November 29, 2013 3:17:53 am
Rising vegetable prices have helped promote a culture of kitchen gardens in Punjab. The government as well as the states agriculture university have been offering kitchen garden seed kits this season and the demand has been huge,from farmers as well as various households.
Over 1.5 lakh winter vegetable seed kits,worth Rs over 1 crore,have been put on sale. These include 40,000 kits from Punjab Agriculture University,with the rest from the state horticulture department. Both are also selling seeds in the open market.
We prepared 40,000 kits but the demand was several times higher. Had we prepared one lakh kits,all of them would still have been sold, says the universitys Dr Rajinder Singh,an expert on vegetables. We now plan to promote kitchen farming to such an extent that people living in apartments,too,will be able to grow vegetables on their balconies and terraces, he adds. Whenever people have called us we have visited and given them guidance in setting up a kitchen garden.
Kitchen gardening is not new to Punjab but the demand has never been so overwhelming before. Apart from rising vegetable prices,another reason for the recent popularity is an effort at promotion by the university,which has organised several kisan melas this year. Ghar di sabzi-dal ugao: sihat banao,paise bachao, has been the melas slogan,which translates as,Grow vegetables and pulses at home; stay healthy,save money.
The simplest health benefit is that vegetables grown at home can be kept free of pesticides; experts recommend non-chemical methods for protection from insects and pests.
The universitys kits come at Rs 100 each and contain seeds of nine items: pea,carrot,radish,turnip,maithe,kasuri maithe,spinach,coriander and a leafy vegetable. The horticulture department charges Rs 50 per kit of radish,carrot,lettuce and other seeds. They are much cheaper than in the market,grow rapidly and can be planted repeatedly.
The horticulture department has sold 5,000 to 6,000 kits in each of 23 districts,including 12,000 in Ludhiana alone,says Dr Lajwinder Singh,the departments director. Seeds bought at Rs 50 or Rs 100 can provide vegetables for the entire season, he says.
He finds it a pity that most Punjab farmers,despite owning land,buy vegetables from the market when they could have dedicated just three to four marlas (675-800 square feet) to growing vegetables for personal use. We are popularising it among farmer families the state has 12 to 13 lakh as well as among urban people with a usable backyard or vacant plot, he says.
For households,he recommends one kanal (500 square yards).
Do it yourself
If any household has one to three marlas (225-675 sq ft),it must go for kitchen gardening,says Dr Daljit Singh Gill,Jalandhars horticulture development officer and an expert on growing vegetables. Supply of fresh vegetables all year round is possible only by growing them in a kitchen garden, Dr Gill says.
The ideal vegetable consumption for an adult is 250 to 350 g daily,say university scientists; Punjabs average is 200 g. Vegetables are a key source of vitamins and minerals,besides carbohydrates and proteins.
Part of the guidance from the horticulture department is about the location of the garden. It should be created in such a way that the vegetables receive adequate sunlight for at least six hours every day; if grown in the shade,they will grow pale. The vegetables might need to be protected from the cold,too,and can be shielded from the frost with polythene sheets in the mornings and evenings,Dr Gill says.
Rotten farm manure or compost should be applied as it is a rich source of nutrients; Dr Gill recommends eight to 10 baskets of manure for every 25 square metres.
For those who do not have a backyard or a lawn,the option is gardening on the balcony,which experts say is ideal for chilli,tomato,bitter gourd and maithe,vegetables that need very little space. A cement planter can be erected on the balcony and it can be filled with earth to grow vegetables,says Dr Naresh Gulati,deputy director,Agriculture Technology Management Agency.
Bansi Lal Yadav,who pulls a rickshaw in Jalandhar,is among those who have taken to kitchen gardening. When we came to Punjab from UP three years ago,the only vegetable we could afford was potato, Yadav says.
My wife and I are lucky to have got jobs as caretakers of two rooms that stand on a vacant plot in a nice locality, he says,then goes on to describe a third means of earning: Theres a lot of space and I started growing seasonal vegetables in a 1,000-sq foot kitchen garden. It takes very little effort. I now get healthy vegetables free,something even well-to-do families cannot afford. I am even supplying vegetables to my landlord and bartering some with shopkeepers.
A TREND picks up
1.5 lakh seed kits for winter vegetables put up for sale. Worth Rs 50 to Rs 100,they have seen a huge demand in a season of rising prices.
9 vegetables can be grown from the seed kits provided by Punjab Agriculture University: pea,carrot,radish,turnip,maithe,kasuri maithe,spinach,coriander and a leafy vegetable.
500 square yards is all one needs to start a garden at home,experts say. If thats not available,theres always the balcony for certain vegetables.
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