambha from Daily Dump, and slowly learnt the art of composting right, after several repeated attempts of having to deal with a stinking mess. Today, after plenty of research and practice, apart from guiding people and organizations, she also actively experiments with new techniques of composting, so much so that manufacturers of composting solutions come to her for trials. Her home is now a compost lab of sorts.

Vani Murthy is a prolific composter. Her garden is a virtual compost laboratory with every conceivable kind of compost growing in it.

“Gardening was the most natural thing to do after I started composting. Composting and gardening go hand in hand, irrespective of where you begin your journey. Plants love compost! Vermicompost is the richest – the whole cycle of worms feeding on your kitchen waste, adding nutrients to the soil and then seeing your plants growing healthy all makes sense; worms are indeed friends of the farmer” she adds with a twinkle in her eye.

Stay calm and do gardening!

Vani firmly believes in the gastronomic, emotional and spiritual benefits of gardening. “You truly understand the importance of biodiversity and nature when you garden. I have a lot of insects and butterflies which habituate my garden now. I also use a lot of water and want to start rainwater harvesting. Gardening makes a person understand the weather better. Other than that my entire house gets cooled, we breathe better and despite all construction noise going on in the neighbourhood I don’t feel it too much thanks to my plants”.

Fresh harvest.

On being good for the soul, Vani points out to how relaxing gardening can be. “It is a great stress buster. Ever since I started gardening I have stopped being impatient. In fact I can confidently say in the last one year on the road I have used my car horn only once. Little things like family arguments do not affect me, small and beautiful things in life matter more and there is joy in being a part of it, be it family or friends or just reading a book on my balcony. Gardening has given me a great balance of mind.

‘We care for a cleaner and greener Bangalore’

She clearly enjoys advocacy and team work- she has brought together children living in her apartment and together they created an active campaign where the kids made funky aprons depicting different categories of waste and colourful posters to create awareness and help create systems in other apartments in the locality. As member of the SWMRT, she has gone to a number of apartments in the city to talk about waste management. In early 2012, she started a community initiative in Malleswaram called ‘We Care for Malleswaram’. We Care puts up roadshows and interactive exhibits on waste and its management in Malleswaram and other neighbourhoods.

Vani regularly gets school children, environmental groups and even the occasional monkey visiting her veggie garden and enjoys teaching people how they can be more sustainable at home in an easy manner.  The We Care For Malleswaram team runs awareness drives and training sessions at various apartments and educational institutions.

“’We Care for Malleshwaram’ consists of environmental active people like myself. We discuss various issues like composting and create solutions like greening our homes and more. We also go out for movies and lunch together and are a close bunch of gals!”, says the Namma Bengaluru award nominee.

“It starts with people, if people care we can solve Bangalore’s garbage issues in no time.” All social functions held in her house are pro-green. “I keep steel plates at home whenever people come home including cups and glasses. Whenever I go out there is a spoon, plate and a steel straw in my bag!” A steel straw? “Yes”, she says, laughing at my incredulous expression.

Garden Secrets

• Make your own compost or start – you cut down waste and ensure nutrients for your plants
• Grow different kinds – mix herbs with vegetables
• Use a net similar to a fishing net to protect your produce if it is in a balcony

Favourite vegetables and fruits: Tomatoes and brinjals, they taste delicious as well when you cook them!
Gardening inspiration: ‘My compost! Once you compost you have to garden!’

Zucchini in my balcony!

If you had a small balcony: You can grow cherry tomatoes, brinjals, herbs like parsley, celery, rosemary, thyme

My vision for the future: “I wish to start growing all kinds of vegetables and fruits on my farm one day. My organic garden at home is just experimental and it has taught me so much. There is a pleasure in growing, harvesting and cooking what you grow. You regard and respect food better.”
As Eleanor Roosevelt rightly said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”. From a ‘housewife’ to someone who shows up on TV, is quoted in newspapers and is honoured for her work, it has been a quick and beautiful journey that she has not completely come to terms with.

Contributed reporting from Shyamala Suresh. All pictures courtesy Vani Murthy.

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

   FOLLOW US

   SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
  Top Stories on TA






  Top Stories in LIFESTYLE






   Get stories like this in your inbox

  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

Discuss this article on Facebook

  • Anjan Mohanty

    Is it ok, if during composting in a terrace pot with kitchen wastes, there are blowfly larvae-like insects are also participating?