Through the Bandar Brundavanam Facebook group, the gardeners connect with each other, exchange seeds and plant cuttings, and share tips and experiences.

This group of gardeners in APs Machilipatnam grows everything from avocados to grapesImageCredit_RajeswariParasa
Features Gardening Wednesday, September 08, 2021 - 11:36

It was in 2017 that Mani Ratnam and his family built their own house in Andhra Pradesh's Machilipatnam town. Mani, a Chartered Accountant by profession, was passionate about gardening since childhood but could never find time for it. Once he moved into his new home, he started small with a rooftop garden in 2018 and within three years he has more than 50 varieties of medicinal plants, fruits and vegetables growing on his terrace. And what’s more, the plants are growing abundantly without the use of any chemical fertilisers.

For his rooftop garden, Mani uses only seeds and stems, natural fertilisers, soil from fields, and prepares his own compost. And he’s not alone in this endeavour, there are about 800 other active gardeners in Machilipatnam who are part of a closed Facebook group called Bandar Brundavanam. The group was started by Mani along with another gardener, Gowri Kavitha, in October 2019. Through this group, the gardeners connect with each other, exchange seeds and plant cuttings, share tips and experiences, and do many other gardening related activities.

“We gardeners in Machilipatnam connect through the Bandar Brundavanam Facebook group and the only rule is that no one should use any kind of chemical fertilisers,” says Mani. “We often buy natural compost, grow bags and other items necessary for gardening in bulk and distribute them among ourselves so that the cost burden is reduced,” he adds.

The group has given the gardeners a community spirit, leading them to experiment with growing different varieties of plants. From brahma kamal, avocado, apple, pear, dragon fruit, water apple, banana to grapes, they grow multiple varieties of flora and fauna on their rooftops and on the ground, if they have the luxury of space.

Hema Vallabhaneni, one of the gardeners from the group, says that with Bandar Brundavanam she felt encouraged to continue gardening. “We often get a lot of tips from fellow gardeners. Sometimes we’re not familiar with a plant and pluck it out thinking it’s a weed, but several such plants turn out to be medicinal plants, which prove to be effective home remedies,” Hema adds.

Hema has been growing grapes, snake gourd, bitter gourd, avocado, banana, pear, several varieties of leafy vegetables and flowering plants in her garden. She says that people often visit her garden to see the different varieties of plants she grows.

Many of the gardeners grow exotic varieties and actively exchange seeds of such plants, and also share extra produce via a barter system at a designated place.

Through the group, the gardeners clarify various doubts such as how to deal with plant diseases, pest attacks and understand changes in leaf patterns. Posts on when is the right time to plant which seed and at what distance are also shared. Useful newspaper reports are also shared on the group.

Indira Jammalamadugu, an active gardener for the last 8 years, says she has been part of Bandar Brundavanam since its inception. “Through this group, we exchange tips on how to grow plants using natural methods. I’ve made a lot of new friends from various age groups, and we often meet and exchange vegetables and fruits grown in our garden.”

Sharing a recent experience, Indira says that a 70-year-old man came all the way from Avanigadda, which is about 35 km from Machilipatnam, to collect the local papaya seeds that were available with her. “All the seeds we have are natural. As the fruits ripen, we preserve the seeds and distribute them to whoever needs them.”

The group’s common meeting point is the rooftop of Mani Ratnam’s office, which has also been turned into a mini garden. Here people can come and hand over any extra seeds they have or drop off excess vegetables and fruits which are later collected by others who receive the information through the Facebook group.

Before COVID-19 hit, the group used to meet at least once before the rainy season to exchange seeds and stems. These days, they have reduced meeting as a group and when needed, fix a place to exchange seeds or plants.

The group celebrated its first anniversary in October last year with the hashtag #1stanniversarygardentours, where people posted videos of their garden, talked about how they started it and shared tips for newbies who want to set up a garden.

Read: This Andhra town came together to save a hundred-year-old tree after it fell

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