Green – “Neighbour’s Envy Owner’s Pride”

Feeling good about having your own little kitchen garden? But feeling bad that the neighbour has a healthier one? Radha Prathi gives a few tips on how to achieve that healthy garden.

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When the difference between that which is ordinary and that which is extraordinary is observed, it will not be difficult to see that it is the little extra that makes all the difference. This policy can be applied uniformly and universally to any pursuit under the sun. So the next time you notice that your neighbour’s kitchen garden is doing very well, while yours is not, do not philosophically resign to the idea that it is the case of the pasture being greener on the other side. Perhaps your neighbour is adapting little tactics besides exercising his green thumb.

The size of the garden is immaterial. The location of the garden could be indoors, outdoors, on your terrace or simply a set of potted plants, but it is the lush glow of the plants that will mark your success as a gardener. Here are some basic guidelines that will help you start off with your vegetable garden.

The right choice

First of all, it is important to choose the right kind of plants for your garden. Though the thought of planting and harvesting exotic vegetables certainly appeals to one and all, it may not be entirely feasible. Your best bet would be to choose varieties that last four to six months and which will bear fruit anywhere between forty to sixty days. While greens, coriander, methi, tomatoes, okra, radish, bitter gourd, and some varieties of pumpkin and beans will fit this bill, chillies and brinjals have a longer lifespan. Seeds can be picked up from HOPCOM outlets or in Lal Bagh.

Initially prepare a mother bed/pot in which all the seeds can be sown together and later be transplanted. Prepare the soil using red earth, sand and urea/ organic manure in the proportion of 4:1:1.Sun the chosen seeds for an hour or two and sprinkle a spoon of turmeric onto the seeds, to prevent them from being eaten up by ants before sowing them.

Then wet the bed and plant the seeds and water them lightly twice a day for the first fortnight. In the meanwhile, prepare the soil for the proposed garden in the given proportion. Once the seedlings make their appearance you will find some of them standing tall and healthy while many just droop. Pick out the healthy one and transplant them first and tend to the mother bed for another week and see how many more little plants can be salvaged.

Taking care

Once the transplantation is done, all you have to do is water the garden once in two days. Watering plants is an art. Over watering can lead to rotting and negligence in watering can result in the drying up of plants. If you recycle water wisely you need not worry about adding manure to the plants. Use the water used to wash rice and vegetables, the water used to mop the floor and the water you generally throw away after rinsing clothes for the second time.

If your garden tends to grow dry very quickly, cover the soil with stripped coconut fronds or pretty looking pebbles and shells which will retain the moisture for a few hours. Alternately, you could put large soft drink bottles to use by filling them with water and burning a hole in the bottom so that the water drips constantly into your vegetable patch.

If you detect leaf curl or insects devouring your precious plant, sprinkle turmeric on the plants to discourage them. If you happen to be growing tomatoes, they lack the strength to stand erect on their own, support them with bamboo lathes inserted alongside the plant and tie the plant to the stick with a gunny thread. If you happen to be growing creepers like pumpkins, bittergourd or certain varieties of beans, help the creeper to trail to a comfortable point with lots of sunlight which will be an easy venue for you to harvest from.

Do not interfere with the growth of the plant by showering unwarranted attention and pulling out browning leaves, touching it constantly or watering it excessively. Weeding your vegetable patch once in a fortnight will ensure a steady supply of nutrients to your plants.

In due course of time, your little plants will start flowering. Agriculturists recommend that the first flower should be nipped out for a bountiful harvest. Remember that all the flowers will not bear fruit, so do not panic if you see flowers wilting away. Initially the plant will bear fruit in ones and twos and the curve growth will touch a high before the numbers start diminishing. Most vegetable plants, with the exception of chillies, brinjals and tomatoes, have only one fruit bearing season. At the end of the season the plants will dry and die on their own. A smart gardener will not clean the patch, on the contrary he will continue watering the drying and dying plants and help them to reduce into mulch and become manure for the next crop of vegetables.

Once you make the effort to grow your own vegetable patch and taste the fruit of your labour, you will get hooked to the art of gardening for the rest of your life.

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