Do you love plants but fear you don’t have the space to nurture your own home garden? Are you an urban dweller, wary of the possibility of having a green thumb? Have you always wanted a herb garden but fear you don’t have the time to nurture your green babies to their fullest potential? Organic farmer and urban plant lady, Adrienne Thadani works tirelessly to bring some greenery into the concrete jungle of Mumbai. Adrienne is the creator of Mumbai's first rooftop community garden of it's kind: Flyover Farm, set up Table Farm and has worked with Americano, Soho House, O Pedro and many more urban spaces. She joins Le Mill to bust our gardening myths (and excuses), inspiring us to have our own sanctuary of green in our little homes.
Myth: You can only grow a home garden if you have a balcony or backyard.
Fact: You can grow plants anywhere, you just have to pick the right plant for your home.
The most important step to growing a home garden is to understand your space. How much light do you get in your space, where will the water access come from? How much time are you willing to commit to keep your plants happy and alive? Plants require care, sometimes daily care - watering, misting, checking for pests or diseases, then treating them. In the case of small container gardens, soil health is especially important, which means you have to get on a schedule to regularly feed your plants with nutrient rich natural fertilizers. If you're new to gardening, start small and make it easy for yourself. For example, don’t put your plants in hard to reach places, where it's difficult to water them or check on them. Do invest in one or two plants that will make you happy to look at each day, usually the bigger and more established they are already, the easier they are to keep alive.
Myth: But I can’t grow more than one or two plants because I have limited room on my window sill.
Fact: You can make room and grow more plants by layering and hanging your plants!
At my home, I have plants on stools (and turned over empty pots). This allows me to create nice clusters or "plant gangs" of small, medium and large plants - (plants are happier when they are in clusters together and can make their own little micro-climate). I also love hanging plants using water propagation planters and glass jars with water to keep large leaf cuttings from outside falling around the house.
Myth: Plants need to be watered everyday.
Fact: Watering is super specific to your plant, space and care conditions.
The rule of thumb is that plants want moisture more than water. They don't want to be drowning in water. Every time you water, you are washing out nutrients from the soil. The goal is to maintain moist soil, without over watering. Some plants like to be misted. If your plants are in sunny areas where they dry out quickly, you can mulch the top of the soil to trap moisture in.
This is when it's really important to understand what your plant likes. Too much water to a plant that wants to be dry can rot the roots and make it susceptible to pest attacks. Too little water will lead to a thirsty plant which will dry out quickly and die before you know it. It would be great to (a) Research the origin of your plant, think about where it comes from and what conditions it needs to thrive and (b) Keep a plant journal and pay attention to how your plant reacts to a little more water or less.
Myth: I can’t grow a herb garden because I don’t get enough natural light in my home and they’re hard to grow.
Fact: For small spaces and low light, there are a number of herbs that grow very well.
Mint, coriander, any type of micro-green, and ginger leaves (you probably won't get good root growth, but the leaves alone are delicious and fragrant for teas, soups, steaming with fish and meats) are all easy options. Lemongrass is also very easy, but requires a bit more sunlight, as do different varieties of basil.
Myth: Starting your own garden is an expensive investment, with the need for special pots and tools.
Fact: For a small home garden, you don't need many tools. You can DIY almost anything into a planter.
A container can be anything that holds the soil in and lets water drain out. I keep chopsticks on hand to aerate the soil every month (gently poke holes in soil, then water). I would recommend getting a big tarp to put on the floor to make the mess from potting your plants easy to clean.
To get started, the most important thing is to have good soil. I like to mix 1/3 regular clay soil from the nurseries, with 1/3 dark, fine, rich compost and 1/3 coco-soil to keep things light and airy. Then I keep extra compost on hand to keep topping up the pots, every few months.
A good clean pair of clippers are useful when trimming your plants. I would also invest in a watering can with a shower head (for bigger containers) or a small spout (for smaller containers).
Now that we’ve busted the myths holding you back from starting your home garden, here are Adrienne’s recommendations for sustainably sourcing seeds, soil and plants!
Adrienne says, “In Bombay, I purchase most of my plants from Passion Green and Rising Gardens, but there are lots of great nurseries around. You can also take cuttings from parks or just walk down the street and propagate your own garden for free.”
She adds, “Vivek Goure Broome, outside of Pune is my favorite source for indigenous and rare plants, as well as all kinds of bamboo. Theseedstore.in is one, again of many, a great source for vegetable seeds.”