Meet Prabal Mallick- The Gardening Expert Behind Organic Terrace

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 After a brief stint at Bangalore, when Prabal Mallick returned back to his hometown of Bhubaneswar in 2012, he was keen to start a terrace garden at his home. And now with numerous years of experience in organic terrace gardening, Prabal helps newbies learn the ropes of the trade through his workshops and his blog. In addition, he has also authored a book- “Organic Farming The Indian Way.”
In this interview, he talks about his passion for gardening, his workshops and his aspiration for the future.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Odisha in 1980 and after initial schooling, I went to RIMC Dehradun for schooling. I completed my bachelors from IIT, Kharagpur in 2002. I worked in Bangalore for sometime after graduating. The quality of vegetables and greens available there always bothered me. Back in my hometown Bhubaneswar we had access to organic vegetables grown by small farmers locally. But with rapid urbanization in the last ten years, availability of fresh and safe vegetables became an issue even there. So when I shifted back to my hometown Bhubaneswar in 2014, I started to explore and experiment with growing fresh vegetables on our terrace in a sustainable and organic manner using locally available materials and waste products. With the help of my family, especially my father, we soon had a full-scale garden on our terrace and most of our vegetables and greens started coming from our terrace garden. Now it has become a way of life for us. I share my learnings on Organic terrace gardening in my website and conduct regular workshops.

Could you tell us a bit more about the workshops you conduct?

I conduct workshops for both adults and children on Organic Urban Farming. For adults, the workshop is spread across two to four weeks so that participants can get hands-on experience of what they are learning. Along with classroom lectures they also carry out each and every major gardening activity during the workshop from mixing their own potting soil, planting seeds to composting, preparing organic fertilizers and pesticides. For children, it is usually a one-two day workshop where they learn to grow a simple vegetable on their own. Here the focus is more on the practical aspects than the technical ones.
I also have an online video course available in different configurations. One can choose the right configuration and enrol for it at our website

How did you discover your passion for gardening?

As a child, I was very curious. I remember planting moong beans in our backyard when I was not even ten and observing the progress from germination to fruition every day. My father is also an avid gardener, and he too has been one of my inspirations. And as I said earlier, I realized that growing one’s own food was becoming a necessity and that is when I started doing it seriously.

People often consider organic gardening to be a lot more difficult. Is this a myth?

Definitely organic gardening demands more involvement. There is also a longer learning curve and one needs to be more observant and there is effort involved. But all good things are like that. Initially, there is a learning curve, but once you have crossed that its a rewarding experience. People have become too used to the fast-food lifestyle and expect results very soon. That is why organic gardening seems a little difficult. But if one is ready to learn, put in the effort and be patient, then organic gardening is an enriching and fulfilling journey.

Newbies could often get disheartened when there is a pest attack or plant don’t give a yield as expected. Any words of motivation for such people?

When you are working with nature you must be ready for surprises and uncertainties. It may sound cliche, but every failure in the garden is a learning opportunity. Instead of getting disheartened, you must understand why it happened and then use that knowledge in future.

With a vast majority of people being affected by lifestyle diseases, how important do you think is it to grow your own food?

There are no two ways about it. Everyone has to grow their own food to whatever extent it is possible. Food not only has to be poison-free and nutritious, but it also must be eaten fresh. Only then our body and mind benefit from the food we eat. This is possible only when your own food. If nothing else one can always grow herbs, microgreens and even green leafy veggies easily and eat them fresh.

Is it really practical for a busy city dweller to indulge in organic gardening considering time and space constraint they face?

For most city dwellers who think they don’t have space, actually have enough space to grow something or the other. One just has to be creative enough to use spaces available at home for gardening. You can even grow vegetables on a window sill. Sunlight is another issue with urban spaces. But even if one gets 3-4 hours of sunlight, one can grow shade-tolerant plants. There are many possibilities and with a little knowledge and some creativity, one can easily grow vegetables and herbs in most city spaces.
Coming to the time factor, I would say that we always find time for things we prioritize. We have hundreds of things to do in a day. But we do only a few of them; the ones that we consider as a priority.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
 I never think so much into the future and try to be in the present as much as possible. But yes I have a vision of having a school where every child not only develops in the best possible way according to her own intrinsic capabilities but also becomes adept in the basic life skill of farming.

 

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