Gardener Dr KS Bhat grows Plants using NO SOIL?
Strange but unique soil-less garden! Gardener Dr K Sundara Bhat grows plants using soil-less substrate called ‘Coco Peat’
Mangaluru: Dr K Sundara Bhat, popularly known as a Senior Professor of Medicine and widely experienced Consultant Physician in Mangaluru, presently works at Fr Muller’s Medical College Hospital. Apart from being a physician, what people don’t know about him is that he is a man of humility and an avid horticulturist. Among his other initiatives to preserve nature, he has a huge solar energy harbouring panel in his home. Dr Bhat believes his passion for gardening will inspire the future generations of Mangaluru to preserve the greenery around them.
When he is done caring for his patients and students at Fr Muller Hospital, Dr Bhat cares and nurtures his bunch of vegetables and medicinal plants that he has potted on his home terrace and also around the house. His wife, Vasanti S Bhat, an LIC agent, also helps out in his gardening hobby. Dr KS Bhat has two children – son Sandesh Bhat, a software engineer presently working for a US based company called Target Inc in Bengaluru; and daughter Suhana Bhat, also a software engineer, worked for a Canadian company and now settled in Mysuru. As you enter his humble two-storeyed house, you will get the sense of being inside a terrace farm that has been nurtured with love and care. And the best part of this garden is that Dr Bhat does not use soil to nurture the plants. He uses locally made and available ‘Coco Peat’. His garden is a haven of local varieties of vegetables and a few rare varieties of medicinal plants as well.
Speaking about soil-less gardening, Dr Bhat uses Coco-Peat which is also known as coir pith. Coir fibre pith, coir dust, or simply coir, made from coconut husks, are byproducts of other industries that use coconuts. Coco-peat primarily consists of the coir fibre pith or coir dust which is obtained by processing coconut husk and removing the long fibres. The coco-peat which is obtained can hold large quantities of water, just like a sponge. It is used as a replacement for traditional peat in soil mixtures or as a soil-less substrate for plant cultivation. Coir waste from coir fiber industries is washed, heat-treated, screened and graded before being processed into coco peat products of various granularity and densities, which are then used for horticultural and agricultural applications and as an industrial absorbent. Dr Bhat says that plants grown using coco-peat are more healthy, since there are no weeds to deal with, the plants mature early and use less space.
“Coco peat has high cellulose and lignin content, and can be re-used up to three times with little loss of yield. As it is free from soil-borne pathogens, coco-peat is indeed an ideal growing medium for plants,” adds Dr Bhat, who has a wide variety of plants like Beans (Huralli Kai), Okra/Ladies Finger (Bende Kai), Brinjal (Bhadane Kai), Basil (Thulasi), Ash Gourd (Khumbala Kai), Lemon (Nimbe Hannu), Mint (Pudhina), Ridge Gourd (Heere Kai), Elephant Yam ( Suvarna Gedde), Fenugreek Leaves ( Menthu Soppu). Since Dr Bhat had a small leg fracture when he fell walking his dog, he was not able to show me around his garden, but his wife was kind enough to explain to me about all veg/fruit plants in Kannada and I tried my best to translate them into English. Not just these plants, but around the house are a bunch of Coconut trees, arecanut trees, papaya, banana, drumstick (Nunge Kai), etc.
Dr Bhat takes care of his plants just like his own children, and says, “A child and a plant are both God’s innocent creations. They are both malleable and need tender loving care and nourishment. If they are taken care of well, they will promptly and proudly yield fruit. A child who is brought up in an environment of gardening, will learn to be mature, patient and virtuous, which in today’s world means the difference between a successful future and a stressful one, and they will also understand the importance of preserving nature and will not destroy it.” When asked at what age he started his gardening hobby, Dr Bhat said, “I come from a family of agriculturists. So I am a born agriculturist. Gardening is not new to me. Four years ago, when I had been to a horticulture show, my mind focused on terrace gardening, and since then my terrace garden has existed, as I have more time now to devote to this passion of mine. I believe that charity and education begins at home. I want to nurture the love for plants and gardening in my grandchildren. After all, our future lies in them.”
“We should also know that when we grow our own vegetables at home, we get them free of toxic chemicals and those that are healthier. The vegetables and fruits that we buy in the market today are mixed with chemicals and pesticides, and it’s no wonder that people get sick and die at a young age. There is a sense of mental satisfaction and well being that also seeps in. When we plant together with our children, they learn a lot about nature, vegetables and begin to value them. There is a huge treasure of knowledge here that we have to share with our kids. Eventually gardening will teach our children to love plants and nature. I have stressed love towards the gardening hobby among my two children, so that they can pass it on to their kids in future. Also when you use coco-peat, all you need is a small space and pots for planting the saplings. It’s easy to grow any vegetable or fruit plants in Mangaluru, provided there is lots of sunshine,” added Dr Bhat.
A message from Dr KS Bhat to all the budding/beginners who would like to start the hobby of gardening, “JUST LOVE PLANTS. START GARDENING. You can start with small scale gardening and eventually will learn to love gardening. Most of us give excuses like we don’t have space or don’t have time. In the present times, all gardening equipment and materials are easily available. We just need to make time. In my experience as a physician, I have seen that for people with ill health, gardening can drastically improve mental and physical health. So I want to encourage all the people of Mangaluru, irrespective of their age or occupation to garden. You can begin today. You can begin in your own terrace, backyard or even your bedroom window will do. Just do it for nature and for a green environment in the city.”