Monday, December 22, 2014

Mustard / Sarso

I dropped a bottle of mustard seeds one day and as a habit I either compost all we waste from the kitchen or directly put it into soil.

A couple of weeks later the mustard seeds had turned into lush crunchy leaves. So I decided to harvest them. Later the harvested ones went into a simple dal and I could not believe the fragrance the house was filled with and the rest turned into these beautiful yellow soft flowers. It was obvious I was obsessed with these greens since. 

It's quite exciting now to be able to harvest my own mustard seeds and leaves too. 

Mustard seeds are rich in calcium, manganese, magnesium, dietary fibre, iron, omega 3 fatty acids, protein, phosphorous, niacin, zinc and selenium.

A few seeds of mustard are used in Indian cooking as tempering as they increase salivation by eight times and hence improve digestion. They also act as a mild laxative, improve blood circulation and an antiseptic. 

Mustard seeds act as a digestive aid in moderation, mustard neutralizes toxins and helps ward off an upset stomach. However, too much can be an irritant. This is why it is commonly added as a tempering to most foods, especially the hard-to-digest ones. 

And did you also know that Mustard is a cruciferous vegetable related to broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage! Now that's some info I never had.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Organic Terrace Gardening - My story

This should've ideally been my first post but well who is here to challenge my unstructured behaviour? ;)
Home Terrace Garden a year back
So here goes my story of how I began a terrace garden.

My interest in Gardening began with Composting and wanting to manage waste and then in need to put the compost to use I owned a few pots. One thing led to another, my interest in Butterflies/Lepidoptera peeked and I got further interested in plants that helped breed the butterflies I had so fallen in love with.

Home Terrace Garden a year back

Home Terrace Garden a year back

Home Terrace Garden Nine months back

Again my little understanding in waste management led me to using urine as a resource than wasting it. Soon I saw my little garden yielding a lot of fruit, flowers, butterflies and thriving. Post that there was no stopping me. I had a balcony full of plants and containers and then I soon adopted one more terrace which I had begun to gradually fill up with more plants.
There were few lime plants and herbs growing on my balcony but it was essentially plants that would attracts bees, butterflies and birds then.

Previous home Terrace 
Garden 2.5 yrs back 

Moving to a new house I was mighty upset with how hot the house was. It was summer and sleeping at night was a misery. Thinking of solutions I decided to have a garden on the roof which would help absorb the radiation and the heat. To cover larger surface at the minimum cost I came up with the idea of bamboo baskets, knowing well that around 6" soil is sufficient for most plants to grow.

I was very impressed with Jamie Oliver then. In fact I am a huge fan of this man!
He's so good with food and understands ingredients so well. His insight and TV show "Jamie at Home" had impressed me so that I wanted to now grow food. So my journey into seed sourcing began.

Home Terrace 
Garden now

Home Terrace 
Garden now

Home Terrace 
Garden now

Home Terrace 
Garden now

Home Terrace 
Garden now

Home Terrace 
Garden now

Home Terrace 
Garden now

I initially started with hybrid seeds that I sourced from a shop in Chamrajnagar, Karnataka. It was an instant yield. In the need to understand gardening more and find more like minded people I browsed for groups on gardening, joined several of them including which was this facebook group called "Organic Terrace Gardening". It happens to be the most active group of dedicated and very committed organic gardeners. Every day was a learning post that. I have been encouraged and inspired by so many that I cannot list each one out here as I'd be unfair if i missed a single name. I am so grateful to so many who gifted me saplings, ideas, concepts of farming, seeds, containers and so much more. I am so happy for all the new things I've learnt about life in the process of gardening. I am happier still that I know a lot more about what I eat and how now that I grow it. I have a deeper appreciation for every single thing I consume and it comes from the depth of my soul.

I found insight into organic gardening, got further involved in Herbs, natural farming, creating a jungle, upcycling and so on and so forth. Not to mention that I am more obsessed with food than I was ever before. I feel totally empowered by the fact that I can eat what I grow sans any chemicals! To know that I can jump up to my garden and get me some fresh herbs to go into my food.  How much better can life be?

My garden has been an ongoing learning. I have failed and risen several times. I have also figured I am not a very hardworking gardener but like most other things that I fall in love with I put in my whole and soul into Gardening. Now I am an obsessive compulsive urban farmer! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Joy of the Age old

When I started gardening a couple of years back I didn't have a clue to where it would lead. I was still learning to grow plants mostly flowering and figuring out what they like or not. I was not sure that I would get this involved in growing food. 

The empowerment I feel now is incomparable to any other. It's a sensation that not only makes me feel more secure by the minute but also healthy. 

Every day I pick something off my organic terrace garden that I use in my meal the very same day. It's exciting and yet such a simple truth of life that the urban folk have become enstranged to. Such that now growing a part of what we eat is more exotic than anything else. 

To me it's a simple truth. An age old way of life that we forgot over time. 

This Orange fennel rice that came about as an inspiration from the fennel greens we harvested. 

This thupka we cooked as dinner in celebration of the cabbage we harvested after such a long wait. 

And this lovely tomato and beetroot soup with stirred crunchy beans and cherry tomatoes with loads of herbs like basil, thyme and rosemary was our dinner tonight to celebrate all that our life had become because we grow so much food. The fresh coriander herbs turned into a tasty chutney that married perfectly with dose for breakfast. 

Well life is indeed simpler than I lived it before and I so look forward to simplifying it further. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Chillies on the terrace

They are so easy to grow. Need very little care and just a few tips to ensure they will fruit. 

I have heard many complains about the flowers dropping off and the plant yielding no fruit. Well, chillies for one like a little alkalinity in the soil. They need a whole lot of calcium too to grow well. 

The trick therefore is to feed the plants with a small drizzle of buttermilk ever so often in a week. I tend to grow my chilli plants in just about anything. Be it empty dog food bags or baskets or empty plastic bottles. The chilli plant can survive any weather or container as long as it has alkaline soil and loads of nutrients. 

One could also add diluted lime and it could do the same trick. Buttermilk is a very mild version hence can be added a lot more. Drizzle a little bit on top of the plant and that takes care of a lot of fungal diseases the leaves get too. 

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Gardening and Happiness

Today I went up to my terrace garden slightly apprehensive and a little worried of what I would see. Not being around for three days I was sure my garden would've suffered. It used to happen a lot in the past when the garden was smaller and I was new to gardening. 

As always I was proven wrong. The garden was flourishing, very happy, yeilding fruit all over the place. Mango beetles too enjoying themselves and helping me from pests. Now that's called Nature. It takes care of itself. Souls like me assume we are and therefore an organic garden is, but we are so wrong. 
The nature has found it's own way to be.

So many flowers on beans of so many varieties, Brinjals fruiting and flowering all over, turmeric happily sprouting and coriander at last has sprouted too! 

I remember having a conversation with the amara beans vine, upset that it hadn't flowered in so many months and was just trampling around on the lovely bamboo trellis. I had given it extra soil and compost and left it alone with a warning. Guess what I find this morning!!!

So this morning is French beans, amara beans beginning, velvet beans, broad beans, cow peas and moong beans! 


Coriander loves just soil and very little cocopeat I figure. It can do with very little. Some sunlight and a little less water. Am so delighted as coriander has grown after so long. 

I love my flourishing organic terrace garden! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Lettuces organically

Everytime I felt like a nice crunchy salad of lettuces, I'd have to run some five kilometres away to this exotic store that sells them once in a while. I would just have to buy a lot more than I need for one meal and attempt to store the rest. The lettuce would certainly turn into an inedible mush in a couple of days and I'd give in to throwing it all into my compost bin. 

To the ignorant me it was a very exotic vegetable that grew under certain climatic conditions like that of Europe. Watching others discuss possibilities of growing the vegetable I was tempted to try some too. Once I sowed the seeds of the Romaine lettuce, I literally had to do nothing for it except to let it be. The first plant of lettuce I didn't even touch. It was that special to me. The seeds had sprouted almost immediately and the plant later began to vertically rise too quite soon. 

I learnt that lettuce if kept in semi shade gives edible leaves for longer. Once it bolts the leaves become inedible. 

After the plant bolts it begins to flower. Lovely yellow flowers that soon dry and create feathery seeds in the spot. I was keen on collecting the seeds from the very start, and so I did. 

As I grew more lettuce I realized I was very lazy to collect seeds from the plants daily. Well, now I have lettuce growing like weeds all over the garden. Now that's how exotic the plant is!! (To me exotic directly means difficult to sustain) 

Lettuce is a part of our meal daily now. Raw in a salad is so tasty. Varieties of lettuce now grow on my little terrace garden and it's for Free!!!! 

Try growing lettuce please. It's one of the easiest, hardiest plants an organic gardener has met. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sweet Potatoes

I always loved the sweet potato more than the ordinary potatoes. We ate them in several ways back home and it's been difficult to give up on these sweet nutrient rich root vegetable. 

I used to see my grandmother have terraced beds of different colored floor runners of sweet potato creepers. They came in several colors and so many different shapes of leaves. 

The other day we walked into someone's personal farm whilst looking for a nursery. As we were about to turn around I laid my eyes on the entire floor of the farm full of sweet potato creepers running wild. I asked for a few and got a lot more. Apprehensive that they might not be of much use by the time I am back home, I reached home and sowed them in several pots. Viola! They thrived! Each and every one. There was no stopping the pretty bushy floor covers and I fell in love with how they overflew the baskets everywhere. 

Harvesting close to two kilos of these yummy roots was like looking for treasure. My hands and all I was lifting soil, turning it and discovering one by one roots. Was such fun! I found myself laughing aloud and jumping with joy. 

This is such an easy to grow root veg. It takes around 3 months to yield and needs no pruning or fuss. All stems send branches pulled out take root very easily. 
I would think everyone must grow these sweet potatoes. They are so easy and such high pleasure. 

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Cabbage on terrace

I know I must not count my chickens before the eggs hatch but what can one do about this enthusiastic bubble that explodes with joy within me when I see such beauties on my terrace garden! 

I can't help but see my heart skip a beat when these blueish grey little florets of organic cabbage are "forming a centre". 
Apparently cabbages get loads of aphids and don't like hot weather. Well yes, the last time I tried growing cabbages I ended up sacrificing four of them to these pests and got one little fellow to enjoy eating. 

I didn't want to give up, so I decided to try once again. The saplings of these were gifted by a friend. They were two weeks old already. After distributing many amongst other enthusiastic friends I decided to finally grow six of them. 

I planted them in June end and I see at least this one fellow will be soon ready to consume. 

Secret to growing good cabbages non-organically is to pump them with pesticides and to feed them with huge quantities of Urea. This time I decided to ensure I was growing them in the right season, placed herbs around the cluster of three and distributed the rest amongst other plants for pest resistance. Instead of urea I decided to feed them diluted urine four times a week. 

Well, so far there hasn't been a problem. What do you think? Will I be successful in harvesting a good cabbage crop this time around? My fingers are crossed. :) 

Monday, October 06, 2014

When nature takes over

When nature takes over you realise you are insignificant in the entire process of growing plants. 

There is much happening on it's own on this 600 square foot terrace of mine that I have no control over. 

These two tomato plants have found their own way to grow out of my big dump of twigs and weeds from the OTG. Now they have begun to flower too. Nature teaches me everyday that I am no body and yet I find such pleasure in that learning. A lazy gardener like myself, you can imagine, must find that so empowering. 

Happy natural gardening! 

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Organic and Heirloom Tomatoes

I never thought I could love and enjoy tomatoes so much. Since the beginning of the fancy cooking shows and Jamie Oliver's yummy salads with several differently shaped heirloom tomatoes, I have been curious to know more. 

It's so exciting to know that you can grow them organically and so many in a simple terrace garden and containers. 

We harvest a few tomatoes daily before my dogs or the one permanent resident rat gets to them. Yes, my cocker spaniel, Ruby loves tomatoes! 

Today when I peeked into the basket where we store our 'toms' I realized the variety of them that we grow and harvest. Isn't that just splendid? 

I have never felt more empowered in life before. A stir of excitement goes through me when I see what magic I can do. Infact, I simply have to wish it, nature does the rest. 

The basket held some 'naati'/ country variety, a yellow pear, some teardrop tomatoes, larger cherry tomatoes, tiny wild variety, yellow gold tomatoes, and some larger juicy cherry version. We have grown a large beefsteak tomato and how we loved it. 

It's very easy to grow tomatoes. They love a little deprivation of water, they grow on their own even if you do not care. Just keep them away from other vegetable plants, somehow they get loads of mealy bugs if around eggplants. And that's all it takes. Try growing some toms :) .