Spiralling vegetable prices which burn a hole in your pocket can be overcome if you exercise your green thumb.
It does not matter if you happen to live in a block of flats or in a home with very little or no garden space. If you have the will and are willing to spend a little time and money, the green way will open up for you without much ado.
Choose balconies, corridors, terraces and sunny verandahs to work on your project. Measure out the space that you can utilise to place potted plants and buy as many large pots.
When buying the pots, pick up a few broken and cracked pots for a throwaway price from the dealer. They will be useful for lining the pots.
How to prepare a pot?
Break the damaged pots into little chips and place them along the bottom line of the pot along with a few pieces of coal. This lining will help the soil to retain moisture and will prevent soil from seeping out of the drain hole. Prepare the soil using red earth, sand and urea/ organic manure in the proportion of 4:1:1 and fill the pot loosely up to the brim.
Green chillies, cluster beans and tomatoes generally promise a decent harvest when grown in pots. Sprinkle the chosen seeds with turmeric powder and leave them in the sun for an hour or two to ensure sprouting and also to prevent them from being eaten up by ants before sowing them.
Sow all the seeds in one pot and water them lightly twice a day till they grow into little seedlings. When two weeks have passed by, transplant the strong little plants into separate pots prepared in the aforesaid manner. Once the transplantation is done, you all you have to do is water your garden once in two days.
Watering plants is an art. Your generosity can kill them and negligence will not keep them alive for long. If you recycle water wisely, you need not worry about adding manure to the plants. The water used to wash rice and vegetables, the water used to mop the floor and the water you generally throwaway after rinsing clothes for the second time can turn out to be great nutrients for potted plants.
The summer sun can dry up the soil very quickly. You can circumvent this problem by covering the topsoil with stripped coconut fronds or pretty looking pebbles to 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 slowly and constantly into your potted plant.
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.
Gardens in small spaces
If you have very little space, make it a point to house at least one pot and grow a creeper that bears vegetables. You can reap a bumper harvest in vegetables like pumpkins, chow-chow, bottle gourd, bitter gourd and beans. Passion fruit and gherkins also do well in southern climes.
Help the creeper to trail to a comfortable point with lots of sunlight and nature will take care of the rest. Do not interfere with the growth of the plant by showering unwarranted attention and pulling out browning leaves, touching it constantly or moving the pot around. Soon you will notice birds, butterflies and squirrels attracted to your emerald patch.
In due course of time, the plants will start flowering. Horticulturists 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 uproot the plant; on the contrary he will mulch it and manure the pot for the next crop of vegetables.