Small Space Lush Garden


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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


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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.

Looking Through The Glass


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Bengaluru, July 10, 2015, DHNS:

You can fill the glass receptacles with colourful gel balls, which soak up water and gain attractive shapes.

Glass items, when embellished with artefacts, can make for beautiful home decor items. Radha Prathi offers some creative suggestions on recycling and reusing those odd pieces of glassware at home

Many a time we lose a lot of beautiful glassware when we shift homes or become a wee bit careless. The loss is usually not in total – which means we are often left with an incomplete set of breakable kitchenware.

If you scout the market, it is quite possible to replenish your stock. However, that will amount to stocking up on more than you may need, because most shopkeepers will not sell the items you need in loose. Such being the case, you can carefully buy another set in a design and size, which can be used in a mix-and-match fashion with the one that you already possess.

If you still have some favourite pieces remaining, which fill you with nostalgia, you do not have to discard them. The possibilities of recycling and reusing glassware, close to your heart, are endless, once you give it a thought. Here are some ideas to use them creatively.

Fit ‘em in

Transparent glass tumblers and bowls can be used as mini glass cases to showcase your fragile art work, dolls or figurines. First, bring out all your treasured delicate and small-sized artefacts which need to be highlighted. Place your glassware over them in an inverted fashion and see to it that your artefact sits snugly inside the inverted glass. Once you find a matching glass case for all your petite collection, you can place them on your mantelpiece or on a corner stand.

Those of you who have an aquarium can display the extra plastic greenery under these glasses when they are not in use. You can also place tiny dolls or colourful balls on the top to highlight your tiny showcases. This arrangement can be altered from time to time to suit your needs and tastes. This elegant showcase will not only protect your objet d’art from dust but will also invariably attract the eye of your guests and earn you some compliments.

Odd glass bowls, cups and plates can be filled with gaily coloured marbles and tiny pebbles or shells and left on tea tables or dining tables. It can serve as a place to leave notes. You can also leave keys beneath the filling and place the bowl amidst your pots on the window sill. On special occasions, you can fill the glass receptacles with colourful gel balls, which soak up water and gain attractive shapes. Those of you who want to avoid moisture in your premises for various reasons can try out this idea.

Bring out your spices or food grains and arrange them in a colourful combination of your choice. Then fill them in layers, keeping colour contrast in mind in your tall clear glass tumblers and cover them with a lid which fits snugly. These tumblers can double up as objet d’art on counter tops in your kitchen, dining area or pantry.

Hue and try

If you have the time and patience, you can colour table salt or rock salt using powder food colours. This way, you can give an innovative rainbow touch to the places in your home which need colour. Later on, you can discard the salt in your plants.

If you have one too many odd glass items around your home bring them all out. Wear your creative hat and assemble them into a corner table or a sculpture after your imagination. Once you are satisfied with the arrangement, you can glue them on with a good adhesive. Do not be surprised if this utility table or sculpture turns into a conversation piece.

Large shallow plates or bowls can be filled with water and you can strew rose petals and tulsi leaves and this can be left in a corner of the foyer, balcony or porch. You can make the piece more attractive by colouring the water with a drop of food colour and essence of your choice. Those of you who do not care for food flavours can use a drop of Eau de cologne or essential oil instead. If you have a large odd bowl, you can repeat the idea and light some floating candles or diyas and set them afloat.

You can design rangolis on large plates on festive occasions or very simply paint them on and use it as and when the occasion arises. Those of you who can wield a paint brush with dexterity and discipline can deem the odd glass item as a canvas of sorts and unleash your creativity.

Once you start working on these ideas, you are likely to come up with some of your own, which will leave you scouting for more such items around your home and those of your loved ones. Happy recycling.1 (18)

DIY-Stylish Stand


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Stylish stands

Many of us hesitate to light incense sticks in drawing rooms and halls because the remnant ashes may cause a mess. Here is an idea to make a useful item like an Agarbatti stand which will not only hold your incense sticks but will also contain the ashes, thereby preventing them from spreading all over the place.

Some flower bouquets bought from florists are arranged in small earthen bowls with a mesh wire covering to hold the flowers in place.  Once the flowers wilt, the earthen ware loses its utility and is usually cast away because it is too much of a trouble to remove the mesh.

It cannot be used as a pot to grow ornamental plants because it does not have a drain hole and make for perfect agarbatti stands. Once you identify the bowl, find some sea shells, snail shells, odd beads, glue, old or thickening nail polish and some acetone.

Method

Step 1: Wash the earthen bowl well and paste the sea shells on them randomly so that there is very little gap.

Step 2: Paste beads or snail shells in the gaps such that they appear ornamental.

Step 3: Thin your nail polish with acetone and apply a coat of it on the shells to hide the frayed or scratched look and add to its sheen.

If you have a flair for painting, you could work on a similar base to give it a quaint painted look. Wash the base thoroughly and run a sandpaper over it. Bring out you fabric paints and let your imagination loose by trying out various motifs.

Once your Agarbatti stand is ready for use, you can place it in a corner even in your drawing room and add aroma to your environs in a unique and practical way.

DIY — Wired Penstand


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The next time you come across a lot of plastic bottles, think twice before you dispose them; they could be turned into covetable objects of utility and beauty if you care to spend some time and imagination.

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Look at the picture alongside, to make a similar stand which can be used to place stationery, spoons or toothbrushes you need, used one-litre water bottles, a skein of plastic wire usually used for making clothesline, blade, adhesive, sequins, a lighted candle.

Method

Cut the bottle, so that it measures five or six inches in height by using a hacksaw blade. Clean the base of the bottle thoroughly and rub the open end on a rough floor or stone to even out rough edges.

Burn one end of the wire at a burning candle to prevent it from unwinding at a later point of time. Apply adhesive on the bottle’s surface and wind the wire around evenly from top to bottom and see to it that the layers do not overlap each other. Burn the end of the wire again at the end of the exercise to ensure that the wire remains intact. Stick sequins of a contrasting colour in a pattern of your choice uniformly around the pen stand before you put it into use.

Button Décor


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Buttons come in an amazing range of shapes and sizes. Some of them are so beautiful and exotic that one feels like fretting because we don’t have matching clothes.

Here is an idea that you could follow to create your very own special wall hanging using ordinary white shirt buttons.

Things needed: A poplin black cloth measuring ten inches by fourteen inches, one packet of white shirt buttons having twin eye-holes only (usually one gross),two or three strings of tiny silver coloured beads, some skeins of blue, green and pink embroidery thread, sewing thread and needle.

You could sketch of a picture of a swan, crane or any bird for that matter on butter paper and transfer the design on to the black cloth using white carbon sheet. Once your design is ready, you should cover the design by stitching the buttons and the beads over it.

Thread the needle with a double length of considerably long thread and knot it at the bottom. Start working at the head region of the bird and move towards the tail.

Pass the needle from underneath and insert one eye-hole of the button through the needle, then introduce two silver beads and then pass the needle through the other eye-hole of the button to the bottom of the cloth.  Repeat this process such that the buttons overlap each other uniformly in one direction giving the effect of smoothed feathers.

Once the bird is completed you could embroider a water line using the blue embroidery thread, an embroidered lotus could add ambience to the presence of the swan.

The completed work could be framed and displayed on your mantel piece to reflect your creativity.

Recycle Mantra – Notepad


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It certainly saves a lot of trouble if you leave some post-it leaves wherever you think you might need them to make note of relevant information or reminders which can make you life more organised.

Recycle mantra
Just reflect on the number of times you have been in situations when you need writing material immediately. It certainly saves a lot of trouble if you leave some post-it leaves wherever you think you might need them to make note of relevant information or reminders which can make you life more organised.

If this orderliness can be achieved with an aesthetic touch born out of individual creative enterprise, it will certainly turn out to be a fruitful exercise. This will not only serve the purpose of utility, but will also be an expression of your creativity. You could launch into this enterprise by creating the best out of waste. Recycling is the mantra which will make your end product unique.

Things you need
Salvage cardboard from old hard bound notebooks. Hardware shops will only be too happy to part with outdated and out of stock samples of Decolam sheets in shapes of your choice. Fish out some old greeting cards or wedding cards that you have been squirreling away because they were way too aesthetic to be parted with.

Paper: You could recycle paper which has been used only on one side. Cut all the paper to one uniform size, such that the size of the paper is about one third of the size of the cardboard or smaller. Punch holes in the paper so that they can be bundled together.
Of course if you want the easy way out you could buy a couple of post-it bundles. Besides you will need a good adhesive, paints, scissors, pencil, satin ribbon, woollen yarn, punching machine, a chalk piece. If you have a collection of shells or beads they could be used as trimming.

Method
Paste two or three cardboards of the same size one on top of another till you feel it is thick enough. If there are old unused examination pads in your home you could use them as a base or the old cardboards that hold daily sheet calendars but they will be larger in size.

Paste the sample Decolam sheets all over without leaving any gaps anywhere. If the pieces have curvaceous ends they will invariably create gaps, let them be. Place the sheet between two heavy books so that they do not bend or lose shape.

Leave one inch border all along the board and demarcate the centre of the cardboard with a chalk line. This line should be erased on completion of the notepad.Cut out the silhouettes of your favourite pictures from the cards and paste them strategically.

Punch two holes at the top edge and string around forty to fifty papers of the cut papers together with the woollen yarn. Instead you could stick the post- it papers in position.
Cut six inches of satin ribbon and stick one end of it just above the bundle of papers so that it can hold the pencil in a knot.

Make a small loop out of the satin ribbon and glue it firmly on the top centre of the cardboard at the back.You could line the border of your note pad with sea shell, beads or food grains to give it a touch of creativity.

Now your handy innovative notepad will be ready to be put up near your doorbell, kitchen, telephone, fridge, bedside table, medicine cabinet, study table and anywhere else you need to note down information. It will be a matter of pride for you when your own designer eco- friendly notepad placed in strategic points in your house will find appreciation by the users for more reasons than one.