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Dilmah Conservation Lifestyle Series

January 26, 2020
  • Dilmah Conservation Lifestyle Series
  • Dilmah Conservation Lifestyle Series
On 29 January from 5.45 p.m. onwards at the Lighthouse Auditorium and Lawns, the second lecture of the Dilmah Conservation Lifestyle Series will take place.

The series is focused on how to live smart and designed to address the need for a number of tools that will enable it. This month, the focus is on edible gardening and turning your space, even if it is only a balcony, into a green one and also making it a resource for food.

The series is moderated by Sunela Jayawardene, an expert environmental architect and sustainability consultant. The lecture will feature two individuals who come from vastly different fields speaking to the audience on the hows and whys of edible gardening.

Miller Rajendran is a computer science graduate from the University of Jaffna. He is a tech enthusiast and a serial entrepreneur. In 2016, Rajendran founded SenzAgro (Pvt.) Ltd., the first agtech company in Sri Lanka. As the pioneers, SenzAgro disrupted the agriculture industry from the root. And as for their agtech achievements, SenzAgro received Slush Global Impact Awards (GIA) in Finland and awards at ClimateLaunchpad in Edinburgh. Rajendran is a great promoter of startup ecosystems, social enterprises, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He is a core volunteer member of Yarl IT Hub – a volunteer-driven startup accelerator based in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. He is also well recognised for promoting SDGs and entrepreneurship among school students.

Channa Ekanayake is a professional artist and naturalist. He jointly designs butterfly gardens with the Forest Department. He is also a guest lecturer at the Faculty of Environment Sciences in the University of Colombo and the Faculty of Architecture in the University of Moratuwa. He has participated in many reforesting and organic agriculture projects across the island. He currently lives in a small-scale urban forest garden with a personal studio and gallery.

The lecture itself will cover the following areas:

  • How to make a vegetable garden for the family to improve health, reduce food costs, and enjoy much more diverse produce.
  • How to plan a garden big enough to produce enough vegetables for your family, but not too big to waste too much
  • Some of the key aspects to planning your garden such as, what you are trying to grow, how to grow it, and your plan to use vegetables
“Everything starts with understanding your garden’s environment parameters which defines your plant’s growth. This is the basic thing you should do before choosing crop varieties or preparing the planting field.

“Monitoring the ambient temperature and humidity changes for a period of time, understanding the soil pH and electrical conductivity (EC), and drawing the field plan and drainage slop would be helpful. With the understanding of the environment, gardeners can choose the field type they want to build. There are tonnes of options to choose from – raised garden bed, mulch, polytunnel, container growing, balcony gardens, vertical gardens, hydroponics, and much more. But choosing the garden type is dependent on your space, inspiration, and most importantly, your budget. Costs involved and estimations will also be shared on the day,” said Rajendran.

The type of vegetable garden you are going to grow makes a dramatic difference in the amount of space you need. Traditional row gardens use a lot of space in the passages between each column. Square-feet gardening and biologically intensive gardening claim to reduce the space required by up to 75%. Vertical gardening can also be combined with one or more other types, reducing the space required. It is highly recommended that you start small, with a square-foot garden that grows in a grid rather than start by queuing plants from around, in order to avoid being overwhelmed from the beginning.

Choosing plants is 25% preference and 75 % logic

The vegetable garden usually contains many types of plants. Some plants take up much more space than others. One pumpkin plant can fill an area of eight by eight feet, but you can put 64 bush bean plants in the same space. Also, plants of the same species can be produced in different amounts depending on the variety.

One variety of tomatoes may be famous for producing at least 10 pounds of fruit per plant, while another variety may produce very large fruits, but the total is only a few pounds. Plant a little bit of each vegetable so that you can gain some experience and also confidence before expanding.

There are sharable public plant charts that guide you based on the space needed, harvesting period, and season. That will help you plan your crop rotation on the field.

“The vegetable garden can supplement your family’s food needs, or it can provide you with most of what you need all year round. According to Home Vegetable Gardening, a pamphlet published by North Carolina State University in 1996, two families for one year required 1,050 square feet (25 ft x 42 ft using traditional row gardening). To meet the annual vegetable gardening needs of a family of three, you can decrease it by half,” said Rajendran.

The period during which the garden produces food affects the amount of space required. If you live in a temperate climate with multiple growing seasons, you can reuse space between harvests, reducing the space required to grow food. Even in the mildest climate of cold winters, you can produce several kinds of vegetables in a winter garden, increasing the productivity of the entire family’s vegetable garden. Start small under optimal conditions and increase the size of the garden according to your skills and needs.

“The importance of changing traditional consumption trends and habits is also important, especially if you are hoping to make a shift to an edible garden and fulfil your requirement. Native plants and how you can incorporate them into your gardens will also be highlighted,” said Ekanayake.

With the world heading towards a food shortage, edible gardening is soon becoming a skill we all need to learn and practise. A unique characteristic of this lecture series is that the content is simplified in order to make it as practical as possible. It is also very interactive and this particular lecture will be followed with a workshop early next month. We invite all of you to join Dilmah Conservation and be part of this important experience.

  • The type of vegetable garden you are going to grow makes a dramatic difference in the amount of space you need