Urban Gardening: Interview 3

Retired teacher Selvi Singgaram has plenty to share about her backyard garden, where a wide variety of plants – from vegetables to medicinal herbs – are grown. Her husband, Kanthabalan Ramiah, started the garden about 3 years ago. Since then all her family members have been fully involved in maintaining the garden.

“We grow vegetables namely white brinjal, cekur manis, long beans, cucumber, chilli, capsicum and bittergourd. We also have some herbal plants like Indian borage, tulsi, betel leaves, balloon vine, Culantro, turmeric and adamant creeper (pirandai) in our garden. Many of these herbal plants are recognisable only to the older generation. We recently started growing a pineapple plant,” she disclosed.

Nothing makes Selvi happier than consuming fresh vegetables from her own garden. “I feel so good about it,” she says. “You can buy plenty of vegetables from the market, but most will be tainted with chemicals. When you grow your own, you can directly harvest and cook them freshly.”

How has her garden benefited her and her family? “I enjoy seeing greenery. It is pleasurable to see my garden each morning. Growing your own vegetables saves a lot of money too. My husband spends about 2 hours every day in the garden, a very good form of exercise for him. And all of us get sufficient Vitamin D for free when we work in our garden,” Selvi shared.

Retired teacher Selvi Singgaram and her husband, Kanthabalan Ramiah.
Selvi in her garden. 
Cucumber melon, white brinjal and veld grape harvested.

Gardening also fosters community cohesion, which can be lacking in city living. “Our white brinjal plant has been fruiting for a very long time. It has given us so many fruits and we always share the extras with our neighbours and relatives. Some of our friends used to complain about how very difficult it is to grow this plant. We shared our brinjal seedlings with them, and now they are happily harvesting their own brinjals,” Selvi said.

Selvi had attended an urban garden training programme by CAP. “It was very useful. I learned how to make natural fertilisers for use in my garden. Our gardening techniques have improved so much, thanks to the training. The pest-repellent techniques we learnt also came in handy,” she said.

Another reward the family gained is this. “Our garden is medicine for my family. We always use the herbal plants in our garden for traditional home remedies. In the past, we used to take our grandchildren to clinics for common and minor ailments and had to spend lots of money on this. But ever since we started a garden, my husband has been making decoctions from herbal plants for regular consumption. This has boosted our immunity and improved our health; visits to the doctor have become fewer now,” Selvi revealed.

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Tomorrow: “It’s Good for Mental & Physical Health” & “You Don’t Need a Big Space to Start an Urban Garden” – last 2 interviews in the series