Many people dream of planting fruit trees in their homes, but few people have a large piece of land to plant, especially in urban areas. Abdurazak, an Indian living in Tirur, Kerala state, also had this wish and was able to fulfill it by planting fruit trees in plastic barrels.
The desire to have a vegetable garden was born when Abdurazak lived in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where he worked in the wholesale fruit and vegetable trade. After 30 years, when he returned home to India, he decided to put the idea into practice. Without much sunlight on the ground, he would need to plant on the terrace and opted for plastic barrels with a capacity of 70 to 130 litres.
Today, at 50, the Indian has realized his dream and has an orchard of 250 trees, of which 135 grow in barrels. There are about 70 varieties of fruit trees from different parts of India, as well as countries like Thailand, Pakistan, Brazil, and Australia.
In addition to reaping its own fruits, it also helps to take care of the environment by reusing plastic drums used that would be discarded.
decades of learning
3 decades of experience working with fruit growers and sellers in Dubai has given Abdurazak a great understanding of the market and the different methods of growing different varieties of fruit trees around the world. According to him, the idea of gardening in plastic barrels was inspired by a fruit farm in Thailand.
“When I was working in the fruit wholesale business, I had the opportunity to interact with various farms and agencies from more than 56 countries. One of the fruit farms in Thailand, which sent fruit to us, adapted this technique of growing fruit in plastic barrels. They have grown fruit in thousands of these plastic barrels and have had excellent yields,” he explains.
He says this method has been adapted to reduce wastage of labor and fertilizer. “When we plant these trees on land, about 75% of the fertilizer is wasted because it goes underground with the water. That leaves only 25% to absorb. So this method really stimulates tree growth,” adds- he.
Putting the idea into practice
Before planting the trees in the large drums, Abdurazak experimented with growing seedlings in smaller buckets to see how they would adapt to the Indian climate and water. He was working and looking for used plastic drums, cheaper than new.
“If you grow fruit trees in this way, you can get enough yield for you and your family,” says Abdurazak, adding that it is important to find varieties of fruit trees that bear fruit in all seasons.
He cautions, however, that the lifespan of fruit trees grown in barrels is shorter than those grown on land and that the yield, although faster, is also lower. “If you take 100 mangoes from a tree growing on land, you will only get 25 or 50 planted in barrels. But you could use the space occupied by a large mango tree to grow about 10 to 15 trees in drums, also of different varieties,” he explains.
Unlike trees that grow directly from the ground, trees in plastic containers need constant watering. “I installed a drip irrigation system on the terrace and I water it once in the morning and once in the evening. As they are on the terrace and exposed to the sun, they need more water than those on landwhich can be maintained even without water, since their roots have the ability to seek water in the soil,” he explains.
Along with careful watering, Abdurazak says he uses an organic fertilizer made from cow dung, neem cake, bone meal, brown sugar and sheema konna (Gliricidia sepium) leaves. “I mix it with water and spray it on these trees,” he explains.
Since the trees are kept in barrels and on the terrace, Razak says it’s important to prune them from time to time to keep their height at an optimal level. “It is important to keep trees with a maximum height of 2.5 meters,” he concludes.
How to grow fruit trees in barrels?
- Use plastic barrels with a capacity of 70 to 130 liters and choose them according to the growth of the fruit tree.
- Drill at least three 8mm to 16mm holes 3 inches from the bottom of the drum. The holes are used for water drainage.
- Fill a mixture of soil, organic fertilizer and coco peat to cover 3/4 of the drum, then plant the tree.
- Water them at least once a day or once every other day.
- It is suggested to spray organic fertilizer once a month or once every two months.
- Prune them from time to time and train them to grow to their optimum level.
With information from The Better India and Ciclovivo