How to make your own Inexpensive Organic Potting Soil

One of the most important thing in growing your own food in containers is the medium in which the plant grows. As vegetables plants need nutrition to grow and bear fruits, using plain soil as the medium is not enough. Hence a few items like compost are added to enrich the soil. A few other items may be mixed with it to get a desired feature in the medium. The growing medium thus prepared is called Potting Soil or Potting Mix. In this post I’ll take you through the various features of a good potting mix and then guide you on how to prepare your own Inexpensive Organic Potting Soil.

Features of Good Potting Mix

  1. Rich in Nutrients – When plants grow on ground, its roots can go quiet deep or spread in all directions in search of nutrients and water. In container gardening, the roots of the plants have limited space to grow. Hence you need to have a very rich medium in your pots so that the roots get enough nutrients.
  2. Water Retention – Due to limited size of pots water can dry out too quickly. But if the soil can retain water well, then you can minimize drying out problems.
  3. Drainage – While it is important for the organic potting soil to hold water, at the same time you have to make sure there is no water logging. Excess water should drain out easily from the pot, or else root rotting can take place.
  4. Structure – Some times when soil dries out it does not absorb water well. Such issues happen when there are not enough aeration in the soil. In other words the structure of the mix is not right. Your Organic potting mix should have particles of different granularity so that it is well aerated. But it should not have big lumps which affect proper root growth.
  5. Weight – The soil should be of light weight, so that you can move pots around easily. Moreover higher the weight higher the pressure on the structure where they are placed.
  6. Microbial activity – A good potting soil is always a living one. It means the potting mix should have enough microbial and insect activity. This keeps the plants healthy and helps them to grow well and give good yields.
  7. Free of pests and other pathogens – Most of the time potting soil has viral pathogens and dormant pests in them. If you grow plants in such mediums it damages not only the individual plant in the pot, but the entire garden as pest infestation can easily spread from one plant to the other.
  8. Optimum pH level – The pH level is a measure of the acidity of the soil. Generally most plants do well in neutral to slightly acidic organic potting soil mixes. Optimum pH reading can be between 6.0 to 7.0 in most cases.

What goes into our Organic Potting Soil

Pound soil well to remove lumps and sun sterilize it.
Pound soil well to remove lumps and sun sterilize it.

With the above features in mind here is a list of ingredients that go into our potting mix.

  1. Vermicompost or Earthworm Compost – Vermicompost is not only the best compost in terms of nutrients, it is also very good in terms of microbial activity and structure. Good quality vermicompost is the most important item in our potting mix. It is best to have your own vermicompost bin at home, but you can also purchase it from stores. Check whether the compost that you purchase from stores is earthworm compost or city compost. Do not go for city compost. While it is good enough if you are growing flowers, it just does not make the cut when you are growing vegetables.
  2. Home made compost – We always stress on organic waste recycling as a part of Organic Terrace Gardening. So even if you can not make earthworm compost at home, you should be making simple compost at home from organic wastes. In making compost at home its just not about recycling waste. You also are assured about the quality of the compost.
  3. Coco Peat – Coco Peat is the residual waste of the coconut coir industry. It is treated to remove salts from it and then sold in bags or in compressed form as bricks. When the bricks are soaked in water it expands to almost ten to fifteen times it size. Coco peat is very light in weight and has excellent water holding capacity.
  4. Garden soil – You can get red soil from nurseries or pick up soil from your backyard. If you can get hold of the clay from river beds, mix it with equal amount of red soil. Though river bed soil is great in terms of fertility but it is also too fine and hence can make the soil hard. Hence mix it with some red soil. Remove the lumps from soil by pounding it and then sun dry it for 5-6 days to kill pathogens.
  5. Cow dung manure – It is cheap and easily available and a great fertilizer.
  6. Neem Cake – Neem cake is the solid waste left over after neem oil extraction from neem seed kernels. Neem cake acts as a pest repellent and prevents pest and pathogen growth in the soil. It also acts as a great fertilizer.
  7. Oils seed cakes – Other oil seed cakes like mustard cakes, ground nut cakes are also great fertilizers.
  8. Fish Meal – This is a very potent fertilizer, but you can skip it if you are vegan or vegetarian.
  9. Amrut Jal -Amrut Jal is used to condition our organic potting soil by increasing the microbial activity in the potting mix and also enrich with nutrients.
  10. Earthworms – Small earthworms which burrow deep into the soil keep the potting mix loose and aerated.
  11. Wood ash – Wood ash is used to bring down the pH level of potting mix if required.

Organic Potting Soil Recipe

Neem cake acts as pest repellent besides being a source of nutrient for plants in your organic potting soil.
Neem cake acts as pest repellent besides being a source of nutrient for plants in your organic potting soil

To make approximately 11-12 liters of potting soil follow the recipe below.

  1. Mix together 3 liters of sun sterilized soil, 3 liters of coco peat, 2 liters of vermi-compost and 2 liters of home made compost (or 3 liters of vermi compost).
  2. Add a liter of cow dung manure.
  3. Add a handful each of neem cake, mustard cake and ground nut cake.
  4. Add a handful of fish meal. Skip this if you are vegetarian.
  5. Mix this very well by turning the mixture several times over.
  6. Check the pH level of the mix. If mix is too acidic (pH reading is 5.5 or below), add a handful of wood ash. If it is alkaline (pH reading is over 7) add more compost.
  7. Now sprinkle about approximately half liter of Amrut Jal and give it a good mix. Amrut Jal is rich in microbial life and this step helps to increase the microbe count in the potting mix. To check the correct moisture level of the mix, try to make a ball in your palms. You should be barely able to make a very crumbly ball at the right moisture level. If moisture level is lower you’ll not be able to make the ball and if it is too high you’ll be able to make the ball easily.
  8. Store this mix in a container, cover it and let it rest for 2-3 weeks. Make sure the container is protected from direct sunlight and rain. Do not cover the container tightly. Air should be able to pass without any problem.
  9. Mix in some Amrut Jal every 4-5 days when the mixture starts to dry out to keep the moisture at a good level to encourage microbial activity.
  10. After about 2-3 weeks potting mix is ready to be used in pots. While preparing the pots drop in some earthworms in the pot. They are the best friends of your potting mix.
Wood ash helps to bring down acidity level.
Wood ash helps to bring down acidity level.

In the above process step 2 to step 9 are optional. But these steps will improve the quality of your Organic Potting Soil significantly. For germinating seeds in seed trays, substitute 2 liter of soil with 1 liter of vermicompost in the above recipe.

Maintenance of Soil in the Pot

At the correct moisture level you should be able to barely make a crumbly ball.
At the correct moisture level you should be able to barely make a crumbly ball.

As a plant grows and produces fruit in a container, the nutrients are depleted. Additionally sunlight and rain too leach out the nutrients from the potting mix. With time the soil tends to become acidic. To minimize these issues here are a few tips on how you can maintain the potting mix in your pots.

  1. Mulch your pot with organic material like dry leaves or dried sugarcane bagasse , wood chips etc. Not only it helps to retain moisture, it helps in maintaining a suitable micro climate for microbial life to flourish.
  2. Use cow dung based soil conditioner like Amrut Jal or Jeevamrut on a weekly basis.
  3. Check the acidity level of the potting soil once every 3 to 4 months. If too acidic add wood ash. If too alkaline add some compost.
  4. When an old plant has been rooted out from the pot, add vermi-compost, cow dung manure, neem cake and other oil cakes to the pot, sprinkle some Amrut Jal, cover it and leave for a couple of weeks before planting again.
Rest your organic potting soil for two weeks.
Rest your organic potting soil for two weeks.

In market potting mix price starts from approximately Rs 40/- per kg and can go up to about Rs 100/- per kg. When you build up a garden even in a balcony space housing about 10-12 containers, you need at least 50-60 kg of potting soil. Buying Organic Potting Soil from market will burn a hole in you pocket even for a balcony garden. With the given recipe you can get high quality potting mix for almost one fifth of the cost of potting mixes available in market. Moreover you know exactly what has gone into the potting mix when you make your own. You know its completely organic and chemical free. Many of the commercial potting mixes actually have growth hormones additives in them which is quite dangerous for your health. So go ahead and make your own Inexpensive and completely Organic potting soil for your garden. It takes a little effort, but totally worth it.

 

Amrut Jal for Plants – Preparation and Usage

In an earlier post I wrote about how to prepare and use Panchagavya. Panchagavya is an excellent pest repellent, foliar spray and fertilizer for your plants. In our garden we use it mostly as a foliar spray and pest repellent. That is because the recipe of Panchagavya calls for a wait period of 18 days, but it can be stored for 2 months time. Hence it is convenient to make one batch of Panchagavya every two months and use small quantities as a pest repellent. For fertilizing the plants we use two other cow dung based solutions. Namely Amrut Jal and Jeevamrut. In this post I’ll be guiding you on how to prepare and use Amrut Jal.

Amrut Jal has been popularized by Prof Sripad A Dabholkar as a part of what is known as NatuEco Farming Technique. But most gardeners I talk to are blissfully unaware of this magic potion. I hope this post will reach out to as many Organic Terrace Gardeners and farmers as possible, so that everyone can reap benefits of this humble yet powerful gift of nature.

How does Amrut Jal work?

I first came to know about Amrut Jal from Urban Leaves blog and decided to try it in our garden. First we tried it on a flower plant that had dried up and had stopped flowering. Guess what! In about fifteen days the plant had started bearing flowers and in about a month’s time it was covered with them. And since then Amrut Jal has been a regular feature in our garden.

So how does it work?

Fresh cow dung not only contains nutrients for plants, it also contains millions of soil friendly microbes. When they are fed well, they multiply. And when you feed the soil with these microbes soil comes alive. They not only improve the structure of the soil, they also start to break down the available nutrients into a form, that can be easily taken in by plants. The process of making Amrut Jal is basically a process of increasing the number of already available microbial life in fresh cow dung of the Indian breed cow.

Amrut Jal Recipe

Ingredients

  1. Fresh cow dung of Indian breed cow – 1 kg
  2. Urine of Indian breed cow (Older the better) – 1 liter
  3. Organic Black Jaggery – 50 gms (can be substituted with 2 glasses of sugarcane juice or six over ripe bananas)
  4. Water – 10 liters

Process

  1. In a plastic or wooden bucket mix the jaggery with some water or urine to liquefy it. The jaggery serves as the food, which the microbes will eat and multiply.
  2. Mix in the cow dung and urine. Use a wooden stick to do the mixing. Alternatively plastic can be used. But do not use any metal to do the mixing. Cow dung contains different type of beneficial microbes. Cow urine contains microbes which help in photosynthesis. It also makes the food more palatable for the microbes.
  3. While doing the mixing stir slowly in one direction. If you stir too violently then you’ll be killing the microbes.
  4. Add in the water, cover the container with a piece of cloth or any other loose cover and leave it to ferment. Make sure that the cover is not air tight. Avoid exposure to direct sunlight and rain.
  5. Stir the solution 12 times in both clockwise and anticlockwise direction using wooden stick three times a day. This helps in distributing the microbes uniformly in the solution. Why 12 times? Well answer to that I really don’t know. But since the recipe calls for it lets stick to it.
  6. From the second day onward you’ll see that the fermentation process has started. On the fourth day the microbial activity reaches its peak. And that is when Amrut Jal is used.
  7. On the forth day for every liter of the fermented solution add ten liters of water and Amrut Jal is ready to be used.

Usage of Amrut Jal

Amrut Jal is best used on the fourth day for watering the plants. However we also use it on 3rd and 5th days. We use it in almost all gardening activities. They are

  1. Watering the plants using Amrut Jal on a weekly basis keeps the soil alive and rich in nutrients.
  2. Spraying filtered Amrut jal once a week or once a fortnight helps in lowering the chance of pest infestation. It is also an excellent foliar spray.
  3. Seed treatment using Amrut jal by soaking for 24 hours before sowing them helps in better germination rate and stronger plant.
  4. Root treatment of saplings for 30 minutes before planting them helps develop a stronger and more disease resistant plant.
  5. Dried leaves or dried sugarcane bagasse is soaked in Amrut Jal and then used as mulch for plants.

How to Grow Radish in Containers… Even in a Plastic Bottle

A single radish plant can be grown in a recycled plastic bottle
A single radish plant can be grown in a recycled plastic bottle

Radish is one super friendly vegetable to grow in small spaces. Hence it is a favorite among people doing container gardening. You can grow them in as small container as a recycled plastic soft drink bottle. Yes you heard me right. You can grow full fledged radishes even in small containers as plastic bottles. All you need to do is to do it in the right way. This post is a complete guide on How to Grow Radish in Containers from seeds to harvest.

Quick Reference Table to Grow Radish in Containers

Coated radish seeds
coated radish seeds

There are many varieties of radishes to choose from. From long slender ones to round ones, from white ones to red ones, the choices are many. Every variety varies in term of optimal growing condition. This table is a more generic table that covers almost all general varieties.

Item Value
Growing Temperature 10 – 28 °C
Germination Temperature 15-30 °C Ideal
Germination Time 3-7 days
Soil pH 6.0 to 7.0
Sunlight Need 5-8 hours per day
Preferred Planting Method Direct Sowing
Container size 3-4 can be planted in a 10 liter containers. Keep 6-8 inch distance between two plants.
Time to Harvest 30-40 days from germination
Harvest Period 10-12 days
Pollination Radish is a root vegetable which is harvested before it starts flowering.
Typical Pests Aphids, Cut worm, Cabbage looper
Best season to plant in India Beginning of winter and through winters

Choosing Container for Radishes

Around 12 radishes can be grown in a 1.5 x 2 ft box
Around 12 radishes can be grown in a 1.5 x 2 ft box

As I told in the beginning of the post radish can be planted any type of container with some minimum depth, so that the root has enough space to grow. You can choose from grow bags, recycled wooden boxes, recycled thermocol boxes, old plastic buckets, recycled paint buckets, recycled plastic bottles (2 liter of bigger bottle works well. Avoid anything less than 1.5 liter bottle), recycled juice or milk cartons or your good old un-glazed earthen pots. To grow radish in containers the choices of containers is endless. Just use a little imagination. And you can recycle many things at your home and grow radishes in them. Just make sure that depending on the variety of the radish, the root will have enough space to grow downwards.

Seed Sowing and Germination

Making a small well for sowing radish seeds helps in keeping the plant straight later
Making a small well for sowing radish seeds helps in keeping the plant straight later

For sowing seeds prepare your container in the morning and leave it in the sun so that the potting mix warms up by evening. For sowing make marks with your finger at the place where you would be sowing your seeds. Now scoop out potting mix from around the mark to make a small well. The depth of the well can be approximately 1 inch. At the center of each well make a hole of approximately 0.5 inch depth. Drop 3-4 seeds in each hole and cover the hole loosely with some potting mix. Water using a watering can. Keep the potting mix moist and make sure it gets sunlight. You’ll have your first few seeds germinate in about 3-5 days. When the saplings are about 3-4 inches tall thin the saplings to just one.

Now you could always sow the seed without making the well. But there is a reason why we recommend making the well. Young radish plant is very frail and tends to bend even in light windy condition. When the plant bends, its root does not develop too well. When the plant is young and has grown to approximately 2 inches of height, the well is covered with potting mix and lightly firmed with hands. This makes sure that the radish plant stands straight and develops a proper root.

Growing Radish in Containers

well formed radish peeking out of the soil
well formed radish peeking out of the soil

Radish is a root vegetable and hence the condition for the root to grow should be kept at optimum. If your pot dries up often the root will not be able to grow well. Hence keep the potting mix moist. But make sure that its not too wet. That will cause the root to rot. If your potting mix is a well drained one and you have made proper drainage holes in the container then you should not have issue of rotting.

Liquid fertilizers work well for root vegetables. Hence use organic liquid fertilizers like Amrut Jal, Jiwamrit, Panchagavya, compost tea once a week to fertilize your radish plants. Keep checking under the leaves once in a while for aphids. If you find them spray them away with jet of water. Alternatively you can use neem spray once in a week to get rid of them. If you find any leaf eating caterpillars of insects just remove them manually. Check for them early in the morning else you’ll never be able to spot them.

Happy looking radish plants growing in a box type container
Happy looking radish plants growing in a box type container

When the plant is frail and young protect is from strong winds. If the plant still bends down straighten it up by putting some soil around its trunk and firming it up making a small mound. Bent radish plant means not well formed radishes. So try to keep the plant straight before radish starts developing. To grow radish in containers this is all you have to do and in no time they will be ready for harvesting.

Harvesting Radishes

When radish roots starts developing it starts to peek out from the soil. So just keep checking how well your radish has grown before harvesting it. When radish plant starts flowering the radish does not taste very well. Hence in case you see any signs of flower harvest your radish immediately. Ideally you should be harvesting radish well before it flowers. To harvest just pull out the radish from your pot. You could wet the soil to make the soil loose before harvesting. And remember to wash your radish clean before consuming them. When you have harvested your radish do not throw away its leaves. The leaves can also be cooked as any green leafy vegetable and let me tell you it tastes yummy.

As radish has a very short time to harvest, you can keep sowing radish seeds once every 10-12 days in your garden. This will make sure you have a continuous supply of radish during its growing season. One last tip to grow radish in containers would be to plant your radish as a companion plant. As radish does not take up too much space it can be planted along with egg plants or tomatoes as a companion plant and you can enjoy fresh radish from your garden without even having to get a separate container for it.

 

 

Pumpkin Leaf Stew Recipe from Odia Kitchen

Pumpkin Leaf Stew
Pumpkin Leaf Stew

In a post earlier on how to grow pumpkin in containers I had mentioned that all parts of a pumpkin plant are edible. A lot of people actually were surprised to hear that. Which naturally meant that many people have never tasted a pumpkin leaf stew before. Which obviously meant that I had to make this post on Pumpkin Leaf Stew Recipe.  This is my mother’s recipe and hence is a great comfort food; simple, nutritious, delicious all at the same time. We generally have it with steamed rice or rotis. But add a little more water, you can enjoy it even as a soup.

Young pumpkin leaves and stems
Young pumpkin leaves and stems

Pumpkin Leaf Stew Recipe

Vegetables are cleaned and cut into bite sized pieces
Vegetables are cleaned and cut into bite sized pieces

As the main ingredient here is the pumpkin leaf you have to make sure that you have grown the plant yourself organically. Commercially grown pumpkin plants are generally sprayed with poisonous pesticides and hence its leaves are not at all safe to consume. In case you do not have a pumpkin plant in your garden, just borrow a few leaves and young stems from your friends garden. And in exchange treat her with this delicious stew.

Pumpkin leaves are washed and chopped coarsely with the stems
Pumpkin leaves are washed and chopped coarsely with the stems

Ingredients

  1. Young pumpkin leaves and stems washed and chopped coarsely – 15 to 20 leaves plucked with its stem
  2. Potatoes cleaned and cut into bite size pieces – 2 medium sized
  3. Eggplant cleaned and cut into bite size pieces – 2 medium sized
  4. Pumpkin cleaned and cut into small pieces- 100 grams
  5. Moong Dal washed and soaked for over an hour – 1 cup
  6. Garlic crushed – 6 to 7 pods
  7. Onion cut into small pieces – 1 medium size
  8. Green chilies cut into small pieces – 2
  9. Whole Mustard – 1 teaspoon
  10. Vegetable Oil (or any oil for frying) – 2 tablespoon
  11. Salt – to taste
  12. Water – 2 cups

Method

Heat Oil and add mustard, chilies, garlic and onion
Heat Oil and add mustard, chilies, garlic and onion
  1. Heat oil in a pan or wok.
  2. When oil is hot add mustard, green chilies and garlic pods. After about 30 seconds add the onions and saute till onion is translucent.
  3. Add pumpkin leaves and saute for two to three minutes. This step is very important and never miss this step.
  4. Now add all vegetables and the dal. Mix everything well.
  5. Add salt to taste. Add water and bring it to boil.
  6. When the stew starts boiling reduce heat and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes till the greens and vegetables are soft and tender.
After sauteing the green leaves add veggies and dal
After sauteing the green leaves add veggies and dal

Your Pumpkin Leaf Stew is now ready. Adjust the amount of water if you want it more runny like a soup. Now all you got to do is to enjoy this delicious stew with your friends and family.

How to Grow Okra in Pots Organically

okra plants can grow up to ten feet
okra plants can grow up to ten feet

Okra (Bhindi in Hindi and Bhendi in Odia) also known as ladies finger is a very generous plant. A single plant produces one to three fruits daily over a period of 50-60 days. Six to Eight okra plants are enough to meet the vegetable needs for a family of four for a single meal. On top of that Growing Okra in Pots Organically is completely hassle free. Ladies finger is a native African plant and is a close relative of hibiscus. Okra flowers have beautiful color and look similar to hibiscus flowers. Its leaves also have a nice star shaped design. Hence a lot of people also use okra as an ornamental plant and grow them indoors in small pots. Okra is generally eaten cooked lightly, but you can eat them raw if you grow them yourselves organically in your garden.

Quick Reference Table for Growing Okra in Containers

 

Item Value
Growing Temperature Okra is a warm season crop that needs night time temperature to be at least at least 17-18 °C
Germination Temperature  28-33°C Ideal
Germination Time 3-8 days
Soil pH 6.5 to 7
Sunlight Need 6-8 hours per day
Preferred Planting Method Direct Sowing is preferred
Container size 15-20 liter depending on variety
Time to Harvest 30-40 days from germination
Harvest Period 50-60 days
Pollination Self Pollinating
Typical Pests Aphids, caterpillars
Best season to plant in India Anytime other than winters

Choosing Okra Variety

Okra is a green to dark green colored fruit; at least that is what we generally get to see. But there is also a red variety of okra called the Red Burgundy which looks very attractive due to its color. Taste wise there is no difference between a green okra and a red okra. In fact the red okra turns green when cooked. But as a decorative plant in your kitchen garden the red okra scores much higher than the green one. And due to this fact its seeds are more expensive. So while growing okra in pots if you can spend some extra money its not a bad idea to go for the red okra.

red vs green okra
Red vs green okra

The height of an okra plant when grown in an appropriate container can reach up to 10 ft. If you have vertical space constraints go for a dwarf variety of okra. There are a lot of varieties of okra seeds available in the market. Check the typical height of the plant before buying seeds.

Choosing Container for Okra

Okra has a tap root which likes to go deep in the soil. Hence bucket type of container works well for Okra plants. A 20 liter container is good for normal variety while 15 liter container works fine for a dwarf variety. For growing okra in pots, you can choose between an earthen pot, recycled paint bucket or an old recycled plastic bucket.

Month old okra plants in plastic buckets
Month old okra plants in plastic buckets. Basil is planted in the same container as its a good companion for Okra.

Here is a little hack in case you are unable to get a dwarf variety of okra. Just use a smaller container (10 liter). This will make sure the root system does not develop completely and hence the plant will not reach its appropriate height. But it will also bring down the yield.

Seed Sowing and Germination of Okra

Okra seedlings
Okra seedlings

Okra seeds are suited for direct sowing rather than transplanting. However they can be transplanted provided you germinate them in one liter or bigger size container and then transplant the seedling with the entire soil ball. For faster germination soak the seeds for 24 hours in Amrut Jal. If you can not get hold of Amrut Jal plain water works fine. Plan to sow seeds in the evening in a pre-warmed container. Get your container ready in the morning of sowing the seeds and leave it in the sun so that the potting mix warms up by evening. For sowing the seeds make a hole in the potting mix with your finger. The hole should be around 1 inch in depth. place one seed in the hole and cover with loose soil. Water the pot well and cover it from top to preserve heat and moisture. Sow 3-4 seeds per container close to the center. Thin the seedlings to just one after the plants are around 6-8 inch tall.

All but one okra plant was removed after plants developed four true leaves
All but one okra plant was removed after plants developed four true leaves

Once you have sown the seeds check the moisture in the potting mix on a daily basis and keep the potting mix hydrated. In about 3-6 days you should see your first few seedlings peeping out of the soil inquisitively. At this point remove the cover from your pot. Ladies finger plants love sunlight from the day they are born. So let them enjoy some sunshine.

Growing Okra in Containers

Curling of Okra leaves by a Caterpillar
Curling of Okra leaves by a Caterpillar

Okra plants grow very fast. The normal varieties reach a height of approximately 2 feet in a single month. Buds start to appear in a month or so. While growing okra in pots if your potting mix is very loose then you may have to provide some support to the plant. Since okra is grown in warm season, moisture dries out fast from containers. Hence mulching is an absolutely must for okra plants. You need to water the plant two times a day when the day time temperature is high. Otherwise watering once in a day is sufficient for the plant. In case you are not sure how much you should water check for dehydrated leaves a few times in the course of the day. If you notice dehydrated leaves, then you need to water more.

Young Okra plant eaten up overnight
Young Okra plant eaten up overnight

Young okra plants can be attacked by leaf eating insects and the whole plant can be eaten up overnight by them. So just keep checking on your young plants every morning. If you notice parts of the leaves have been eaten away look for insects and pests everywhere in the plant especially under the leaves. As soon as you spot them pick them up and throw them off. Some caterpillars like winter moths curl up the leaves . Just tear off leaves where you see such curls and throw them away. The whole leaf need not be torn off. For getting rid of aphids just use a neem oil based spray.

When the plant starts flowering add about 3-4 liters of well decomposed compost to your pots to get plentiful harvest.

Harvesting Okra

Beautiful Okra Flower
Beautiful Okra Flower

Okra plants flowers almost everyday and every flower self fertilizes itself to a fruit. The fruit takes about 7-10 days on the plant to grow. Okra needs to be harvested when it has grown to a length of 4 to 6 inches. A day or two extra on the plant and it becomes hard and woody. Generally the fruit is covered with tiny soft thorns. While picking up okra these can pierce into your fingers. Hence while harvesting okra hold it at the pointed end and cut it off with a pair of pruning shears. Don’t try to pluck okra with your hands. You’ll end up damaging the plant. Its a good idea to harvest okra on a daily basis. However if you cant do that make sure you are harvesting them every 2 or 3 days. Any longer gap between harvests means you’ll end up with hard fruits.

When you are growing okra in pots, the fruiting period lasts up to two months. So if you want to have a supply of ladies finger in your kitchen all the time, then sow new seeds every two months and enjoy this soft, succulent, nutritious and tasty vegetable on your dinner plates throughout the warm season.

Growing Pumpkin in Containers – A Complete Guide

Pumpkin is a great plant to grow in your garden. It grows easily without any hassles provided there is enough nutrition in the growing medium and there is enough light available for it. It is rich in calcium and phosphorous and tastes great in curries and as a soup it is excellent. But the best thing about growing pumpkin is that all parts of the plants including its leaves, stems and flowers are edible and there are simple and great tasting recipes which you can do in a few minutes to enjoy them. However many people feel that Growing Pumpkin in Containers is not a great idea because of the amount of space needed to grow them, and hence do not include this plant in their organic terrace garden. But in reality with a little amount of creativity Growing Pumpkins in Containers is viable even in small spaces.

A perfectly formed pumpkin from our terrace garden
A perfectly formed pumpkin from our terrace garden

By the way in case you are new to Organic Terrace Gardening I recommend you to read about the things you should consider before starting your Organic Terrace Garden and a Beginner’s Guide to growing vegetables in containers. These posts would help you to get started in the right direction in terrace gardening.

Quick Reference Table for Growing Pumpkin in Containers

 

Item Value
Growing Temperature 23-32 °C
Germination Temperature  30-32°C Ideal
Germination Time 7-12 days
Soil pH 6.0 to 6-8
Sunlight Need 6-10 hours per day
Preferred Planting Method Direct Sowing
Container size 30-60 liter depending on variety
Time to Harvest 60-130 days from germination
Harvest Period 30-40 days for the first crop
Pollination Bee Pollination or Hand Pollination
Typical Pests Leaf Minor, Aphids, Ants, Squash bugs
Best season to plant in India Summers and Monsoons

Before Sowing Pumpkin Seeds

pumpkin trellis
Cleverly done trellis for pumpkin plant to grow lies outside our terrace space

Pumpkin plant is a creeper and spreads out to quiet large areas. Hence you need to have space for it to grow. But that place need not be usable area of your organic terrace garden. It can be let to grow in area where you wont or cant place another plant to grow. You can achieve this by building a trellis.  Our terrace is L-shaped. the right angle created by the L-shape is where we build our simple trellis by tying up a few pieces of bamboo in a crisscrossing manner. We were thus using space which was outside our terrace to let the pumpkin plant grow. Depending on how your terrace or balcony is you can design your trellis. In case it can not be done, don’t worry. You can always grow smaller varieties of pumpkins that take less space to grow.

So to cut a long story short for Growing Pumpkin in Containers, either make a trellis for your bigger variety of pumpkin or grow smaller varieties. Also make sure that your plant grows in a place that gets ample sunlight.

Choosing Container for Pumpkin

Pumpkin growing in a box type container
Pumpkin growing in a box type container

Pumpkin plant is a heavy feeder and its roots need lot of space to grow. For smaller varieties you can go for a 30 liter container, while for bigger varieties 50-60 liter of container is required. Try and go for a container that has bigger surface area, so that the roots get more horizontal space to grow. The container we have used is 2 x 1.5 x 1 ft. Volume wise its capacity is around 80 liters. As we have used a big container, we also planted long beans in the same container. Planting legumes with a fruiting plant helps the fruiting plant by fixing nitrogen in the growing medium.

Seed Sowing and Germination

Pumpkin seed germinated
Pumpkin seed germinated

While Growing Pumpkin in Containers, its seeds are sown directly into the container. They develop long roots when they germinate, hence they are not suitable for transplanting. In case you can not sow the seed directly in the intended container for some reason, you can sow the seed in a smaller container (use a 1-2 liter container). And then when the plant has developed 3-4 true leaves you can transplant it.

Pumpkin seeds have a hard cover and hence it can be a little daunting to get the seed to germinate. To speed up the germination process file the sides of the seed with a fine grain sand paper lightly without breaking the seed. It will help the hard cover to open up faster. However do not file the pointed end of the seed. The next thing to do is to soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before sowing. If you can use Amrut Jal for soaking the seed, it works even better.

To sow pumpkin seeds make 1-1.5 inch deep holes in the soil using your finger or any blunt object. Make 4-5 holes par container in the center. You can keep about 1-2 inch distance between the holes. Place one seed in each hole on its side ; i.e the flat of the pumpkin seed should be perpendicular to the flat of the ground. Cover the hole with loose soil. Water your container well. Now all you have to do is keep the medium moist and wait patiently. In about 7-12 days you should see your first pumpkin seedling. When the seedlings have developed about 2-3 true leaves, identify the healthiest plant and pinch off rest of them.

Sometimes seeds do not germinate at all. And low soil temperature could be one of the causes. In such a case use bottle and tissue paper method to germinate your pumpkin seeds. Plant them in soil as soon as they have germinated and before they start developing roots.

Growing Pumpkin in Containers

Pumpkin growing on the plant
Pumpkin growing on the plant

Once pumpkin seeds have germinated growing the plant is a cakewalk. Just water the plant regularly so that the plant does not remain thirsty anytime. During its growth you’ll need to water the plant 1-2 times a day depending on the air temperature. When the plant bears fruit, it becomes very thirsty. You may have to water your plant 3 times in a day during fruiting. Check for drooping leaves during the day and water the plant if needed. Its a good idea to mulch your containers to reduce evaporation of moisture. You must understand the fact that Growing Pumpkin in Containers is not same as growing them on soil. Your container can hold only little amount of water and hence more frequenter watering is needed when pumpkin is grown in pots.

Add about 8-10 liters of compost to your container when you start getting flowers in your plant. Use Amrut Jal or any cow dung based liquid manure to irrigate your plant on a weekly basis. This helps in supplying ready made nutrition to your plant. It also helps increase microbial activity in your soil which breaks up the nutrients into a ready to be taken form for your plants.

Plants grown organically are quiet sturdy and Pumpkin is no different. However check for leaf minors every 2-3 days. In case you spot any leaf with leaf minor trail, remove the part of leaf, in which you see the trail and throw it away. The whole leaf need not be broken off. For aphids use water spray. Avoid using neem spray on pumpkins. Pumpkin leaves tend to burn when neem based spray is used on them. Dilute your neem based spray if you have to use it. Use a general organic spray like Panchagavya to keep pests away and to promote better growth of the plant.

Pollination of Pumpkins

Pumpkin plant produces both male and female flowers.  Female flower buds have a small pumpkin attached to the bottom of the bud. Male flowers have a erect stem in the center of the flower called stamen, which contains the pollen. The pollen comes off easily from the stamen of a mature male flower. Bees pollinate the female flowers with pollen from mature male flower and fruit sets on successful pollination. The first set of flowers to bloom on a pumpkin plant are male flowers. The plant uses male flowers to attract bees. Male flowers bloom for about 7-15 days before the first female bud starts to appear in the plant. For every female flower you would find 2-3 mature male flowers in your pumpkin plant. Bees while flying from one flower to the other pick up pollen from the stamen and pollinate the female flower.

Step by Step hand Pollination of Pumpkin Flower
Step by Step hand Pollination of Pumpkin Flower

The problem with Growing Pumpkin in Containers in urban areas is that you may not get bees to come and pollinate your flowers. In such a case you have to hand pollinate your pumpkin flowers. Follow the following steps to hand pollinate pumpkin flowers.

  1. Pick up a mature male flower. Tear off its petals carefully without disturbing the stamen.
  2. Lightly shake and rub the stamen on the stigma of the female flower.
  3. Leave the stamen inside the female flower. Wind would further help the pollen to fall off from the stamen into the stigma.

Harvesting Pumpkins

On successful pollination the fruit in the female flower starts to grow. If the pollination is not successful then the fruit dries out and falls off. When the fruit is growing give a support below it in case it is on a trellis. Make sure that support is good to bear 3-5 kgs of weight. You may also cover your fruit loosely with a piece of cloth to keep it out of sight of monkeys. When the fruit starts to turn yellow-orange it is time to harvest. You can let the fruit be on the plant for 15-20 days after it just starts to yellow. If the fruit turns completely orange-yellow harvest it immediately.

Just Harvested Pumpkin
Just Harvested

Everything that you need to know about Growing Pumpkin in Containers does not end here. Along with enjoying the fruit, you can also enjoy the flowers and leaves on a daily basis on your dining table. Male flowers can be harvested after 9 AM in the morning when there are no bees hovering on the flowers. You can remove the stamen and store them in fridge for over a day if you are not using them immediately. Except the stamen all parts of the flower are edible. Young stems and leaves can be harvested before fruit sets. After the fruit has set they tend to harden. But you can still get enough leaves at the tip of the vines. It is a good idea to harvest leaves and stem from the longer vines. It also helps the plant grow better.

That is it on growing pumpkins in your organic terrace garden. Happy gardening.

 

 

 

 

How to Prepare Panchagavya

In India cow is a revered animal and is often referred to as Gou-Mata or the Cow Mother. And this love and respect for the holy cow does not come without any reason. Every product from cow including its dung and urine have been used in daily lives of people in Indian sub continent since ancient times. Gou-Daan or Gifting/Donation of the cow was considered as one of the biggest act of kindness as cow is also a source of livelihood. But the biggest contribution that the Indian breed (desi) cow has been making is in the field of agriculture. Cow waste is one of the best manures and soil enhancer which is used in organic farming widely. A lot of different liquid fertilizers and foliar sprays are made using cow waste all across India. Panchagavya/Panchakavya or Panchagavyam/Panchakavyam is not just one of them, it is the king among them all. It is also used in Ayurvedic medicines and cosmetic products.

Though Panchgavya is available commercially in Indian market, we prefer to make our own. This is because not only we want to control the quality, Panchagavya is also super easy to prepare.

Panchagavya Recipe

Ingredients

panchagavya ingredients
Panchagavya Ingredients include 5 items from Indian Cow and 4 items from plants.

Panchagavya can be loosely translated as ‘Five products of cow’. As the name suggests it uses five products from cow and a few more natural ingredients for the fermentation process. Here is what you need to prepare this magic potion. Note that all the cow products must be from desi cow variety.

  1. Fresh Cow Dung – 5 kg
  2. Cow Urine (need not be fresh) – 3 liter
  3. Cow Milk boiled and cooled (not refrigerated) – 2 liter
  4. Fresh Cow Curd – 2 liter
  5. Cow Ghee – 500 gms
  6. Well ripened Bananas – 12
  7. Black organic jaggery dissolved in 3 liters of water (Alternatively use sugarcane juice of the same volume) – 500 gms
  8. Fresh Tender coconut water – 3 liters
  9. Fresh Grape Juice – 2 liter

Method

panchagavya preparation
Step By Step Panchagavya preparation method
  1. Take a wide mouth plastic, clay or wooden container. Do NOT use a metal container. Make sure its clean and sun dry it for a day or two to sterilize it.
  2. Mix the cow dung and ghee in the container using a wooden stick. Again do not use any metal here. Stir in clockwise direction in a rhythmic motion. Then stir in anti clockwise direction. Do not mix vigorously. It will kill the beneficial microbes in cow dung.
  3. Cover the container using thick cloth to protect it from insects. Leave this mixture for three days. Keep it away from direct sunlight and rain. Give it a stir once in the morning and once in the evening. Twelve times in each direction works well.
  4. On the fourth day slowly stir in all other ingredients. Make sure you are mixing them in while stirring the mixture in a single direction slowly.
  5. Leave this to ferment for 15 days.  Give it a stir once in the morning and once in the evening.

Your Panchagavya is now ready to use. Store it in a place away from direct sun and rain. Keep it covered and give it a stir two times a day. If you follow these guidelines you can store this concoction up to 2 months.

How to use Panchagavya

To use Panchagavya dilute it with 30 parts water and it is ready to be used as a liquid fertilizer. To use it as a foliar spray filter the liquid using a cotton cloth to separate out the waste. If you do not filter it your spray nozzle will be blocked.

As a fertilizer we use it once every two weeks during normal growth of a plant and once a week during flowering and fruiting. As a foliar spray we use it on a weekly basis. We have noticed that when Panchagaya is sprayed all pests disappear and start to make an appearance after about a week’s time. Hence we spray once in a week. Spraying should be done early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Plants and leaves should be dry when you spray Panchakavya. You can spray it between 8-9 AM on a normal day in the morning. In the evening spray about an hour before sun set. Do not waste your Panchagavya on rainy days.

Benefits of Panchagavya

The benefits of Panchagavya are numerous. It is indeed a magic potion for plants. You’ll notice a few things about your plants when you start using Panchakavya.

  1. It keeps pests away from your plants.
  2. It helps develop bigger and better leaves and stem.
  3. Plant canopy and root system becomes denser.
  4. Yield is better in quantity and quality.
kitten in the garden
Our Kittens love Panchagavya

In our garden we use Panchakavya in addition to other cow waste based liquid fertilizers like Amrut Jal and Jiwamrita and have been consistently getting splendid results. Even our kittens like to slurp Panchagavya. We believe their extraordinary growth and health is due to Panchakavya. Though this still needs to be proven, the benefits of Panchagavya for your plants will be there for you to see when you make your own and use it.

Easy and Nutritious Long Beans Recipe

As promised in the last post here I am with an Easy and Nutritious Long Beans Recipe. Its a very easy to do raw vegetable salad and you can eat it as a side dish or just by itself as a snack. Vegetables loose their nutrition with time and because of cooking. To get maximum nutrition from vegetables you should have it fresh and raw. But vegetables bought from store are typically a few days old and are grown using inorganic fertilizers and pesticides. So not only its low in nutritional value, it is also not advisable to eat them raw. It is indeed harmful for you. Hence if you want to make this Easy and Nutritious Long bean recipe then I highly recommend you to grow your own long beans in your own Organic Terrace Garden. Growing Long beans in Containers is super easy and time to harvest is also very low (40-45 days). Hence there is no excuse why you should not be growing them by yourself. And the most important factor why you should use organically grown long beans from your garden for this recipe is that they taste much better and sweeter and have a great texture.

Long Beans Salad Recipe

Back to the recipe now. This is a Canadian inspired recipe and uses sweet nectar of Canada, the maple syrup. However if you don’t have pure maple syrup you can substitute it with honey. This Easy and Nutritious Long Beans Recipe serves two as a snack. As a side dish it can serve three to four persons.You’ll take only 10 minutes to make this and this is what you need for the lip smacking salad.

Ingredients

long bean salad ingredients
Canadian inspired long bean salad ingredients
  1. Fresh Yard Long Beans from your Organic Terrace Garden – 250 gms
  2. Sesame seeds – 1 tablespoon
  3. Olive Oil – 2 tablespoon
  4. Kozlik’s Canadian Mustard (spicy) – 1 tablespoon
  5. Pure Dark Maple syrup – 1 tablespoon
  6. Lime or Lemon juice – 1 tablespoon
  7. Black pepper (coarsely crushed) – 1 teaspoon
  8. Salt – to taste

Method

  1. Wash long beans thoroughly and cut off the ends. Cut into 1 inch size pieces and pat dry.
  2. Roast sesame seeds on a pan for 2-3 minutes till they become slightly brown and leave them to cool.
  3. In a bowl whisk together Olive Oil, Mustard, Maple syrup, Lime juice and Black pepper till you have a good emulsion.
  4. In a salad bowl mix together the Beans, Sesame seeds and the Dressing.
  5. Add salt to taste and mix till the beans are coated well with the dressing.

And there you have it. This easy and Nutritious Long beans recipe is ready.

long beans salad
Canadian inspired long beans salad

The best part of this recipe is that you really don’t have to stick to the measurements religiously. You can alter the quantities according to your liking. And if you don’t have Kozlik’s mustard you can always substitute it with any mustard sauce which has heat. The hero of this recipe is organically grown fresh yard long beans and you can enjoy these at any time of the day in just ten minutes.

Bon Appetit

Growing Long Beans in Containers

Yardlong  beans, asparagus beans, Chinese long beans are different names for what is commonly known as long beans. This is a tropical and subtropical climate vegetable which is a favorite vegetable in Asian countries. The bean pods generally grow around 12-20 inches and are tender, crisp with a beautiful texture. You can eat it stir fried,  pan fried, steamed and in curries. You can even eat it raw. But in raw form it tastes best when you grow it in your own Organic Terrace Garden. One of the very interesting aspect of this plant is that it grows quickly and fruits vigorously. You need to harvest on a daily basis as they fruit on a daily basis. The best part is that Growing Long Beans in Containers is super easy. It needs very basic care and is quite hardy in nature. In this post I am not only going to guide you on how to grow long beans in containers and pots, I am also going to give you some tips, which will make Growing Long Beans in Containers a fun activity for the entire family.

By the way in case you are new to Organic Terrace Gardening I recommend you to read about the things you should consider before starting your Organic Terrace Garden and a Beginner’s Guide to growing vegetables in containers.

Quick Reference Table for Growing Long Beans in Containers

 

Item Value
Growing Temperature 25-35 °C
Germination Temperature 30 °C Ideal
 Germination Time  3-7 days
 Soil pH  6.0 to 7.0
 Sunlight Need  6-10 hours per day
 Planting Method  Direct Sowing
 Container size  upto 2 plants in 10 liter container
 Time to Harvest  40-45 days from germination day
 Harvest Period  30 days typically
 Pollination  Self Pollinating
 Typical Pests  Aphids, Ants
 Best season to plant in India  Monsoons

Before Sowing Long Bean Seeds in Pots

Trellis structure for long bean
A Simple Trellis structure for long beans. Long bean plants automatically start climbing on the strings provided.

Yardlong beans are climber plants. Within 10-12 days of developing true leaves they start to develop vines which starts climbing on any support that they get. This support is generally strings hanging loosely from top of the trellis. These plants grow very fast. Hence you must be prepare the trellis structure for the plant to climb as soon as you sow the seeds. It would be better to make the trellis even before sowing long bean seeds in pots because sometimes it is not possible to put up a structure at some places and if you cant move your container your plants get stuck in a place where they cant climb. And that is a disaster. Hence make sure you have a structure ready for climbers when you are Growing Long Beans in Containers.

Choosing Container for Long Beans

You don’t really need very big containers to grow long beans in your Organic Terrace Garden. You can use a 10 liter container to grow 2 plants. Just make sure that the depth of the container is 8-12 inches. Anything smaller than that would not give a good harvest and anything bigger than that would not boost your harvest significantly. The container can be anything from a un-glazed earthen pot to a plastic tub. Anything works as long as you take care of the minimum depth requirements of the container. Depending on the surface area of the container you can plant multiple long bean plans. If you are planing in a box type container, keep the distance between two plants 1 ft and between two rows the distance should be kept at 1.5 to 2 ft. If your containers is more of a bucket or a pot then plants can be planted closer; but not more than 2-3 per container.

Seed Sowing and Germination

Step by step guide to sow long bean seeds
Step by step guide to sow long bean seeds in containers

We treat Chinese Long Bean seeds with Amrut Jal before sowing. We simply soak the seed in Amrut Jal for 24 hours before sowing. This helps in faster germination. Amrut Jal also helps in protecting the seed from fungal attack. However this step is not a must. You can alternatively soak your seeds in lukewarm water for 20-30 minutes before sowing. Even this step can be bypassed if you wish to.

It is always a good idea to fill up your pot in the day time with potting mix to warm the soil and sow the seeds in the evening in the warm soil. To sow the seeds make small holes of 1/2 to 3/4 inch depth with your finger or any blunt object like back of a pencil. Place one to two seeds in the hole and cover it with potting mix and compress the soil gently. Water thoroughly and you are done. Growing Long Beans in Containers is really simple, but you have to be a little careful during the germination period. Make sure that the soil is always moist and never becomes dry. If the sun is too harsh during day time cover the pot to protect the soil from drying during noon, but make sure that air is circulating well. Also don’t over water. It may cause the seed to rot. If it is raining continuously and heavily during this time cover your pots. If you just take care of these things, your seeds should germinate in 3-7 days time.

Growing Your Long Bean Plants in Containers

When your seeds have germinated all you have to do is water them regularly to keep the soil moist all the time. When the plant grows to around 5-6 inches of height mulch your pot with organic material. This will retain moisture and prevent weeds from growing.

When the plants have grown to around 5-6 inches, they are vulnerable to heavy winds. So you need to stake them til they develop their vines and start climbing. Use any small stick of about 10-12 inches of length for staking. Just lightly tie the plant to the stake near the tip with a soft string. We use jute string for skating as it is soft, natural and cheap.

When the plant develops vines it will automatically start climbing around the strings in your trellis. You may also train the plants manually to the nearest string. Make sure that there are not more than two vines on a single string. If there are any flower pods when the plant is not even 2 ft tall just remove them. Let the plant focus on growing first. When the side vines have two to three sets of leaves pinch the tip. Pinch the tip of main vine when the vine has climbed more than 6 ft. Pinching the tips is not a absolute requirement. But when you are Growing Long Beans in Containers, pinching tips at the right time will help in growing a bushier plant and give you more produce. However you don’t have to religiously do it. Just do how much ever you can.

Fertilization and Pest Care

long beans germination, flowers and pods
Long beans plant life cycle from germination to flowering and fruiting.

Asparagus beans and not too heavy feeders and will grow well from the nutrients in your potting mix. But to keep a good supply of nutrients and micro-nutrients in the soil and to keep the soil alive by providing enough microbial activity water you plants with a cow dung based solution like Amrut Jal or Jiwamrit every 5-7 days during growing period. When the plants begin to flower supplement your soil with good quality compost and additionally you can increase frequency of Amrut Jal watering. To apply compost remove your mulch layer. Loosen the top 1 cm of soil and add good quality compost. Add about half a liter of compost per plant. Put the mulch layer back again. When you loosen the soil you’ll notice that there are feeder roots even in the top one cm of the soil. Hence do not dig any deeper than 1 cm as you’ll be disturbing more roots if you do so.

Use Amrut Jal, Jiwamrit or Panchagavya as a foliar spray every 10-15 days before fruiting and every 7 days during fruiting. This keeps the foliage healthy and fruits become better due to direct absorption of nutrients.

Whether you are Growing Long Beans in Containers or on the ground, no matter what you do aphids will attack your plants. Ants will also attack your pods and flowers and will help the aphids to spread. Check each morning for signs of aphids or any other pests every morning. If the infestation is not too much then wait out for a day or two to see if ladybugs have arrived in your garden for feasting on the aphids. In case you don’t want to wait you can always wash the aphids off with a spray of water. If the infestation is towards the higher side then use neem spray once every 7 days and you’ll be okay. Just make sure that you spray it very early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Otherwise it may cause leaf burns. Drop some turmeric powder on young pod, flowers and vines to control ants.

Harvesting Long Beans

Long beans need to be harvested at the right time to get best taste and texture. Leaving them a little longer in the plant makes it loose it moisture and texture. Generally it takes about 9-10 days for the fruit to be ready after flowering. Your plant will flower and bear pods daily. So harvest your yardlong beans also regularly. Just pull them using your thumb and index finger gently and they will separate from the plant.

Plant your beans every 15-20 days throughout the season to get uninterrupted supply of healthy and fresh long beans. We also plant them with other vegetables like pumpkin, eggplants and tomatoes, so that while we enjoy the great taste of long beans they are busy helping other plants. Long beans belong to legume family of vegetables and they fix nitrogen deficiency in the soil. This helps other plants which feed on nitrogen from the soil.

Fun tips

At the start of this post I told you that Growing Long Beans in Containers is super easy and you are most likely to agree with me on that now. But here are some fun do’s that would make Growing Long Beans in Pots even more interesting for the entire family. One of the tings that you can do it to use the long bean plants as a decorative plant. Just design your trellis in a way that the support climbing strings for the beans make a great visual design. Keep the color of the string red of orange and when the green long beans plants start climbing on them, they do make a very pretty picture.

Another fun activity that you can do with the kids is to find the longest bean. Get your kids to do the harvesting while you are doing other important things like watering the plants. Kids will learn to differentiate between mature and immature pods when the harvest regularly. Then check who has got the longest bean pod. Declare her the winner for the day. You’ll notice how kids start to take more interest in garden with such activities.

I am sure with the information you have got from this post you’ll be successful every time you are Growing Long Beans in Containers. And I am also sure if you have never grown or eaten long beans you’ll now be roaring to go and plant your first long bean seed. As a further motivation I’ll be posting a simple yet delicious recipe with long beans in my next post. Stay tuned and stay blessed.

 

Benefits of Organic Terrace Gardening

We get frequent visitors to our organic terrace garden. Most of them get inspired to start their own kitchen gardens. But as it turns out a very few actually start and even a fewer continue it. Generally the reason for not continuing is because of failures in the garden. And that could be because all things to be considered before starting an organic terrace garden has not been thought out or because they are not doing the basics of container gardening right. But the reason of not starting at all is because most people do not understand the Benefits of Organic Terrace Gardening well enough. Only when people are able to appreciate the advantages and usefulness of a kitchen garden for individual, family, society and the environment, they consider starting their own terrace garden very seriously. It’s the WHY behind organic terrace gardening and not HOW that becomes the real motivating factor. In this post I’ll talk about why you should start your kitchen garden by giving the Top 10 Benefits of Organic Terrace Gardening.

Gives you and your family true nutrition

true nutrition
True nutrition from vegetables can only be obtained if you grow them yourself.

Vegetables and Fruits continue to ‘breathe’ even after harvesting. This process is called respiration and a significant part of the vegetable’s nutrients get lost in this process because carbohydrates, proteins etc continue to be broken down. While a few vegetables take a little longer to lose their nutrients, some spinach varieties can lose about 90% of their nutrient value within a day. Yes within a day; Less than the minimum time it takes for vegetables to reach you from the farms after harvest. Moreover vegetables will have nutrients in them only if the soil on which they were grown had those essential nutrients. Most often than not the store bought vegetables are grown on a sub standard soil using inorganic fertilizers. Hence such produce lack in essential nutrients.

You get true nutrition from vegetables only when they are grown on healthy and wholesome soil and when you consume them as soon as they are picked. And this is possible if you are growing you vegetable as close to your kitchen using a rich potting mix; That is in your own organic terrace garden using organic soil enhancers like compost and oil cakes.

Ensures your food is free of poison

You can not just escape from pesticide drenched vegetables in urban life. As fertility of soil is on a land slide due to use of chemical fertilizers, plants are getting weaker every day. Hence pests and insects are able to easily attack such plants. To save the crop the farmer uses pesticides, which further deteriorates the soil, weakens the plant. And thus a vicious circle is created.

Traces of poisonous pesticides are found on almost all vegetables available in market today. Even when you buy organic vegetables they still could have traces of pesticides as they are not immune to the pesticides carried by air and water from neighbouring fields. State of Punjab in India has been at the forefront of wheat production. But they have been using chemical fertilizers and pesticides for a long time now, which has caused a increase in cancer rates in this state.

One of the top ten Benefits of Organic Terrace Gardening is that you’ll be able to avoid such poison laden vegetables and fruits for your daily consumption to a great extent.

You enjoy better tasting vegetables

It’s a very well known fact that vegetables grown organically taste much better. Because they are grown in a natural way they are bound to taste better. Not only they taste better, their texture and structure is also superior. They are fleshier, sweeter, more flavorful and take much less time to cook. Most of the vegetables can also be eaten raw to get maximum nutritional benefit.

Brings Family Together

One of the intangible yet important Benefits of Organic Terrace Gardening is family bonding. Gardening is a great way to spend quality time with your family. It’s a fun and healthy activity for children. Working with nature and family together is very rewarding and makes the family bonding stronger. Just make sure that children are given tasks in the garden that suits their age and physical capabilities.  Block some time everyday or 3-4 times a week to spend with your family doing gardening activities. Clearly divide the tasks so that children don’t end up hurting themselves by accident.

Provides important education in subtle manner

There is no better way to learn than from nature. Not only you yourself learn a lot about nature when growing food, your kids also learn a lot from the garden. They learn about nature and science. They also learn about virtues like patience, responsibility and conservation of resources. They get to understand where their food comes from. They learn about life and how to nurture it. They also learn about death and the cyclic nature of things. They develop respect for nature and become better at planning and organizing.  They also learn about the value of food and waste less of it. By eating their hand grown food, they develop healthy habits of eating nutritional food and home cooked food. And the best part is that it takes them away from TV and phones and closer to nature. And that according to me is one of the important Benefits of Organic Terrace Gardening.

Conserves Food

organic waste recycling
Organic waste in and around your home goes back to your plants.

Organic container gardening is based on the philosophy of conservation. A composting unit is an integral part of a sizable organic terrace garden. All waste generated from your kitchen goes to this composting unit, which in turn goes back to your plants. This completes the cycle. This process of conserving food waste also put less pressure on the municipality waste disposal system. Most time waste from cities is just dumped in the outskirts of the city, which pollutes the soil, air and water. When you recycle your waste back into your garden not only you have made waste useful, you have also done your bit towards the environment.

Moreover when we buy from the store we are sometimes forced to buy more than what we need. For example you may have to buy a whole bunch of cilantro, though your requirement may be just a few leaves and stalks. The other part goes waste. When you have your own kitchen garden you take only how much you need.  Conservation of food is one of the hidden Benefits of Organic Terrace Gardening.

Saves Money

To start with growing your own food may seem a costly affair. Yes, there will be costs incurred to get the containers, soil, compost, seeds etc. But most of these expenditures are done only once in the life cycle of your garden. The only real expenditure you’ll be incurring on a regular basis in your garden is for seeds and watering. If you grow only open pollinated varieties then you can do seed saving and will not have to spend any money on seeds too. Nature does not charge any money to do its job and when you show respect to nature it rewards you with its bounty. So in effect you actually get your food for free from nature. And when you don’t have to go to the store to buy vegetables, you automatically save on travel costs.  Eating healthy will result in much less visit to the doctor. Isn’t that a huge saving that you’ll be making?

Improves mental health

Nature plays a very big role in our mental well being. People who are closer to nature tend to have a much more resistance towards different mental disorders. Watching your vegetables germinate, grow and produce fruits is a healing experience and it calms the mind. In fact horticulture therapy is quite extensively used for healing dementia patients. In modern life, which is full of stress, organic terrace gardening is one of the ways to de-stress and center yourself.

Environmental factors

Benefits of organic terrace garden extend beyond you and your family.

Plants cut down the carbon dioxide levels in air. Your vegetable garden may be cutting down a very small amount of CO2, but the ocean is nothing but droplets of water put together. Hence your terrace garden also counts in improving the air quality.  Chemical based farming, not only deteriorates the soil quality, it also pollutes the air and water. Water pollution thus caused harms marine life and marine ecosystem. Imagine when everyone grows their own food in a natural manner, the demand for these chemical based produce will go down and that again will stop the destruction of our environment.

Keep your home cool

Plants keep your home cool
Plants on your terrace help you cut down on your air conditioning bills.

If you are living in a tropical climate then having plants on your roof is a natural way to cool your home. All the plants in your terrace garden will create a micro climate and help to lower the temperature of your home. So while you enjoy the nutrition of fresh home grown food, you also save on you air conditioning bills.

 

We have imagined a world where everyone grows some amount of food at their homes. I am sure many of the above Benefits of Organic Terrace Gardening will inspire you to take it up and thus contributing to your quality of life, the well being of your family, community and mother earth.