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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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No room for garden? Nature blooms on rooftop

- Former teacher pursuing horticulture for 10 years plans to visit agriculture varsity for expert help

A retired primary school teacher in the town has found his calling in horticulture and is busy pursuing his passion on his roof.

The octogeneraian resident of Professor Colony in the Rambag area, Pulkit Prasad Sharma, has been gardening on his roof for the past 10 years in the absence of adequate land around his residence. His initiative covers different kind of fruits, flowers, vegetables, spices and herbal or medicinal plants. The 30x30 roof has transformed into a garden in these past few years.

“Even though I am a novice in gardening, I nurse my plants with utmost care. I strived in collecting different kind of fruits, vegetables, flowers, spices, medicinal plants and herbal plants like agarmast (to treat jaundice patients) and aloe vera as they are not always available in one nursery. But at every nursery I visit, I take the unique plant I find and add it to my garden,” said Sharma, who is assisted by his family members.

His roof garden is home to trees as well as small plants in flowerpots. Tropical fruit trees such as satalu, plum and wood apple are potted around the space. Laden with ripe fruits, the trees are a delight for Sharma and anybody who comes visiting.

Varieties of mango trees, including Safed Malda, Amrapali, and Manalika, are a common sight on the roof. So are lemon, guava, jackfruit and pomegranate trees.

One would find vegetables, including cabbage, cauliflower, beans, and brinjal, and spices like bay leaf growing along with the fruit-bearing trees. Medicinal and herbal plants complement the garden — the basmati plant grows to be added to rice for an aromatic meal while kalmegh helps diabetic patients.

Sharma, however, is not content with his achievements. “If I find fruits that can be grown on the roof and can bear in less time, it will be my pleasure to add them to my small garden. To save my plants, I prepare my own organic fertiliser or compost from cow dung,” he said.

The small roof garden gets several visitors round the year from the districts adjoining Purnea. While some come to admire, other gardening aficionados turn to Sharma for learning his ways of nurturing plants. If hordes of people come to seek his guidance, Sharma rues the lack of expert help. He said: “I want to know what kind of plants can be grown in less soil and in flowerpots. These days, there are so many dangers to plants and I am helpless in saving them in the lack of experts. My beautiful plants are synonymous to my life.”

In his objective to add to his garden, Sharma now wants competitors. “If we can compare our plants, products and their qualities, it would help me add more plants. Healthy competition can go a long way in roof gardening,” said Sharma.

If that was not enough, in his search for experts, the octogenarian has decided to visit experts who can guide him on gardening on roofs, at the Rajendra Agriculture University, Pusa. His neighbour Ramanandan Raman who has been inspired by Sharma’s work will accompany him.

Sharma hopes with time, more residents of the town would adopt roof gardening, which he believes brings people closer to nature.