Farm produce under single roof
26 Jan 2017 - 11:10
Anisha Bijukumar | The Peninsula
Doha: From tomatoes to kale, pumpkins to bitter gourd, lettuce to spinach, 80 different varieties of vegetables are all grown under a single roof in this Mamoura villa. Jisha Krishna is among the few residents here, who have a kitchen garden to produce all the vegetables her house needs almost year around. Jisha grows them in the small space behind her house and terrace.
Born and brought up in Kerala, India, Jisha shifted to Doha 14 years back and lived in a small flat for two years before shifting to her current villa at Mamoura.
Jisha grows various types of gourd, drumsticks, chillies, pumpkins, beans, lady’s fingers, brinjal, beetroot, corn, turnip, radish, carrot, onion, cellary, capsicum, tomato, cabbage, cauliflower, aloe vera and leafy vegetables such as spinach, coriander, curry leaves, parsley, etc. Apart from having a garden behind her house, she also has a terrace garden where she has about 115 bags that grow 40 types of vegetables.
She says, “Both the gardens have almost four to five varieties of each plant and most of these vegetables have various health benefits. And they taste so much better than what is available in the markets. Also they can be cooked faster.”
Jisha never uses any chemicals and the only fertiliser that goes into her garden is goat manure, dried leaves and all the waste from her kitchen. “I learnt a lesson very early that it is important that you care for the soil as much as or more than your plants. There are various nutrients in the soil and we need to nurture it for our plants,” adds Jisha.
One of the challenges she faced as a gardener is to save water wherever possible. “My garden is next to my kitchen and everything from the kitchen goes into my garden so in the end there is a very little need for extra water,” she says.
Right next to her villa, there are some huge trees that provide shade to her garden, which protects them from the extreme heat that the city has to bear during summer.
These lessons are learnt after committing her share of mistakes as she says, “I have two people who help me set the soil when I start out at the beginning of the season in September and also to tie the frames required for climbers. Initially a gardener came to help me and he used some chemicals in my mud. I couldn’t bear its smell and became allergic to it. Ever since I stopped using that.”
All extra vegetables that she produces are distributed among her friends, as they are the ones who get seeds whenever they visit India. “Most of these seeds are brought from Kerala. Every friend who returns to Doha gets seeds for me,” Jisha says. She adds that she doesn’t understand the science of gardening and operates through her own knowledge.
“Initially I read books by Deepak Sachdeva and viewed YouTube channels. I also stay in touch with an organic farmer in UAE, Vijayan Pillai, who guides me in my efforts.”
Jisha is also one of the founder members of the Facebook group Adukkalathottam-Doha (Malayalam phrase meaning Kitchen Garden Doha), who was given a plot of land for farming in Al Dosari Park. She writes frequently for the Facebook page.
Jisha’s husband is an employee with a private company while her twin sons, Arjun and Sidharth, are studying at Birla Public School. She says, “My children feel that I love my garden more than I care for them but what they don’t realise is that I am strict even with my plants. Also all my efforts are for their betterment so that they have good healthy food to eat.”
Gardening for Jisha serves like a meditation, “Seeing the fruits of my labour makes me so happy. I have been told many times that my kitchen garden is similar to small farms that can be seen in my native place.”
She grows vegetables in various phases from September to April and then when the heat is extreme, she takes a break. Even for that short period, she freezes and stores some of her vegetables and does minimal shopping when required.
Kitchen garden takes lot of patience and perseverance but it can be therapeutic too. And as Jisha adds there is always the benefit of eating home grown organic vegetables that tastes, smells and looks better.