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 :) . 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

To Grow Lime

I have begun to consume one lime a day. Lime has so many essential qualities that help boost metabolism as well as increase immunity. 
Growing lime isn't the easiest. The trees that grow in earth directly too stop fruiting after a while. Secret is in what you feed them. 

My family and friends were amazed to see how my little two feet tall plants were yeilding fruit in containers. The fruiting stopped and for a year I had no flowers or fruit to be seen on these lovely plants. Of course I was saddened. 

Then I realized that it's not about the plant so much but it's about what I used to feed the plants which stopped. 

Yes, Urine is the secret of getting these plants to bloom. We used to feed diluted urine earlier daily at our previous residence. Once place of stay changed we stopped the practice. Just like that. 

Re-potting the plant, giving it a daily feed of 1:15 diluted urine has brought about to my utter delight these little buds. 

I must say I am thrilled!!!! 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Joy of New Sprouts

Every mother must feel the way I do when I see the seedlings I sowed sprout. 
These are some mixed seedlings of various tomatoes I sowed last week. 

Also tried some carrots for the first time. My fingers are crossed that these little ones do just fine and grow into big fellas! 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Harvests and harvests

How can one not be overwhelmed at the idea of growing organic, heathy , fresh food and be able to enjoy eating it. 

I feel my experience and joy of eating food was so partial until now. The possibilities not only have brought deep appreciation for food but a lot more excitement and gratitude. 

The sensation is so deep it literally gives me goosebumps. Of course the closest I am able to come to expressing that joy is sharing it. But that just doesn't seem enough. 

Organic gardening has brought me such immense pleasure and so much abundance that all I can say is "Thank you, thank you Mother Nature." 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Radish/ Mooli

That I could grow fresh, white radish in containers on my terrace itself was new to me as I discovered organic gardening. The possibility of varied coloured flowers on the plants of the radish took me by further surprise. I had never seen flowers of the mooli and to know that they came in multiple colors was so amusing. How can something already so good be such source of pleasure too? 

I had seen many other gardeners posting pictures of white blooms on the radish plant so I was expecting the same. As the buds began to bloom and open I realized they were these pretty pink ones with venation that is stunning!!! 

Tiny bees that naturally seem to know the scale of the flowers are all the time now busy pollinating and sucking sweet nectar from these beauties. Not only is the root of the white radish a joy so are the flowers, the visiting bees and the seed pods. I had no idea that I had eaten these seed pods for years in crunchy "raitas" not knowing their actual source. 

Friday, August 08, 2014

Flowers and more flowers

Who says you need only flowering plants can make your garden look pretty? 
Plants that fruit too bear some of the prettiest flowers I've ever seen.
My garden is in a crazy bloom now with bees, butterflies and bumble bees going about doing their pollination job. And the user me perpetually amused by the colors that the terrace takes on seasonally. 

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Upgrading the Terrace garden

The dreams for a lovelier, lush and junglier garden keep developing in the mind. I find myself dreaming, visualizing and planning for it all the time. I have found it thoroughly meditative to farm. My mornings are dedicated to the experience. 

Adding fifty plus containers to the garden was so exciting. I had visualised it but didn't know it would be so labourious. As soon as my lovely neighbor gifted me all so many pots, my next worry was to source soil, cocopeat and if I had enough compost of my own. 

Things fall into place when you desire them. Worked long hours on a Sunday and this Saturday. Rest attempted to do some lifting, mixing, carrying and potting all the plants that were awaiting the new container. 

Slowly re arranged the terrace and now visitors ask "where did those fifty plus pots go?" They are all there, only not in the way. My terrace seems to be like a bottomless well that can take endless quantity of plants. 

Well somehow I am pleasures by that. 
We sowed new seeds, filled up empty pots with cow dung, soil and cocopeat. Lined all the pots with dry leaf mulch. Added plenty new potting mix to all the old containers and plants. Even lifted up many plants from the basket containers and added soil mix to their base. It's been long waiting. Many saplings and small plants awaiting transplant were given new home. Some new seeds sown in the seed trays and lots of cleaning and setting up done for the terrace! Phew! Was work but every bit worth it. 
Now looking forward to the garden showing it's happiness. 
It rained for a short spell and I sure am glad. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Joy of Micro Environment

It's such a joy to see plants finding a comfortable place on my terrace garden. To see these various saplings cropping up in various spots on the terrace is reassuring that the suitable micro environment for a natural ecosystem has begun on my man made terrace garden. Nature has taken over! 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Growing Moong Beans

With no reference of farming in our families for generations, I was bound to be this clueless!
I eat sprouted moong beans every morning. Out of curiosity I threw one sprout in a pot one such morning as a question arose in my mind.... "What does a moong bean plant look like?"
Well now I know!
I waited for some beans to dry out a little and someone suggested that roasted young beans taste yum! Well I am now going full fledged into growing this humble plant. It's so easy to grow. It pumps nutrients into the soil as well as inside me. It needs no pesticides or caring. It needs very little water and survives rough weather!!! It's the magic plant organic gardening was meant for!
Look forward to a day I have not to buy moong seeds. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Up cycling - fruit boxes

I am still trying to recollect what is it that convinced me to think of bamboo baskets and old fruit cases as containers for potting plants. 
Perhaps it was the realization that it was unnecessary to spend on large pots. And find a cheaper alternative to the otherwise really expensive square foot boxes. 

I just was enjoying collecting these 100 rupee baskets, lining them with something that wouldn't allow the water to seep through and fruit cases from my fruit vendor who seemed only too obliging to give them away. 

The plants seem to do quite happily in these containers. The latter lend a huge surface area, just enough depth and allow me to feel good about the cost and its environmental impact. 

Happiness is when you see the plants thriving in these. My older succulents were doing so well in one fruit box that I got a couple of more and am now looking forward to more of those flourishing in them. 

The sweet corn is really very happy to spread itself in the new fruit box I have given it. It shares it's space with a lot of rain lilies!!! 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Papdi by lavannya
Papdi, a photo by lavannya on Flickr.
Growing Surti Papdi/Field beans

There was once this whole excitement that I cooked the food I was eating and now there's a greater delight in knowing that I grew what I just ate. Vegetable and fruit gardening not only has taught me a great sense of gratitude for what I eat now. Its an amazing sense of power and pleasure noth. The sweetest tasting and tender "papdis" I've ever eaten.

So the story of the "Papdi" goes so.

Upaj - the organic farm that's the baby of Avanee Jain is a fantastic pioneering idea on guiding and teaching all around Organic Farming/Gardening in the simplest of ways. She's an amazing person. On my one visit to Baroda I borrowed some "papdi" seeds from Avanee. They lay in my bag for days.

One fine day I decided to sow them, imaginging how it'll turn out. Of course because its a vegetable that I have never seen in the South Indian market I was not sure if it'll sustain the Bangalore Climate.

Each day of watching the seedlings and they growing was a delight. I was surprised by all the insect life it attracted when it began flowering. Different types of beetles were all over. Using only neem spray to avoid a lot of infection, I ended up getting 3 lovely harvests off these four creepers.

I was determined, dreaming and visualizing the lot of "Papdi"'s growing in my roof top garden. Its a creeper and has these beautiful little white flowers. I am ever so grateful for this lovely experience and the power that I felt that anything truly can be grown anywhere and that too organically if there is the will. Well nature does most of the work afterwards.

The Field bean has a lot of variety all over the World. There's the field bean and then there's the lima bean and the traditional Avarekkai is somewhere between the two. I had been missing this particular variety that's a small and softer variety and can be eaten with its cover called the "Papdi". In South India the Avarekkai season is celebrated as soon as Winter arrives. And people eat only the seeds - fresh and dried unlike the Papdis.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


strawberries by lavannya
strawberries, a photo by lavannya on Flickr.
Strawberries can be home grown?
I had never heard of that. They were always known to be fruits
that were seasonal and rare. I have memories of gobbling up Straweberries and mulberries when
we visited Mahabaleshwar for a vacation with our grannies. We must've eaten the fruits in kilos and shamelessly didn't leave any for anyone else.
Everyone relates strawberries to love and rarity.
But strangely urban farmers were suddenly talking of growing strawberries on their terraces and I was told of greenhouses in Gujarat where you could go harvest these berries.

Of course I was dreaming of them day in and day out. None of the nurseries I had ever visited had strawberry plants. One day I found one strawberry plant and it had some flowers in bloom. I was full of hope now. The day that the strawberry began to have greenish yellow enlarged fruits which were soon turning pink and then red, i was thrilled beyond my imagination. I couldn't believe that I had just grown my very own strawberries!

Well suddenly I was finding more plants in nurseries and then came more strawberries.

Apparently the berry is the receptacle of the ovary and the little seeds on the outside are ovaries with the seeds on the inside. The plant is a runner and hence makes great sense to have them hang too. Apparently the fruits need some lining under to prevent them from touching the soil directly to prevent rotting and diseases.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Maa Garden

Maa Garden by lavannya
Maa Garden, a photo by lavannya on Flickr.

Maa was always very passionate about her garden. Her garden was highly admired by all. She enjoyed structure, a well crafted garden. I remember she trying a lot of Kitchen Gardening, we grew brinjals, potatoes, lady fingers, pomegranates and lime.
Her thrill on the flowering of a certain plant and her joy in visiting a nursery and bringing new plants home. She spent so much time in the Garden early in the morning and I knew it because the house would have muddy foot prints all over.
She would've forgotten to change her footwear after coming into the house from the Garden.

I liked the Garden I know. I infact loved how green it was. She has a great sense of humor too. Just green and flowers was not enough, she interspersed it with sculpture that she had specially crafted for her. Not to miss the pornographic one that she parked right in the entrance of the Garden and another one of a Drunken man hugging a lamp post with a note saying "its a bootiful evening".

As always we argued and argued a lot. I was not happy with how much she interfered with the plants. The minute the plant had grown she'd be prepared to re pot it, and make more plants out of the single one. To me all had to be wild. I always told her, that it should be a jungle. Where everything was growing on its own.

My mother played a role too in my taking up Gardening as a hobby. Maa by the way is what i call my Grandmother.
Mom was visiting me in Bangalore when I lived alone and was still finding my way into my life here. She one day came home with ten potted plants. I was astound and upset. It was a whole new responsibility and I wasn't sure if I was prepared for it. She in her very teacher like mannerism told me that I had to learn to take responsibility. Ever since in the ever daunting feeling of a burden, I began to care for these plants. There wasnt much that I did. I just watered them sometimes. Some of them lived and some other died. Mom was sure to check up on me after she went back home ever so often if they were surviving.

Some of those plants are still with me and of course many many more such companions now. I have so many to thank for my love for gardening, kitchen gardening and organic gardening. For the longest of time I have harbored a silent wish to own a farm one day. A farm that's more of a jungle and a patch where a lot of vegetables grow.
I have a strong feeling and conviction that I am on my way there very soon.

These blog posts are going to be an expression of gratitude to all the immense Joy this hobby of mine has given me.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A tear

IMG_4087 by lavannya
IMG_4087, a photo by lavannya on Flickr.

I wish a tear fell
And I were able to feel this feeling
Seeing straying lines of horizon
Going further away each minute
Hope strangled now
Within my useless body
How do I tell myself
There shall be such a day...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

IMG_3930 by lavannya
IMG_3930, a photo by lavannya on Flickr.

Parrots and wheels
contrasting this stark landscape
this silence
this wind
blowing through my mind
voices of a language
I haven’t heard before
sweet twitters of birds
and the smell of the champa
water flowing somewhere near
the interfacing of the sun rays
have I met beauty today
or just myself?

Deep Desire

IMG_4011 by lavannya
IMG_4011, a photo by lavannya on Flickr.

The desire of a kind
Where jealousy too is framed
Envy desired
From a loved one
A beat missed
A thought stirred
Of a desire so natural
So deep…

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Home Grown Eggplants/Baigan

IMAG8770 by lavannya
IMAG8770, a photo by lavannya on Flickr.
Eggplants/Baigan or Rigna as they're called in Gujarati bear little familiarity with taste buds in children. Once cooked they can have a goey texture that needs a lot of familiarizing with.

As children we studied away from our parents and each vacation when we saw them, Dad attempted to convince us of eating Rignas. He made all sorts of sounds and expressions eating them. He would tell us of how sweet tasting they were. And we girls cringed at the idea of eating them.

He decided to tell us a story. I was always a big big story fan. Stories still remain close to my heart. The story about Vashram Bhuva - a farmer and a big Rigna fan named Dala Talvaadi is well known Gujarati folk story. It just has to be recited in Gujarati for the rhymes to work. Dad's enthusiasm and his expressive way of reciting stories sure had me taken.

Meeting a Vashram Bhuva later in the day at Dad's hospital had me totally convinced that the yummiest Rignas existed in the world. Ever since, you cannot stop me from eating Eggplants. I am their biggest fan possibly. You can feed me Eggplants all 365 days in a year and I'd never complain. Seeing and eating Eggplants in various colours and forms in Bangalore have me even more delighted.

I had to grow my own Eggplants and here they are. Shining little purple gems in the little baskets on my terrace. Soon to be devoured.

I discovered gardening and Vegetable gardening after wards as a very therapeutic experience. Its taught me plenty patience too and my love for food grown by multifolds.

Some trivia The Eggplant plant belongs to the Tobacco family and eating a kilo of Eggplants would be as good as smoking a cigarette.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

French Pipe Waterproofing System

Dr.Ravindra Subbanna's house was my first project at Mistrys the day I joined the office and its a project that's been with me ever since that June 2003. We have renovated and redone the house so many times over the years.

Dr.Ravindra Subbanna, Bangalore

We had proposed a large basement for Dr.Subbanna as the requirement was a lot and the site was an odd piece of land located though beautifully right next to a large park in RMV layout, Bangalore.

Sadly RMV layout is essentially a filled up lake and the water table is very high. This layout like many others in Bangalore have the reverse problem when it comes to Rain water. Dr.Subbanna's basement was always flooding located on the lowest point of the entire layout. For years he complained about it to me. Suffering plenty during rains. We decided to solve the problem once and for all.

The French pipe system is a popular technique of water proofing a basement abroad. Having had theortically learnt about it at Biome, we decided to incorporate the same after some research and study at this site.

Its a simple system where pipes of a good diameter are placed in a grid over a good base of soling. The pipes are perforated on the sides to allow water to fill into them, and the slope at which the pipe is placed allows for water to flow in a particular direction when water table rises towards a water tank or a recharge well and this water in turn can be pumped out once the water tank is full.

This system allows the water to naturally move and therefore disallows it from rising into the walls and into the flooring voids and distrupting the structure in turn.

Today after 2 years of incorporating the system Dr.Ravindra Subbanna expresses the relief he feels from the worry of his flooding basement. There has not been a single leak into it ever since.

Dr.Ravindra Subbanna

Dr.Ravindra Subbanna

Dr.Ravindra Subbanna

More images of the house are here