A beginner’s guide to organic terrace gardening: From seeding to pest management

This is part 3 of the series of ‘A beginner’s guide to organic terrace gardening’ as a part of our organic gardening blog, My Edible Garden.


This is part 3 of the series of ‘A beginner’s guide to organic terrace gardening’ as a part of our organic gardening blog, My Edible Garden. Read part 1 - What do you need to get started and part 2 – What goes into these containers.

There are various types of seeds – heirloom, open pollinated, hybrid, GMO, etc. This link gives a good explanation about them. If you can, try to get hold of heirloom seeds, though it would be a bit difficult unless you have a gardening friend around you or it comes from your very own kitchen. I started off with buying seeds. However, now that I have a network of gardening friends, we keep exchanging seeds and have gone to the level of sending it across through post too!

Germination

Invest in a seeding tray; a basic one costs about Rs. 20. For the potting mix in a seedling tray, you can mix about 2 handfuls of compost to coco peat. Like I mentioned in my earlier post, coco peat has no nutritional value. So a little bit of compost gives them that extra power. For seed germination, the seeds require enough moisture around them. Germination time depends on various reasons like climate, source and health of the seeds, etc. Once seeds germinate, let them stabilise for a few days. The initial leaves that come out of the seed are not the real ones. When you see about 5 leaves, you can differentiate between the first set of leaves and the “true” leaves. Once you get about 5-6 “true” leaves, its time to transplant.

Sapling

When you are transplanting from the seedling tray to the final destination container, make sure you are not doing it under direct sun. Do it in the morning around 6 or 7, or late in the evening. Once transplanted, keep the container in a shady place. This is so that the sapling is able to bear the transplant shock. Water the container carefully, so as not to harm the sapling.

If you can cover the sapling with a plastic bottle, like this, then you may do so. If at the initial stage, you feel that your plant needs support, you can stake the plant for support. Staking is placing a thin but strong piece of wood or pipe or bamboo, a few millimetres wide and about 1 foot high. Insert it into the pot near the seedling, but not too close to the roots. Use a thread and tie the sapling loosely to the stick.

Insect/Pest management

What is a garden without insects ? Its like life without problems ! Like them or hate them, they will be a part of your garden and they are here to stay. The top insects that bug me at my place are mealybugs, aphids and ants.

a. Aphids on the back of a leaf.

b. Aphids on the branches of a plant.

c. Mealybug on the back of the leaf.

Ants do not do any direct harm to the plants, but they help spreading and protecting the mealybugs and the aphids. The mealybugs and aphids take off nutrition from the plants and the ants then feed on them. So once you see ants on your plants, you know for sure that there is something “buggy” going on. Most of these insects will be on the back of the leaves, so it is difficult to spot them.

Once you have an attack of aphids and if you are really lucky enough, you might have a very friendly visitor. Some call it “ladybug“,  others “ladybird”, some others “lady beetle”. I just call them “ladies”, and they feast on these aphids.

So how do you take care of these insects ? For ants, I do whatever I can to keep them away from getting onto my containers. I place a small wooden block below the container, under which I keep the pot-tray filled with water. This prevents the ants from getting onto the container. In case I don’t notice and the water dries up in the tray, that’s a perfect opportunity for these ants to get on to my containers. Another option is also to spray boric acid, turmeric powder or talcum powder on the outside of the pot, not inside.

For aphids and mealybugs, there are several options:

- First use a jet spray of water and get rid of all the insects from your plant. Use your fingers if needed. Usually the bottle spray is not useful here. Instead use the water hose directly. Give the plant a complete wash. Wait for 1-2 days and see if they come back. Give a second wash if necessary.

- Neem oil: Add 10 ml of neem oil to 1 litre of water. To this, add about 5 drops of liquid handwash or 2-3 pinches of detergent. Mix it all well and give a generous spray to all the affected parts of the plant, especially the underside of the leaves. This you can do once in 10 days or so.

- Chilly/garlic/ginger: Many folks make a paste of either one or a combination of chilly/garlic/ginger, dilute it with water and spray them on the plants. I have not tried these before, but you can use this if need be. Crush 1 chilly and 1 garlic pod, mix it with 100 ml water, and leave it over night. Filter out the water, then mix this in about 5 litres of water and spray ONLY on 1 plant. Or one portion of the plant. Wait for a day or 2, see if it has any bad affects. Change the proportions accordingly.

- Some suggest to sprinkle wood ash on the plant, preferably from wood that has not been treated chemically.

Watch out for the next in the series – Precautionary measures and useful resources to start your garden.

Tend to a garden everyday in your backyard, front yard or window sill? Or join your friends every weekend in a community space to grow your own food? Write to contribute@thealternative.in to start sharing with our readers every week!


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Srikant works with Oracle, Bangalore. He started gardening during the last quarter of 2012 and has been growing quite a number of vegetables on his terrace. One of his primary goal is to be self sufficient for atleast 5 vegetables. He feels that since he himself does not have the so called green thumb and was able to achieve quite some success, others should be able to do the same too. more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Srikant works with Oracle, Bangalore. He started gardening during the last quarter of 2012 and has been growing quite a number of vegetables on his terrace. One of his primary goal is to be self sufficient for atleast 5 vegetables. He feels that since he himself does not have the so called green thumb and was able to achieve quite some success, others should be able to do the same too. more

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