During this lockdown period, I found a few of the WhatsApp groups that I engaged with regularly take up gardening, especially terrace gardening. Coincidentally, just a few days before the lockdown was announced in the third week of March, I had attended a workshop on kitchen gardening with some of my old school mates. Social distancing guidelines had already been announced, and although we did not wear masks back then, we practiced social distancing in the way we sat―three feet apart while our workshop leader, Pravin Mishra held forth on the types of soil mixes we should be using for filling our pots.

I learnt several useful tips that day, chief among them being that you have to mix several things into your garden soil for plants to thrive and grow lush and strong. Here are a few tips I picked up that day from Pravin Mishra, a Delhi-based environmentalist who conducts workshops all over the Delhi-NCR area to encourage people to start their own kitchen garden in whatever land area that may be available to them, including on their terrace.

According to Mishra, the best soil mixture is made from the following:

10 kg garden soil

2.5 kg river sand

2.5 kg vermicompost

1 kg neem khali

1 kg leaf compost

20 gm turmeric powder

10 gm black pepper powder

20 gm chuna

Ideally, the first layer in your planter should be of dried leaves. Then fill up the rest with this mixture for great results. If you find this mix a trifle difficult to organize, here is another easier option that I picked up in a webinar organized by the Goa-based duo of Green Essentials, Yogita and Karan. They advocate mixing 50 per cent of regular garden soil from which pebbles have been removed, with 25 per cent of vermicompost and the rest 25 per cent made up with cocopeat. They suggest adding dry leaves right on top, recreating a forest-like soil environment that is always littered with plenty of dry leaves. The leaves, they say, serve to hold the moisture inside the soil as do the other ingredients.   

Mishra advocates that kitchen waste should be made into compost and in his workshops, he teaches people to do just that, including making your own bio-enzymes. This, then can be added to your plants as natural fertilizer. However, you have the option to pick up compost from nurseries and even from online retailers. Take care to see that they are organic, as it makes sense to grow organic items at home. You might as well learn to eat healthy if you are serious about your kitchen garden.