They say fruits are nature’s candy. Sweet, juicy, and sometimes tangy, they are a great source of vitamins and minerals. But often, it is difficult to choose the right ones because they tend to be grown with a lot of pesticides. Moreover, chemicals like Calcium Carbide (CaC2) are injected in them to ripen them faster.
So, what is the solution?
For Sujata Naphade, the obvious alternative was to grow food at home. The 45-year-old Pune homemaker has been maintaining her home garden since 2008, growing about 70 varieties of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. In 2017, The Better India covered the prolific gardener’s successful endeavours in growing fresh produce at home.
She came from an agricultural family and could grow delicious fruits like grapes and strawberries with ease.
It started about seven years ago when a friend gifted her a grape sapling from Kerala, and now, the plant fruits three times a year. In conversation with TBI, she shares some steps to grow grapes and strawberries.
Things you need to get started
- A deep 100-litre drum for grapes and a rectangular pot which is one foot deep and 6-8 inches wide for strawberries.
- Moist soil
- Homemade compost
- Coconut husks (optional)
- Dried leaves
- Layer the drum with coconut husks as the base, followed by leaves and mud. Add some compost to the soil to make sure it is rich in nutrients. Follow the same process for the strawberry plant as well.
- Once you have added layers till the top, plant the grape sapling into the soil. Ensure that the roots are settled into the layers.
- The topmost layer of mud needs to be covered with a layer of brown dried leaves, a process known as ‘mulching’. This helps in retaining moisture while also providing nutrients to the soil.
- In the case of grapes, the reason to opt for a sapling instead of a seed is that it substantially reduces the time taken for the plant to fruit. If you use seeds, it may take seven long years to taste a fruit while a sapling can fruit in three years at the most.
- Strawberries, on the other hand, start fruiting a year after the runner (stem of a previous plant) has been planted.
- You can find the sapling from a nursery or online gardening communities. For strawberries too, it is advisable to plant a runner in soil. Either use a vine (for grapes) or a runner (for strawberries), always look out for nodes that are to be planted in soil as they become the roots over time.
Caring for the plant
- Once a month, provide rich nutrition to your plant by adding jeevamrutha. This is a mixture of cow dung, cow urine, jaggery, gram flour and mud, with ten parts of water.
- The grape sapling will take at least 1.5 years to grow 12-15 feet, and then it branches out in two opposite directions. Support them with upright bamboo logs or sticks so that the plant gets enough sunlight and oxygen.
- Unlike strawberries, grapes require patience. But, once you see the flowers on the plant, it is time to start pruning. Here, remove the extra vines and leaves that aren’t flowering, so that all the nutrition is devoted to the flower which transforms into the fruit.
- While you prune, keep some saplings for others and share your labour of love. Meanwhile, ensure that the plant is getting enough sunlight. Touch the soil to check if it is moist and keep adding the dried leaves for mulching.
- To keep the pests at bay, add cow urine with ten parts of water and spray on the plant. Similarly, mix buttermilk with ten parts of water, add to the plant soil and leaves.
- These practices not only provide nutrition to the plant but also protect it from bacterial and fungal infections.
- The flowering stage is followed by the visibility of the fruit. After this, it takes three months for the grapes to ripen.
Things to keep in mind
- Ample sunlight is key
- Monsoon is the best time to plant saplings for both fruits
- These fruits attract birds because of their sweetness. If you are unwilling to share with them, cover your fruits with a net.
- You could also use ash (after a bonfire or barbeque) to the soil. One spoon of this mix adds potassium.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)