Dubai: Meet the organic farmer who grows her own fruits and vegetables

Eda Ozturk Davasligil grows 90 varieties in her home garden



by

Nasreen Abdulla

/

Rahul Gajjar

Published: Tue 2 Aug 2022, 6:28 PM

From rare pink okras to passion fruit, this organic farmer grows 90 varieties of fruits and vegetables in her home garden in Dubai Hills Estate. Meet Turkish national Eda Ozturk Davasligil, who has been sculpting an absolute miracle in her garden over the last 3 years.

This self-taught gardener has been saving hundreds of dirhams by growing all her fruits and vegetables organically. “The initial set up is costly,” she admits. “But once you get the hang of it, gardening is a great way to grow your own food and save money.”

Organic beginnings

It was when her children were still young that the industrial-engineer-turned-health- coach Eda decided to feed them organic vegetables. However, the cost of it made her eyes pop. “I tried shopping in a lot of different places, but the prices were just too much for me,” she said. That is when she hit upon the idea to farm her own vegetables. “My father was a farmer in Turkey so I decided to give it a shot.”

However, she wasn’t exactly Miss Green Fingers. “I had tried to grow and killed many plants,” she laughed. “So the first couple of months I spent a lot of time researching and reading. Then I started with one plant.”

The one plant turned to many more plants and trees. Finally when she moved in to her current villa at Dubai Hills Estate, Eda decided to take her passion up a notch. With all the new space that she had, she began to landscape her garden and practice companion planting which allows certain plants to benefit from each other when planted together.

She uses the entire wall of her house to grow her various plants. She also adds in arches to increase the vertical space of her garden.

Composting

The secret to Eda’s prolific organic gardening is compost. “Gardening is creating and understanding life,” she said. “I never put pesticides or fertilizers in my soil. Instead I use composting. It is most important to nurture and nourish the microorganism in the soil.”

Eda uses three different kinds of composting in her garden- worm composting, Bokashi composting and hot composting. Worm composting, as the name suggests, uses worms to break down kitchen waste into compost. When we visited her house, Eda had moved them indoors because worms don’t survive in temperatures above 30 degrees. Bokashi composting uses bokashi sawdust to ferment waste in an air-free environment. Hot composting is the usual method of bringing together organic waste with water to break it down in to compost. “The benefit of using Bokashi is that it is very quick,” she said. “What would take six months to make in hot composting can be made in 2 months using Bokashi. I have a system where I first use bokashi and after 2 weeks I move it into my hot composting bin”

Seasons

One of the most important edicts Eda follows is to have something planted in her gardens at all times. “Soil has to be constantly working if you want it to give you the best results,” she said.

According to Eda, the planting season in Dubai is divided into two - the winter and summer. In the winter, the farmer starts sowing seeds in late August or early September. “By October, the garden is in full bloom,” she said. “For me, the whole journey does not just feed the stomach. It helps your mental health as well. To start gardening and watching your hard work come to life is one of the most rewarding things.”

The sowing for summer starts between February and March. “There are many plants that can grow during Dubai summer including melons, basil, okra, molokhia and sweet potato. The key is to put up sunshades of the correct percentage and practice companion planting effectively.”

This summer, Eda’s garden harvest was impressive.

Experimenting

“I love to experiment every single time,” said Eda. This year, she has been dabbling with an indoor hydroponics garden where she grows peppers, tomatoes and lettuce. “It isn’t organic,” she said. “But I just wanted to try it out. Cherry tomatoes grow really well in it.”

Eda is also experimenting with fruit trees this year. “When I went away on vacation last week, my garden managed to kill a few,” she said. “I am trying to revive some of them in the garage now.”

However, failures don’t daunt Eda. Mistakes have been a part and parcel of her journey. Last week an entire batch of her celery and broccoli dried up because the self-watering system she set up didn’t work. “Mistakes are the biggest teachers,” she said. “Without making mistakes you don’t really improve or learn.”

Eda’s tips for first time gardeners

Start small: Begin with one plant. If it doesn’t work, move to another. It is important that you start small and then go from there.

Experiment: Every garden is different, every soil is different. Your garden might be different from the neighbours. Always experiment with different kinds of plants or crops to see what works best for you.

What to grow: Grow something that you will be excited about planting, harvesting and eating. For example, radish grows well in the UAE, but if you don’t like it, what is the point of growing it?

Never be discouraged: If someone had told me 5 years ago that I would have such a huge garden, I would have laughed. But here I am. Never underestimate your skill as a gardener and enjoy the journey of planting and growing.

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