My Edible Garden: Unravelling the mystery of the green patch

Watching the tenderness of the young greens or when a little green shoot breaks its way above the soil are but a few joys of having a green patch.


What started as two pots has spread to about 40 in the past one year – big and small, round and square, plastic and mud, brown and green – all spread out on the three lucky balconies that we have. The fervour of gardening is felt like a sweet tingling smell spreading at slow pace – a tingle produced by a medley of fragrances each indistinguishable from and as necessary as the other.

The medley starts when miniature life decides to make their home in the pots. A few of them are ants, caterpillars, spiders, and of course bugs!

At any time, there is a brigade of ants marching on duty with a sincere expression.

One lady chose the pudina (mint) plant to propagate her fortune. Lots of caterpillars were soon having fun munching the mints and the Indian palak (spinach) greens. We welcomed them and also tried feeding some curry leaves so that some of the mint could be spared – but they were strict about their diet.  If only all of us could be careful about junk food!

The best performing pudina - was home to 10 caterpillars

The best performing pudina – was home to 10 caterpillars

A thoughtful decision has been to keep the garden as natural as possible: organic – yes; natural – pretty much. This we learnt on our workshop at Bhoomi College on organic Terrace gardening. Mulching, watering, forest in a pot, companion planting, leaving the plant alone are some of the methods that we try. We try, plants enjoy; some plants don’t like, we learn, and that’s how the cycle moves forward.

They are interdependent – the greens and their inhabitants which have made them their place of dwelling. As much as there is an ecosystem above, there is an ecosystem powering the soil below. That’s the essence of natural farming. There are millions of microbes who pretty much love their space – recycling nutrients, breaking them down to make it accessible for plants and giving back to the nutrient cycle.

Some of the plants are from seeds hidden in the vegetables that we buy – bitter gourd, musk melon, pudina, tomatoes, Chilies and finally Capsicum! Capsicum is one tough seed – very fussy and not ready to germinate. There must have been 300 seeds that I have put in the pots – every time a capsicum goes into our tummy, her seeds are sown in multiple pots hoping that at least one of the catch the zest for life. At last, here is one guy who decided to sprout and is growing one leaf at a time with not much hurry.

Capsicum - teaching us patience one leaf at a time

Capsicum – teaching us patience one leaf at a time

That’s one more thing – unpredictability. Learn to relax, trust in nature’s growth theories, and let go. We are all here to have fun while gardening, aren’t we?

There have been trials and tribulations.

There are a few individuals who do create commotion though – Mealy bugs love our sangu poo (butterfly pea) plant. This bush is beautiful – her twines grow fast with multitude of green shades, and the vivid blue flowers stand out in the green. This one plant make the entire patch look fuller and brighter. Our guests think that too – they love to lay their eggs and tap into the energy of the twines. Sometimes neem spray works. Other times, I just have to cut down the entire creeper and leave it to spring back to life again.

Feeding the garden has been mainly through water and compost.

Lately, the plants are experiencing compost tea once in two weeks. I read about this first in the Organic Terrace Gardening Facebook group, and promptly bought an aerator to extract the vermi-compost nutrients. A bag full of compost and some jaggery is suspended in water with constant air circulation for 48 hours. The resulting mixture is a good supplement for the plants.

This tiny tomato is spreading his roots on the first batch of home-made compost formed in the Daily Dump khamba. It is a simple 3-storey pot structure which, on rotation, yields good-quality compost from kitchen waste. The kambha has had its issues too – maggots! However, regular turning of the contents, adding neem powder, and reducing the water content, has helped the khambha go back to producing her ‘black gold’ to feed the garden.

Tomato - Feasting on compost in a plastic rice bag

Tomato – Feasting on compost in a plastic rice bag

We have enjoyed the fruits many times – soups, salads and juices have been cherished. But most of all it is the time spent staring at the young leaves, comforting the seedling shifted to his new place and that feeling which makes us automatically gravitate towards the balcony to have a hurried first look in the morning, that are priceless.


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shyamala is a nature-enthusiast and is exploring anything that is close to it. Still drifting in the green universe with no particular destination in mind she finds solace in gardening, birding, conservation activities and spreading eco-literacy. She blogs at www.passionthatsgreen.com more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shyamala is a nature-enthusiast and is exploring anything that is close to it. Still drifting in the green universe with no particular destination in mind she finds solace in gardening, birding, conservation activities and spreading eco-literacy. She blogs at www.passionthatsgreen.com more

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