Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

A snippet of what is to come in the first post for next year.

Happy New Year !!!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Singapore Orchids

So we got back from our wonderful trip to Singapore and Malaysia last weekend. It was hectic as we wanted to cover as much as possible but was worth it. The one thing that amazed me about Singapore was the amount of greenery on the roads and surrounding areas. The second thing(actually the most impressive thing) was how orchids were growing in Singapore. Any place you go to, they have orchids in display. Just like we have chrysanthemums or roses bunches here in India, the Singaporeans have orchids instead. I never expected this in the trip and was completely awed by the display of these beautiful flowers.
We were just wowed by the variety. I have always been impressed by the orchids and wanted to try growing them here. Never started off as it would be pretty expensive to begin with. I also do not know the quality of the plants that they sell at some of the local nurseries. Just last week, a fellow Indian blogger had written about Orchids in her garden. Now that is very interesting and coincidental. It is like a message from the flowers saying that I need to start growing them here. Not sure how they will handle the Bangalore weather though. Let us see. I got to see only a small section of the garden due to lack of time and energy. It was a hot and humid day. So the number of pictures are limited. Please do click and see the full size pictures to enjoy the beauty of the orchids.

One of the most impressive displays of Orchids was at the Changi airport which we saw when we were leaving Singapore. Unfortunately I did not capture good enough photos to be put on display here. Thankfully, our orchid master has some pictures of the Airport Orchids here. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Travel Plans to Singapore and Malaysia

The end of the year has been very busy. The weather also has been very cold and various strains of common cold spreading around. Garden has been last on the list with time at office being highest on the priority list. We have been planning a vacation to Singapore & Malaysia and I will be travelling from the 14th. Most of the time will be in Singapore and we will reach Malaysia on the 21st. Just two days in KL before returning home. Hoping to see the orchid gardens in Singapore and the popular insect farm in Malaysia. Will update pictures once we get back from the trip.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Is container gardening really eco-friendly?

The trend now is to go green. As you can see(from the weblink of this blog), I have also been victim to this trend. Not a bad thing definitely but it is like a fashion statement if we say that "I am a very green person". And the easiest way for people go green is by keeping a few plants in their living/working spaces. Of late, I have been having my own doubts about how "GREEN" container gardening really is. I pursue gardening as a hobby. Even before I got into gardening, I was concious about my use of water, plastics and electricity, and I thought gardening definitely would be too. However, I have come to realise that it is not that easy to give back to nature what you take from it. Let me elaborate,
1. Watering
Container Gardens require regular watering. All plants do and especially since your plants cannot grow roots deeper than the pots, they need frequent watering. Depending on the location it can be between, once in two days to twice everyday. Where does this water come from. In case of apartments in bangalore/chennai(especially the newer ones), this water is supplied through taps. What a revelation? Well actually, the ground water is processed through a water softening plant and then supplied to the apartments. During the softening process a lot of water goes waste as the process itself calls for it. Also, the efficiency of the watering very low, i.e. if we pour a litre of water in the pot, the actual water that gets used up for the plants benefit that day is probably around 20-30%. Rest goes back up in the air. This is just for one pot. Imagine people with large number of pots in their balconies (including your truly).
Ok, so water is wasted. The eco friendliness quotient for the garden is going down slowly
2. Nutrition
Containers cannot retain the nutrition content as effectively as for those plants in the ground due to runaway. When we water the plants in containers, the nutrient content also gets washed away. This means we need to add more nutrition, more frequently to the containers to get those nice looking flowers, fruits and vegetables.
I was first advised by folks at the nurseries I go to to add enrich the nutrition content by adding NPK based fertilizers. I used it once and I realized that it is best avoided. The impact we create by using these fertilizers is just unfathomable. The amount of effort and energy it goes into producing these chemicals is huge. Remember those tall pipes that throw poisonous gases high into the atmosphere. Most of them are in some way related to our daily activities, one of them being the manufacturing of NPK fertilizers.These are not safe for handling especially with kids around. So it is best to keep it away from the garden. Also, due to the runaway, the water that seeps out of these containers goes back into the drains and God knows where. Definitely causing more harm to the environment. I cannot help but say that the quotient has gone down again.

3. Pests
If you have a garden full of plants, you are bound to have pests, and all pests are not the same. Again, first line of advice from nurseries, use chemical pesticides. This was a definite no-no for me. But people do use it. So quotient going down further.
4. Materials
Let me end my negativity with this 4th item. Container gardening requires materials and so does non-container gardening. However, here we need pots, which sometimes end up being in plastic or concrete for convenience requirements. I am sure you all have heard enough about plastic and know how much effort it takes to make the concrete. Everything we buy as supplements to the garden comes wrapped in plastic boxes/container and covers. Quotient has hit rock bottom so let me stop here for now.

So there we are, thinking of all this I could not help but feel whether things are headed in the right direction. So, instead of just writing down problems, we can think of solutions too.

1. Watering
Understand the plants requirements over a period of time and water them. If possible installing a drip irrigation system will help reduce the water consumption significantly. And ofcourse a very popular method as reminded by Kanak from Nature Rambles is using the waste water from the kitchen. This requires a little effort to keep a storage container to collect the water each time we wash vegetables or other food items. For those large trees the water from the last rinse while washing clothes(if we are washing by hand) will also work.

2. Nutrients
Organic Manure produced using composting is probably the most recyclable process that exists today. It helps improve soil texture and provides sufficient nutrients to the plant. Excess application is not going to damage the plants. However, if we are getting this from stores/outlets then the plastic packaging comes into play. A good way to avoid this is to carry our own bags to the source of compost. The best way would be to be able to make compost at home.

3. Pests
Chemical pesticides are a strict no-no for me. I use neem oil and sometime just a hard spray of water to dislodge the pests.(this brings back point 1, but is a much better alternative to pesticides). Companion planting is also a good method to help keep away pests.

4. Materials
Handmade terracotta pots are a great solution. Only where strength/size is a concern it would make sense to go for concrete pots. Plastic pots are best avoided. Better to carry our own bags to acquire the materials we need.

What else do you think makes container gardening non-eco friendly. What are the solutions. Do you have any novel ideas for the problems mentioned above.?

But all negatives apart, it is really relaxing to spend some time looking at the plants grow and produce beautiful flowers. Getting the hands dirty in soil is also a good experience. Gardening is an amazing hobby to have. It creates a great sight for the eye and definitely improves the air around us. Happy Gardening.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

EMG: Sun Rose, Sun Plant, Table Rose

Do you have a space in your balcony which receives some sunlight. Would you like to add a wonderful array of colors to the garden with minimum effort. Would you like to keep the plant small and tidy and would you like this color to just pop up every day. Well then one of the best choices for you would be the Sun rose or table rose. I am still trying to confirm if the correct name for these are Helianthemums. This plant grows very well in regular or hanging pots. They do not need very big pots to grow as they do not spread their roots very much. They toil everyday and produce flowers which bloom during the day and close by evening. Next day a fresh bunch will bloom. You can find them in different colors orange, red, pink, magenta and accordingly decorate your garden with them. They are not very fussy about water requirements and definitely prefer being watered less than over watering. Use soil with sufficient drainage and do not allow the base to be wet or retain water. Make sure these folks get sunshine for a couple of hours and your balcony will be filled with radiant colors.  The flowers are small, about a couple of centimeters in diameter but the density is what really adds the color.  You can plant them in groups in the same pot to compliment each other too. I have noticed that weeds grow profusely in pots with these plants and casues degradation in plant quality over time. Carefully deweed the pot and add some flowering agent monthly if you think the density of flowers are going down. A definite addition to the Easy Maintenance Garden (EMG). Some pictures from my collection of these plants.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tomato - At a loss for words

So I am writing this post on my tomato plants. About how unsuccessful I have been with them and my plans to discontinue vegetable gardening. Then this shows up today. The wife has a sharp eye for such things in the garden. I was nothing short of tears when she showed me this.

My first tomato starting to grow.
Dont know how it is going to figure out, but I will cherish this photograph forever. Will provide history of this plant in another post.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Difficult Dahlias

I love to grow flowering plants in containers. The amount of color they add to the surroundings is just amazing. I love to tend to them and watch their different stages of bloom. I have listed out a lot of the flowering plants in my blog under the label "Plants from my Balcony". Most of my flowers can be commonly found in many gardens.
I have been writing a series on Easy Maintenance Garden EMG to get more people who are interested in having flowers in their balconies/gardens but are not sure what to get. Starting with these flowers can help in developing more interest in gardening and slowly you will realize that you are becoming an expert at choosing your flowers and plants. Hopefully more people read the EMG series and put more plants in their garden. As with nature and the law of opposites, there is also plants that are not so easy to maintain.
One of the plants that I am having lot of difficulty with are the Dahlias. I love the variety of flowers that the plant can provide. The plants are a little flimsy but the flowers they produce are just beautiful. I structure of the flower has such elegance about it, such pattern and such color. The first time I saw it in a nursery, I wanted to get it. However, after a few weeks, I noticed some whitish patterns on the leaves. Before I knew it the plant stopped producing flowers and died. I thought I would do better growing Dahlias from seeds. Well, the seeds did sprout and the plants did grow. But after a few flowers, the plants are now looking weak and slowly I can see them fading away. I feed them with sufficient nutrition, and water them well. I do not allow the soil to be wet for long as I read about Dahlias not liking wet feet. But something is not right. Would appreciate feedback from those who have been successful at growing Dahlias. Would like some help?

Meanwhile enjoy pictures of some Dahlias I had earlier.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Magic Potion

I have used chemical pesticides and plant enhancers in the past. Only a couple of times. I realized that these were not dilute solutions, but heavily concentrated chemicals that needed to be handled with extreme care. Since my garden is a balcony garden it makes it all the more dangerous to use such chemicals as it lingers around your breathing space very much. The NPK fertilizers that are used are also heavy on chemicals and are harmful to the environment all the way from manufacturing to usage in the garden.
After realizing the effects of these chemical pesticides and fertilizers, I decided that I definitely would not use them. I realized this early in my gardening experience. Since going organic was the trend, I thought why not join the bandwagon. Especially since it would do less harm to the environment. I started reading about compost and organic mixes and started using them. However, the results were not amazing. My plants did reasonably well but they did not show much vigor in growth. One miss at watering them and I would find them drooping down, threatening to die. The compost was easy to use and I did not have to cover my face or make sure that I was using less than the prescribed amount to make sure that I was not harming either the plants or myself or any apartments around mine. I also like the texture of compost very much. I handle it directly by hand though many people would not prefer to do that. The compost was doing its job but I realized that the plants could definitely look healthier.
So after doing some research I found out about this solution called Panchagavya. It is a age old formula that has been passed down generations . It is as old as the vedas, it is like yoga, ayurveda or siddha medicine which are all early wisdom of ancestors that were recorded millenia before our generation. Various formulas are prescribed for different purposes. Some religious and some domestic. The domestic method of preparation is used to make Panchagavya for farming.  A lot of people that I have spoken to about this make funny faces when they hear about it. What they dont realize that this is less harmful(though  not edible) than what they eat for lunch. It is made using 5 components obtained from the cow. To those outside of India, the cow is considered a holy animal and is treated with great respect here in our country.  For many millenia, farmers have been using the cow for various purposes. They have also formulated the making of Panchagavya which is used for providing nutrition to the plants. It is made from the 5 basic components, cow dung, cow urine, milk, cow ghee(clarified butter), and curd. I guess all these components must be obtained from the same cow. The formulations and details are available on the internet. One of the popular formulations is made by Dr. K. Natarajan from a place called Erode.
Anyway after starting to use this solution 3% solution(i.e. 3ml in a litre of water) every week, the vigor in my plants have improved, they are more tolerant if I miss watering them once, and also are responsive in terms of flowering. I get my solution from the author of Panchagavya. He has been kind enough to provide me the solution each time he makes it. It does require some maintenance though as it is supposed to contain lot of microorganisms. You need to store it in a plastic container and keep it aerated. It needs to be stirred on a daily basis for a few minutes. I would not attribute all the credit to the panchagavya as I have also been focusig on the plants on a more regular basis. However, I do see a difference between plants where I use it and where I dont. So my trials so far have shown good results and I would say that this is a good addition to any gardener who wants to grow their plants completely organically.

This post has been in edit mode for a long time and hence looks pretty distorted and loses continity and flow very often. Apologize if the details are not enough and I will be glad to provide more if required.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gardening A Game

There seems to be an interesting game that is helping find fellow bloggers. I have a long list of blogs that I am following in my blogroll list. I have more on my google reader. Probably forty blogs that I am followingon my reader. Anyway going to the details of the game, I should list of "10 things I enjoy doing" and "list 10 other bloggers to join this game. I was invited to this game by "J.C from from Malaysia" and "Denise from from the Netherlands through Blotanical". Here is the list....not is any specific order

1. I love Hibiscus flowers. I love to grow them and experiment with their growth. I have around six different  varieties/colors of hibiscus in my balcony. I am finding out that I have more fun with flowering plants than vegetables ones. However, I would love to own a piece of land where I can cultivate various types of vegetables.

2. I like to repot my plants, I love the texture of cocopeat and comopost and enjoy handling them while repotting my plants.

3. I love to spend time with family. Just relax at home especially with my sweet little son.

4. I really enjoy watching Rajni movies. The latest being Endhiran. You can find out more about it on the internet and in my other blog

5. I enjoy taking a long drive to any place.

6. I love to take pictures of Trees around the city.

7. I enjoy looking at the different balcony gardens that people have around Bangalore.

8. I love to work continuously for 3 days without sleep.

9.  I would really like to be able to help people set up gardens(especially balcony gardens) in their homes and also help them maintain them.

10. Most of all I love to find new information on the internet everyday on gardening tips .

I invite the following bloggers to join this game.

A truly inspiring set of bloggers who are inspring many folks in India to grow vegetables in containers and at home
1. GG - Bangalore, India
2. Raja Panda - Bangalore, India
One of my most favorite balcony garden bloggers
3. Sue Swift - Milan, Italy
Pictures speak a thousand words. A very informative blog with flowers and associated names.
4. Trees, Plants and more... - Bangalore, India
Another wonderful gardening blog
5. Terra farmer - Bangalore, India
I really wonder how many different plants Jim has
6. Garden Adventures - Jim from the US.
7.Dhara the Earth - Delhi, India
8.The Urban Gardener - Mumbai, India
9. Good Earth - Bangalore India
Not really a gardening blog but a nice one on design
dressyourhome - Bangalore, India

The rule of this game is to:
1) Inform who invite you
2) What are the 10 things you like to do
3) Invite another 10 other bloggers

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vegetables at work

I mean literally. I work in this nifty campus in East Bangalore. One of my first observations on entering the campus was that they have a nice herb garden and vegetable garden. There is one section of the real estate that is dedicated to grow edible stuff. This is a small portion compared to the size of the building, but this is the first time I am seeing this anywhere in Bangalore. Till about a few months back I was always of the impression that vegetables are grown on the ground. Never considered container grown vegetables seriously till I started garden last November. I was also surprised to see a lot of fellow bloggers growing there own vegetables. Some of them in balconies smaller than what I have here. Anyway since I have been more of a flower person(wife plays a big role here), my balcony is filled with flowering pots. I am just seed starting some vegetables and hopefully will have some content in the next few months that I can write about.
Coming to the point of this post, the facility management takes good care of the garden in the office and grow different variety of vegetables every quarter. Once they yield well, they replace them with other seeds. When I joined, the vegetable garden was full of tomatoes. Now the dominant vegetable is the Ladies Finger(Okra). Some pictures that I clicked recently.

Ladies Finger(Okra)

The flower from the Ladies Finger
Looks very much like the Hibiscus while it is opening
The ladies finger at various stages of growth
Radish(Absolutely beautiful foliage)
Close up of the radish growth(I think almost ready for harvest)
Closeup of the beans(long type)
Capsicum flowering (Corrected by GoodEarth)
Pomegranate(I am growing this at home too), check it out
Another variety of ladies finger(leaves are much thinner, may be better for container gardening)
What is this one? Any ideas?
Guava (Blur Ting's observation)