OMG, Spinach (Basale in Kannada/Tulu, Valchibaji in Konkani) So BIG, You’ll Freak! Grown Exclusively on Blanny D’Souza’s Terrace Garden- Each spinach leaf measuring above 12 inches in size
Mangaluru: OMG-Believe it or not- a Malabar Spinach Plant, with leaves so BIG, anyone seeing it, will freak! and that too in a pot on a terrace garden- I have never seen anything like this before. Okay, if you walk on the first cross-Monkey Stand near Marnamikatta, you will locate Blanny 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 a bunch of different flower breeds. Blanny’s passion for raising a vegetable and fruit garden on top of his terrace started nearly 22 years ago after coming down for good from the Gulf, where he had worked for six years. A passion that he started for fun, Blanny says that he never thought he would be in such demand in the community for setting up terrace gardens at peoples residences. (Ref: Mangaluru: It’s Blanny D’Souza’s Terrace! No, it’s a Paradise..)
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, Blanny’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, Blanny also has banana, coconut, papaya, chikku, and many other plants and trees grown in his backyard. And this year Blany has come up with yet another experiment- since male papaya trees don’t yield fruit, so he has grafted a cut portion of the female papaya tree with a piece of Male papaya tree- and since this is his new experiment, he is very much confident the tree will yield papaya fruits in a short period of time.
Malabar Spinach Plants, with BIG Size Leaves
The organic garden has black mango from Brazil, Thailand mango, pink jack-fruit, China orange, Israel orange, apple bore, water apple, wood apple, Kabul grapes, grafted avocado, butter fruit, large varieties of guava, cocoa, peach, cashew, ivory gourd, bitter gourd, Brahmi from Australia and other vegetables. Added to all these vast array of vegetables and fruits, what’s really amazing to see is this Malabar Spinach plant grown in a pot on Blanny’s terrace garden. The spinach leaves are 12 inches plus long in size, something you won’t find in local spinach. And Blanny says that it is for the first time that the spinach has grown of that size. In 2016, Blanny had grown a pink jack-fruit plant in a pot, which yielded fruit (Ref: OMG- Its’ a Jack Fruit grown in Blanny D’Souza’s Terrace Garden) Even as attempts are being made to revive jack-fruit as a super-food, this terrace gardener has tasted success with the plant.- a two-year-old graft at terrace garden expert D’Souza’s house had given fruit.
Blanny D’Souza’s family- Seated L-R: Evelyn (Blanny’s mother), Donna Maria (Daughter) and Renilda (Wife)Standing: Blany with his son, Darren Steve
Speaking to Mangalorean.com Blanny said, “I bought the ‘Kantakali Pink’ variety from a local nursery. It weighed about one kg and had 15 bulbs. This was probably for the first time that a jack-fruit has been grown in a terrace garden. Though it doesn’t look very much pink as expected, the taste is really sweet and good. I started this terrace garden 22 years ago initially with gherkins, and it was a big success. There was a time when I harvested around 150 kg of gherkins from this garden a month. My other big success came from grapes (Ref: Grapefully Yours! Grapes Galore on Blanny D’Souza’s Terrace Garden even in Humid Kudla). I somehow wanted to experiment more and hence started growing various fruits and vegetables. I have friends across the world and since they know my interest, they make it a point to come with a sapling or seeds. I bought a jack-fruit sapling so that children get to see all fruits and vegetables. I will observe the plant for another year. I have learnt this gardening through trial and error. It is very important to talk to a plant. Magic does not work in a garden. It is all about hard work, patience and determination,”.
Male Papaya Tree grafted with Female papaya Tree-Blanny’s new experiment of 2020
D’Souza hasn’t limited his enterprise to his own garden but has set around 300 terrace gardens across Mangaluru, and also set up a garden on 2 acres agricultural land (out of 100 acres property) in Bengaluru. A number of students and citizens from in and around Mangaluru visit his house to learn the terrace technique from him. When asked how he got into this hobby of gardening, Blanny 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, I am 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 every day. Even my mother, wife and kids spend time in this terrace garden and enjoy the fresh air and beauty of the greenery”.
Quoting the verse from the Bible, “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 -these words from the Bible were taken very seriously by Blanny D’Souza when he heard them during a Sunday mass few years ago and applied it towards one of his gardening issues- the story goes like this, Blanny 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 a 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, except a large number 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 a couple of months, Blanny 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 successfully grew a grape plant and got grapes. Happy with the yield, Blanny distributed his first yield of grapes to his relatives, neighbours and friends, and the rest he made wine and pickle. That was indeed an amazing story!
And since then there was no stopping in cultivating grapes on his terrace- which has surprised many, including the local horticulturists. Since cultivating of grapes needs low humidity, which Mangaluru lacks- but Blanny’s ideas have surprised many as to how he still grows grapes in this humid city. Blanny’s dream has come true in growing grapes, and he is very happy that till now he got quite a few kgs of grapes. Grapes are seen all around the year over, but Blanny says that he repeats the procedure every six months and the yield has been very phenomenon. The funny part is that while the grapes are available only during the months of March-April, Blanny says he grows grapes all year long. Even though he happens to be the first person to grow grapes in Kudla, he never kept the secret of growing grapes in Mangaluru to himself, instead, shared the techniques with a bevy of other residents in the city.
Lately, Blanny planted some Tulasi plants to chase away the insects that have been attacking his vegetable plants. He says that earlier even though he had an ‘insect trap’ on the terrace, it didn’t work since the insects were still attacking his vegetation. But by placing Tulasi pots here and there on the terrace, the insect menace has disappeared, he said. He strongly believes that the Tulasi plant works as a repellent of insects attacking vegetable plants. He also said that he doesn’t use 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 only during certain months, here you can see quite a few vegetables that have grown abundantly. Blanny says that he has not purchased vegetables from stores for his house use, since 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 seeing 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 start this 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”, said Blanny.
Born in Mangaluru, Blanny completed his B.Com at St Aloysius College and then did PG in Konkani Studies before moving to the Gulf, where he worked as an auditor for a reputed five-star hotel in Sharjah. Married to Renilda Shanthi, who is presently the Principal of Mangaluru Nursing College in Thokkuttu, Blany is a proud father of a son- Darren Steve, doing his Final year engineering at Sahyadri Engineering College, and daughter- Donna Maria, who is studying in 10th Std at St Theresa’s School-Mangaluru. He also has his 86 year-old mother, Mrs Evelyn living with him, who also loves to spend time in the terrace garden and nurture the plants. Blanny 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, Blanny 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 gardens 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. (But not now due to the Covid-19 lockdown) He has conducted various talks through the power-point presentation, and many have gained knowledge about plants/trees and gardening from him.
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 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!
Think beyond the pot! For a first time gardener, a container is an 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. 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. On 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! You can call Blanny D’Souza for more details at 9972716340