7 Questions for 7 Experts, #7 Going green fingered

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Welcome to day 7 of  ‘7 Questions for 7 Experts’, Goumbook’s guide to navigating your way through the challenges of life in lock-down, dedicated to bringing positive and supportive information during these difficult times.

Welcome to our last day of our ‘7 Questions for 7 Experts’ guide to navigating your way through the challenges of life in lock-down and dedicated to bringing positive and supportive information during these difficult times.

As we settle into this new rhythm of remote work and isolation, we ask one expert every day to help us address specific questions we might need help with.

The world has plunged into uncertainty due to the Coronavirus and the constant news about the pandemic can feel relentless. Self-isolation as well as working from home whilst attempting the precarious daily challenge of home-schooling kids can take its toll on our mental and emotional well-being.


It’s day seven and we come to the last in this series of our advice pieces. 

Thank you for all your feedback, it is so encouraging to receive your positive comments. For our final piece we wanted to introduce you to an incredibly inspiring character, Rajender Kumar Bishnoi, founder of the Green Ghaf Gardening Group.

I have been spending more time in the garden recently, enjoying connecting with nature by planting some tomatoes and various herbs from seed; it really is such a simple pleasure when the seedlings start to grow and eventually, I can actually use the herbs in cooking.

I first connected with Bishnoi back in 2016 when he wrote an email to tell me the fascinating story of his ancestors, who, he says proudly, are considered the ‘first environmentalists’ of India. For over five centuries, the Bishnoi community of Rajasthan has been living in harmony with nature and wildlife. I was so impressed taht I wrote an article about the story and you can read it HERE.

Fast forward to 2020 and Bishnoi has continued in his ancestor’s footsteps. His aim is to connect people through nature by offering free planting and composting workshops. He is the founder of the extremely active Facebook group, Green Ghaf Gardening, which offers so much advice to and from budding and experienced gardeners all over the UAE.

As always, we welcome your feedback, connect with us by sharing your stories.

Be safe, stay positive and remain connected!


1/ Why would you encourage everyone to start planting, what are the benefits of doing this both environmentally and mentally? 

Planting is a good exercise and hobby for maintaining a healthy body and mind and immunity as you are exposed to the good bacteria in the soil.

Gardening for me is my happy time, it really makes me happy to connect with the earth and to share this passion with others.


2/ Is gardening an expensive hobby or lifestyle?

There is a very common misconception that gardening can cost a lot of money. Through my workshops I show you how you can source saplings, either from friend or through my group or from your own garden.

  • For pots you can reuse containers, yoghurt pots, plastic bottles or you can make them from paper and cardboard, ensure you put holes in the bottom though to drain out excess water.
  • You can take cuttings from other plants in the garden this is another good method of propagation with simple techniques or again from friends or neighbours.
  • For the compost you can make your own using household food waste.

I also give away a lot of free composting kits. My aim is to really encourage as many people as possible to start planting and hopefully composting and to create a wonderful community of gardeners in the UAE.

Bishnoi during one of his community workshops

Bishnoi during one of his community workshops

3/ How can I involve the kids in the garden?

Kids should be encouraged to do gardening. You can gift them flowers and ask them to grow their own plants from seeds and cuttings. They will be very happy to see their plants growing, blooming and giving fruit and by doing so they are connecting with nature, spending time outdoors and learning new skills.  It can teach them independence and responsibility as they have to water their plants every day in order for them to grow.

Check out the Bonus Video at the bottom of this article for fun seeding activities!


4/ If you don’t have a garden and live in an apartment or somewhere with limited space, is it still possible to grow plants etc?  Can you offer some advice for this?

Yes, it is very much possible in pots. You can do vertical gardening also or in a shelf or cupboard with trays/shelves


5/ What is the best kind of soil to use i.e. just from the garden centre or can we add anything to it to make it better to grow plants in?

Initially it is better to start with readymade garden soil. Later, you can make your own soil from red dune sand mixed with compost and by leaf mould (I give free composting workshops)


6/ Can I grow fruits and vegetables from the seeds of those I have eaten?  e.g. tomatoes, herbs etc, can you suggest a few where this might be possible?

Yes, very much. No need to buy expensive seeds from market. We can get from fruits, vegetables, grains, spices from what we eat.  The important thing is to understand that each plant has its own growing season and it can take between 4-6 weeks to bear fruit. You need to know the right season for growing plants, late in the year or early in the New Year is a good time before it gets too hot.

To make your own compost please watch my videos, they are simple to do.  To get rid of any nasty bugs such as aphids who love to eat the plants, I suggest either spraying with neem water spray or fermented rice water spray


7/ What is the one thing you each day that makes your life more sustainable?

Just thinking about nature, the earth, the environment and the relationship between humans, plants and living beings can change your attitude. Reducing, reusing, recycling waste can save the environment. In nature nothing is wasted, everything is usable.

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55-year-old, Dubai-based Rajender Kumar Bishnoi, is a civil engineer who works for a construction company. He is a passionate about sharing his knowledge of gardening, compost making and enjoyment of the nature.

Connect with him: bishnoirk@gmail.com


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Bonus Video