Life brings with a plethora of experiences, each with a flavour of its own. I wish to share with all my readers these various experiences and observations that I have made during my time here on this planet. They may be funny, thought-provoking or simple reflections. I do hope you will find these enjoyable and interesting.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

My Vegetable Garden

Check here for my posts on Composting

The composting is going fine and I have been very excited about starting up an organic vegetable garden in my balcony!  Very ambitious, what?!  Well, no harm in trying and there are so many folks who are growing veggies on their terraces.  Don't know how well they will grow, but am determined to try.

Here are some of the seeds which have sprouted.  Many have been savaged by squirrels and birds.  So trying out some stuff to keep them at bay as well.

 These bunchbeans were damaged due to severe rains and hailstones.  Attached scotchtape to them and decided to wait and watch.  They healed.

Here are buds appearing

 Brinjal seeds sprouted into saplings

Saplings transplanted

Bhindi sprouted in rind of sweet lime and planted rind et al

Bean plant savaged by squirrels

Saving the capsicum saplings from squirrels and birds

Desperate situations call for desperate measures - wooden barricade and chilli powder treatment 

Chow chow 

Roots of greens from a bought out bunch stuck into a pot growing

One more green grown the same way

Now keeping my fingers crossed and praying the plants grow well and that I get some good organic produce!

The Composting Story - Part 3

.....Continued from here

Around this time, I decided to repot my plants and give away the show plants (except some small ones) in order to make place for my vegetable garden.

While repotting, I found some earthworms in some of the pots!  I had never thought of vermicomposting.  That would be stretching my luck too far; but the sight of a few earthworms tempted me.  I just dumped a few of them into a bucket of maturing compost - I had no clue of how this was done.  Unfortunately, when sieving the compost, I found not a trace of earthworms.  The poor creatures had died - that was it!  I would not try vermicomposting again.  I did not want to kill more innocent creatures.

Somewhere at the back of my mind, however, a certain vermicomposting worm was chewing my brain.  I joined some forums on Facebook which talked of organic gardens, terrace gardens, home composting etc.  There I asked where I could procure some worms.  In the meanwhile, I saw a presentation by a lady by name Mrs. Vani Murthy, who gave detailed instructions about vermicomposting.  One of the members of that forum very kindly shared some worms with me.  I sneaked them into my balcony and started vermicomposting them in a bucket.  Although I did not have a bin with a dividing plate nor did my bucket have holes, I decided to monitor it very carefully.

What I have done is this:  Lined the bucket at the bottom with coconut coir, shredded newspaper and shredded cardboard which had been soaked in water and then squeezed out, so that they were wet but not soggy.  I added the worms with some of the compost in which they came.  Added a bit of my home compost too.  I tied the opening of the bucket with a dark bin bag with holes in it for air to enter.

Imagine my horror when after 4-5 days I found a few worms had crawled out and lay stiff on my balcony!  Wondered what had gone wrong.  Checking out the net gave me some comfort when I read that it was not uncommon in the adaptation period and that unless they all started crawling out or bunched up together, it was alright.

Gradually I have been adding some tomato pieces and the remains of musk melon to it.  Also adding maturing compost.  I am still to understand how much feeding constitutes overfeeding and how much underfeeding.  So in the meanwhile, I keep checking the bin and it is heartening to find some new additions to the family!

Vermicompost as it looks today (roughly a couple of weeks since I started).

The Composting Story - Part 2

.....Continued from here

So it was that I contacted "Daily Dump" and after researching the internet, got them to deliver a 3 piece khamba and Remix.

3 tiered Khamba

A bag of remix (from website of Daily Dump)

The process is pretty simple.  Layer the bottom of the top compartment with a newspaper and some dry leaves.  Put a layer of kitchen waste into it.  Too acidic foods such as lemon peels, pickles etc are avoided so that the compost does not turn too acidic.  Layer the waste with a few fistfuls of remix (a mixture of bacteria and cocopeat) or alternatively with dried leaves or sawdust.  This will ensure that your compost is not excessively wet.  Alternatively add layers of waste and remix/sawdust/leaves until the top compartment is full.  Once it is full, transfer the middle container to the top and the top one to the middle and continue the process.  Once both compartments are full, empty the contents of the middle compartment (the first compartment which was full) into the bottom compartment for maturing.  Before that line the bottom compartment with 3-4 inches of dry leaves at the bottom. Move the full compartment to the middle and the now empty one back to the top.  The process is repeated.

If you generate a lot of compost, you can use a bigger khamba or get a big leave it pot, which is what I have done.  Mixing a teaspoon of sour yoghurt into the compost is a good practice.  The compost needs to be aerated by frequent stirring.  I generated almost 3-4 kgs of ready to use compost within 2 months of starting composting.  (I started in the last week of February and by mid April, I had sieved my compost and stored it in a plastic bag).   

My first lot of home compost

The sieved remains from the compost
The sieved remains from the compost get added back to the bin for complete decomposition.  
Some interesting stuff happened along the way.  I had discarded some date seeds into the compost bin and guess what happened!

They sprouted in the compost.  So i decided to try getting them to grow.  No, I cannot grow a date palm in my balcony and I am sure it is not going to yield dates in the Bangalore weather, but I thought it would be nice to give it to the association to grow just as a show plant in the central garden.  So I put a few of them into a grow bag.

Day 1 after planting

A month after sowing in soil.
Time I guess, to hand them over to be planted in the ground!  If they survive, wonderful.  If they don't, well, I haven't lost anything.  A learning experience that.
I did have issues (won't say major ones) with fruit flies after the rains and I panicked.  Though I know that a certain number of maggots are certainly good for composting, there would be furore in the house (as if there had not been enough already), since the balcony is right next to the bedroom.  In order to ensure hassle free composting, I kept using Agnihastra and neem oil periodically to keep the population of maggots down. It certainly worked like a charm.  Also smeared the lips of the compartments with neem oil.
Now the compost was ready to use. be continued here


The Composting Story - Part 1

It has been a very long time since I posted here.  Oh well!  Life takes various twists and turns, sometimes real life intrudes into one's virtual presence.  Some of that is pleasant, other stuff not so welcome.  What I am going to talk about here is about some exciting times I have been having over the past few months.  

My hobbies keep changing with the season.  The flavour of the season around the end of last year was bird watching.  Suddenly, a trip to Goa added one more flavour.  No not feni, nor vindaloo.  It was this sudden craze for composting.  Have been thinking of it for a while and also been practising it in some rudimentary form till now.

This is how I used to do it before.  I used to mash up all the kitchen waste in a blender and add it to the wash water from my RO filter and water all my plants with the mix.  Though of late folks have been telling me that RO water is not good for the plants due to high salt content, I did not notice any deleterious effect on my plants at that time.

On a trip to Goa, I noticed my cousin using a khamba (which I had heard about vaguely earlier but not spared much of a thought to) and was really impressed.  So I decided to go hammer and tongs into home composting.

I live in an apartment complex on the third floor and have 3 balconies.  My front and side balconies have always had a lot of plants - mostly show plants and flowering (not that they flowered very profusely, but I did get some flowers off and on), some herbs and medicinal plants and tomatoes growing wild from the soil.  In fact this year I got almost a kilo of summer from these 'unplanted' plants.

Here is what my balcony looked like.

The entrance - front balcony

The entrance

More plants at the entrance


 Bone setter (also called hadjod) - used in Ayurveda to heal broken bones 

Bishops weed or Ajwain

 Tomatoes in my balcony

 Ripening tomatoes

Jasmine blooming in the side balcony


Harvested tomatoes (grown from discarded seeds from the kitchen)

On a good day

So this is what my garden was like until I decided I wanted to grow more vegetables.  Anyway, the flowers I got were few and far between - one can't expect more on the 3rd floor of an apartment block.  The joy of getting occasional flowers or fruits, however, made me decide I was going to try my hand at organic vegetables. be continued here