Spending Summer Vacations


The young working mothers association of our layout got together in the middle of February. I was given the privilege of being party to their brainstorming session, despite being much older.   Even as their children were preparing for their final examinations they were planning ahead for the summer vacations. Wanting to give the best for their kids they planned a short trip to some exotic destination, preferably abroad. Then they wanted to enroll the kids in a couple of summer camps ranging from fine arts, sports, soft skills, cooking et al to keep them usefully occupied. I was involved in this melee to give an unbiased picture of the logistics regarding the timings, route and to allot responsibilities to parents on picking up and dropping off  the children.

Even as each lady was vocalizing her preference, I slipped into memory lane. During my summer holidays my brother and I usually visited our grandparents, various aunts and uncles and had a good time with our cousins. Each day we would be involved in some stages of preparing elaborate ethnic dishes and savour them in the late afternoons. Then we would sift through knickknacks and listening to stories about  family heirlooms. Playing with the dog, cats and kittens, reading our favourite comic books and books from the library took away most of our afternoons. The evenings would be spent with local friends at the park. Late evenings would see us help out with petty shopping, plucking jasmine buds sorting out our stuff and so on. We would be regaled with family stories across generations and then we would spend time looking at framed photographs which graced the walls and old albums identifying the people in the stories. Power cuts which were an integral part of summers in an era which did not possess alternate power options were spent in marathon sessions of reciting multiplication tables, conjugating verbs in different languages, playing word building or Atlas and singing songs by candle light. Sometimes we wrote long letters to friends back home or copied out address books, recipes and other such inventories using our calligraphy skills to the optimum.

As I slipped out of nostalgia amidst the chatter I jotted down the ground rules that were agreed upon. The kids were to be engaged from dawn to dusk hopping from one center to another in the route where parents could pick up or drop them en route to their workplace. The budget allotted was around ten thousand rupees per child. Never mind the interest of the child or the contents of the classes. I had a good mind to tell them that I did not subscribe to their ideas, but then remembered my role was to help them organize their schedules. And summer vacation for them was about keeping their kids safe and engaged while they brought home the moolah. The sands of time had shifted, so had the idea of a vacation !



Top Spot For Green Spots


Radha Prathi Sep 15, 2015,

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It is a known fact that therural population across the world is on a fast track conversion mode, filling in urban spaces. It is no wonder then that we are being faced with some pertinent questions.

If every country cousin of oursseeks the pleasures of city life, then who will grow our food for us? If at all a few do decide to cater to our needs, how will they price it? When the demand becomes overwhelming, will food come under the hammer? Would it not be safe for the highest bidder to apply for special protection, lest he gets lynched for his precious possession?

These and more futuristic questions relating to the state of our health if we use food grown with the help of chemical fertilisers or food which is not grown indigenously have been foreseen by some green minds around the globe. They have realised that what has been done cannot be undone.

For instance, it would be a criminal waste of human effort and money if we raze down buildings to recreate arable lands.

We cannot ground people to their villages and farms if they have other ambitions. But then, everybody needs to eat. If we have to fulfill our needs,  we must come up with ingenious solutions to stem the issues which are weaving their way to consume us.

The people who applied their minds on the issue have understood that only growing food on the good earth cannot provide for all. With the villages emptying out day after day and land resource getting scarce in the city, they came up with a master plan. They simply decided to take the soil to the terrace and grow food there.

Once the idea slipped into place, enterprising people have started working on the idea methodically. These smart brains realised that if each person, family or community started growing their own food, then they could overcome many problems at the same time.

The process is easier said than done. In the past, India has had a few terrace gardens sporadically, mostly because of the gardener’s passion or because of its novelty. It is only in the last decade that we have taken up the business of kitchen gardens and terrace gardens seriously.

Governments, NGOs and individuals have come up with several programmes which create awareness about the trending concept. Once they find an interested group of people, they are updated on the subject. The questions of the curious are answered. Sometimes the wannabe gardeners are taken on a field trip to the terrace garden of the people who already have one in place.

Work experience
The newbies are also provided hands-on work experience by allowing them to work on a garden which is being created newly.

A kit consisting of seeds, saplings, containers, soil, garden implements, waste management material among other things are put together, making it easy for the enthusiastic taker to buy them without running around.

An experienced hand helps the novice set up his or her garden. That is not all. There are experts who guide the first time gardeners by answering their questions and offering timely tips. In other words, the people who have been there and done that are most willing to hold the hands of the debutante and guide them through the green path. Once the first crop is harvested successfully, most gardeners are hooked to it for life.

At the practical level we could have chemical free fresh produce, besides enjoying pollution free and healthier life. At another level, people will renew their interest in life when they reconnect with nature. For starters, they will find their bodies toning up because of all the physical exertion.

Gradually, people will find themselves becoming caring and observant towards their plants. Over a period of time, they will learn to appreciate the finer aspects of life like emotions, sentiments, beauty, patience and the enormity of nature’s process.

The newly learned lessons will evoke their sense of equanimity. Sharing their bumper crop or bartering them with fellow gardeners can actually improve their social relationships and boost their feel good factor.

After all, happy and contented people pave way to a harmonious society. With such sterling support from all quarters and so many fringe benefits, we really have no legitimate excuse for not experimenting with our green thumbs and contributing to our green needs!

Small Space Lush Garden


Radha Prathi, August 25, 2015, DHNS

Urban farming

many examples (Clockwise) Anusuya Sharma in her two-decade-old terrace garden in Bengaluru; a vertical  garden model developed by Vinay Magadi; container gardening in S Lakshminarayana's home; chillies.  PHOTOS BY S LAKSHMINARAYANA, Vinay Magadi & ANITHA PAILOOR

When Mhon Chumi Humtsoe shifted to Bengaluru 15 years ago, she dearly missed the greenery  back home in Nagaland. She hoped to create some space for herself and toiled to put up a terrace garden on her rented premises.

The owners of the house were apprehensive about her enterprise initially, but got their doubts cleared as she shared information about the new form of kitchen gardening. Since then, there has been no looking back; she has grown greens, beans, chillies, brinjals besides exotic varieties of orchids and geraniums season after season. The new mode of kitchen gardening is gaining momentum in Bengaluru and other cities, thanks to an increased awareness about safe food and the necessity of developing a healthy lifestyle.

New concept

“Grow what you eat and eat what you grow,” says B N Vishwanath, president of Garden City Farmers, a forum of terrace gardening enthusiasts in Bengaluru. He initiated efforts to spread the green word 10 years ago and inspired many people to tread the new path. To create better awareness and ensure the availability of necessary gardening tools and plants, the forum has been organising a quarterly event, ‘Oota from your Thota’, which has caught the imagination of many urbanites, specifically beginners. It has also played a crucial role in connecting like-minded people, providing them a platform to exchange experiences and inputs, taking the efforts to the next level. This event is being held across the City and is being popularised using social media.

Terrace gardening has enthused people from different walks of like. Take S Lakshminarayana, a City-based engineer, for instance. The recession in 2008 ushered in a green change in his life. It was then he came in contact with this initiative and gradually became a key member of the forum. What started as a stop-gap arrangement has hooked him for life. He is working towards taking the effort to a sustainable stage and is hoping to involve children in the process.

Vinay Magadi, a businessman, has come up with a simple solution to tackle the space problem. He has opted for vertical gardening and has used specially designed PVC pipes, from where plants branch out. Vinay states that he is in no hurry to be self-sufficient. He understands that gardening is a process which requires patience and perseverance and he cannot hope to have instantaneous results. Architect Vivek Halbe, who owns a thriving terrace garden, also supports those who are planning to have one. He owns a terrace garden supply store and offers consultation and maintenance services. Anusuya Sharma, one of the pioneering urban farmers, owns a two-decade-old terrace garden in Sanjay Nagar, Bengaluru. Many of these gardeners ensure that  kitchen and garden waste is recycled and optimally used through manuring.

Mass movement

If one is under the impression that only civil society organisations and enterprising individuals are working towards the green goal, then one must stand corrected. The State Horticulture Department is also successfully promoting kitchen gardening in urban areas. Kavitha A S, senior assistant director at the Horticulture Department, Dharwad (ZP), has been actively initiating the urban population in her jurisdiction towards having a green space of their own. She explains that the government conducts demonstration on the subject in public places like parks, hostels and open grounds. Sometimes, they also arrange guest lectures by local people who have been successful in this venture. A complimentary exhibition at the venue often encourages the public to pick up the nominally-priced seed kits to commence their terrace garden. The Department not only gives a step-by-step guidance to freshers but also reimburses 50 per cent of the amount invested, in the hope of spawning a new batch of vegetable gardeners.

The project has also roped in public buildings to expand the reach of the initiative. Major Siddhalingaiah Hiremath, a district officer in Dharwad, has been able to create a rooftop green space at the Post Metric Girls Hostel, located in the Karnataka College campus in Dharwad in a few months. The inmates of the hostel, who work in the garden by taking turns, are happy as they see the fruits of their dedicated work emerging in the garden. Jayashree Hendegar, the warden of the hostel, who has taken the responsibility of watering the garden during vacations, proudly says that they got around 15 kg of brinjal and four kg of beans in their first harvest. They might not be able to fulfill their vegetable requirements for the hostel accommodates 200 residents, but the new activity has helped students understand the basics of nature.

More than one reason

According to the Department statistics, over 50,000 households have benefitted from the project in the last two years. This year it aims to reach about 20,000 households spread over 30 districts of the State. Despite all these efforts, less than 10 per cent of our terraces have gardens on them. Though many do understand the need for having a useful green space over their roofs, most of them are hesitant to go ahead for reasons like inhibitions about the quality and the strength of their buildings. People living in gated communities and apartments cannot always have the co-operation of their fellow residents. Then there are many more out there with corrugated tin or plastic sheets over their heads, while some of them do not have even that. Heavy subsidies on garden supplies do not seem to attract people in the middle and lower income groups because there are other priorities to deal with. Today, more than ever before, there is a need to look beyond the general misgivings and seek plausible solutions.

Gardening has come a long way from the days when people grew fruit trees, shrubs, flowers, ornamental plants besides vegetables. There was a time when the products of HOPCOMS used to be on the sidelines of the annual flower show. Over the years, preferences changed to flowers and ornamental plants. Though people enjoyed the beauty of the colourful blooms, when it came to the take-home factor, they searched for fruits, vegetables and honey. The scene has changed again, albeit in a slow pace.

The plant nurseries that dot the City see an increased demand for seeds and saplings of vegetables as compared to that of rose and hibiscus, which were very popular a decade ago. The government, civil society organisations and innovative individuals have taken up green cudgels to fight nutrition problem, ill health, inflation, and pollution. Terrace gardens and kitchen gardens that punctuate the cities of the State are but the results of their sincere efforts. What started as a trend has become a way of life today. If you are interested to try your hand at home-grown food, there could be no better occasion to take the green pledge and plant a seedling, than the Kitchen Garden Day that falls on August 30.  Happy gardening!

Tending crops on rooftop

Get your terrace evaluated for garden feasibility and step up its viability, if necessary.
Buy a nominally-priced kit and work on it. Take help from practitioners, whenever there is a need.
Start with one or two pots and easy-to-grow vegetables and gradually increase the number and variety.
Prepare a proper schedule for garden work and follow it.
Spend time in the garden on a regular
basis — watering and observing the plants.
Gardening helps you practice three ‘R’s —
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
Biodegradable waste can be converted into fertile manure by following simple steps.

Quintessentially Indian


Radha Prathi, August 14, 2015:

The streets have exotic stuff that can turn your home into a haven of beautiful things.

You can shop for beautiful and exotic items that are sure to brighten up your home, on the busy streets of India. Radha Prathi explores the enticing choices

Are you the sort who takes pride in thinking globally and acting locally? Are you mindful about boosting our local economy by carefully buying goods made in our country? Do you enjoy patronising indigenous artists? Do you think you have innate bargaining skills? Do you always gravitate towards all things bright and beautiful? Do you think that your home or office decor should be expressive of your personality? Then it is time to hit the streets.

The highways leading to Indian cities and busy streets have exotic stuff, which can turn your home into a haven of beautiful things. You will spot these goods being sold by artisans and their families off the sidewalks. Since they pay little or no rent to the city corporation, their articles are sold with minimal profit margin. If you happen to buy more than one unit, you can always demand for more discounts. Make sure that you examine your purchase for damages or anomalies before they pack them for you. The only flipside really is that your credit cards will not be accepted.

The silver lining is that you can pay up in a jiffy, without waiting in long lines and also, round off the bill amount to a lower denomination! Now let us take a look at all the possible things that can brighten up your hearth and home.

Down to earth

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It does not matter if you’re the sort who is down to earth or eclectic, or for that matter anywhere in between. Next time you see terracotta items being sold somewhere, stop. The humble water pot fitted with a stainless steel tap can be a healthy replacement to your electrically managed water filter. Tea and coffee have a way of assuming a surreal look when served in terracotta crockery. You can select a collection of figurines or wall plates of gods, damsels, animals and birds and place them tastefully in your garden amongst the plants or anywhere else you fancy.

Huge vats, vases, shallow basins and flower pots can double up as corner pieces. Gaily painted hundis and masks have the ability to warm up hearts and hearths. The traditional diyas can light up your place. If you are good at wielding the paint brush, unleash your skills on your earthen goods. Though terracotta goods can be found through the year, they have a tendency to mushroom around the Diwali season giving you infinite choices to pick from. If you care for the good earth in the form of porcelain, there is a whole market waiting for you out there.

Wood is good

If you are a connoisseur of Channapatna  toys, pencil tops, containers et al, you don’t have to necessarily go to the toy town or an arts and crafts emporium, as you can easily spot these beauties in busy market places. If you want any particular item, you can request the seller to procure them for you and he will, in all likelihood, be only too happy to do so.

However, there is a catch. Original, handmade, lacquer-painted goods are sold along with machine-made ones coloured with acrylic paints, and it can be hard to notice the difference if one is a novice. At such times, it’s better to give the benefit of doubt to the seller and take his word for it, if he refuses to lower the price after a certain point. These wooden pieces prove to be safe anywhere in the house, from the kitchen to the children’s room.

Friends with nature

If you are an eco-friendly person, never miss an opportunity to stop by at a place  where coir or woven grass items are sold. Mats, coasters, fans, baskets, jewellery boxes, winnows, musical instruments, rattles, toys, wall hangings and pen holders are some of the things that are made in coir and woven grass. In fact, you can find just about any item that has utility or aesthetic value sitting pretty in such shops. You can pick them all if you mean to give your space a theme or just zero in on the ones that attract your attention.

For the love of carpets

Having a luxurious Persian or Kashmiri hand-knotted carpet spread across the living room floor is worth every penny you spent on it. These days, we find native craftsmen doing the rounds around cities, selling handmade carpets and mats on push carts. If you fancy any of them, do not buy them right away; visit the nearest Kashmir emporium and do your homework. Unroll the item of your choice and inspect both sides of the carpet in daylight. If you love it, haggle until you reach some point of agreement. If you want variation, voice it and you may be able to get in the time frame suggested by the seller.

Perk up the walls

If you think your walls need that fresh coat of paint badly, but you do not have the means to do that due to various constraints, do not get disheartened. You can instead fill up your walls with all your favourite posters. Or you could even make that collage you have always dreamt of. When the time comes for painting the walls, you may have to rip them all off. But if you want it to be long-lasting, you could consider laminating them.

Something that sticks on Stickers happen to be the most contemporary, prominent and practical way of expressing yourself these days. You will be spoilt for choice with regard to the design, quality and size. You can find traditional stickers for the home’s doorstep to the shining stars that adorn the ceiling. If you feel overwhelmed by their sheer number and variety, go slow as you are likely to hoard on them for they come really cheap.

Stained in delightful shades

The next time you spot a vendor selling Plaster of Paris idols, vats, vases and wall plates – which come in some delightful classical and mythological forms – do take a look. They are usually light, stained in gold, silver, copper or bronze shades and are available at competitive prices. If you want to customise them, go in for uncoloured ones. With a little effort, talent and patience, you can create magic.

Brass effect

Occasionally, busy roads are punctuated with antique dealers who sell brass items like gramophone equipment, classical telephones, lamps, bells, figurines, junk jewellery and coins, among others. Make a selection of the items you fancy, but don’t buy them on the spot. Come back with a pinch of tamarind or some lemon juice and touch the tips or the bottom of the selected items. If the metal glows, then go ahead and clinch the deal.

Knick knacks

There are times when you find an assortment of adorable items like fur dolls, puppets, wind chimes and the like sold along the busy city streets. Inspect them and do not hesitate to make a purchase if you really care for the items because you may not spot them again and even if you do, they may not turn out to be the same.

Once in a while, it’s absolutely fine to pick up a few balloons for your home. You don’t always need a birthday party or an anniversary at home to buy balloons. Available in a plethora of colours, shapes and sizes, they never fail to attract the eye, especially when they seem to wink at you from a busy street corner.

Tasteful home decor items need not always be sourced from international visits or high-end decor shops. As you traverse the streets of our beautiful, diverse country, you’ll be amazed by the splendid choices on offer. And once you clinch a deal, it might leave you asking for more!

So, this Independence Day, as we sport the tri-colour with pride, let our homes too reflect the splendour and rich diversity of our many arts and cultures.

Picking Plants Personality Wise


Radha Prathi, June 5, 2015:

The status of your verdant area can very well reflect your personality. image courtesy: fabfurnish.com

The kind of green space one maintains speaks volumes about their personality. On this World Environment Day, Radha Prathi enumerates some interesting plant grower facts to help identify which category you belong to

Once upon a time, people would say, show me your friend and I will tell who you are. These days, one can find experts zeroing in on personality types based on the choice of colours, clothes, fruits, vegetables, animals, birds et al. The assessment of your personality on these grounds cannot be entirely discounted because knowledge of human behaviour and relevant logic form the cornerstones of such evaluation.

If you are game, you can identify your personality type based on the kind of flora that you raise in your home. You may or may not have a green thumb or have a first-hand experience of working in your garden; nevertheless, the status of your verdant area will certainly reflect the kind of person you are. You need not worry if you do not happen to have a garden; even a single plant or the lack of one can speak volumes about your personality.

Level-headed ones

If your garden has a mix of trees, shrubs, creepers, plants and a lawn, which may or may not be useful to you domestically or economically, you are definitely the kind of person who gets along with most people. You accept people for what they are; you are not judgmental and seldom rub people the wrong way. Your accommodative nature wins you many friends along the line of life who will not hesitate to help you, if and when necessary.

Pragmatic folks

If your garden houses greenery that bears fruits and flowers of your choice, it bears testimony to the fact that you are a very practical person with a keen economic sense. You are the sort who will not hesitate to generously invest your time, effort and money on people who you think are valuable.

You will go to any extent to protect the interests and well being of your relatives and friends. You are thrifty by nature. Sometimes people believe that you are self-centred, but you know that it is not entirely true. You have it ingrained in you to stand up for what is right when the occasion arises.

Hard-working herd

If you happen to tend a flower garden, it is not difficult to see that you appreciate beauty. Your aesthetic juices seem to secrete voluminously triggering you to work harder to achieve your aim. You are calm and quiet by nature and you believe that your work will speak for itself. You are very hard-working. You have intimate knowledge of the subject that interests you the most.

You are not the sort who fishes for compliments because you know that they will be heaped on you when the season is right. You seldom rest on your laurels and believe in moving ahead in life.

The leaders

If you happen to grow a garden with ornamental and rare species of plants, you can call yourself a connoisseur of sorts in the green arena. It indicates that the travel bug has bitten you. You are probably the recipient of exotic gifts by the sheer power of your compelling personality.

Your general knowledge of botany and horticulture quotient happens to be at the higher end of the scale. Moreover, your opinions, ideas and advice are generally sought after by those who hope to follow you.

Compassionate crowd

If a herbal garden happens to be your core area of interest, then you can be rest assured that you have deep and abiding faith in the healing powers of Mother Nature. You are likely to be a sharing and caring person. You are well-read on the subject or at least in the know of teasing out the well-kept secrets of these magical plants.

You enjoy conversations with like-minded people. You do not hesitate to share your knowledge or acquire lessknown facts on the subject. In other words, you have a medical doctor’s mind dormant in your personality.

Meticulous managers

If your garden has been designed by a qualified horticulturist and maintained by a professional gardener, it speaks of your meticulous nature. If you happen to have a Bonsai garden or carefully designed landscapes, you can be bracketed into the same category. You are the sort who acknowledges that you may not know everything, but that will certainly not stop you from delegating work to carefully identified experts in the field.

You do not mind going that extra mile to achieve your end, albeit with hired help. You have the ability to develop interest in subjects hitherto unknown to you.

You yearn to learn and benefit from every interaction you have with the people around you in the hope of becoming victorious in all your endeavours.

Determined doers

If terrace gardening or vertical gardening is your forte, or if your garden boasts of a collection of potted plants, be sure that you are the enterprising sort. Just like how lack of space at home has not deterred you from not having a garden, nothing can prove to be an obstacle in the journey to your destination.

You interact with all sorts of people without worrying about the social ladder. You are enthusiastic, hardworking and an optimist to the core. You know how to cut costs and optimise on your resources. Your contented attitude is often mistaken for complacence, yet there are times when you emerge as the dark horse in the race of life.

Open-minded owners

If you are the proud owner of a collection of plants belonging to a certain family like cactus or succulents or roses or beans or for that matter different types of plants, which belong to the same variety, it shows that you are a person who believes in the power of specialisation.

Though your interaction is agreeable with most people around you, you tend to interact better with people whose thinking matches with yours. You are always open to learning and experimenting with new ideas, which can give you a deeper insight into your pet subject. You do not mind ploughing in effort to better your abilities and you hope to achieve a spectacular success on the strength of your sincere struggle.

Pally people

If you have a mini green patch, which is a hotchpotch of plants grown in recycled containers placed in odd places that have enough sunshine to nourish your vegetation, be rest assured that your heart is in the right place. You are the perfect idealist who has been born with the principles. You are very amiable and innovative by nature.

This trait will ensure that you will always have a circle of well- wishers. Disagreeable circumstances or economic repression cannot subdue your spirits. Your positive attitude towards life will take you places one fine day.

So this World Environment Day, even if you don’t fancy going green, there’s every reason to pick a plant that suits your personality type. And have some fun!

For those Who Like Things Fuss Free


Radha Prathi, May 8, 2015, DHNS

Crown of thorns, Christmas cactus, jade plant, Queen Victoria agave, snake plant are a few popular options.

EASY GREENS Succulent plants demand very little attention.

Summer can play spoilsport to aspiring gardeners, who are not blessed with a green thumb. Then there are people with plenty of orientation towards greenery, but simply have no space to translate their thoughts into reality. There is only one solution to these problems – gardening with succulent plants. These can grow on very little soil, demand very little water and never say die even if you ignore them for a week or so. Sounds good? Then read on.

Do you already have a well-established garden? If yes, then don’t worry. You can still plant some succulents in the odd disposable articles around the home. These articles can range anywhere from that cracked commode, washbasin or bucket to the odd coffee cup or old bowl of your dinner set. Accentuate single shoes or worn out backpacks with two layers of polythene covers and voila! you have a potential holder for all your succulent plants.
Get to the basics firstOnce your assortment of plant holders is ready, it is time to prepare the soil. Get some regular red soil and some sand and mix them in the proportion of 3:1. Then rummage your cupboard for drugs that have crossed the expiry date and toss them into the soil. Coffee and tea dregs, onion and garlic peels and egg shells can also be thrown in for good measure.
Mix the ingredients together and your soil will be ready. In fact, this mix, popularly known as well-draining soil, can be used as regular potting soil, too. Visit your friends and neighbours who have succulent plants and see if they can spare a little sprig of each variety. Sometimes, even a healthy leaf of the same has the potential to vegetate well.
Planting succulents can prove to be child’s play. Water the soil first and then just poke your finger into the soil and place the cutting or the leaf in it. Water it again minimally and with this, consider the planting to be done. During the first month, water succulents only on alternate days. Succulent plants are used to dry environments, so water them only when the soil is dry.

Considering the fact that you have planted them in unconventional containers with no drainage points, be doubly sure that water does not stagnate otherwise, your plants will start to rot. The other way to circumvent this problem is to toss a few pieces of coal or coconut coir at the bottom of the container before filling it with the prepared soil. The cutting or the leaf will grow new roots in a matter of two weeks. Place the plants in a sunny spot. They can be placed between your regular garden plants or sturdy branches of your trees. Dainty holders with flourishing plants can be placed on office desks, windows and mantelpieces.

More than a plant

Succulents can actually double as home decor material if you invest some time and exercise your creativity. For instance, if the container that holds your succulents has a wide opening, you could arrange sea shells, pebbles or colourful marbles on the exposed soil. This measure will not only retain the moisture in the soil, but also lend a la dee da effect for your plant.

If you are very particular about using organic material, you can use pistachio shells, peanut shells or pieces of coconut shells to cover the soil tastefully. Just in case you prefer to choose the latter option, then make sure that you arrange the said shells after watering your succulents. The shells will become soggy in a couple of days  and can be replaced with another set of shells of your choice.

If you want to create a little landscape using these succulents, pile a number of  natural stones, preferably in the centre of your garden. Toss a bag of prepared soil interspersed with a leaf or two of different varieties of succulents on the structure and allow the soil to settle in the nooks and crannies. This can be achieved with a little watering. As the days pass by, the plants will bear roots and emerge from the crevices between the little rocks. Within a matter of a month or two, the entire mound will be covered with plants of your choice without much ado.

Some succulent options you could look at are crown of thorns, jade plant, pincushion cactus, snake plant, hens-and-chicks, Christmas cactus, sempervivum, and Queen Victoria agave, to name a few popular options. If your plants outgrow the small containers, replace it with a larger one. Fill the surrounding space with some prepared soil and allow the plant to vegetate, enveloping the extra space. Or you can grow another variety of a contrasting nature in the extra space.And when your cup of succulents overflows, enjoy the sweet success.

Let Us Play It Cool This Summer


NOT SO HOT Keep the windows open, facilitate cross ventilation, and you can have a cooler home.

The temperatures have started soaring. It’s time to make some cool changes in order to transform your humble home into a refreshing and invigorating living space, writes Radha Prathi

Deforestation, urbanisation and erratic town planning have gotten together to make matters ‘hotter’ for us every passing year. Given that we are already sweating it out, summers ain’t going to be fun this time. But if we approach the problem methodically, it can be set right. Just like all seasons, summer can be a boon, if we choose to make hay while the sun shines and give our home its much-needed facelift. Here are some ideas to help you give a new look to your home this summer:

Time to repair

Summer is the best time to repair or renovate your home. Make a list of the little and large malfunctions around your home, which had been bothering you over the year. Fix leaky taps, cracks in the walls,  unstable switches, creaky or stuck-up doors, rusty hinges, broken latches or wobbly handles. If you are planning to add another room or extend your premises or add receptacles like drawers, cupboards and wardrobes, go ahead. This is the right season for that. Plans to replace electrical wires, installing solar heaters and rainwater harvesting systems can be ideally done during this time as there are no possibilities of untimely showers or cold drafts. Also, summer is the best season for a fresh coat of paint for your home.

Clean up

Spring cleaning the home can be therapeutic. Dispose off the clutter and make more space for yourself. A little water and soap can wash away the dust and grime collected over the last season. Put away washed or dry-cleaned winter clothing and bedding after sunning and airing them. Also, shampoo your expensive carpets and foot rugs now.

It is time to open those windows. If you have put up meshes to keep out mosquitoes, make sure that you wash them,  repair the holes or replace them if necessary
before putting them up. Also, clean up your water tank and sumps.

Apart from the logistics of maintaining the space, we can also work on cooling down our quarters. Air coolers and air conditioners can do the job for us. Yet it comes with a price, for research has shown that indoor air quality can deteriorate steadily when they are constantly used, thus affecting our wellbeing in the long run. Besides, they are heavily dependent on electricity, which happens to be scarce during this season. Here go a few practical tips to make summer cooler or, at least, more bearable.

Dash of greenery

If you have garden space, it is time to take out the hibernating furniture and the swing or that giant parasol and install them in your garden. If you happen to live in  a high-rise building, ensure that your  balcony and service verandas are well-populated with greenery. A visit to a plant nursery in your vicinity will take care of all your green needs. Watering the plants  regularly will not only help them thrive, but also bring down the temperature of the place to some extent.

If you have terracotta idols or wall-plate artefacts, they can be placed in strategic corners and walls on the exteriors of your home. You can trail creepers on them, or grow plants of the succulent variety or very simply, fill them with water. This measure will not only bring down the temperature by a notch or two, but will also prove to be a gift to your olfactory senses as they emanate an earthy odour.

Window dressing

Bring down your regular curtains and replace them with organic blinds created out of slender bamboo shoots, sarkanda grass or fragrant khus mats. Feel free to sprinkle plain or fragrant water on them when it’s hot. This option will cool down the area and will let in lots of natural light and ventilation. Post summer, they can be brought down and rolled up and wrapped in old cotton saris or dhotis and put away until the next season. Toss in a few pieces of camphor as you pack these curtains to protect them from mites. You can fix canopies on the exteriors of your windows, which will not only act as a shield from the glaring sun and dust, but will also help the potted plants placed on your window sill to survive.

For breezy indoors

Facilitate cross ventilation by keeping windows open. You could light an incense stick or two and stick them in the soil of your indoor plants. This measure will discourage insects from settling indoors, while helping a pleasant scent linger in your rooms. Fill terracotta urns and pots with fresh water or ice cubes every day and toss colourful flower petals and some basil leaves and place them around your home. They will permeate a cool, fragrant breeze. Give your cosy carpets and fancy foot rugs a much-needed rest and roll out the traditional coir, grass or bamboo mats, which will act as gentle acupressure entities, when you walk barefoot over them.