Mangaluru: It’s Blany D’Souza’s Terrace! No, it’s a Paradise of Vegetables and Fruits
” I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful”- John 15:1-2
Mangaluru: The above words from the Bible were taken very seriously by Blany D’Souza when he heard them during a Sunday mass and applied it towards one of his gardening issues- the story goes like this, Blany D’Souza, a resident of Manky-Stand-Marnamikatta here had brought home a grape branch from a nursery couple of years ago, and planted it in his backyard. The grape plant started growing slowly and within few months it started spreading all over his terrace, but no grapes, just green leaves. Waiting for a year whether the plant would yield some fruit, but his wait was all in vain. He tried to get suggestions from horticulturists and nurseries but no one had a clue why his plant was not yielding any grapes, but had only vast amount of leaves.
This is when he took the above Bible words seriously, and decided to trim/cut the branches of the grape plant and reduce it to half its size. Surprisingly within a week or so the plant showed signs of plenty of flowers and within couple of months, Blany says he got nearly 30-40 kgs of grapes, which at first were green in colour, and later they turned into red, and they happened to be Kabul grapes. This was the first time that someone in Mangaluru had successfully grown a grape plant and got grapes. Happy with the yield, Blany distributed his first yield of grapes to his relatives, neighbours and friends, and the rest he made wine and pickle. That was a amazing story!
Okay, if you walk by first cross-Monkey Stand near Marnamikatta, you will locate Blany D’souza’s house, with a 1200 square feet house terrace filled with wide varieties of vegetables and fruits, some very exotic kinds. His terrace is like walking in a paradise packed with veggies and fruits, nearly 30-40 different kinds of vegetables, around 35 fruit varieties and bunch of different flower breeds. Blany’s passion for raising a vegetable and fruit garden on top of his terrace started 20 years ago after he came back for good after working for six years in the Gulf. A passion that he started for fun, Blany says that he never thought he would be in such a demand in the community for setting up terrace gardens at peoples residences.
Blany’s terrace garden is not like any garden that you will find around in the City, it is unique and quite amazing to look at it. While many terraces have just flower pots arranged in a neat way, Blany’s terrace is a collage of various vegetable, fruit and flower plants. Among the wide varieties of vegetables, to name a few are- tomato, brinjal, bitter-gourd, green beans, lady-finger, gherkins, red/green spinach, varieties of chillies, cucumber, ash gourd, snake gourd, ivy gourd, bottle gourd, pumpkin and the like. And among fruits are- grapes, musumbi (sweet lime), oranges, star apple, tamarind, guava, mango, custard apple, lime, and others. There are also some herbal and medicinal plants, including few flower plants. Other than plants on the terrace, Blany also has banana, coconut, papaya, chikku, and many other plants and trees grown in his backyard.
When asked how did he get into this hobby of gardening, Blany replied, ” I had a passion for gardening since I was a young boy- while returning from school I used to pluck some plants found in the neighbourhood, bring them home and plant them in my garden. A passion to grow plants that started during my younger days is still continued, and I love doing it. Even though some of my plants don’t yield fruits or flowers, but I am filled and happy with the fascination. My intention is not to make money from the yield, I am doing it for fun, and for the happiness I get from observing/looking at all these plants/trees everyday. Even my mother, wife and kids spend time in this terrace garden and enjoy the fresh air and beauty of the greenery”.
Born in Mangaluru, Blany completed his BCom at St Aloysius College, and then did PG in Konkani Studies before moving to Gulf, where he worked as a auditor for a reputed five-star hotel in Sharjah. Married to Renilda, who is the Principal of City College of Nursing-Mangaluru, Blany is a proud father of a son- Darren Steve, doing his First PUC at St Aloysius College, and daughter- Donne Maria, who is studying in 5th Std at St Theresa’s School-Mangaluru. Blany came back from Gulf to his hometown for good in the year 1998, and since then he has devoted his entire life and time nurturing his trees and plants.
Apart from taking care of his terrace garden, Blany renders his service to other people by setting up terrace gardens on individual homes, schools, colleges, flats, businesses etc. He has also been delivering talks on gardening/terrace garden at various schools/colleges/universities. After setting up terrace gardens at other locations, he supports them with required guidance, care for maintenance. During day time he entertains visitors, school/college students, teachers/lecturers and others by explaining about his terrace garden. After 4pm he takes assignments to set up terrace gardens at other homes. He has conducted various talks through power-point presentation, and many have gained knowledge about plants/trees and gardening from him.
Lately Blany has planted some tulsi plants to chase away the insects that have been attacking his vegetable plants. He says that earlier even though he had a ‘insect trap’ on the terrace, it didn’t work since the insects were still attacking his vegetation. But by placing tulsi pots here and there on the terrace, the insect menace has disappeared, he said. He strongly believes that the Tulsi plant works as a repellent of insects attacking vegetable plants. He also said that he doesn’t uses any insecticide control solutions, nor chemical sprays on his plants. He waters his plants twice a day, but to the limit, because excess water kills the plants, he says. He sprays neem mixture on plants to control diseases. Although the season of vegetables is during the month of August and September, but there are quite a few vegetables that have grown abundantly. Blany says he had collected around 200 kgs of Gherkins during the season lately, and also that he has not purchased vegetables for his house since six years.
“Having a terrace garden is environmentally friendly, you can enjoy nature right in front of you, it will be fun watering the plants and see them grow, you can breathe fresh air by walking in the garden and sit on a swing enjoying the beauty of it. Sometimes you can also witness the birds come looking for their food. I didn’t started a garden for business, instead I wanted more and more people to grow vegetables and fruits on the terrace space available to them. It brings joy and happiness to me. As time passed, I have been getting more and more into gardening. I do not have the greenest thumb, but I’m pretty happy with what I am doing. If I can do it, anybody can do it. If you touch plants and shower them with love and care, they will not cheat you. You can call me for more details at 9972716340” said Blany.
In conclusion, a small balcony, terrace or porch will do. Make a start and get your hands dirty! You will not learn everything on day one. It will take some time for experience to kick in and make the best out of the knowledge gained. Grow what you need. Do not get excited and tempted to grow everything at one time. Start slow. If you have the time and the patience maintain a diary. Be prepared to come across some nasty looking insects and bugs!
Balcony? Ground space? Terrace ? Basically any location which gets at least 2-3 hours or more of direct sunlight. The more the better! A place where you can keep a few containers. The number 1 question asked by newbies – “Will my terrace/balcony be able to hold the weight of pots/plants/containers?” Yes, it will! The average RCC/concrete slab can take huge amounts of weight. Just make sure adequate waterproofing has been done. If your terrace can bear the brunt of a heavy downpour, then you are good to go with an OTG too. For balconies, make sure, you have a water drainage outlet.
Think beyond the pot! For a first time gardener, a container is any object like a pot in any shape/size. And yes, it can be a pot too! Most importantly, it should be able to hold water and soil and other ingredients in the container. There will be a time when you will be scouting for any decent sized object. For example, an oil can, an unused helmet, a vegetable/milk crate, specific types of wood, a good thick UV treated plastic grow bag, 2/5/10 litre or more water bottle/can, used paint buckets (but make absolutely sure all the paint inside is scraped off), PVC drainage pipes. Rice/cement bags can be used, but not more than once. After about 3 months, it starts to disintegrate. And once that happens, the disintegrated pieces mix up in the soil, which makes it very difficult to remove. So try to avoid them.
Different plants have different sunlight requirements. Some do well in semi shade, some need 3-4 hours of sunlight, some require more and some require less. Seeds sown in a seed tray (or anything similar) don’t need direct sunlight for the first 1-2 weeks. If your plants don’t do too well under the scorching sun, then you can consider installing a shade net, which cuts off the amount of sunlight hitting the plants. And not only the sun, even the rain too. Do not over water and do not under water. On an average, watering every alternate day is good enough. Monitor your plants and you will notice when they look dried up or not. If you over water, the water that drains out, will take away the nutrients. And of course you are wasting water too! Happy gardening on your terrace, if you have one!