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Organic Terrace Garden

By DR. Venkatramana Hegde, Hosagadde. Director, Shramajeevi Television Pvt. Ltd. Bengaluru

Introduction

Population in the cities is increasing exponentially. Everyone is busy. More than half of them are the migrants from villages in search of livelihood. They left green and calm environment and entered concrete forest. Most of them feel that their children miss the experience and benefits of natural healthy rural life. Parents visiting city homes of their children cannot tolerate polluted city atmosphere even for a week. We find dust and smoke everywhere. Even healthy person experiences suffocation. People with Asthma and Allergy find it difficult to breath. Village life is just a sweet memory for senior citizens who left their villages decades ago. They cannot go back now. A small relief for all these feelings is having a kitchen garden. There is no space left for ever increasing population itself. Then where do you plan a garden? The answer is Terrace Garden or Rooftop Garden.

Farming is also in trouble in recent years. Profit has gone down drastically. Farmers stuck in illusion of maximum production for higher profits. Hence they use chemicals and poisons to their crops and soils abundantly. These persistent pollutants have affected the health of farmers and consumers. It is common to find chemical residues in vegetables and fruits. Organic farming is discussed a lot now. But the ground reality is something different. Realizing all these nature lovers of the cities started growing organic food at least for their own consumption. Hence terrace gardening is becoming popular. In spite of shortage of space, water, time and patience many of them are getting in to rooftop gardening. This article discusses all aspects of terrace gardening.

In principal there is no much difference between kitchen garden on the ground and terrace garden. Due to shortage of space and light on the ground the garden has moved to the rooftop. However, terrace garden cannot be as natural as the garden on the ground. Obviously it is bit artificial. There is a limitation for the selection of plants for the terrace garden. Closely spaced tall buildings permit very less light penetration to the space in between. Parking of vehicles occupies un-built space. Hence terrace gardening is the only option left for the people of the big cities.

Purpose of terrace gardening

Remember, rooftop gardening is not for maximum production or profits like regular farming. Earning livelihood is also not the aim. It is just a useful and wonderful hobby. But it enables us to grow and use poison free fresh vegetables and fruits. Terrace garden is a great opportunity for senior citizens to spend their time and helps to maintain good health. It gives sufficient physical exercise to homemakers of the cities. Children get exposure to the world of plants. It creates interest and curiosity in them about plants, insects, birds and the nature. Terrace gardening is an interesting change of work for employed youth at the weekend. Terrace gardeners get the satisfaction of reducing pollution of the city to a little extent. Terrace garden creates a cool microclimate on the open hot terrace. Thereby it keeps the home below cool. Rooftop garden can be a good place for morning exercise and meeting with friends in the evening. Even if the yield of plants is not up to the expectations the other benefits are assured. If the yield is sizable by proper planning and maintenance, it saves the spending on vegetables every week. One can grow and use medicinal plants like Basil, sweet flag, ginger, Brahmi, mint, neem, Giloy etc. as well. Apart from all these the emotional touch with these plants and vines gives freshness to the busy mind of the city people.

FAQs about terrace garden

Can these terraces bear the weight of plants and containers?

No problem. You gathered 200-300 people on the same terrace during your family functions. These plants and pots do not weigh more than that. Only 50% of the space on the terrace is available for pots. Remaining 50% is utilized for space to attend them. A terrace of 30x40 feet house accommodates hardly 100 to 150 pots. It will not be more than 1 ton all together. Hence do not worry about the weight. However, do not place all bigger containers on a single patch of the terrace.

What about the seepage of water?

If your terrace does not find leakage of water in the rainy season the terrace garden will not do that. You will not put such an amount of water like rain to these plants. Watering is only to the requirement of plants. However, you may go for waterproofing before initiating the terrace garden.

Blockage of drainage: This garden will spread soil and debris on the terrace. Few people doubt that it may block drainage pipe or rainwater harvesting system. Clean the terrace before the rainy season. Little quantity of soil with the rainwater will not clog the drainage pipe. Invariably the rainwater harvesting system will have a filter.

Hot terrace: Terrace will be hot enough in the peak summer. True. But if you maintain optimum watering the plants will not suffer a lot. It may show slow growth and lesser yield in hot season. You may grow soft leafy vegetables under shade net. However, it is not compulsory.

Whether this is profitable?

If you use locally available containers, seeds, manures etc. and work yourself definitely terrace gardening is profitable. A rooftop garden on 30x40 site house can meet 50 to 60% of the vegetable requirement of the family. Now we find many consultants for terrace gardening as well. Many of them recommend costly containers, manures, medicines etc. and supply themselves. Few of them advise to go for automatic irrigation system. All these defeat the very purpose of terrace gardening. If you go with such people terrace gardening may drain your pocket. Decision is yours. However, rooftop gardening is not for making profits. Even if the production cost and the value of the produce are equal the other benefits makes it meaningful.

Watering plants in your absence: Another problem could be watering these plants when you are out of station. Automatic watering systems are available. But it needs investment. It is better to request the friends or the neighbors for watering.

Shortage of time: If you can divert half an hour in the morning and evening terrace garden can run smoothly.

Selection of crops and varieties

One can grow most of the plants including ornamentals and flowering plants. But we have discussed only vegetables and fruit plants to make it a useful one. You need to employ your common sense for choosing plants. Give preference to vegetables commonly used in your kitchen. You can grow leafy vegetables like coriander, mint, Methi, Brahmi, spinach, colocasia, different types of Amaranthus etc. One can go for common vegetables like tomato, brinjal, okra, chili, capsicum, cluster bean, cauliflower, cabbage, knol-khol, radish, carrot, beetroot, onion, garlic, turmeric, ginger, potato, green peas etc. We can opt for climbers like bitter gourd, chow-chow, ridge gourd, snake gourd, bottle gourd, different types of beans, cucumber, pumpkin, watermelon, muskmelon etc. Perennial plants like Indian spinach, little gourd, Indian borage, drumstick, curry leaf etc. are also successful with bigger containers.

Terrace gardeners can go for perennial fruit plants like banana, guava, sapota, pomegranate, papaya, avocado, clustered apple, mosambi, orange, lime, cherry, strawberry, fig, grape, vanilla, sugarcane etc. But these plants need more space and the gardener must have patience to wait till they bear fruits. High speed wind on the terrace, tears out banana leaves leading to small fingers. Plant only grafts while opting for fruit plants. Normally grafted plants are bushy in nature and bear fruits early. Keep on pruning the tips of vertical shoots and lateral branches to restrict it to a bush of 5 to 6 feet high. We can accommodate medicinal plants like neem, basil, aloe vera, Giloy, sweet flag, black pepper, betel vine etc. Likewise, the gardener can have most of the plants matching to his interest. But give preference to those plants liked by all members of the family. Restrict number of crops and varieties yourself. Too many crops will affect the growth of all plants. Place perennial plants and climbers on the edges of the terrace so that the annuals are comfortable in the middle. Availability of light is also a crucial factor in big cities due to adjacent tall buildings. Most of the plants like full sunlight. They need sunshine at least for 3 hours a day. Allot less light area to shade tolerant leafy and stem vegetables. Keep plants yielding fruits and tubers under full sunlight. There is no ready design or formula for structuring a terrace garden. Apply your mind and learn the art by trial and error.

It is better to adopt organic farming methods for terrace plants. Local crops and varieties are preferred as more yield and profits are not the targets. Indigenous varieties have more disease and pest tolerance. They withstand water shortage. Yield may be less. But we find lot of diversity in local crops and varieties in their colour, taste etc. However, we can plant improved varieties also. They give better yield with sufficient amount of light, water and nutrition. Buying seeds every time is not advisable. Retain the fruits of first crop of healthy plants till its maturity for seed collection. Harvest the ripened fruits during sunny days. Collect the seeds from the fruits and dry them under shade. Store these seeds in airtight bottles or poly pouches and keep in cool place or fridge. Use this seed for sowing after 6 months. We get seeds of hardly few crops and varieties in agro. seed shops. Quantity of seed in the pouch and the cost is more. It is better to get seeds from other terrace gardeners and farmers of the villages. We find excellent collection of indigenous crops and varieties with community seed banks. Dwarf and bushy varieties are preferred for terrace gardening.

Containers for terrace plants

Systematic, attractive and costly containers of different types are available. But locally available pots will serve the purpose. Very small pots are not good for terrace gardening. It holds less soil and gets dried very fast. Select the container based on type of plant, root zone, speed of growth etc. Wide boxes with 6 to 12 inch depth are good for short duration leafy vegetables. But for other plants which remain for 3 to 4 months use containers with at least 12 inch depth. Vines such as bitter gourd, ridge gourd which continue for 5 to 6 months need bigger containers of 2x2 feet and at least 1 foot depth. Perennial plants like papaya and banana which grow tall need containers with 5 to 6 feet depth. Otherwise they fall on the ground by wind. Black boxes get heated up under direct sun. Hence containers of other colours are preferred. Drainage hole at the bottom is compulsory to drain excess water.

Earthen pots are very common and cheap. But the breakage is more due to frequent wetting and drying. However, mud pots allow better root aeration. RCC pots are very strong and durable. But it is not preferred for the terrace garden due to its heavy weight. Plastic and fiber containers are light in weight and easy to handle. But they are bit costlier. They do last long if kept wet always. Attractive coconut fiber pots are available now. It is comfortable for the plants, but costly again. Soft wooden planks used once for packing fruits and other materials are available at cheaper cost. Growing boxes of preferred size are prepared with these planks. These wooden boxes impart natural look to the terrace garden and do not get heated up even in hot summer. Metal tins are strong enough, but get rusted soon due to soil and water. Put inner lining of plastic to the wooden boxes and metal tins. Few enthusiasts designed PVC pipe structures for vertical gardening on small terraces. You can keep it on stand or hang it from the top. It accommodates 25 plants. Of course the containers are not compulsory for all plants. We can raise leafy vegetables in raised beds on the terrace. Concrete or brick linings can form the bed. Fill it with growth medium and sow the seeds. These beds are better for spreading of roots and growth of plants.

Hobby terrace gardeners need not spend a lot on containers. One can use all available boxes, tins, bottles etc. of different types and sizes. Empty paint tins, bucket, wooden box, Rexene bag, pvc pipe, halved plastic can, big water bottle, Thermacol box and even the old fridge may be a good container for terrace gardening. These halved big cans are most popular. It accommodates more plants and lasts long. Once used barrels are available for INR 1200. Cut the barrel with wood cutting machine or saw to get 2 wide bins. Even big plastic bags and gunny or cement bags are useful for short duration plants. Old containers of different types are available with dry waste collection centers of the municipal bodies. We do get it with scrap and old paper marts. We can grow radish in a big water bottle kept erect and onion if kept horizontal. Thermacol boxes are highly durable. But it may break if tried to move. However, if you are very particular about the aesthetic look of your terrace garden buy systematic and uniform containers. But for common people plant can grow in all available tins, boxes and bags.

We need few hand tools for terrace gardening. They are garden fork, spade, garden hoe, a secateur for pruning and harvesting fruits, knife for grafting and budding, watering can, water gun to the hose pipe etc. Small handheld sprayers or hanging sprayers are available. Anyway bucket and mug, scissor, knife etc. will be there at home.

Poly house and shade house

Poly house or greenhouse are not necessary for the terrace garden and are not convenient also. People go for climate controlled greenhouses for improved varieties of capsicum, orchid or Anthurium. Temperature inside ordinary poly house exceeds the limit in summer affecting plant growth. Availability of light is less in the rainy season. Hence for a common terrace garden poly house is not preferred. Shade house is also not mandatory. However, you may have shade structure with 25% shade net for a small patch of the terrace. Capsicum and few sensitive plants come up well under partial shade. It is useful even for keeping compost bin and nursery trays. We can keep soft leafy vegetables under shade in hot summer. GI wire pendal is useful for spreading climbers and for the control of monkey. If the problem of monkey is serious fabrication of GI mesh box becomes inevitable. But it is expensive.

Sowing, transplanting and growing media

We can grow most of the vegetables throughout the year. Even then it is better to avoid putting winter crops like cabbage and cauliflower in peak summer. Tomato, chili and few other plants are affected by insects a lot in summer months. Stunted growth is also common. However, we will get some crop irrespective of the season. It is recommended to sow seeds directly in some crops and transplanting of seedlings in few others. Direct sowing of seeds is advised in bitter gourd, bottle gourd, cucumber, beans varieties, pumpkin, watermelon, snake gourd, beetroot, carrot, radish, okra, green peas etc. Transplanting of seedlings is recommended in brinjal, tomato, chili, capsicum, onion, garlic, lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, knol-khol etc. Plastic pro-tray or net pot is used for nursery rising. Put light growing media such as vermi-compost or coco peat. Sow one seed in each hole. Spread a thin layer of the same media again. Water it lightly and keep the tray under partial shade. We get healthy and stout seedling in this method. Transplant them at 15 days stage. Carefully takeout the seedling with the media ball around the root. Plant the same in the pot and water it regularly. We can protect the costly seeds from ants and other insects easily in this method. Transplanting in crops recommended for direct sowing will result in poor growth of the plant. For example, transplanted radish or carrot will not produce tuber. In the same way delayed transplanting of seedlings leads to stunted growth.

Let us understand the composition of growing media now. If you fill the pot only with soil, it becomes hard affecting the growth of the plant. To prepare potting mixture 1 part soil, 1 part sand or coco peat and 1 part compost or vermi-compost. Mix it thoroughly with a spade. Water holding capacity of the coco peat is excellent which retains moisture for long in the pot. However, do not fill only compost or coco peat. Soil is necessary to give firmness to the media. Any soil is okay if fertile soil is not available. In such case use more quantity of manure. Drainage hole is compulsory for any type of container. Put broken pieces of pot, stone pebbles etc. at the bottom to avoid clogging of the drain hole. Otherwise excess water may not drain or soil and manure may come out with the water. Fill only of the pot initially. Remaining is to put manure at the time of flowering and fruit setting. Water the filled pot and sow the seeds or transplant the seedlings. Protect the seeds from ants if direct sowing is done. Take care of transplanted seedling till its recovery.

Watering

Do not water too much. Let little amount of water come out of the drainage hole. Overwatering blocks aeration to the roots. Even it may lead to damping off disease. Better method of watering is with bucket and mug. It enables individual care to each plant. Adapting sprinkler or drip irrigation system defeats the very purpose of terrace gardening. See that the potting mixture has sufficient organic matter. It holds moisture and releases it to the plant slowly. Normally watering twice a day in the summer, once a day in the winter and against requirement in the rainy season is advised. Water transplanted seedlings and soft succulent plants on priority. Plant should not face water shortage at flowering and fruit setting. Watering in the early morning and in cool hours in the evening is good. Avoid watering in hot sunny hours and at night. If the plant remains wet at night, it attracts fungal diseases. Some people keep perforated water bottles or cans at the plant base. Water percolates slowly and maintains moisture. Even the drip system of the hospitals is in use. Apart from these automatic irrigation systems are available now. But it is costly and again defats the very purpose of terrace gardening. However, this system is useful when you are out of station.

There is shortage of water for domestic usage itself. Then how do you arrange for terrace garden? On an average each pot needs 1 liter of water every day. Hence 30x40 feet terrace garden takes 100 to 200 liters of water. Normally 500 liters of water is necessary for a family for bath, washing clothes, cleaning utensils etc. We can reuse this water except that of toilet for the terrace garden. Soap water and other impurities in this are good nutrient sources of the plant. Collect this water in a separate tank instead of flowing it to the drainage. You may put excess buttermilk, sambar etc. also to this. Even today we find coconut trees growing luxuriantly with domestic waste water in the villages. This recycling of domestic water can solve the problem of water shortage for terrace gardening. Put grass, waste paper, dry leaves etc. to the bottom of the plants. It minimizes evaporation of water.

Manuring terrace plants

Let us study the nutrition part now. We cannot use chemicals for the plants to be eaten by us itself. It is not essential also. Feed the plants with well decomposed compost, vermi-compost, cow dung manure etc. You may buy neem, castor or Pongamia cakes from agro. shops. In addition, we may use vermi-compost extract, Panchagavya, cow urine and coconut water if the temple is in the vicinity. These can be drenched to the plant base or sprayed on the leaves. It gives excellent growth and minimizes flower and fruit drop. It brings down the incidence of pest and diseases. We find shops and individuals in big cities selling all these along with soil, manures and containers. Even then terrace gardener must prepare compost on his own in long run.

Use sufficient quantity of organic manures in the initial potting mixture. Put handful of rich compost to each plant at the time of flowering and fruit setting. Brinjal, chili, tomato and most of the vegetables flower and start setting fruits in 45 days. Good and healthy yield continues for 2 more months. Uproot all the plants after fruiting is over. Takeout the soil and expose it to sun for a week. Then remove stems and roots, mix the compost again and use it for potting. It is better to avoid soil from pots affected with wilt disease. We can grow short duration leafy vegetables 2 to 3 times in the soil potted once. Put additional compost at each sowing. For perennial plants scrap the soil in the pot to maximum possible depth. Put compost and fresh soil again. Doing this once or twice a year is sufficient.

We may use special organic manures which are available in the market along with the regular compost. Application of growth promoters such as humic acid, micro-nutrient mixtures etc. are also useful. It is advised to use bio-fertilizers such as Rhizobium for di-cot plants like beans, green peas, Azotobacter, Azospirillum, PSB, Mycorrhiza etc. for all other plants. These are available with agriculture labs, departments and few agro. shops. Microorganisms in these bio-fertilizers supply nitrogen, phosphorus, potash and other nutrients to the plants.

Compost and vermi-compost making

It is advised to prepare compost as much as possible by the terrace gardener. Buying every time is costly and not necessary. Use a bigger box for compost making. A drainage hole at the bottom is necessary to drain excess water. Put saw dust, waste paper or any material which can absorb water as the bottom layer. Spread kitchen waste, dry leaves and herbage from the terrace garden in a layer of 6 inches. Chopping the plants enables easy decomposition. Smear cow dung slurry if available. Otherwise put a thin layer of fertile soil from the garden. We can use Panchagavya, buttermilk, curd etc. also. Microorganisms in it will enhance decomposition of organic materials. Repeat the layers till the box is full. Non-vegetarians may put egg shells, bones, fish waste etc. to this compost after breaking it in to small pieces. Put a layer of soil at the top of the compost box. Sprinkle water once in a while to keep it moist. If possible, turn the mass once or twice. Keep the compost box under shade. Decomposition completes in 45 to 60 days and produces rich compost. Systematic earthen pots are also available for composting kitchen waste from a small family. It is popular as Daily-Dump Compost Kamba.

Vermi-compost is the best among all. Production of this is not so difficult. Release half a kilogram of earthworms in the compost box at 25 to 30 day stage of its filling. Put dry leaves, cow dung etc. again. Keep it moist by sprinkling water. Do not water in excess which suffocates the worms. Earthworms feed on partly decomposed organic matter and produce tea powder like compost in 45 to 50 days. Stop watering for 2-3 days. Earthworms will move to lower layers. Then collect the compost from the top. Put organic materials again and continue the process. Do not put acidic materials like rind of lemon, sambar etc. to the vermi-compost box. Tie the vermi-compost in a cloth bag and dip it in water for few hours. This deep colored liquid with lot of nutrients and hormones is the vermi-compost extract. Drenching or spraying this to the plants will produce excellent growth. Avoid ants, rat and mouse attacking the vermi-compost box. Cover the box with mesh to prevent birds catching these worms.

Crop planning and management

Divide the terrace garden and allot for different crops. To get continuous harvest keep on sowing and planting throughout the year. In other words, take up staggered sowing or planting. Plants planted at a time will finish crop at once. Since we have limited space on the terrace go for mixed or inter-cropping. For example, Amaranthus and cucumber can be a combination. By the time Amaranthus is ready for plucking cucumber starts flowering. Now pluck Amaranthus to facilitate cucumber to bear fruits. Likewise plant the compatible crops as mixed crops. However, do not plant similar types or competing crops in a single container. Competition for nutrition and light will affect the growth of both the crops. Do not go for continuous cropping of any crop. Especially if you maintain brinjal, tomato, okra round the year they become permanent host for many pest and diseases. If you take up crop rotation it breaks the pest life cycle and you will get different vegetables for the kitchen. For example, remove all tomato plants once they finish fruiting and put cabbage. You may plant tomato again after 2-3 months.

Another important work in the terrace garden is staking. Naturally wind speed will be more on the terrace. Hence staking may be necessary for weak tall plants. Train the climbers to a support by tying with a thread. It is necessary to provide a small temporary structure for bitter gourd, ash gourd, ridge gourd etc. Those who can spend more may go for permanent metal structures. If training is not done these climbers will cover and disturb all other plants. Bushy plants are better for the terrace garden. Hence pinch the tip of plants like chili, brinjal, tomato etc. It induces more branches there by increasing the yield. Prune the matured branches of the brinjal plant after it becomes old. It successfully gives out new sprouts and starts yielding again. We can retain brinjal plant for 2 years in this method. Keep on removing weeds. Apart from competing for water and nutrients weeds harbor pests and diseases. Availability of light is also an issue in big cities due to closely spaced tall buildings. Again if you keep small plants between big or tall plants it suffers with shade. Hence while planning the terrace garden see that all plants get sufficient sunshine.

Management of insect pests

Healthy plants escape pest and diseases. Sufficient sunlight, right size of the container, rich compost, optimum watering, sufficient distance between plants, pest and disease tolerant local crops and varieties, good management etc. decide the health of plants of the terrace garden. Un-season cropping ends up with problems. For example, do not go for cabbage and cauliflower in hot summer. Fungal diseases are more in the rainy season. Insect attack will be severe in summer. Capsicum and Methi are the difficult crops. Capsicum needs more nutrition and partial shade. Insect problem is also more. Methi seeds fail to germinate sometimes. It may not grow properly even if it germinates. So it is better to avoid such difficult or sensitive crops.

Sucking pests are the permanent guests of the terrace garden. They infest more on weak plants. These insects spread few viral diseases also. Major insect pests of the terrace garden are mealy bug, aphid, thrips, red mite, whitefly, scale etc. The minor pests are leaf eating caterpillar, leaf miner, stem and fruit borer, few types of beetles, leaf weber, weevil etc. Plant growth and yield is affected if the control measures are not taken effectively and timely. However, we do get some crop without pest management. For good yield, go for pest control.

Mealy bug infestation results in stunted growth of the plant and no yield. Spraying 5% Shikakai solution will takeout mealy cover exposing the insect to direct sun leading to the death. Aphids attack cowpea and beans first. Leaf curl disease is very common in hot summer in chili, brinjal and tomato plants. This is a complex problem due to thrips and virus. Spraying Asafoetida extract controls thrips population. Dusting wood ash on the curled leaves is practiced in the villages even today. Whiteflies, red mites and scales are also seen always on these plants. Spraying neem seed extract and neem oil controls most of these insects. However, neem leaf extract is not that effective. Spraying of fermented buttermilk is effective on mites. 5% chili-garlic-ginger extract controls aphids and mites.

Pheromone traps are also useful to attract and kill male insects. In this garden it is used effectively for the control of fruit flies. Sticky yellow traps are used for whiteflies and other insects. These sheets are put here and there in the garden. Insects sitting on this sticky sheet are trapped by the glue and die. Ants are not the pests of plants. But they spread aphids to the whole garden. You can avoid ants by putting a line of turmeric powder. Normally termites are not seen on the terrace. But the wooden boxes may have termites. Application of spent engine oil from the garage can avoid termite attack. It is advised to grow marigold, mustered, linseed, chrysanthemum etc. as trap crops in the terrace garden. Insects get attracted to these flowers and lay eggs. Pluck these flowers and use it for Pooja or destroy. It reduces insect population to some extent. Keep observing the plants daily while watering them. Pick the insects, egg masses, larvae and adults by hand and destroy. You may put them in to a poly bag containing kerosene. Otherwise kill the insects by putting neem based insecticide in water. Cut off and destroy stems and fruits infested with stem and fruit borers.

Attract more birds to your terrace. If possible, provide bird nests. Birds pick insects from the plants. Praying mantis, spider, ladybird beetle, green lacewing bug, dragonfly, different types of wasps etc. are the natural enemies of insect pests. If not disturbed they feed on insects. It is advised to keep one or two honeybee colonies. Apart from honey, these bees attend pollination increasing yield and quality of the produce. Use mesh with bigger holes to facilitate easy movement of bees if the box is fabricated for protection of your terrace garden. Mouse, rats, squirrel, Pigeon, monkey etc. may visit your terrace garden often. If the damage is serious go for mesh box fabrication.

Management of diseases

Continuous cloudy climate increases the chance of fungal diseases. Bacteria and nematode originate from the soil. Virus spreads through seeds or some vector insects. Damping off disease at seed germination, powdery mildew, leaf spot, fruit rot, wilt etc. are the major diseases caused by fungi and bacteria. Leaf curl and yellowing of leaves are the problems of virus.

Better and clean management of the terrace garden and balanced nutrition avoids most of the pests and diseases. Indigenous crops and varieties have more pest and disease resistance. Maintain optimum watering and see that the drainage hole is not clogged. Use well decomposed rich compost in the potting mixture. Apply organic manure again and avoid water stress at flowering and fruit setting. Spraying cow urine, vermi-compost extract or Panchagavya once in a week produces luxuriant growth and minimizes pests and diseases. Multiple crops, mixed crops and crop rotations are very much useful.

It is better to avoid pest and disease than controlling them later. Hence give preventive sprays at 15 and 25 day stage after planting. Powdery mildew and rot disease are common in the rainy season. Spraying 3 to 5% sweet flag extract controls these diseases. Drenching 5% Shikakai extract controls root rot disease. Bio-fungicides such as Trichoderma, Bacillus, Pseudomonas etc. can prevent soil borne disease like wilt and rot. These are available with agri. labs. Mix these bio agents to the potting mixture itself. It is better to uproot and destroy plants affected with yellowing and wilt diseases.

Preparation of bio extracts

Cow dung and urine: Mix 1 kilogram of fresh cow dung in 10 liters of water. Drench it or spread it on the plant. Mix 1 liter of cow urine in 8 liters of water. Drench the mixture or spray it on the leaves. It is a very good source of micro-nutrients and pest and disease repellent. Put 5 kilograms of fresh cow dung and 1 kilogram of groundnut cake in a container with water for 9 days. Then put some additional water and drench it to the plants.

Neem seed extract: Pound the neem seeds and tie loosely in to a cloth. Soak it in the water for 12 hours. Squeeze it, filter the extract and use it for spraying. It controls most of the insects.

Neem oil: Dissolve 60 grams of oil soap in half a liter of water. Mix 1 liter of neem oil in it. Add 40 times of water to this mixture and spray. This is effective against sucking pests, caterpillars, whitefly and many other insects.

Garlic-ginger-green chili extract: Take 50 grams of garlic, 25 grams of ginger and 25 grams of green chili and grind them together to make it a paste. Add 30 times of water, filter the solution and use it for spraying. This is also effective against most of the insects.

Plants need not be kept only on the terrace. If you plan it in advance even the compound wall can accommodate plants all along its length. Hanging pots are also common. We can keep pots on the steps as well. Stands of this type can accommodate more number of containers. Even the compound wall can hold hundreds of pots. It all depends on your interest, planning and ability to spend. Many people keep plants everywhere at home. In some case climbers and trees cover the whole building itself. Let the plants be in any place, any shape or form it brings liveliness to the premises.

Cost and production

A well planned and well managed terrace garden produces 25 to 50 kilograms of vegetable from 1 square meter area per year. The best terrace garden can yield even more. With low cost containers and own work done the establishment cost of 30x40 feet terrace garden will be INR 10,000 to 12,000. If you opt for systematic design and costly containers investment will be more. It is possible to set up a small income generating unit of orchid, Anthurium, capsicum etc. also on the terrace. Only ornamental and flowering plants are seen in some terrace gardens. You select plants and crops depending on your interest and purpose. Our suggestion to the viewers is not to keep the terrace without plants. We hope all our viewers will establish terrace garden soon. Namaskar.

Message from Shramajeevi: Grow what you eat eat what you grow.