Gardening 101

A bright Thursday Morning, right at the start of a school day was an apt choice to have a Gardening workshop. At GreenLine we believe that gardening can help bring our Green School Campaigners closer to nature and to the soil (quite literally). This Gardening workshop was arranged in order to focus on ways to mitigate indoor air pollution. With a participation of over 26 schools and 58 students from all over the city, we kick-started this workshop at 10:00 AM at Don Bosco Provincial House, Matunga.

At the get-go, Fr Chris Valentino, Director of GreenLine, greeted the crowd of beaming eyes and enthusiastic smiles with a very warm-hearted welcome. He set the tone for the workshop providing the link between controlling indoor air pollution and the practice of gardening, focusing on the fact that it not only deals with the wellbeing of plants and the environment but also improves the well being of the individual.

With this in mind the speaker for the day Mr. Harshad Ainapure, a trained botanist and herbologist, began explaining to the students the extent to which humans are intertwined with nature around us even if we are unaware of it. Using the Amazon Fires as an example, Mr. Ainapure went on to explain that at the rapid rate we are losing the green cover, we need to actively take an interest in replenishing it through the practice of gardening even if it were for our own sake. With the emphasis on individual action, we began learning the finer nuances of gardening.

When we picture a garden, we often imagine a nice tea party in the midst of vibrant flowering plants with butterflies flitting between them; in reality, gardening involves as much scientific and technical knowledge as any other field would. Requiring a blend of both artistic and scientific knowledge, the practice of gardening requires a patient heart, an enterprising mind and a lot of active work.

Moving on to the more scientific aspect of the workshop, Mr. Ainapure mentioned that growing plants alone won’t help; as an ecosystem is made of a variety of shrubs, herbs and other types of plants too.

Focusing on indoor plants- Mr. Ainapure first debunked the common myth of plants giving out oxygen at night, he explained that since plants give out oxygen as a result of photosynthesis, a light-dependent process, no plant can release oxygen 24/7. He went on to explain that plants not only help in air purification but also have medicinal and water purifying capacities. Indoor gardening is often referred to as ‘home gardening’ and can be broadly classified into:

Growing ornamental flowers or ‘The Lazy Gardeners’

○ Planting flowering or ornamental leaf plants for aesthetic purposes. Once planted, there isn’t much need for continuous care and so gardeners who dwell into this are called ‘The Lazy Gardeners’

Growing vegetables or ‘The Engaged Gardeners’

○ Growing own vegetables is an immensely rewarding experience but also requires constant care and is considered to be ‘Engaged gardening’. In fact, it has been proven that growing your own food, especially the ones you dislike, makes you consume more of it.

Growing ‘Kitchen’ Herbs

○ Today our cuisine involves a wide variety of herbs and spices from across the globe, growing them may not be difficult if we have knowledge of their origin. One such tip is that herbs found in the temperate region may not grow well in our Indian sub-tropical conditions year-round.

Microgreens

○ Micro-greens are popular as it is seen as food for the future with its rapid growth rate. These include moong, methi and even some underground vegetables like beetroot.

Gardening skills should not be limited to re-potting plants from nursery but also include stem cutting, transplanting and seed sowing. The importance of seed dormancy and conditions required for seeds to germinate were also touched upon.

With this information, the hands-on aspect of the workshop began. A group of 6 were provided with cocopeat (being better than soil), paper cups and seeds of Zennia, Chilli, Italian Basil, and Amaranth were given to the students. They were taught the right way of sowing the seeds by:

1. Making tiny holes at the bottom of the cup for drainage purposes.

2. Half filling the cup with the cocopeat provided.

3. Sprinkling the seeds and covering them with little more cocopeat on the top

4. Finishing up with drips of water.

With this, the bright Thursday morning came to an end, leaving the students with beaming faces and curious minds. “I was just here for an hour but this session was so interesting that I ended up staying till the end.” said one of the parents. “Gardening, is definitely something everyone should indulge in and this workshop is a great way to impart the starting skills” remarked by one of the school teachers.

Monalisa Mukherjee, Programme Assistant.