Announcing Summer Course on Urban Farming

High pesticide residues, lack of essential nutrients, use of growth hormones, lack of fresh fruits and vegetables, GMO contamination and rising food prices are some of the reasons why people all around the world are taking to growing their own food at their homes and communities. With a very high population, depleting resources and climate change food and nutrition gap in India is growing at an alarming rate. To deal with this issue and to be future ready Urban Farming is fast becoming a necessity rather than a hobby. In states like Kerala govt is giving subsidies and encouraging people to do Organic terrace gardening.

Urban Farming and Organic Terrace Gardening Workshop in Odisha
Urban Farming and Organic Terrace Gardening Workshop in Bhubaneswar, Odisha


For the first time in Odisha where this concept is still to catch up Organic Terrace along with Paz Farming and Solutions launches a summer course on Urban Farming. Our summer course on urban farming aims to make people aware of all aspects of GROWING ONE’S OWN FOOD ORGANICALLY by recycling the waste from one’s home. We also aim to sensitize people about the need of Organic Terrace Gardening and Urban Farming.

This course on urban farming consists of a workshop and nine hands on training modules spread over a period of 21 days. During this time participants will learn how to design their own gardens in small spaces, recycle waste, select appropriate vegetables, take care of their plants and soil, deal with pests and every other major aspect of organic terrace gardening.

Irrespective of weather you are a novice or you are an expert this course on urban farming is designed to add value to your gardening know how. We are limiting the number of participants to 15 to be able to give individual attention to each participant.

Don’t miss this chance to become an urban farmer and adopt a healthy lifestyle for yourself and your family. Registrations close on 6th May. So hurry up and book a seat for yourself. Call 9937099274 or 9937866309 to register.

How to Build Shade House for Your Vegetable Garden

Climate change is real. Every year the summers are getting hotter and its not good news for your plants in your garden. There are many inexpensive ways you can take care of your plants to protect them from summer heat. But a shade house which needs some investment is the best bet. And this fact forced us to build a shade house for our terrace garden this year. We did not build it over our entire terrace because the shape and other factors of our terrace did not allow us to do so. We built it on one side of our garden covering approximately 300 sq ft. In this post I’ll guide you on How to Build Shade House for your garden.

Things to Consider before you Build Shade House

Shade House Structure makes efficient use of space by allowing climbers and creepers to grow vertically
Shade House Structure makes efficient use of space by allowing climbers and creepers to grow vertically

In certain part of summers and during monsoons our part of the world becomes very windy. And on the terrace the winds are much stronger than on the ground. So in such windy conditions we needed to have a strong structure to hold the shade house together. Which means the only material we could build our shade house structure with was steel. PVC pipes or bamboo structures would not withstand heavy wind condition.

In steel itself there were two options. Whether to go for pipes or to use angles. We stuck to pipes for two reasons. First, they are easy to manage and it is much easier to fasten the shade net to a pipe rather than angles. And secondly the aesthetics of a pipe is much better than that of angles.

We also wanted our structure to double up as trellis for climbers and creepers. So we decided to keep the minimum height of the structure at 6.5 ft.

Shade House Design

Concept Design of Shade House
Concept Design of Shade House

Here is the shade house design and the material that was used.

As shown in the picture 1.5 inch steel pipes were used as verticals to hold the structure while 1 inch pipes were used for everything else. Flats were used for trellis structure. In hind sight flats could have been replaced with 1 inch pipe from strength and aesthetics point of view. It would have cost only a little extra. Here is the list of materials we used to build the shade house.

  1. 1.5 inch steel pipe (2mm thickness) – 3 pieces of 20 ft length each
  2. 1 inch steel pipe (1 mm thickness) – 14 pieces of 18 ft length each
  3. 1 inch flat – 7 pieces of 18 ft each
  4. 75% shade net cloth – 400 sq ft
  5. UV resistant plastic wire
  6. Paint and Primer

How to Build Shade House

Shade House Structure Construction Step 1
Shade House Structure Construction Step 1

As a first step the outer vertical poles were cut to size and erected. They were supported on either the walls or the false pillar posts. A small square rod was first drilled into the wall at an angle of  20-30 degrees to the ground. This angle helps the rod stay put inside the wall. Then the 2 inch steel pipes were soldered to these rods.

Shade House Structure Construction Step 2
Shade House Structure Construction Step 2

Next measurements were taken for the triangular trusses. And each of the three trusses were fabricated from the 1 inch steel pipe to measurement and marked. Then they were soldered on to the vertical posts.

The inner verticals were then erected and soldered onto the trusses. A few flats were also soldered on to the verticals for extra support and to create permanent trellis structure.

Shade House Structure Construction Step 3
Shade House Structure Construction Step 3

And finally the horizontal bars (1 inch pipe) were laid down on top and soldered to the top of the trusses. These connected the three trusses to each other.

After the structure was ready we cleaned up the pipes using sand paper and cloth and painted it for protection. After the paint was dry the shade cloth was laid on top of the structure and was fastened using fishing net wire. The fishing net wire we used were UV ray protected. So it would not easily disintegrate in heat and would hold on for much longer than normal plastic wires.

Shade House Structure Construction Step 4
Shade House Structure Construction Step 4

To give it extra protection from wind we tied coconut fiber ropes going across the shade cloth from one side to the other. This was necessary as our place is very windy. In case you don’t get so much wind you do not really have to do this.

Total Cost of Building Shade House

Shade house structure after painting
Shade house structure after painting

When we build the shade house the cost of steel was Rs 60/- per kg for the best brand of steel in town. Other lower quality steel was approximately Rs 50/- per kg. But we chose to go for the best quality steel and the total cost of the steel pipes was approximately Rs 8000/- including transport.

Laying down the shade net in progress
Laying down the shade net in progress

The shade net we used was a 75% sun block variety and the total expense to for about 400 sq ft of shade net was under Rs 1,000/-. The UV resistant fishing net wires cost another Rs 200/-. The paint and primer expenses for painting the pipes was approximately Rs 600/-. We did the painting job ourselves and hence not counting the wages for painting here.

UV resistant string for tying shade cloth
UV resistant string for tying shade cloth

And lastly the fabrication charges for the shade house was Rs 5,000/-. So the shade house over 300 sq ft space cost us a little under Rs 15,000/-. Now to some of you this may seem a little high, but if the structure building cost is distributed over 20 years (the structure will last at least 20 years. The shade net may have to be changes every year) then it comes out to be under Rs 700/- (13,000/20) per year, which is really negligible if you look at the other advantages of the structure in additions to serving as a shade house.

Other Advantages of the Shade House

Shade Net tied to the steel pipes
Shade Net tied to the steel pipes

Now that you know How to Build Shade House, there are many other reasons for Why you should Build a Shade House. Though the shade house functions primarily to protect plants from heat, here are a few of the other advantages of the shade house structure. These are a few of the functions that we are using as of now. You can always get creative and use the structure in many more ways.

  1. Coir Ropes used on top of shade cloth for guarding against strong winds
    Coir Ropes used on top of shade cloth for guarding against strong winds

    Water requirement of plants reduces leading to water conservation. Here are some more tips on conserving water.

  2. Used as permanent trellis structures.
  3. Climbers can be made to grow vertically making efficient use of space.
  4. Pots could also be hung from the structure.
  5. The shade house keeps the house cool too.
  6. Protects plants from heavy rains as the shade net arrests most of the force of the rain drops.
  7. Protects plants from monkeys. You can achieve this by covering the whole shade house with shade cloth or you can use fishing net to cover the sides of the shade house.

How to grow Ridge Gourd in Pots

Ridge gourd seedling
Ridge gourd seedling

Its summer time again. And its time to plant some cooling vegetables in your garden. While cucumber is a must have vegetable in your garden in summers ridge gourd is another vegetable that you can easily grow in containers. Ridge Gourd belongs to the cucumber family and contains a lot of water along with dietary fibers. It has very low amount of saturated fats. Hence its a great vegetable for weight loss. Ridge Gourd is also an excellent source of vitamin A. Ridge gourds need very little attention and hence are well suited for any garden. But with The help of this post on How to Grow Ridge Gourd in Pots you can increase the yield and performance of your plant.

Quick Reference Table to Grow Ridge Gourd in Pots

 

Item Value
Growing Temperature 26 – 36 °C
Germination Temperature 28-38 °C Ideal
Germination Time 3-7 days
Soil pH 5.8 to 6.8
Sunlight Need 6-9 hours per day (Sun loving Plant)
Preferred Planting Method Direct Sowing
Container size 20-30 liter container works well. 2-3 plants can be grown in a single containers. Keep 4-5 inch distance between two plants.
Time to Harvest 45-60 days from germination
Harvest Period  50-60 days
Pollination Bees act as pollinators, Hand pollination can be done in absence of bees.
Typical Pests Ants, Fruit fly, leaf minor
Best season to plant in India Starting from beginning of summers till beginning of winters.

 

Choosing Container for Ridge Gourd

Plant ridge gourd in at least 20 liter pot
Plant ridge gourd in at least 20 liter pot

Ridge gourds are heavy feeders. They need a lot of nutrients and also a lot of water. So you need a bigger container to grow ridge gourd in pots. Generally a 20 liter container would work fine. You can grow 2-3 plants in one containers. You can use container of any shape. Just make sure that it is at least 12 inches deep. Use a nutrient rich potting mix which has good water retention property. A higher amount of organic compost in the potting soil mix will ensure that it is nutrient rich and also help in retaining water.

Seed Sowing and Germination

In a 20 liter pot you can grow 3-4 plants. The distance between plants needs to be approximately 4-5 inch, so that roots of all plants can spread well in all directions. For sowing the seeds it is a good idea to soak the seeds in Amrut Jal for 10-12 hours. Plain water also works fine if you don’t have Amrut Jal. Soaking seeds helps in faster germination, but is is not a compulsory step. Mark your spots where you’ll be sowing your seeds in the pot. Now make 3/4 inch to 1 inch holes in the soil using one of your fingers. Place the seeds on their side in the holes and them cover them loosely with the potting soil. Water the pot gently. Be careful not to disturb the soil. Check the moisture in the soil everyday. Don’t let the soil dry out any time. In about 3-5 days you should see happy seedlings looking out from the pots.

Grow Ridge Gourd in Pots

Ridge gourd vine can climb even on fishing net
Ridge gourd vine can climb even on fishing net

Ridge gourd is a climber and it grows at fast rate. So you need to build a trellis well in time for the plant. Keep the height of the trellis at least 6 ft. The plants can also grow vertically on a stretched fishing net. Whatever your trellis structure is make sure you have it in place by the time ridge gourd plant is 6-8 inches tall. That is when they start shooting out tendrils to climb.

Ridge gourd plants need a lot of water. And because they grow in full sunlight the soil can dry out very fast. So mulch you pot heavily to avoid evaporation. To make sure that the soil remains moist throughout the day you can use a recycled plastic bottle for drip irrigation in every pot. Make a tiny hole on the cap of the bottle. The hole should be small, so that water flows out of in tiny drops. Fill the bottle with water and place the bottle in pot head down. Fill the bottle in the morning every day during regular watering. Remember this is in addition to your regular watering.

Use Amrut Jal or any other organic liquid soil conditioner/fertilizer every 10-15 days. During flowering increase the frequency. When the first fruit appears its a good time to add extra nutrients to the pot. To do this remove the mulch and add about 2 liters of well decomposed compost to the container. Spread it evenly and mulch again.

When you grow ridge gourds in pots you don’t have to handle many plants. So it is best to do pest management by removing the pests by hand. For ants sprinkling turmeric helps. Tendrils of any climber plant help only in climbing. In fact too many tendrils would impact the yield negatively. So nip off most of the tendrils. Just retain a few of them so that the plant does not fall off from the trellis. Nipping off the tendrils will help in increasing the yield.

Pollination

Ridge gourd female and male flower buds
Ridge gourd female and male flower buds

Ridge gourd plant produces different male and female flowers. The female flowers have a small fruit attached to its bottom while male flowers do not have the fruit. Pollination is done by bees. In case you do not get bees in your garden you need to hand pollinate the flowers. Hand pollination is very simple. Just pluck a healthy male flower and remove its petals gently without disturbing its stamen. Now rub the stamen gently on the stigma of the female flower. You can use a single male flower to pollinate 2-3 female flowers. But in case you have enough male flowers use a single male flower for each female flower.

Harvesting Ridge Gourd

Ready to harvest ridge gourd
Ready to harvest ridge gourd

Ridge gourd fruits grow very fast even when you grow ridge gourd in pots. After pollination they are ready to pick in approximately 8-12 days. You can pick your gourd about 2-3 days after the fruit has stopped growing. Leaving it too long on the plant makes it fibrous and then it can not be consumed. However the fruit can be left to dry on the vine for harvesting seeds and using the fibrous part called loofah as a natural scrubber. Use a pair of scissors or any garden cutter to remove the fruit from the plant. Do not remove the fruit by pulling. It will damage the plant. 


Ridge gourd is a hassle free plant to grow when its nutrient and water needs have been taken care of. You can plant them in a staggered manner in your garden once in every 20-25 days to enjoy them throughout most parts of the year.

How Not to and How to Water Plants in Pots

Popular clip art of a Happy Gardener
Popular clip art of a Happy Gardener

The happy gardener. You see him/her everywhere; on TV, on bill boards in magazines. And its mostly a very happy and content looking person watering plants with a hose or a watering can. And the water falling on the plants in an almost poetic manner with shower like effect. The image conveys the beauty and happiness involved in gardening (and sometimes it is also to sell some gardening equipment). Most gardeners I have met tend to water their plants in this popular way as it feels and looks really nice as per them. Unfortunately this is exactly how you should NOT water plants in pots or in garden. This post is a guide on How Not to and How to Water Plants in Pots. Though I’ll stick to container gardening, the same is applicable to all gardens.


Where you should Water your Plants

  1. Water plants at roots; Not on leaves
    Water plants at roots; Not on leaves.

    While it is okay to ‘bathe’ your plants once in a while to remove off the dust from leaves, it is not okay to water your plants on the leaves. Plants need water at their roots and not on the leaves. The roots pull moisture from the soil and through capillary action send it to the leaves. So you should help plants by watering at the roots. Moreover moisture on the leaves if left overnight can cause fungal attack. Hence avoid wetting leaves of the plant while watering.

  2. Generally the branch roots of a plant (the ones that suck moisture and nutrients for the leaves) spread out to all directions. Water needs to be given to this system and not at the base of the plant. Watering at the base of the main trunk of the plant will loosen the grip of the plant in the soil. Hence water away from the base of the plant. You can water along the rim of the container for most effective watering. Generally the canopy of the plant gives an idea of its root systems. So while watering plants outside, you can follow the spread of the canopy and water around it’s projection on the ground if you your plant is on the ground.

When to Water your Plants

  1. Water early in the morning or late in the afternoon (if not possible in the morning). Watering in the morning makes sure that the plant has enough moisture to be used throughout the day. If by any chance you are unable to water in the morning, water your plants late in the afternoon. It should not be too hot when you are watering in the afternoon. At the same time there should be enough time for leaves to dry off in case they get wet. Never water your plants when the sun is over your head. Heat leads to excess water evaporation.
  2. Water only when soil dries out. Don’t water for the sake of it. To check if
    Excess watering causes nutrient leaching
    Excess watering causes nutrient leaching

    you need to water your plants you can put a finger inside the soil. If you feel the moisture, then there is no need to water the plants. Excess watering will lead to nutrient loss and also water loss.

  3. Sometimes in summers you’ll notice drooping leaves during the day time. Don’t rush to water your plant in such a case. Do the moisture test with your finger. Water only if the moisture has dried out. Otherwise just leave the plant. The leaves will spring back to life when the sun goes down. Drooping leaves result due to faster evaporation from leaves than the amount of moisture the roots can pump to it.

How to Water your Plants

  1. Ganga flowing to earth through the matted hair of Lord Shiva
    Ganga flowing to earth through the matted hair of Lord Shiva

    Water your pots to make the soil moist and not dripping wet. Not only its a criminal waste of water, too much water in the pot can lead to root rot if the soil or your potting mix is not a well drained one. On regular observation you’ll be able to figure out the water requirement of each pot. Water accordingly. Over watering also leads to leaching or wastage of nutrients.

  2. Water with as less force as possible. It is best to just take a watering pipe with almost no force in the flow of the water and place it in your pot along the rim. Water jet disturbs the soil.
  3. Lastly on to some mythology. Though I am supposed to write about How to water plants in pots, you must be wondering why I am suddenly diverting to mythology. Well just read on to find out. In Indian mythology there is a story of the great river Ganga coming
    Use thick layer of mulch to arrest speed of water
    Use thick layer of mulch to arrest speed of water

    down from the heavens to the earth. But her force is so much that it would destroy the earth. So the great yogi Shiva uses his matted hair to arrest the force of the river Ganga coming down from the heavens. And that is exactly what you have to do by using a thick layer of mulch. Mulch helps in arresting the speed of the water falling on the base of your plants. Hence mulch your pots well. The other thing about mulch is that it catches the dew at night and when the dew condenses it flows down to the soil. Hence mulching also acts like a automatic watering system.


Water is an important natural resource and hence you should always aim to conserve it. Use as much surface water as possible and conserve ground water. Harvest rainwater, reuse domestic waste water (water in which vegetables have been washed). And most importantly water correctly and water efficiently. You not only conserve water, you also keep your soil and plants healthy and happy.