WHEN you bring to your home what has existed in the wild for millennia, the microenvironment becomes crucial. Gardening, as such, becomes a tightrope walk between various factors like sunlight, water and humidity. But how to achieve this balance? YouTube sensation Ekta Chaudhary’s debut book ‘Garden Up’ handholds you and takes you through the basics of gardening, step by step.
The idea behind Ekta’s book is not path-breaking and she knows it. What she’s done is to put it all together for a purpose: to give readers a handy guide to most common plants in a home garden, but more importantly, to build an intuition about what is growing and why it is behaving the way it is.
Ekta began her career as a researcher studying ecology for 10 years but took to gardening full-time and launched her own venture, Garden Up, aimed at helping young Indians find greenery, sustainability and balance in their lives. She has today earned herself a good two lakh plus followers on YouTube. The reasons are simple: she knows her science and dumbs it down for the layman.
The book begins with the basics — understanding the soil your plants are growing in by following a simple step like making a ball out of wet soil and shaping it into a cylinder. If you’re not able to make a ball, it has more of sand in it. It the ball breaks when you try to shape it into a cylinder, then it has more silt, else there is more clay. More silt means water won’t hold, more clay means your soil will hold more water than needed and while the upper layer on your pot might seem dry, it could actually be wet underneath! It is simple tips like these that make reading Ekta interesting.
From maintaining indoor plants to common problems and solutions such as deadheading, proper watering — practical tips from Ekta make one realise that while we all may be planting the best in our garden, we may not be making an attempt at understanding what the plants are telling us.
One of the few drawbacks of the book is the lack of colour. Depicted through photos, it would have made for a holistic guidebook; ‘Garden Up’ makes use of illustrations and these do not always convey the intended. Also, almost every few pages, Ekta talks of mulching to retain moisture, but explains the concept only towards the end. ‘Common problems of brinjal’ doesn’t include the most common problem of pests. What goes against the grain of the book is when she says that giloy grown on neem tree is believed to take on the medicinal values of neem. In a book that has 200 pages simplifying science of plants for readers, the word ‘believed’, somehow, doesn’t fit. It would have been nice if she had backed this up with some research.
That aside, the ‘super tips’ on every plant are delightful and eye-opening. For instance, did you know that marigolds are great companion plants to be grown with cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, potatoes and squash in a vegetable garden? Aimed at a new home gardener, the book will be helpful to even those at it for long.