Started by utilising the plastic junk and kitchen waste of the household, a Bhopal- based environment lover has turned her backyard in Bhopal residence into a mini forest with growing around 4,000 plants of 450 species, including 150 rare ones.
Sakshi Bharadwaj, an assistant professor of agriculture with a private university, lives in the premises of Bhoj (Open) University in Chuna Bhatti area. She has grown plants, which emit high levels of oxygen, absorb radiations and have medicinal values. In the process, the young gardener has turned her 850 sq ft backyard into a mini-forest.
“We have been traditionally planting oxygen emitting trees neem, pipal, banyan but with the growing urbanisation, we have shifted to bungalows to flats to studio apartments and have limited space. So, I wanted to plant lesser known species that could replace these traditional large plants and do the same job,” said Sakshi, who also addresses online workshops nationally and internationally on gardening and horticulture.
A Jabalpur-native Sakshi claims she is working on sustainable urban forest concept and believes that even if someone has limited horizontal space for greenery, one can always have plants in vertical spaces (walls) and overhead spaces.
Starting to develop a backyard garden in year 2018, Sakshi started using jungle cultivation techniques by the year 2019. We always had organic kitchen waste including leftover vegetables, fruit skins and coconut husk which takes long to decompose so I started using it as a planter and turned kitchen waste into vermi- compost and bio-enzymes.
It was in year 2020 she came across an online gardening community, which were growing exotic and rare plants. The girl then reached out to these community members and sources several of these exotic plants and later contacted authorised to enhance her collection.
Sakshi always nurtured love for nature and which is why she pursued microbiology in her student days. The keen interest grew further as she started working as an assistant professor. “As I taught plants’ genetics, I thought of having a first-hand experience of these theories in my own garden,” she said. She has named the unique garden ‘Jungle Vase’, Sakshi said that a vase normally has a plant similarly the garden holds a mini forest like a vase.
Try and experiment at home
She tried to experiment methods at home, she said. She said she lost many plants while carrying on experiments but it always gave her the experience which she used later to hone her gardening skills. She raised plants, bought many and sources from many locations. She made bio-enzymes out of kitchen waste and often produced vermicompost feeding worms medicinal plants. My experiences told me that each plant has different requirements, some thrive in sand mixed soil, some need black soil and some others require regular tilling (gudai) for air circulation. Some plants survive in bright sun and others need shades, added the young gardening expert.
Based on her experiences, she prepared charcoal mix soil, which can hold water for longer duration. At times I watered plants once in two days even when the mercury soared to 46-48 degrees, said Sakshi. I used fertiliser once in a month instead of fortnightly usage, she added saying coconut husks can also hold onto water longer.
The young environment enthusiast plans to connect to like-minded people and wishes to work for the diminishing green cover in the state capital Bhopal.
The garden has rare species like Albo monstera, Variegated Syngonium, Black JJ, Philodendron Mexicanum, Philodendron Millettia, Begonias, Calathea, Palms, Peperomia, Ficus, Epipremnum, Sansevieria, Chlorophytum and others. Some of them are near extinction and have been sourced from authorised plant sellers from Amazon rain forest, Thailand and other locations. Their USP lies in high oxygen producing capacity, medicinal qualities and absorbing radiations of various kinds.
Plantation should be included in school-college syllabus
The young environment enthusiast laments that basic knowhow about plants remains missing among kids despite environment science being in school syllabus. You can ask any 10-12-year-old kid ways to plant a sapling and he/she will be clueless, said the 26-ear-old adding this should also be part of civil engineering so that we have sustainable and eco-friendly structures which integrate greenery into urban planning. She pointed out that people in South Indian states have better understanding of plants.
Non-degradable waste used
Sakshi believes that every household non-degradable waste such as newspapers, plastic bottles, cans, milk pouches and others which we sell but re-using them in creative way is a good way of reducing urban waste. So she used dried and emptied coconut shells, bottles and cans as planters, milk pouches to propagate seedlings.
‘Mini jungle’ enters into records
Sakshi Bharadwaj’s green effort has entered into 2021 edition of OMG Book of Records for ‘creating a 850 sq ft Sustainable, Urban, Vertical & Overhead mini jungle.