I realized a gardening update is long overdue - I've been lazy as I put up photos on FB too(instant gratification and all you know), but realized I'm missing all the wordiness that goes with it when I put them here on my blog ;).
One thing I've been telling myself in the last year is that I should mentally prepare myself for not expecting bountiful harvests as there is just so much to figure out in organic gardening. From persuading my gardening help that spraying chemicals is a big no-no, to learning to carefully remove aphids from the underside of each leaf with just a water spray - so many learnings along the way which of course leads to quite a few plants getting lost to pests or other reasons too. Here I've tried to make a short list of my biggest learnings which should hopefully help any beginner too:
Use recycled containers: From sacks to plastic trays that nobody wants any more, you can be very inventive with the containers you use for your gardening. I have known of people making amazing finds at the recyclers (though I've not been lucky enough yet and have needed to scrounge for each one usually), and would love to have a steady source of these ;). But I've used sacks, old tubs, even cut up old plastic water pots (kudam) with pretty good results.
|Brinjal in a sack|
Ensure that your pots have good drainage when you first do your potting, this means they should have adequate number of holes - mud or cement pots usually have only one, while plastic are more prone to water logging so need several. You can keep your pots raised on a pot holder of some kind or even use bricks, so that water does not get clogged on the bottom part touching the ground. This is especially important when your plants are on an open terrace or ground during the rainy season.
|My beans plant that died because of inadequate drainage :(|
Potting mix: You may hear about many proportions here from 1:1:1 Mud: Vermicompost: Cocopeat, to 3:1:1 Compost:Mud:Sand, but the main thing to consider is that your pots need some replenishment of nutrition every week to 10 days. Without this, the plants may suffer from stunted growth or some kinds of nutrition deficiency, and these may be difficult to rectify at a later stage. For example I tried a variation of potting mixes and containers for my 5 brinjal plants, but all of these are doing nearly equally well as the watering and nutrients they are getting has been the same.
Close inspection: Especially for the gourd varieties with large leaves, pests like aphids always start colonising on the underside of the leaves, and if you wait for the leaves to start showing symptoms it may be too late. It's better to check the leaves at least once every 3-4 days if not more often, and spray them off with water immediately.
Preventive pest control:
This was one of my biggest learnings - for plants such as chilly varieties it is a good idea to perform an organic spraying ideally using neem oil, every week to 10 days. Though many may argue this is not necessary I found that my chilly and capsicum plants kept dying to a leaf curl problem until I started doing this. Although I try my best to have a "let them be" attitude, losing each and every chilly plant I ever tried to keep on my terrace had to have me changing my stance on this.
Other than all this, there are so many other "small" things like over-watering/under-watering, how much sun each type of plant needs, that has to come with experience and sometimes losing a few plants - Phew! have I scared off everyone now? :). Well let me show you a few pictures of the positives, after I made use of all the above information.
My red capsicums (sowed from seeds from a store-brought one!) went through the stages of green->brownish->purple to now finally turning that brilliant red and will be ready for harvesting in a few days.
My brinjal harvest from 5 plants on my terrace that were planted from seed just 4 months ago, and are flourishing now. One of them is a thorny variety that I was being so careful with while watering etc but managed to prick my fingers on about 5 times in my enthusiasm to get to the brinjal :).
I'd not taken too many photos of my cherry tomatoes as I got a bit complacent at just how bountiful they have been, but as I was just about to post this one, I thought I musn't miss them out! The green ones are those that fell out of the plant because of squirrels and the such, will put them into a sambhar probably :).
Realized that just between this post being in drafts a couple of days back, and my posting it today, this blog has now passed 25000 page views. I'm thrilled :) !!! Thanks to you all, especially my regular readers you know who you are ;).