Ever since Manasi Danukhe, a data scientist from Pune, started working from home, all she wanted was some peaceful space to get work done. This was no exhausting task by any means, thanks to the two balconies that she has turned into mini forests.
“While working, all I need is comfort, and my garden offers it in abundance. Every virtual meeting happens while sitting between the greens,” the 37-year-old tells The Better India.
Manasi says that up until 2016, she had not planted even one sapling by hand. But her interest in travelling to scenic places slowly brought out her curiosity about gardening in her. “My partner is a wildlife photographer, and when we started living together, both of us found the time and space to grow some plants,” she says.
Eventually, they tracked down a house with two balconies — 150 and 180 square feet respectively. All that was left now was to begin their gardening journey. They started with just two or three plants, and slowly, just like the climbers in their heavenly abode, the number grew steadily.
A rough start
Manasi began by visiting random garden nurseries and picking up whatever looked good from there. But the plants would die within days, she recalls. This made her read and research more about each plant and its planting methods.
“Being a data scientist, I consider old data to create new. I applied the same theory to my garden. I kept in mind the problems that occurred initially — the drying due to over exposure to sunlight, overwatering, pest attacks, and many others. Later, I selected plants and fertilisers by paying close attention. I used green shades to avoid heavy sunlight and neem water to control pest attacks,” she explains.
The first three years went by with this trial and error method. This period, she says, helped her understand more about the nature of each plant. “For example, succulents don’t need daily watering. It’s like a once in a week thing. Otherwise, the plant will die soon.”
She also made many changes at home to accommodate more greenery, “For example, the furniture we installed earlier in the balcony garden was being spoiled by rainwater. So we bought new items that could withstand the sun and rain instead,” she says.
Manasi says the lockdown period was a boon for her plants, as the couple could now spend more time taking care of them. Many more varieties were added during this period.
Presently, her mini forests have over 10 varieties of flowering plants like bougainvillaea, geranium, thunbergia, curvy and morning glory. There are also many types of ferns like philodendrons and pothos, alongside tillandsia, 50 hanging plants, and some Spanish moss air plants. Manasi says all of these need little maintenance in terms of water and pesticides. “But make sure you check each plant daily, and cut off yellow or dried leaves,” she says.
Manasi says she prefers growing more types of one plant than more plants of different varieties to make the space greener. “When I see one plant growing comfortably in my house, I grow more varieties of it.”
Earlier, the urban gardener would depend on a composter from her residential society to collect organic fertiliser. But eventually, she started successfully composting herself. “Nowadays, I never buy fertilisers from outside. Even after a busy day, I find time to easily make manure. Kitchen waste, dry leaves, and coco peat are the major ingredients for a compost. It takes less than a month for them to get ready. The compost can give dry or liquid fertiliser, as per your preference,” says Manasi.
Even though she has a tight schedule as a working professional, Manasi shares that she is fond of being engaged all the time. “I do a lot of activities on a daily basis, and gardening is one of them. I feel more productive and happy when I’m around plants.”
With over 500 plants in both balconies, Manasi’s house feels nothing short of a tiny jungle, replete with fresh air and a soothing ambience, ideal for work from home.
Read this story in Hindi here.
Edited by Divya Sethu