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.

 

How to Prepare Garden Soil for Organic Vegetable Garden

Sometime back one of our readers wrote to us about his ridge gourd plant that he was growing in his backyard vegetable garden. And he wanted to know if there is any special way to prepare garden soil for farming in the backyard. I am making this post to help him out on preparing a raised bed garden. And I am sure this will be useful to many others who want grow organic vegetables in raised vegetable beds.

In organic farming and especially in natural farming as made famous by Masanobu Fukuoka we follow a ‘no till’, ‘no dig’ method of farming. The tiling and digging is all done by the microbes and other organisms living in the soil. Our job is just to make sure that they are comfortable and well fed. In this post I’ll be taking you through the steps of preparing your garden soil and maintaining it, for a ‘no-till’, ‘no-dig’ method of natural farming.

Division of Garden Space

Divide your garden into raised beds and walking isles
Divide your garden into raised beds and walking isles

The first and foremost task in preparing your garden soil for organic vegetable farming is to clearly divide the garden space into vegetable beds and walking aisles. Walking aisles as the name suggests are the pathways where you walk and vegetable beds are areas where you grow vegetables. Once the beds are made, you should not be walking on the raised beds as it leads to compaction of the garden soil. The garden should be designed in such a way that you should be able to access all parts of the raised garden beds from the isle. Making sure that you can access any part of the garden beds from only one point in the walking isles makes sure that area is used efficiently. Generally by extending our arms we can access upto 2 feet of a raised garden bed. If there are walking isles on both side of a garden bed then you can keep 4 feet as the width of the raised bed. If you can access the bed only from one walking isle then its width will be 2 feet. The width of the walking isle is generally kept 2 feet as it is enough for an average person to walk on and do gardening activities. But feel free to change these numbers according to your physicality.

Create a Lasagna Garden for a Head Start

Now don’t get me wrong. We don’t grow lasagna in our garden. Lasagna Garden here simply refers to the way the garden soil is prepared. It just has a good resemblance to the process of making a lasagna. Just like there are layers of veggies, meat, pasta sheets and sauce in a lasagna your garden bed is going to have layers of different types of organic materials and garden soil.

Prepare raised beds by burying layers of organic material
Prepare raised beds by burying layers of organic material

To prepare a bed first you need to dig out the soil (though this involves digging, this is a one time job only) up to 9 to 10 inches from the vegetable beds. Do not dig the walking isles. Now you need to throw in different kind of organic materials into it along with some of the soil, cow dung manure, compost, wood ash in layers. You can use any kind of organic materials. Some of them are,

  1. Dry brown leaves
  2. Dry Green leaves
  3. Grass clipping
  4. Twigs, branches of plants
  5. Weeds (Make sure they are not bearing seeds)
  6. Puja Flowers
  7. Coffee grounds
  8. Tea leaves
  9. Corrugated sheets
  10. Vegetable and Fruit Peels (Make sure they are dried up)

You need to take care that the ratio of  your greens to browns is in between 1:1 to 2:1. This helps in faster and proper break down of the organic materials. If you are wondering what are greens and browns here is an excellent resource you can read up.

Here are the steps of layering the vegetable grow bed.

  1. Spread some cow dung manure in a thin layer.
  2. Spread 3-4 inches of organic material.
  3. Sprinkle a little amount of Amrut Jal to make the organic material slightly moist. This helps in faster decomposition. If you don’t have Amrut jal you can use plain water.
  4. On top of it sprinkle cow dung manure, wood ash and some soil. Manure is a source of microbes which will breakdown the organic material. Wood ash helps in bringing down the acidity of the decomposed organic material.
  5. Additionally you can add some neem cake for pest and disease control.
  6. Now go to step 2 and repeat  for 3 to 4 times until the entire bed is filled up.
  7. Finally cover the bed with the leftover soil. You’ll end up with a garden bed which will be slightly raised w.r.t to your walking isle. By the way if your soil is really bad don’t hesitate to mix in some compost to the soil.

Building Garden Soil by Mulching

Creating a lasagna vegetable bed gives a good head star. But you’ll have to keep building the top soil all the time. Now this may sound like a huge task. But in reality you really don’t have to do much. Nature will do all the job for you. You only have to let it.

All you really have to do is mulch. Cover your vegetable beds with 4 inches of loose organic material. Grass clippings, leaves, cleaned and dried sugarcane baggasse and paddy straw are some of the things you can use.  From time to time keep sprinkling Amrut Jal to supply nitrogen. The mulch serves four basic purposes.

  1. Protect the microbiology in the soil from direct sunlight and rain. Microbial life in the soil does not exactly like the heat of sunlight. They do much better under some shade. When you provide shade microbial life flourishes. Moreover the mulch layer will prevent evaporation and thus maintain moisture which again is essential for microbiology of the soil.
  2. Prevents nutrients from the soil getting oxidized and evaporated into air. Prevents leaching of nutrients due to heavy rains.
  3. Builds top soil through decomposition. This is also known as sheet composting or in situ composting. When you mulch with organic material its not just going to sit there quietly. The lower layer which is in touch with the soil will start decomposing and will become top soil. Giving a sprinkle of Amrut Jal time to time will make sure that the decomposition happens faster. As the mulch decomposes you need to put more organic material to keep the thickness of mulch at 4 inches. So keep checking and adding mulch time to time.
  4. Prevent weeds from growing in the garden soil by blocking sunlight.

Useful Tip – Weeds generally have a very deep root systems which helps them to survive. As the roots go deep they pull out lot of minerals from under the earth. Hence mulching with leaves and stems of local weeds helps a lot in soil building.

Protecting Raised Garden Beds

Layering the raised bed with plants of different height is a great way of protecting garden soil
Layering the raised bed with plants of different height is a great way of protecting garden soil

Soil building in your vegetable garden is a continuous activity. You need to keep the ground well mulched all the time. The waste leaves, old and dead plants come into use when your vegetable garden becomes a complete functional unit. Just chop and drop them on the raised bed and you are done. The mulch protects the soil from sunlight and rain. But when the sun is very hot or there is lashing rains you need more than just mulch to protect your garden soil. And again the solution comes from design.

If you grow plants of different height on the same bed together they can provide an added layer of protection. For example suppose you grow okra on a garden bed. Then in between the okra plants you you can grow brinjal. And then whatever gaps are left you can grow a creeper bean to cover it up. If you get a bird’s eye view of the garden bed then you should not be able to see the mulch layer through your plants. Which means that planting vegetables of different height has given an extra layer of protection to your garden soil. Another way to cover up the bed is by planting creepers with big leaves. Plant anything like a pumpkin, bottle gourd or cucumber and let is spread over the raised bed to cover it everywhere.

To make sure that the vegetable patch always remains fertile follow crop rotation on them. Rotating your crops on the same garden bed ensures that the same type of nutrient is not getting used always and your soil is not getting imbalanced.

And lastly as I pointed out in the beginning of the post you should never ever step on to the garden bed. It will compact the soil and make it hard. It will also kill a lot of microbiology in the soil. Additionally you also must check the mulch getting compacted. Sometimes when that happens anaerobic bacteria get activated as there is not enough aeration and you really don’t want that.

 

 

Benefits of Gardening : Infographics

One of our reader Peter Kimzey of Yo Innovation came up with an infographics on benefits of gardening and shared with us. We liked it and after some minor changes that we suggested the infographics looked really good. So we decided to share it with you.

Thank you Peter for this beautiful and informative image. If any of you would like to share anything useful here do let us know by dropping a mail at [email protected]

Benefits of Gardening
Benefits of Gardening

Update on Urban Farming Training

In April this month we announced our Summer Course on Urban Farming on facebook and got a overwhelming response. And our first course on Organic Urban Farming Training commenced in May 20017. Our course was designed with the following objectives.

Participants preparing their pots
Participants preparing their pots
  1. Sensitize participants on the problems with the food we eat today and the food and nutrition gap we are facing now.
  2. Make participants aware of all major aspects of Organic Urban Farming which are
    • Choosing Containers and preparing them
    • Preparing potting soil
    • Choosing appropriate vegetables
    • Preparation of organic fertilizer and soil conditioners
    • Composting and recycling techniques
    • Water management
    • Soil management
    • Crop rotation and companion planting
    • Pest Management
  3. Impart hands on training on most of the above subjects
  4. Motivate and inspire participants to use the gained knowledge to start their own gardens
Potting Soil Mixing by participants
Potting Soil Mixing by participants
Amrut Jal Preparation Demo
Amrut Jal Preparation Demo

With all the above in mind we created a course of a 5 hour workshop and nine training programs (2-3 hours each) which were spread over 20 days. The participants had to do hands on gardening work in the training to really get a grip of things. And we also had them come over to visit our model Organic Terrace Garden to really connect with what they learn.

Urban Farming Course

A lot of notes were taken too
A lot of notes were taken too

After the facebook announcement and a help from one of our participants finally we got our first batch which consisted of people from various walks of life and the age of the participant ranged from 20 years to 60 years. One thing was common in all the participants. They were all very passionate about growing their own food and they were eager to learn. And that motivated us further to do better.

The course took off on May 8, 2017 with the workshop and ended on 27th May. In the process of imparting knowledge we also learnt a lot. I am sure it was equally if not more beneficial for all the participants. Though the course has ended our engagement with the participants has not. All of them have been given  a deadline of 4  months to create a functional food garden and we have promised to help them with it.

Thats all for now. Signing Off.

Participants got a chance to visit our model garden
Participants got a chance to visit our model garden
Entire batch in our Organic Terrace Garden
Entire batch in our Organic Terrace Garden
A Group Selfie with Mangoes
A Group Selfie with Mangoes

p.s. If you want to organise workshops or training programs on Organic Urban Farming in your company, community, school do drop us a mail at [email protected]

 

Amrut Jal for Plants – Preparation and Usage

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

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

How does Amrut Jal work?

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

So how does it work?

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

Amrut Jal Recipe

Ingredients

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

Process

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

Usage of Amrut Jal

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

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

How to Grow 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 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.