Too much or too much?

I have about 60 pots of plants in about 400 sq feet space. I have a few people ask me if this is not too much, and the terrace may not hold the weight. I have done all the research possible, experts say that it is okay. If the terrace can hold lashing rains and so many people, it can hold the weight.

Only trick is that you need to find where beams run in the lower ceiling of the house and use them as the space to place your pots. Also use the corners of the terrace to place more pots. Spread the pots evenly. Use grow bags where possible, it will reduce the weight to an extent. I only have about 3-4 cement pots, everything else is a grow bag or plastic pot (which I will need to change soon)

As a final note, do NOT keep the plants in the same place for years together. It will develop roots, which will begin to move to the terrace and spread! I have seen many places where the gardener has simply not bothered to move the plant pots, and ended up having roots on the floor of the terrace.

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Happy Gardening!

You too can grow Veges Part 3

In the past, I have had issues every time I sow seeds, grow plants and water them. Suddenly some day while watering, I have water standing in the pot. Then it becomes an everyday issue, and then some day the plant dies. This has happened quite a bit before.

Later in the days, I identified two reasons why the plants end up swimming in the water. First main reason being, the soil ends up closing up the water drainage holes. Sometimes, it could be even the roots of the plant that closes the holes. Other times, the number of holes / size of the drainage holes would not have been big enough, ending up being closed.

Solution: I began placing a big rock to essentially “hide” the hole from the roots, this way even the soil closing up the hole does not happen. You can even use wire frames, topping it with coconut fiber / husk, or small pebbles to do the same.

The other reason was – I used to use the soil that I buy from the shops directly into the pots and plant my saplings. Even if it is red soil (which is better compared to other soil, in most cases), the soil tends to becomes too dense and water penetration becomes an impossibility.

Solution: I mix up the soil with sand, coco peat and compost so the soil can “breathe”. You can also use the garden fork to loosen up the soil a bit. Ensure that you do not disturb the soil often. Just an occasional loosening up will help.

More on this later!

PS: I am off to sow my seeds now, after setting up the soil that is.

 

Get Set…

Having just one more day to start my sowing plan, I have so far collected —

  1. Seeds
  2. Fertilizers
  3. Coco peat
  4. Part of the soil I need
  5. Grow bags

I usually let the seeds grow straight from the pots. I am going to be sowing in a separate medium before I transplant the saplings later.

I still need to set up the space. Then I am all set!

Some photos from my garden for the lazy Sunday morning.

You too can grow Veges Part 2

In the last post, I mentioned about the commonly used fertilizers for the potting soil. It works out equally well with the ground soil as well. Using compost to the soil adds up as good as the other fertilizers.

The trick is to keep replenishing the soil every 10-15 days or so, depending on the cycle the plant is in. Around the time it begins its growth as a tiny sapling, ensure that the quantity of fertilizing is lesser as the new plants cannot bear the heat that well. Please ensure that you do not add fertilizers right after you cut the plants. You can either fertilize before cutting or a week after cutting. More food is necessary around the time new shoots appear, new flowers / veges appear.

Last year, I fertilized at my convenience. My mom insisted I add up fertilizers every time she visited me. But I did not do it. Boy was I wrong! These days, I add up neem oil cake and groundnut oil cake with the water that I am going to be using the next day. Mix it up thoroughly and let it sit for 24 hours before applying on the plants. If you make a concentrated solution, you can mix up with more water to liquidate it before application.

If I am using goat manure, it is just direct application. I just add a handful or less to the area close to the roots.

Panchagavyam is either mixed in the ratio of 1 litre to 10 litres of water and applied like we water the plants or a little bit of concentrated solution is made (30 ml to 1 litre of water) and sprayed on the leaves.

One of the above should be done every 10-15 days. If you got compost, you could scrap out a layer of soil and add compost and refill a layer of soil. This works wonders!

More on this in the next post.

Saving water for the summer..

I am almost dreading the days of summer, since we are already almost out of water. So how do I maximize conservation of water, esp. since I have plants to tend to? Do you know, you can use the outlet water from the RO water purifier for the plants? I save every drop of water from the outlet. I let it sit for a few hours before using them for watering the plants. I get close to 30 litres of water there. I do not use the hose to water the plants, even though it might be an easier option, I use buckets to collect the water. This way, I know exactly how much water I am using for each plant (thereby reducing over-watering the plants).

I also use the water I use to wash the uncooked rice, excess water from cooked lentils and chickpeas, groundnuts/peanuts, essentially anything that I have not added oil to it for cooking. This water not only helps in reducing water usage, but also is nutrient rich (from all the cooking and washing, that is.)

You could also try and use the recycled water from the kitchen outlet / wash basins, as most of the water from the outlets will be almost good. With just a bit of make-shift filter system with pebbles /a filter bag and sand underneath and let the rest of the water flow into the soil / garden. This way, you can effectively reduce the amount of watering the plants!

People with fairly bigger budget can try and separate all the grey water from the black water and recycle them before using them again for toilets, garden and the like. Remember, every drop of water counts!

You too can grow Veges Part 1

The feeling of growing your own veges is something that can never be replaced when buying from the market, even if it might be from the farmers directly. You know exactly what you put in the soil to get the outcome.

It is probably easier than you can imagine. Last year this time, if you had asked me, I wouldn’t have answered this confidently. Last year this time, my only veges that I could harvest were egg plant / brinjal and greens. I had tried many veges last year. But I did not understand the importance of home made fertilizers or even bothered to add fertilizers like I do now.

If you grow veges right from the ground, the soil nutrition plays a higher role. Even if you do not fertilize the plant properly, the plants would be able to get some nutrition from the ground.

Container gardening is totally different, in the sense that even if the potting mix has loads of nutrients, it will get used up by the plants and some might be wasted by over watering, thereby need to replenish the soil becomes a necessity. Sometimes, we use coco peat to reduce the weight of the pot. Coco peat only helps in water retention, it has absolutely no nutrients. Fertilizing the potting soil becomes even more necessary. I was ignorantly using up the soil and blindly hoping for outcome then.

The most important part of container gardening is fertilizer. When the fertilizers are organic, there is nothing like it. The most used fertilizers from my garden are:

  1. Panchagavyam
  2. Neem Oil Cake
  3. Groundnut Oil Cake
  4. Goat manure

I do not use Cow manure even though they are good because they take a while to break down, also sometime when I buy soil, the sellers mix up to cow manure to it already.

More on this in the next post.

 

Challenge accepted!

I am aiming at zero days of going to the vegetable market from sometime in the future, which means making sure every vegetable I want my family to have is grown from my own garden. Even though this might look impossible at the moment, I am hoping I will be able to achieve it soon, of course with a little bit of planning.

So here is the game plan.

Most seeds that we get these days do not have a specific sowing period, or that is what we are told. So I am starting this from the 20th of March, by which time I will need to have the basic setup ready (Grow bags, Soil/compost/coco peat/manure mix and ton loads of patience!)

Sowing plan

In essence, I am going to be trying three cycles of sowing before we change the game plan.

I am going to be sowing enough to let at least 2 plants of cabbage, cauliflower, gourds and pumpkin, 3 plants of tomatoes, chillies, brinjal, ladies finger and peas and 5 plants of beets, radish and carrots.

All my fingers crossed! Begin countdown. Days to go – 5.

 

Roses are red, and so are some pomegranates!

Ever since I saw the movie 36 vayadhiniley (tamil movie starring Jyothika), I look into every fruit and vegetable with a skeptical eye. I was a bit ignorant before, even though I know the farmers apply pesticides and fertilizers on plants. I had never thought to the extent how the watermelons and pomegranates get injected with colours before being sold in the market.

Post that movie, I crazily talk to the fruits I buy, asking them how badly they have been distorted / changed from its original flavour and colour. I do not any longer buy those veges and fruits that appear visually attractive.

As part of home growing food challenge, I bought a pomegranate plant along with my other fruit plants last year, but it died during the floods; in fact just 2 plants died then. I was very sad, since it was almost fruiting before it died (I guess, due to my ignorance then). Just 2 months later, a number of pomegranate saplings appeared out of nowhere into every plant pot possible. (All thanks to composting,  I say 🙂 )

I moved a few of them into a single pot after sending some with my mom to be planted in proper soil. I haven’t had a single fruit in all year, but I diligently watered and fertilized the plant the whole year, even though the flowers dropped every time. I wasn’t hoping for fruits anytime soon. And then this happens! I had an ever so tiny fruit after a waiting of million years!

I cut open to see it’s seeds, expecting a normal pale coloured seed set, only to find its colour being the darkest red I have ever seen in a pomegranate! And it tasted, as yummy as ever!

A very yummy tiniest pomegranate ever eaten

Now a few fruits have started to shape and I can’t wait to enjoy them. Now I understand, after all, not all fruits are coloured before being sold 🙂

Everyday, for the rest of the year!

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I do not like to throw away any plant from my garden. Having only plants in containers can be stressing out that way. Most times, in my compost bins, I end up having to see tiny saplings grow. I have never had the heart to uproot them. Sometimes I transplant them, sometimes I share them with neighbours, some plants I have managed to send them through to be planted in proper ground soil.

I have had black jamuns (navaa pazham) plants, mango plants, pomegranate plants, guava plants, papaya plants, watermelon, musk melon, ridge gourd and even date plants.

About four months ago, I found 6 tomato saplings growing together. I just waited 2 weeks and when they got about half feet tall, I transplanted them each into separate pots. I must say these are the best effortlessly grown plants I ever had. Every time I go upstairs to harvest, I would return back with tomatoes. It has been always that way. 


I have tried a few times to grow them from seeds. Even though they grow, I have never had this kind of harvest anytime. 

Only problems I have had so far with these plants are the mealy bugs (mavu poochi). I used wood ash on them and brushed aside the bugs with a toothbrush time to time.

Composting – Too good to waste Part-2

In the last post, I wrote about the compost “ingredients”.

The next step will be to identify the right space to compost. If you live in an individual house, you can quiet easily find a corner that you can use. If you live in an apartment like me, you have to find a suitable space where you can place the compost pots, that will not be an eye soar to anyone, as well as some place where the “composting smell” does not reach the residents. You should not leave it in a space where there will be 8 hours of sunlight.

Place it in the terrace, or the balcony in a corner, so that there is little / no sunlight on the pots. Same applies for the rains as well. On a rainy day, ensure that the compost pots are covered with a lid / cover.

I place mine under the concrete table in my terrace, so that rains do not affect the pots.

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My compost bins under the concrete table

Before going into details of actual composting, you must understand that there are two types of composts – wet wastes and dry wastes. Wet waste is essentially the scrap we get out of veges and fruits and those weeds we pull out of the soil. Dry waste is everything else like newspaper, dry leaves, wood scrap, etc.

The next step would be actual process of composting. While composting, you need to ready the pot, by leaving a drain hole under the pot / sides. Cover the hole with a rock / flat stone / some pebbles (just like how we ready the pot for planting)

Fill the first layer with soil, not too much – just enough so that it forms a proper flat layer. Fill in the wet waste in the pot, and then add more soil to cover the waste. If you do not have enough soil, you can add dry wastes into it. Now, close this pot with a lid or a sheet, just to ensure that no rodents / birds have access to the waste.

Follow the above step everyday to fill up the pot. When the pot is completely full, close this pot and leave it undisturbed. You can add water now and then, when you feel that your waste is too dry. If the waste feels too soggy (esp. when you add a lot of orange peels, etc.), add some dry wastes like shredded newspaper or dry leaves / plants.

Leave it undisturbed for 3-4 months and your compost aka black gold is ready!

Here is my compost, one in progress and the other one complete to be used for plants.

The water that drains out of the pot can be used on the plants, as this is liquid gold. The amount of energy that plants derive out of that water is enormous. Do not let it go waste.

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To make use of the water, place the pot above a brick or another vessel that is smaller than the pot, so it can be placed to collect the water.

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If by any chance, you are totally unable to compost, you can also grind the waste that you collect everyday and use them for plants (Just add this under a layer of soil)

Note: Ideally your ‘in progress’ compost should not smell bad at all. If in case your compost smells, add up more dry wastes. If you do not have enough dry wastes, you can leave the compost bin in the sun, so the compost can be dry and it should help.