Guide to Growing Tomatoes in Containers

Tomatoes ripened on the plant
Tomatoes ripened on the plant

Tomato is one of the most versatile vegetables which is loved all around the world for its flavor, texture, color, taste and juiciness. But tomato is also a food source with an ambiguity. Though botanically its a fruit, it is eaten as a vegetable. However knowing this fact really does not make any difference to you when you want to grow juicy, colorful and yummy tomatoes in a container in your garden. But going through this post on how to grow tomatoes in containers surely will. So without much ado here we go.

Quick Reference Table to Grow Tomatoes in Containers

 

Item Value
Growing Temperature 15 – 30 °C
Germination Temperature 20-30 °C Ideal
Germination Time 3-10 days
Soil pH 5.5 to 6.8
Sunlight Need 6-8 hours per day (Sun loving Plant)
Preferred Planting Method Transplanting
Container size 15-20 liter
Time to Harvest 60-100 days from germination depending on variety
Harvest Period  3-4 months
Pollination Self pollinating.
Typical Pests leaf eating caterpillar, aphids, fruit borers
Typical Diseases Blossom End Rot, Leaf curl, Septoria leaf Spot, Early Blight, Late Blight
Best season to grow in India November to February. Under shade house you can grow from October – April

Tomato Varieties you can Plant

Cherry Tomatoes Growing in Bunch
Cherry Tomatoes Growing in Bunch

Tomatoes come in many sizes and colors. The smaller tomatoes that are typically not more than an inch on the longest side are called as cherry tomatoes. These come in many colors ranging from red, pink, yellow to purple and are salad friendly vegetables. These are also container friendly varieties and give a huge amount of yield even in small containers.

Tomatoes also can be of bush and vine varieties. The bush varieties which grow to a height of 2-3 feet are called determinate variety and are usually shorter and more compact plants than the vine or indeterminate varieties which grow up to 6-8 feet.  As the indeterminate varieties grow much taller more staking is usually needed for these. The major difference however between the determinate and indeterminate varieties is the fruiting cycle. Determinate plants bear fruit in batches. An entire batch fruits and ripens at the same time. And a few days after the first batch has ripened a new batch of flowers start blossoming. In indeterminate variety fruiting, flowering, ripening continues till the season ends all at the same time. However due to size the determinate variety is more suitable for container gardening.

Starting Tomato Seeds and Transplanting in pots

Tomato Saplings in Paper Cups
Tomato Saplings in Paper Cups

To grow tomatoes in containers you need to start the seeds in a seed tray under controlled conditions as the seedlings take good amount of time to grow. If you do not have a seed tray you can use used paper cups. Fill up the seed tray loosely with seed tray mix (see potting mix post for details) and give a tap so that it settles down nicely in the tray. Spray wet the media so that it settles down further. Drop 3-4 tomato seeds in each cup of the tray. Cover the seeds with more seed tray mix so that the seeds are just covered with 2-3 mm of the mix. Water again very lightly with a water sprayer and keep the tray in a warm place. If the seeds are good and the temperature is right it should germinate within 3-4 days. When seeds have germinated, transfer the tray to a place where the seedlings can get at least 4-6 hours of sunlight.

You need to water the seedlings as needed. Make sure they are protected from direct rain and harsh sunlight. Its better to keep the seedlings under shade house if the daytime temperature is more than 30 degrees. In about twenty to thirty days time when 4-6 true leaves have emerged the sapling is ready to be transplanted.

Staking arrangement done for Tomato Plant as soon as it is transplanted
Staking arrangement done for Tomato Plant as soon as it is transplanted

The potting mix that you use for tomatoes must be rich in minerals especially calcium. So be sure to add some fish meal or bone meal to your potting mix when you grow tomatoes in containers. Additionally you can also add crushed egg shells to provide additional enrichment to the soil.

To transplant carefully take out the sapling from seed tray and bury the ball of the sapling it in the center of your pot. Water the pot properly and place it in a sunny area. After about 7-10 days when the saplings have adjusted to the new soil remove the weaker saplings. Retain only one plant and cut off rest of the saplings using a garden scissor. To grow tomatoes in containers successfully you need to limit the number of plants to 1 for 15-20 liter container. If you have much bigger containers you can plant more saplings. But keep at least 1.5 feet distance between each sapling.

Growing Tomatoes in Containers

Companion Planting - Tomato with Carrots
Companion Planting – Tomato with Carrots

Tomatoes grow very well when they get optimum climatic condition of cooler temperature, low humidity and full sunlight. In case your area is very hot even in winters it will be good to keep tomato plants under a shade house or under shade net. Tomato plants are not strong enough to bear fruits without support. When saplings are planted in a container of appropriate size they grow quite fast and hence staking arrangements need to be done upfront. When you grow tomatoes in containers you can simply stake using a bamboo stick and tie the tomato plant to it using a jute string. You can even stake the tomato plants using a cotton or jute string hanging from any support above the plant. The important thing is to stake your tomato plant well in time to help it grow well.

Fully grown tomato plants
Fully grown tomato plants

There are a lot of opinion on how to handle the suckers (Suckers are sprouts that develop between the main stalk and a leaf node. They are similar to suckers in eggplant. You can see the picture of a sucker in the post I made on eggplant.) in tomato plants. Some people are of the opinion that, if left on the plant suckers affects the yield and overall health of the plant. While another group of people are against removing the suckers. I follow a middle path approach. I remove the bigger suckers which hinder airflow and penetration of sunlight to all parts of the plant. And rest of the suckers are left untouched on the plant. And this seem to work out fine.

Water your tomato plants as needed. Dry soil can stress your tomato plants. But over watered tomato plant is undesirable. Water the plant at the base and never on leaves. Wet leaves can easily catch fungus. Rain can also cause fungal attack. Hence it is good to provide some protection to the plants during rains so that the leaves do not get wet. When you grow tomatoes in containers it become easy to move them around and protect them from rain. Use a good organic soil conditioner like panchagavya once every 12-15 days to supplement the soil with nutrients. Spraying panchagavya once every 12-15 days also helps in better fruiting and keep away a lot of pests.

Pollinating Tomatoes

Self Fertile Flowers of Tomato
Self Fertile Flowers of Tomato

Tomatoes are self pollinating. In lay man’s language every flower of tomato plant is self contained and has the potential to turn into a fruit all by itself. But they need a little help from wind, bees and wasps to get pollinated. So in case you find your tomato flowers are not turning into fruits in spite of the weather being right and plant being healthy you may have to help your plant in pollination. Giving a little shake to the plant helps pollen to fall off from the stamen onto the pistil and thus pollination takes place.

Another way you can hand pollinate tomatoes is by using some kind of vibrating apparatus that mimics the vibration caused by flutter of bees or wasps. A battery operated tooth brush is one such apparatus you can use. Just put on the brush in vibrator mode and move it around near the flowers. Be careful not to touch the flowers. the vibration created in the wind will be sufficient to pollinate the flowers.

Pest Management for Tomato Plants

Winter Moths Bore into Tomato
Winter Moths Bore into Tomato

Keep watching for bugs on your tomato plant on a daily basis. Mealybugs are very common on tomato plants and if not checked during initial stages they can infest the plant. Wipe away the bugs as soon as you spot them. You can use a cotton cloth dipped in some methylated spirit to wipe them off. Other major bug family that seem to like tomato plant is caterpillar. Some of them eat up the leaves while others like the winter moth get inside the fruit and eat it up. Cow urine diluted ten times with water can be sprayed to keep the caterpillars away. Panchagavya is also an excellent pest repellent to keep them away. But manually removing them early in the morning everyday works out best.

Harvesting Tomatoes

Bountiful Tomato Harvest
Bountiful Tomato Harvest

Tomatoes produce a lot of fruits under suitable weather and soil conditions even when you grow them in containers. On the flip side tomatoes are actually very slow growing vegetable compared to most other veggies. They take about sixty days on the plant before you can pick them. A few varieties even take around ninety days to become ripe and mature. So you need to have patience when it comes to harvesting them. Tomatoes in the unripened stage are green and after staying that way for 40-50 days they start to ripen. It is good to pick them up after they have completely ripened and turned red. As soon as they turn red pick them up immediately when they are still firm. You can also pick them up when they are partially ripe and leave them to ripen in your kitchen. When mature, tomatoes can easily be separated from the plant with hand.

Additional Tip

Blossom End Rot in Tomato
Blossom End Rot in Tomato

Tomato fruit is susceptible to BER (Blossom End Rot) especially when you grow tomato in containers. The bottom end or blossom end of the fruit is rotted while rest of the fruit looks fine. When this happens you can not consume them. And this happens due to lack of calcium in the soil. As there is limited amount of potting mix in your container, tomato plant may not be able to get the required calcium. To fix this you can water your plant with butter milk with a pinch of asafoetida for a few days. Other quick fix method that you can use to address this problem is to use a herbal calcium tablet. Take one tablet per plant, crush it properly and mix it with half a liter of water. Water your tomato plant with it. This will fix BER issue for a single tomato plant.

And here is the last tip before I sign off. Keep your tomato plants (and plants belonging to tomato family like eggplant) well spread out in the garden. Keeping them together will be conducive for pests (esp caterpillars) to spread to all plants. Keeping them away from each other reduces the probability of pest infestation.

How to Grow Brinjal in Containers

Eggplants galore
Eggplants galore

Fire roasted brinjal (or eggplant or aubergine) smashed with chopped onions, chilies and a little mustard oil is a dish that is smoky, sweet, gooey, meaty, hot and above all irresistible. It is an absolute favorite here in my part of the world. In fact eggplant is one of the most used vegetables in Odia cooking. Its goodness can really be enjoyed to the fullest if it is organically grown and is of indigenous variety. Brinjal being a perennial vegetable in tropical weather, it can be planted any time and it can be enjoyed throughout the year. In this post I’ll guide you on how to grow Brinjal in containers organically in your terrace garden.

Quick Reference Table to Grow Brinjal in Containers

 

Item Value
Growing Temperature 15 – 30 °C
Germination Temperature 25-30 °C Ideal
Germination Time 6-12 days
Soil pH 6 to 7
Sunlight Need 6-8 hours per day (Sun loving Plant)
Preferred Planting Method Transplanting
Container size 15-20 liter
Time to Harvest 60-80 days from germination
Harvest Period  8-12 months
Pollination Self pollinating.
Typical Pests mealy bugs, aphids, fruit borers
Best season to plant in India June – November

Starting Eggplant Seeds and Transplanting in pots

Seed starting in paper cups
Seed starting in paper cups

To grow brinjal in containers you can sow the seeds directly. But its better to start brinjal seeds in a seed tray as the seedlings take good amount of time to grow. During this time it is susceptible to forces of nature. If you do not have a seed tray you can use used paper cups. Fill up the seed tray loosely with seed tray mix (see potting mix post for details) and give a tap so that it settles down nicely in the tray. Drop 3-4 eggplant seeds in each cup of the tray. Cover the seeds with more seed tray mix so that the seeds are just covered with 2-3 mm of the mix. Water the tray very lightly so that the soil mix is not disturbed. Now cover the tray with a polythene sheet and keep the tray in a warm place. Make sure that there is about 1-2 inch gap between the soil and the polythene sheet. The plastic sheet helps in retaining moisture. But you can skip this step if you want to. But you need to make sure that the soil is moist all the time. In about 6-7 days time seedlings will emerge in the tray. As soon as the first seedling emerges remove the plastic sheet and transfer the tray to a place where the seedlings can get at least 4-6 hours of sunlight.

You need to water the seedlings as needed. Make sure they are protected from direct rain and harsh sunlight. Young brinjal seedlings are susceptible to root rot. To reduce probability of root rot you may water the seedlings with Amrut Jal once in a week. in about thirty to forty days time when 4-6 true leaves have emerged the sapling is ready to be transplanted.

watering the eggplant seedlings with a spray
watering the eggplant seedlings with a spray

To transplant carefully take out the sapling from seed tray and bury the ball of the sapling it in the center of your pot. Water the pot properly and place it in a sunny area. After about 7-10 days when the saplings have adjusted to the new soil it is time to remove the weaker saplings. Retain only one plant and cut off rest of the saplings using a garden scissor. To grow brinjal in containers successfully you need to limit the number of plants to 1 for 15-30 liter container. If you have much bigger containers you can plant more saplings. But keep at least 2 feet distance between each sapling.

Growing Brinjal in Containers

Brinjal grow in full sunlight and hence the soil can dry out very fast. So mulch you pot heavily to avoid evaporation. Keep the soil moist all the time and never let it dry out. in harsh summers a fully grown plant can get water stressed.

Happy brinjal seedlings
Happy brinjal seedlings

Just like Tomatoes suckers sprout in a brinjal plant too. Suckers are sprouts that develop between the main stalk and a leaf node. If left on the plant it affects the yield and overall health of the plant. So check for suckers and remove them using hand shears regularly. It is a good idea also to remove all leaves that become old and start touching the soil. You can also prune the leaves that point towards the stem of the plant. Such leaves block sunlight to other leaves and also prevent airflow.

Suckers in eggplant have been cut off
Suckers in eggplant have been cut off

Use Amrut Jal or any other organic liquid soil conditioner/fertilizer every 10-15 days. During flowering increase the frequency and use it once every 7 days. When you grow Brinjal in containers you need to make sure your plant gets enough nutrients at all times. Do not forget to add extra compost to your pot at regular intervals. Adding about 3-4 liters of compost for each plant every 40-50 days will keep the plant healthy. Always add compost below the mulch layer.

Flower of aubergine
Flower of aubergine

Aphids and Mealybugs are the major pests that you have to face when you grow brinjal in containers or on the ground. So check your plant regularly below the leaves. In case you find them remove them with water jet. You can also use a neem spray or any broad organic pesticide like diluted cow urine to get rid of aphids. For mealybugs take a cotton ball dipped in a methylated spirit to wipe them off.  During fruiting plant can get infested with borers especially if temperature is low. Spraying once a week with Panchagavya keeps borers away. It is a good idea to keep all your brinjal and tomato plants away from each other so that borers can not spread easily.

Harvesting Brinjal

Fruit borer on brinjal
Fruit borer on brinjal

Eggplant flowers are self pollinating and they are pollinated with the help of a little wind. You can also tap the flowers gently to help in pollination if there is no wind. The plant tends to fall over during fruiting due to the weight of the fruits. So staking is a must for brinjal plants. Stake your plants before or as soon as flowers start to bloom. Staking will also help protect your plants from heavy winds.

An eggplant has just formed
An eggplant has just formed

Eggplant is ready to be picked up in about 15-20 days from formation of fruit. Press the fruit slightly to check if it is mature. If it is soft to touch then it probably will grow a little more. If it is hard to touch it has already matured. You need to harvest your eggplant when it is no more soft to touch. To harvest do not pull it. It will not come off and will damage the plant. Use a pair of garden scissors to cut off brinjal from the plant.

Second life of Eggplant

When you grow brinjal in container, in about 5-7 months after the first harvest there may be a reduction in size of the fruit and the leaves. When this happens its a good idea to cut off your plant from top leaving only 3-4 main branches and about 8-10 leaves in the plant. The best time for this to be done is during monsoons. Never do this in harsh summers. In few days time new and bigger leaves start to emerge.In about a month’s time your plant will grow to its full glory again, and the brinjals that will fruit in the plants will be of bigger size. Thus you’ll be able to get tasty and nutritious eggplants round the year from the same plant.

 

Guide to Growing Broad Beans in Containers

Mature Broad Beans Pods
Mature Broad Beans Pods

You either hate Broad beans (also known as fava beans or flat beans) or you love them. This is one bean that is difficult to ignore because of its intense flavor and hard texture. I love that intensity and the bite. We get a lot of indigenous varieties of flat beans here in eastern and southern parts of India. Most of them are climbers and need a trellis to grow. A few hybrid varieties are also available now which are of bush variety and hence can easily grow at any place. Being a leguminous plant it also fixes nitrogen in your soil and keeps it healthy. So even if you don’t love fava beans your garden loves it. This plant prefers cooler temperature and hence is a a great vegetable to grow in winters. In this post I’ll guide you on growing broad beans in containers in your kitchen garden.

Quick Reference Table for Growing Broad Beans in Containers

 

Item Value
Growing Temperature 15 – 25 °C
Germination Temperature 20-30 °C Ideal
Germination Time 3-7 days
Soil pH 6 to 6.8
Sunlight Need 8-10 hours per day (Sun loving Plant)
Preferred Planting Method Direct Sowing
Container size Grow 2-3 plants in a 10 liter containers. Keep 3-4 inch distance between two plants.
Time to Harvest 60-80 days from germination
Harvest Period  50-60 days
Pollination Self pollinating.
Typical Pests Aphids, leaf minor, ants
Best season to plant in India  

Start your seeds about a month before onset of winters. October to February are the best months to grow broad beans.

Seed Sowing and Germination of Broad Beans

Broad Bean Seeds
Broad Bean Seeds

Broad beans are medium feeders and shallow rooted. So they can easily be grown in a 10 liter container. You can grow 2-3 plants in a single 10 liter container. If you are using a bigger container and planting in rows then you need to keep about 6 inch distance between plants and around 10 inch distance between rows.  For sowing the seeds it is a good idea to soak the seeds in Amrut Jal for 24 hours. Plain water also works fine if you don’t have Amrut Jal. Soaking seeds helps in faster germination. 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 (Use 2 seeds for every mark. Thin saplings later retaining the healthier one) 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. As the seeds germinate better in humid conditions its a good idea to keep the container covered. Check the moisture in the soil everyday. Don’t let the soil dry out any time, but at the same time don’t keep the soil wet every time. The seeds germinate better if the moisture level is slightly on the lower side than on the higher side. In about 3-5 days you should see happy seedlings looking out from the pots,

Germinated Broad Bean Seeds
Germinated Broad Bean Seeds

Sometimes seeds do not germinate or have a very low germination rate. When this happens you can try to germinate the seeds in a bottle. Wrap your pre-soaked seeds in a damp cotton cloth or damp kitchen towel. Place it inside a bottle, close the lid and place the bottle in a warm area. Check after 3-4 days if the seeds have germinated. If the seeds have germinated you can sow them in your pot. If most of them have not germinated you need to change your seeds.

Growing Broad Beans in Containers

Broad Bean Plant in Flowering Stage
Broad Bean Plant in Flowering Stage

Broad Bean is a climber and it grows at fast rate. So you need to build a trellis well in time for the plant. When the broad bean plant is about 6-10 inches tall it starts to climb. So keep your trellis ready by then. By the way if you are growing the bush variety then you don’t have to worry about the trellis.

Because broad bean grow in full sunlight the soil can dry out very fast. So mulch you pot heavily to avoid evaporation. Keep the soil moist all the time and never let it dry out. If at some point the plant gets water stressed then it may be difficult for it to recover.

Bush Variety Broad Bean Plant
Bush Variety Broad Bean Plant

Use Amrut Jal or any other organic liquid soil conditioner/fertilizer every 10-15 days. During flowering increase the frequency and use it once every 7 days. You can add extra compost for better fruiting at regular intervals. Adding extra compost to the container every 40-50 days keeps the plant happy. To do this remove the mulch and add about 1 liters of well decomposed compost per plant. Spread it evenly and mulch again.

Aphids are the major pests that you have to face while growing broad beans in containers. So check your plant regularly for aphid attack. Check leaves, stems, buds and flowers. In case you find them remove them with water jet. You can also use a neem spray or any broad organic pesticide like diluted cow urine to get rid of aphids. Spray your plant once a week if you see aphids. In case a plant has got infested with aphids its better to move the container to isolated area and spray it. If the aphids do not go even after spraying then get rid of the plant to protect rest of the plants in your garden.

Harvesting Broad Beans

Young Broad Beans Pods
Young Broad Beans Pods

Broad beans fruits grow slower than other beans. The flowers generally stay on the plant for 7-10 days before turning into pods. The pods also take around 15-20 days to grow and become ready for harvest. To know if they are ready for harvest or not press the pods gently and check for the seeds. If the seeds have formed properly the bean is ready to harvest. For seed saving leave the first few pods on the plants till the pod turns light brown to brown color. You can do seed saving only if the bean is a open pollinated variety.

Generally every plant flowers and fruits well two to three times after which the pods become smaller and most of them dry on the plant. So after you have got two or three batches of harvest, cut off the plant and use it for mulching.


I have made this post about growing broad beans in containers on request by one of our readers with a beautiful name of Chandrakala. I hope it will be helpful for her and also for all of you. And if you want us to write on some topic, then do write to us at [email protected] and we’ll do the needful asap.

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.

Guide to Growing Cauliflowers in Pots at Home

Fully grown cauliflower ready to be picked
Fully grown cauliflower ready to be picked

I absolutely love cauliflower. Now who does not like cauliflower!!!! Its one of the most versatile, textural and yummy vegetables around. You may have it as a soup, as a paste, roasted, grilled, sauteed, baked and in curries. In some recipes it is even used raw as a substitute to grains. But then if you are not growing them organically you can’t really have it in as many ways. Because of the texture of the vegetable, pesticide easily get trapped in the vegetable and cant be washed off. Hence to enjoy a cauliflower without any dangerous side effects you need to grow them naturally. In this post I’ll guide you on Growing Cauliflowers in Pots easily at your own home.

Quick Reference Table for Growing Cauliflowers in Pots

Transplant one cauliflower sapling in 15-20 liter pot when you are growing cauliflowers in pots
Transplant one cauliflower sapling in 15-20 liter pot

Though cauliflowers comes in different colors like purple, orange and green now a days, the white variety is the most popular. The reference table below is for white variety, but it should work well for other varieties too. In the white variety you can choose between self blanching or non self blanching varieties. Blanching is a process of providing shade to the cauliflower head by tying the large leaves of the plant with a twine. This process makes sure that the head remains white and does not get discolored due to sunlight. The leaves of self blanching varieties automatically cover the head and hence no manual blanching is needed. When you are growing cauliflowers in pots in your terrace, where sunlight is plenty blanching is a must.

Item Value
Growing Temperature 15 – 25 °C
Germination Temperature  20 – 30 °C
Germination Time  3 – 8 days
Soil pH  6 – 7 (slightly acidic to neutral)
Sunlight Need  Full sunlight
Preferred Planting Method  Transplanting is preferred over direct sowing
Container size  20 liter
Time to Harvest  50 – 70 days
Harvest Period  Needs to be harvested quickly as the buds start to mature very fast.
Pollination  Not Applicable
Typical Pests  Aphids, Cutworms, Cabbage Loopers
Best season to plant in India Beginning of winter or anytime in winter providing sufficient growing time (at least 60 days)

Choosing Container for Cauliflowers

Cauliflowers work well in box container
Cauliflowers work well in box container

Cauliflower is a shallow rooted plant and hence does not need very deep containers. Any container with at least one feet depth works fine. So you can plant cauliflowers in an earthen pot, bucket or box type container. Among these box type of container works best as you can plant a few cauliflowers together and this leads to better utilization of space. Make sure to keep the distance between two plants to at least 15 inches, so that each plant has enough space to grow. But when you are growing cauliflowers in pots plant one sapling in 15-20 liter pot.

Seed Sowing and Transplanting

Cauliflower Plants in growing stage
Cauliflower Plants in growing stage

Cauliflower is a heavy eater plant. Hence make sure your potting mix is a really good one. While growing cauliflowers in pots, you can directly sow seeds in the pot. But germinating seeds in controlled condition, hardening the saplings and then transplanting works better. That is mainly due to two reasons. First starting seeds in controlled environment gives you better chance of success. You can even start seeds just before ideal temperature is reached in the garden. The other reason is to protect the plant from any soil borne disease that can affect young seedlings.

Seeds can be started in seed trays or paper cups. Sow the seeds about 1/4 inch deep in loose seed starting potting mix. Water properly and keep it as a warm place. Check moisture level everyday and spray water if soil starts to dry out. In about 3-4 days time the first seedlings will start to appear. Place the seedlings in a place where it can get enough sunlight after germination.

When the seedlings are about 4-6 weeks old, they can be transplanted. At this point thin the saplings to just one. Use a pair of scissors to cut out rest of the saplings. Make a hole in your pot so that the ball of the seedling can easily fit into it and then cover with soil and firm the soil lightly around the plant. Water the pot well and keep the pot in an area where it can get full sunlight.

Growing Cauliflowers in Containers

Blanching prevents discoloration of Cauliflower buds
Blanching prevents discoloration of Cauliflower buds

Cauliflower needs moist soil especially during flowering. So never let your pot dry out. Check the moisture level in the soil regularly and water as necessary. While watering take care not to spill water on the cauliflower head. Water the plant from the sides. Cauliflower being a heavy feeder needs a rich potting mix to start with. When you are growing cauliflowers in pots its a good idea to supply them with extra nutrients. Hence about forty days after transplanting, you can supplement each plant with approximately half a liter of well decomposed compost. If you have planted a non self blanching variety its a good idea to cover your cauliflower with the large leaves kept in place by a clothes pin or a twine. It will protect cauliflower from discoloration due to sunlight.

Young plants are susceptible to attack from cutworms. If you find leaves of young plants eaten away, then check early in the morning for worms and remove them manually. Aphids also can attack cauliflower plants overnight. Its is a good idea to check under the leaves every morning for aphids. If you find them wash them off with a jet of water. You may also use neem oil based spray to get rid of Aphids.

Harvest time for Cauliflowers

Young cauliflower
Young cauliflower head

Cauliflowers need to be picked when the heads are still firm and compact. When cauliflowers matures its heads start developing gaps between the buds. You need to pick them just before this happens. You can harvest cauliflowers when the head is around 6-8 inches in diameter. But when you are growing cauliflowers in pots organically you are going to get them in different sizes depending on the pot size, quality of potting mix and sunlight availability etc. So you need to keep a good watch on when they are ready to be picked.

Sometimes the heads lose their color due to sunlight if they have not been blanched. So if you see your cauliflowers turning a little purple pick them immediately. To harvest cauliflower cut the stem of the vegetable including a few leaves for protection. The leaves are also edible and can be cooked as any other green leaf as a stir fry or curry. And of course you can also enjoy your cauliflower in numerous ways. So just go for it. Grow your own cauliflower at home this cold season.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.