Chennai Teacher Makes Homemade Fertilizers From Kitchen Waste, Grows Over 400 Plants

AChrompet, 51-year-old S Sathyanarayanan, has created a green paradise on his 1,200 square meter terrace in the midst of the hustle and bustle of one of Chennai’s busiest streets. He grows 400 plants, including ornamental flowers like moss roses, medicinal plants like moringa, fruits like figs and vegetables like women’s fingers, potatoes and more.

What is unique about Sathya’s garden, however, is that he prepares a variety of liquid fertilizers from kitchen ingredients to nourish his plants. He also prepares a mixture of water, jaggery and a WDC (Organic Waste Decomposer) solution in a 250 liter drum. This is regularly fed to all plants, which ensures healthy and pest-free growth.

A full view of Sathya’s 1,200 square foot garden.

“I started gardening on the patio in 2015 after my family and I moved into our newly built house. We used to live on the ground floor of a rental house and I couldn’t grow a lot of plants as the availability of space was an issue. I started my garden trip with 50 pots of money plants, tulsi, tomatoes and others. Today my garden has over 400 pots in which ornamental flowers, fruit and vegetables grow, ”says Sathya, adding that regular visitors to his garden include humming honey bees and chirping love birds.

Understand the terrace garden

Five years ago, Sathya began patio gardening as a hobby to escape his busy life as a French teacher at the Anna Gem Science Park School in Chennai. He bought 50 terracotta pots, filled them with organic potting soil and planted seedlings for various ornamental flowers.

The Chennai French teacher grows 400 plants on the patioSatya in his terrace garden.

Apart from that, he watched videos on the Internet on how to prepare seeds from kitchen ingredients for growing vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and chili peppers.

“I put some plants on the balcony, the others on the terrace. As the months went on, I bought more pots and my family warned me not to spend too much money and put additional strain on the building, ”says Sathya.

To learn about patio gardening and to clear up his doubts, Sathya attended a one-day workshop at the Tamil Nadu Horticultural Department.

“There were several important topics covered, from making light potting soil to harvesting products. However, I couldn’t learn everything in one day. So I watched YouTube videos, spoke to experienced gardeners on Facebook gardening groups, and read blogs to understand patio gardening concepts, ”says Sathya.

He prepared a light organic potting mix from cocopeate, cow dung and powdered kitchen waste. He added some red soil to add a little weight as the city is prone to flooding and cyclones.

Within a few years, Sathya was growing vegetables like basil, curry leaves and eggplant, as well as fruits like pomegranate, strawberries, mulberries and guava. To improve the aesthetics of his terrace garden, he created a mini pond in which pond lilies were grown with a plastic bucket.

The Chennai French teacher grows 400 plants on the patioStrawberries, lilies and eggplants grow in Sathya’s garden.

Additional nutrition for plants

As Sathya’s garden began to expand, he continued to learn from skilled gardeners and the Internet. Over time, he experimented with more plant varieties and even managed to grow native varieties of spinach such as Ponnanganni Keerai, Arai Keerai, and Mudakathan Keerai, to name a few.

The Chennai French teacher grows 400 plants on the patioA variety of native plants that grow in Sathya’s garden.

While browsing one of the Facebook groups, he noticed a post that explained the importance of providing plants with extra nutrition, especially in the summer months.

Due to the scorching summer heat of Chennai, Sathya immediately went to work to protect his plants.

First, he collected the water that was used to wash rice and legumes because it is high in protein. Sathya put a bucket in the kitchen and asked his wife not to throw away the water in the sink. He also set up a separate container for collecting vegetable shells and one for collecting egg shells.

“The dried and powdered peel is used as a source of calcium for plants. Tomato plants that are prone to such deficiencies benefit from this powder, ”says Sathya.

Sathya placed two glasses on his dining table next to the fruit basket. He asked his wife and two children to throw banana peel and watermelon peel in them so that he could make fertilizer.

The Chennai French teacher grows 400 plants on the patioBeetroot enzyme manufactured by Sathya.

“The bowls and kitchen waste are allowed to ferment in water for a week, mixed in a blender and regularly fed / sprayed onto the plants,” says Sathya.

Prepare liquid fertilizer

Although Sathya made various types of fertilizers from kitchen waste, he wanted to find a source of food for all of his plants. After researching online and speaking to seasoned gardeners, he decided to make a fertilizer using water, jaggery, and a WDC solution.

WDC is an organic solution developed by the National Center for Organic Farming (NCOF) that is used to speed up the composting of organic waste.

The Chennai French teacher grows 400 plants on the patioThe jaggery-based fertilizer.

“I prepare the solution by mixing 200 liters of water, 2 kilograms of jaggery and a bottle of WDC solution in a 250-liter drum. Then I mix it well with a wooden stick and cover it with a cloth to allow air to circulate. It ferments within a few days and gives off a fruity odor. One cup of the solution is further diluted with water before being served to the plants, ”says Sathya, adding that he prepares this twice a month. To repel pests, he adds neem oil to the mixture.

Sometimes he even makes the same type of fertilizer but adds cow dung to ferment the waste instead of WDC. Although this process is slower, it is just as efficient, Sathya says.

“Nowadays I add homemade enzymes to the pots along with water as extra food. For some plants, I regularly add a jaggery solution mixed with water. To date, none of my plants have withered or contracted diseases from dehydration, ”he adds.

Convert terraces into gardens

By 2018, Sathya had understood his garden well and all of his plants were in bloom. He says he not only provided her with food, but also with love. While he is watering his plants, he talks to them with kind works that will allow them to grow faster and healthier.

When he saw Sathya’s lush garden, many of his friends came up to him to learn more about patio gardening. Soon he even started running summer workshops for groups of up to 20 people.

“Last year I did a couple of virtual workshops that were attended by at least 60 to 80 people. Participants included both men and women. Some were housewives who wanted to start growing organic vegetables, while others were professionals who wanted to take up gardening as a hobby, ”says Sathya.

Today both his terrace garden and his balcony have over 200 pots each. Sathya says that along with store-bought containers at home, he even recycled jute baskets and plastic bottles to make hanging pots. He grows 100 types of vegetables, including sweet potatoes, white aubergines, peanuts and fruits such as bananas, figs, guavas, pomegranates, strawberries, mulberries and over 100 types of ornamental plants.

The Chennai French teacher grows 400 plants on the patioA wide variety of plants grow in Sathya’s garden.

To learn more about Sathya’s terrace or workshops, visit his YouTube channel or Facebook page.

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