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‘It Heals Me’: How I Grow 300 Plants Including 70 Fruit Trees On My Terrace

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“Gardening is therapeutic for me. It healed and grounded me, and made me a better mother,” Sushma Reddy shares. 

The 38-year-old encountered a major crisis six years back when her then 4-year-old son was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). The college topper and top performing software engineer had to quit her thriving career to focus on what mattered the most at the time – her son. 

What followed the diagnosis was shock, a sense of helplessness and a desire to provide the best for her child. Sushma would take him for therapy daily and wait outside for three hours of the appointment. A few months of this gruelling schedule left the Bengaluru resident drained both physically and mentally. 

She felt depressed, lost interest in her daily activities, stopped eating well, which all led to weight loss as well. A gynaecologist told her that she must pick up a hobby and do something that interests her. This advice proved to be a life-changing one, which ignited a deep-rooted passion in her.  

She decided to go ahead with gardening as it would come with an added advantage of giving her son fresh, organic vegetables and fruits to eat. Starting with a money plant in 2018, the engineer slowly grew to realise that she had a green thumb. From indoor plants, she branched to vegetables and fruits on the 1,000 square feet terrace of her rented apartment.

Today, it has grown into a green haven with over 300 plants, 70 of which are fruit trees. 

Providing Sushma with a much-needed outlet for her worries, she spends three hours a day tending to her darling plants, all on her own. Her passion also led to an Instagram account @glitters.of.nature which has over 4 lakh followers. 

What adds to this terrace gardener’s feat is the fact that all her plants, including her fruit trees are grown on 10-16 inch pots! She shares her story with The Better India.

Building a garden, and a home 

Hailing from Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, Sushma moved to Bengaluru post marriage. When her son was born a decade ago, the new parents started noticing some developmental delays, especially with regards to speech.

Sushma spends over 3 hours tending to her plants daily.

When he didn’t start speaking till he was three, doctors assured them that it might be a speech delay and asked them to wait till four. 

“For the initial few years, my son wouldn’t sleep for more than four hours. He also did not communicate. However, he would write on the walls, which led us to think that he had high IQ levels. The doctors also kept asking us to wait for another six months to one year for his speech to develop,” Sushma shares. 

When this continued till four, the concerned parents took him to different doctors, leading to the correct diagnosis of ADHD. 

Initially, he was diagnosed with autism,a neurological condition that causes difficulty with social interaction and communication, at the NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences), she shares 

“We started therapy for the same. Over the next few years, he was diagnosed with ADHD,” explains the mother. 

The long therapy sessions and difficulty in communicating with her little one took a toll on the young mother, which subsequently led to her taking up gardening.

Gardening is therapeutic for Sushma.

On a trip home to Visakhapatnam in 2018, Sushma remembered her doctor’s advice and got back a money plant-cutting to start her gardening journey. 

“Many of my relatives are farmers and also grow plants at home. I asked them for gardening tips and started my journey ,” she shares.

Tending to the money plant gave the gardener the confidence to try growing more plants. She ventured into growing green leafy vegetables, which she would feed her son daily. Later, she added more vegetables, such as tomatoes, chillies and beans. 

However, growing vegetables wasn’t as easy, she discovered, as she encountered many failures. 

“I would get one harvest of tomatoes but the next one would fail. I referred to several YouTube videos to learn the ropes, but ultimately, experience is the biggest teacher. I had to figure out when and how often to water the plants and give fertiliser. How much direct sunlight should be given was also a challenge,” she adds.

Slowly, she learnt that it was ideal to water the plants early morning, between 7 to 8 am, the best time to do pest control was either before 6 am or after 6 pm, and fruit trees generally need more water. Most importantly, she realised that the needs of each vegetable, flower and fruit was different, and she would have to work her way around that through trial and error.

Gardening as therapy

After the initial hiccups, her plants started growing beautifully. Seeing her vegetables thrive gave her the confidence to start growing fruits. She also had a more important motive – encouraging her son to eat fruits. 

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A post shared by Sushma (@glitters.of.nature)

Starting with guava, she today grows over 70 fruit trees, including mango, dragon fruit, custard apple, banana, papaya, strawberry. The trick, she says, is to buy grafted fruit plants, which will give you a better yield compared to seeds.  

She learnt this after she tried growing lemon and mango using seeds. The lemon tree bore fruit after five years, while she’s still waiting for that mango tree to bear fruit! Using grafted fruit plants, she has managed to grow over six varieties of mango. 

“In the first year, flowers will drop as the plant is not ready to fruit. Remove the flowers and focus on the growth of the plant. Typically, you will not get any fruits in the first year, maybe two in the second, five to six in the third and so on,” shares the gardener. 

Sushma grows all her fruits in 10-16 inch pots on her terrace, as she stays in a rented apartment and it would be easy for her to transport them, should the need arise. She would get a much better yield with bigger pots, she asserts. 

However, the Bengaluru resident is extremely satisfied with the yield that her terrace garden produces. With over 20 vegetables and 70 fruits, her family eats what they grow. 

“I am very happy today as I found my passion in gardening. It gives me immense satisfaction. The happiness I feel when a flower blooms is similar to what I feel when my son speaks a word,” shares the mother. 

Edited by Padmashree Pande, Images Courtesy Sushma Reddy.

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‘It Heals Me’: How I Grow 300 Plants Including 70 Fruit Trees On My Terrace

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