Meet Our Backyard Garden Heroes

Meet Our Backyard Garden Heroes

Zizira explorers were curious to find out how much the people of Shillong, with a backyard garden, know about the hidden potential of Meghalaya in terms of agriculture and horticulture. We set out to find more! Walk down any road winding its way through households and you are bound to see patches of cabbage, creepers of chow-chow, some beans and even lemongrass being tended to.

Backyard garden is a common sight in and around Shillong, perhaps all across Meghalaya. People are knowledgeable about plants and know how to grow them. Will they not be a source of first-hand information for Zizira explorers? Let’s find out.

How These Intrepid Shillong Women Created Their Backyard Garden

Curiosity got the better of the Zizira explorers and we were excited to talk to some of these intrepid backyard gardeners to find out more. We set out to talk to a few gardeners to discover what ticks.

Convert your idle backyard into a garden
Convert your idle backyard into a garden

Backyard Garden Hero

Kong Judy, all of 84, must potter around her flowers and vegetables for at least four hours a day on the sprawling front and back gardens of her bungalow. Gardening is her passion. Walking straight, with not a bent on her tall frame, she keeps healthy that way. She took Zizira explorers around her big, well-kept lawn and garden, satisfaction and contentment all over her ever smiling face. Her backyard garden sprouts beans, carrots, beetroots, cabbages, kakrol, mint, coriander, chillies and tree tomatoes.

Kong Judy in her backyard garden
Kong Judy in her backyard garden
Kong Judy's' front yard
Kong Judy's' front yard

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What Does She Do With the Produce?

It’s mostly for home consumption. She’s very happy of the fact that she hardly has to buy vegetables from the market, except for onions and potatoes which she doesn’t grow. Wow! Growing one’s own food? What about the surplus? She gives away the surplus to relatives, neighbours and friends. She even gives saplings and seeds to those who want.

Does she know that the departments of agriculture and horticulture give aid to farmers in the form of plants and materials? She knows, and quite often sends someone to get materials from there. And what fertilisers does she use? She was incredulous. “Fertilisers? I don’t use fertilisers. See that bin over there?” she pointed to an old drum, “that’s where I dump all kitchen waste, vegetable peels, fallen leaves, and grass shavings. After some time, that becomes excellent manure for my plants.”

Neat rows of cabbages, beans and bokchoi in Kong Judy’s backyard

An old drum for manure composting
An old drum for manure composting

Backyard Organic Gardening Heroes (2)

Kong Malngiang, 35, fish seller by evening... She lives with four sisters in a rented place. A narrow mud pathway leads to their modest hut. Not much land. It’s rented, she explained. She sells fish along with elder sister in the evenings, and during the day she does the household chores and tends to their little garden.

Kong Malngiang's modest home
Kong Malngiang's modest home
Kong Malngiang in her garden
Kong Malngiang in her garden


What Does She Grow in Her Backyard Garden?

We saw rows of maize, beans, carrots and beetroots, in fact, quite an array of every vegetable. What do they do with vegetables? They consume them. Here too, except for some vegetables like potatoes and onions, they produce most of the stuff they need on such a small piece of land.

Team Zizira saw that there’s so much of maize. That’s for sale, she said. Does she sell surplus vegetables? Yes, she does, and that adds some augmentation to the little income that they have. Kong Malngiang hasn’t heard of the agriculture/horticulture departments’ aid initiative. She was happy to hear Zizira would try and help.

Before Zizira explorers left, we spied a healthy pumpkin vine across the back of the hut. They got about a hundred pumpkins last season she said, selling for about ₹30 each!


What Does Team Zizira Draw From the Stories?

It’s absolutely possible, even desirable to make use of every bit of space available to grow a backyard garden. Space really is not a constraint. Both these enterprising women of different economic strata are passionate, enthusiastic and diligent about their respective organic gardens. They possess one thing in common: drive, determination and grit to work their garden to maximum advantage.

Now, aren’t you tired of that lifeless patch of a backyard, filled with every conceivable debris? Or of that empty little useless corner up the steps in your porch? Or you notice that tempting window sill with lots of sunshine waiting to be tapped for energy? Yes? Then use your imagination and innate creativity. Convert that desolate desert of gloom into an oasis of bloom!

Surprise yourself with the ‘green fingers’ you never knew you had. Go create your very own backyard organic garden; you have nothing to lose, everything to gain! As you grow your garden the garden really grows on you!!! Along with government organisations, authorities and associations we at Zizira are committed to make a difference in the lives of farmers, around Meghalaya and the northeast. We envision to bring these simple folk from the borders of marginalisation to the mainstream.

Come join hands with us and subscribe to our newsletter Let us know what you think and in case you plan to start up your own or already have one, do share your experience with us.


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