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How to create an Urban Jungle in small space with 1500sqft_gardener

How to create an Urban Jungle in a small space

If you are thinking to create an Urban Jungle at your place, but you think it’s a really small space to do so, then you are definitely going to get amazed to watch this workshop on ‘HOW TO CREATE AN URBAN GARDEN IN A SMALL SPACE‘, held on 19th of June. Our speaker Mr. Sumesh Nayak, a passionate gardener will show he planted so many plants in his 1500sqft space and created an urban jungle. He has an active Instagram page called @1500sqft_gardener where you can see his amazing garden/urban jungle in a homely space.

Watch this video over Youtube.
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Sumesh Nayak and his majestic Urban Jungle

My Instagram handle is ‘1500sqft_gardener’ and I have a youtube channel by the name with the same name. I am from Bangalore and I have been practicing gardening for the past 8 years. I conduce shows on my Instagram channel on this 1500 square feet piece of land. The urban jungle is situated only on a small portion of land. In this garden, I have 35 varieties of fruits and more than 1400 plants. I’ll show my garden to everyone and give a detailed discussion on the same. 

“So, can we start with the tour of my urban jungle? asked Sumesh”  

“Yes, sure, answered Ishika.”

Let’s get a glance at Sumesh’s urban jungle!   

The trees just next to my house are the Avocado trees. Next to it is the Pomegranate tree. So, at the entrance, we have two good Avocado trees. We get 150 Avocados a year from these eight-year-old trees. At the entrance, we have miniatures and succulents of various types. There is greenery on all the sides of my house. When you come inside, there are Philodendrons, Monsteras, Money plants, and many more succulents. On the left side of my house, there are plants of orchid varieties. There are Anthurium Magneficum plants and at the end, there are Mulberry plants. The yield of Mulberry is over now. If you want to see the yield of mulberry and its fruiting, I have uploaded it on my Instagram handle. There are mangoes also. We had a pretty decent yield of mangoes this time. There are giant monsteras and even fruit trees of sweet lime. I personally love Monsteras a lot. So, there are a lot of varieties of Monsteras in my collection. There are yellow monsteras too. Giant monsteras are resting on the palm trees.  There are a lot of Philodendrons over here. There are even Sapodilla (Chikku) trees. The yielding season of chikku also got over. 

“How old is this Chikku plant?, asked Ishika”

“It is eight years old. So, we shifted here eight years ago and started planting all these trees. We started with fruit trees and then added more and more varieties of plants to our collection. ”

Over here, we have a plant named the Water Body. There are ordinary monsteras and variegated ones also. There is Rhaphidophora next to the Monstera plants. We have a lot of Singoniums. The plants over here are of Rose Apple too. It is also known as Java Apple. The plant next to the rose apple is known as ‘Allspice’. The leaves of this plant are used in cooking. At the other side of the garden, there are plants of Star fruits. There are Custard Apples, Hibiscus. There are Strawberry Guavas which are juicier and sweeter than the normal guavas. The grape trees are planted on the terrace. There are half-moon monsteras. 

“Can you explain to the viewers about the starting of growing all these plants and the challenges associated with it?, asked Ishika”

“The list of all my fruits are Avocados, Pomegranate, Star fruit, Custard apple, Guavas, Pink guavas, strawberry guavas, Dragon fruits, passion fruits, grapes, Sweet lime, two varieties of mangoes, mulberry, chikkus, cherry, rose apple, normal apple, water apple, gooseberries, Rambutan, litchis. All these fruit trees are in the 1500 sq. ft of the area including my house. We have tried to create an urban jungle where all the trees are planted together and grown in a small space to utilize space. All the fruits are good yielding except Rambutan and Litchi. You have to understand the requirements of the plant and take its proper care. In 2013, we moved into this place, and then we started gardening. I am from Kerala, Cochin. In my parent’s house, we have a good garden over there. But, I wasn’t interested much in gardening. When we moved over to my new house, I started gardening. Before this urban jungle, we only had basic plants like Tulsi and Curry leaves. We started researching more about plants when we moved over here. We started reading about the various varieties of plants and started gaining knowledge about the local fruits that can be planted. Understand whether you have to plant a fruit garden, a flower garden, or a vegetable garden. 

A mighty urban jungle in a compact place

  • Get a clear idea about the kind of garden you have to grow and plant accordingly.
  • Secondly, understand the varieties of local plants that will survive the given conditions. If you are from a humid or dry environment, certain plants do very well in such conditions.
  • Start slowly and steadily. It took us eight years to grow the plants to maturity. Take their good care and grow them well.  
  • Start with basic plants and then make slow advancement. The things that work for one person aren’t the same for another person. Everyone will have a unique garden
  • Lastly, try to be organic. Make use of more organic fertilizers than chemical ones. Go slow and use composting. Use cow dung or banana peels.
  • In the journey, don’t get disappointed if you kill any plant. Everyone learns from their mistakes and then improvises.”

Some questions and answers

  • “How much time do you spend with your plants in your urban jungle?, asked Ishika”

I and my wife are working personalities. So, we work five days a week and then indulge in gardening on the weekends. These two days are dedicated totally towards gardening and on the weekdays, we give 15-20 minutes regularly towards our plants. I walk through my urban jungle and identify the faults in my plants. Some plants need pesticides or some plants need to be taken more care of. So, we make a note of it and prioritize that particular plant on the weekends. In the working days, we only do the watering of all the plants. Even my daughter helps me in gardening and all of us share responsibilities of our urban jungle. We also maintain a planned calendar to decide activities to be done on a particular day and time. We do all these things according to our convenience. 

  • “What Inspired you to build an urban jungle?, asked Ishika”

Over a while, we got comfortable with plants and then it turned into an addiction. That’s how the journey towards an urban jungle started. The builder only provided a few palm trees and A butterfly is sitting on this tree. So, we ensure that we create an environment or an ecosystem that has a lot of butterflies. There is a saying that, if you are not attracting insects to your garden, then your garden is not part of the ecosystem. This is because there is a use of chemical fertilizers. So, try to make more use of organic fertilizers so that even the insects feel the garden to be a part of the ecosystem. 

  • “Can we grow any fruit plants in the balconies of Mumbai?”

You need to know the varieties of plants that can be grown in a pot or on a balcony. For example, Avocado can be grown into a pot, but the plant’s full potential cannot be obtained in such a way. There are certain varieties of Custard Apples that can be grown in a pot. Just, it will require a bigger dimension of the pot. Just ensure that the plant gets enough sunlight because sufficient sunlight is the key for any plant. 

  • “How did you start growing Orchids?”

I got the cuttings from my parent’s home and then propagated them over here. For any plant, always ensure to provide it with a natural environment. Even the monsteras are tied to the trees so that they can get a good grip. So, once a plant gets a natural habitat, the plant will grow to its full potential.

  • “Do you have vegetable plants in your urban jungleas well?”

We have a very limited variety of vegetable plants. We have brinjals, tomatoes, bottle-gourds, spinach, beetroots, carrots

  • “What is the minimum requirement of space required to build an urban jungle, like the one you possess? ” 

I would say that the urban jungle is in your mind and not in the land. So, space is not the requirement, but creativity is what matters!

  • “Don’t the plants cause any harm to the terrace when they grow over there?”

No. The plants don’t cause any harm to the concrete. Small, pot trees don’t cause any harm to the roofing. We don’t have any big trees like the banyan trees that can damage a concrete structure. We use stands for the pots to be kept. This helps to prevent water-clogging and the plants can be cleaned too. Waterproofing can be done on the terrace to avoid any problems. 

  • “Can you tell us the benefits and drawbacks of grow bags?”

When we started terrace gardening, we made use of grow bags, but it wasn’t successful. The reason is that not all grow bags are made of good material plastic. The plastic will get brittle and will get crushed. The durability of these bags is also very low. So, I suggest everyone use good quality containers of plastic or a terracotta container. 

  • “Did you get seeds for growing avocados?”

Yes, I had bought seeds for growing avocados. I have two varieties of avocados. One is the round variety and the other is the long variety. I have grown the round variety from seeds. The long variety is bought directly from the nursery. I even germinated the custard apple from seeds. It took a long time to germinate. The reason for germination is that it gives a good and faster yield. 

  • “Can you suggest some flowering plants for home roof-top plants?”

Jasmine is the best option and is very easy to grow. The next one is Rose. The hybrid and normal ones are the best. Morning glory, Rangoon creepers, or Jade creepers can be used if one wants to grow creepers. 

  • “Instead of clay soil, which soil can be used for lotus?”

Lotus requires only clay soil. There is no alternative for clay soil and direct sunlight. Avoid snail attacks on the lotus. If there is a snail attack on the lotus, immediate action has to be taken to kill the snails. I have a pink and white lotus on my terrace. They went to dormancy in the winters. During this phase, there was a snail attack on the lotus. Over a while, the plant completely went off and it is recovering now. So, this attack should be resolved as soon as possible. 

  • “How to resolve the problems of monkeys and snakes if we are growing an urban jungle?”

There are no monkey issues as we have a Villa layout. We have problems with snakes. The only care to be taken is to keep the area clean. So, the area has to be active, that is, if you walk frequently in an area, the snakes won’t come over there.  

  • “Would you like to suggest a remedy for Aphids?”

Water the leaves or spray the leaves so clean the dirt or germs on the leaves. Use neem oil diluted with water. 

  • “How do you take care of plants under extreme weather conditions?”

Understand the area and then plant accordingly. In Bangalore, there are generally hot days during summers. So, we make sure that we water the plants daily. If your area has frequent rains, ensure to use a potting mix to avoid water clogging. The roots of the plants rot if there is a problem of water clogging in the plant. Don’t use any trays for the plants.

  • “There are a lot of hanging plants in your urban jungle. So, how do you water all those plants?”

I generally use ladders for watering my hanging plants. You can use drip irrigation but it requires a lot of maintenance. 

  • “What type of organic fertilizers do you use for your plants in urban jungle?”

When there is an attack of mealy bugs or any other pests, wash or spray the plants with water thoroughly. Spray the plant with greater water pressure. Creating a proper surrounding for the plant also matters a lot. If there is yellowing of the leaves, prune the part immediately. We use onion peel fertilizer and banana peel fertilizers. 

  • “What is the frequency of using fertilizers or compost for a potted plant?”
    You can use fertilizers once in 45 days specifically for pots. If you are planting the plant in the ground,increase the quantity of fertilizers used.
  • “How do you manage the fertilization of your jungle?”

We purchase cow dung and use it as a fertilizer. 

  • “Would you like to suggest some more things about Monsteras?”
    • The major thing for monsteras is creating a humid environment for the plants. The sticks are also very important for giving support to Monsteras for climbing on other trees or seeking support. 
  • “Can you suggest some indoor plants that can be grown with the help of hydroponics?”

I do not know anything about hydroponics. So, I am unable to answer this question. 

“Hydroponics works for leafy vegetables like leafy vegetables. You have to provide the right environment for the vegetables too, suggested Ishika ”

  • “When you go for any vacations, how do you manage your urban jungle work?”

We have a house helper who takes care of the plants. So. at that time, the helper will take care of the watering and give fertilizers to the plants. 

  • “How to control rats and squirrels in an urban jungle?”

We are okay with squirrels. But, rats are something that causes a lot of problems for our plants. It is difficult to manage rats. 

  • “Can you suggest effective measures for terrace gardening?”

The use of any sort of stand is very useful in terrace gardening. Make sure to do the waterproofing of the terrace. Use plants that are not going to cause any damage to the building structure. If possible, have a greenhouse in place that has a green net according to the changes in the environment. 

  • “How to increase the leaf size of Mint?”

The best way to increase the leaf size of mint is to simply pluck it. I have a normal mint and American mint on my terrace. So, prune the leaves regularly. Pruning and adequate sunlight are the best ways to increase the size of mint leaves. 

  • “Which type of pot would you suggest for planting?”

I prefer terracotta pots because they provide a natural environment. These pots provide the plants with a natural ecosystem. It is not required to change the terracotta pots as they are very sustainable. If the pot is good, there is no need for changing the pot. The drawback is that the rate of evaporation is generally fast, so you have to water the plants frequently. If you are using a plastic pot, then make sure to use a plastic pot. Low-quality plastic will get damaged after 3 to 4 years. It will damage the plants too. So, invest in good quality plastic. Never use cement pots because cement pots generate heat and it is not good for the plants and their roots.   

  • “Can you give some additional tips and tricks for gardening?”

 Have a proper plan for gardening. Have a layout for doing the task required for doing gardening. Have an immediate backup plan if you have a plan for traveling. 

Thank you Sumesh for your time 

So far, I would like to say that the journey was very good and the audience would also have liked the workshop. We all are really inspired and motivated by seeing your urban jungle. People will also grow more trees by looking at your garden. Thank you so much Sumesh. Thank you for conducting this workshop in the urban jungle!