Visakhapatnam-based dentist Sreedhar Bitra doubles up as rooftop gardener

Making a lifestyle switch to a green path is not that difficult assures Sreedhar Bitra who has done just that in his home

Flanked by towering mango trees andbamboo , dentist Sreedhar Bitra’s home at Pandurangapuram is a green space. He says the inspiration to keep to maintain a green cover his home pollution and toxin-free is a childhood one where he watched his parents nurtured plants in the backyard of their home in Sunabeda, Odisha. It was but natural to recreate that when he made Visakhapatnam his home.

The terrace garden looks deceptively small but it has fruit trees (papaya, mango, grapes and banana), a little vegetable patch and home composting pits. Every morning, Sreedhar spends an hour tending to his greens. “The first step for a healthy life is to eat healthy. And so we dedicated a part of our house to a kitchen garden where I now grow more than 20 varieties of vegetables, greens, herbs and fruits, all organically,” he says. “And the only plastic we have are the milk packets. I am yet to find a solution to that,” he rues. Around his house are four rainwater harvesting pits.

Sreedhar recommends

  • Vegetables like lady’s finger, bitter-gourd, greens like palak, tomatoes, beans and chillies are easy to grow.
  • The best ratio for home garden pots is 60 % soil and 40% cocopeat.
  • Re-potting every year or once in two years to have a healthy plant
  • The unused water from RO filters is rich with salts and minerals and is excellent for plants.
  • Composting at least 80 % of wet waste at source can generate healthy organic compost every month.

“I almost always have some vegetables or the other growing that I can pick and cook for meals,” says Sreedhar. He says the bountiful harvest of his garden is thanks to natural fertilisers and pest-control methods. Wet waste from the kitchen is used in the compost, which is used to boost the growth organically. “I use Epsom salt for citrus fruits. The salt is made up of hydrated magnesium sulphate (magnesium and sulphur), which is important to healthy plant growth,” he explains. His answer to pests is as simple – neem oil or powder.

Sreedhar has planned his garden in such a way that the yield is always seasonal. “What I grow is conducive to the season and are all native varieties,” he says.

Not just at home, over the years, Sreedhar has planted over 15,000 native plant species in a systematic manner across the city along with his friends and colleagues. “It’s unfortunate to see that beautification measures undertaken in the city often find exotic or invasive species, which are non-conducive and extremely detrimental to the city’s ecosystem,” he laments. The situation is no better when the agricultural sector where less than 10 % of what is grown is actually organic. “Each time you add chemicals to the soil, the micro-organisms perish gradually and over the years the yield suffers considerably,” says Sreedhar.

Passion for sports

  • Apart from being an eco warrior in his own way, Sreedhar is also a passionate sportsperson.
  • He offers financial support to promising sportspersons from economically backward families and is also actively involved in organising several cultural events in the city. Two of them are swimmer Ravi Teja, who has participated in several international competitions and M Durga, who has participated in many international karate championships.
  • Sreedhar is also the president of Visakha Art and Dance Association

He assures people that making a lifestyle switch to green and sustainable does not take much effort. “Start off by growing something easy like lady’s finger, spinach and tomatoes. It’s also a good idea to grow things you want fresh, like coriander,” he suggests. In the next season, he is gearing up to grow vegetables using hydroponics (growing plants without soil, only in water).

Tall and strong

  • Among the world’s tallest trees are the redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), which tower above the ground in California. These trees can reach heights of 300 feet (91 metres).

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