My little garden 

Dear all,

Since it’s been a while, here are some pictures of my garden. I love the small roof garden I have. Although I am making use of only a quarter of the space available, I have a variety of plants growing. 3 eggplants, Mogra, chamberi, exotic creeper (I forget the name) one each, onions in a round pot, 4 hibiscus plants, potatoes in a pot, bitter gourd, ridge gourd, pole beans… I will share the ones that are available on my iPad. I will share some more soon, maybe once the onions are bigger and potatoe plants have grown in size… 

So enjoy! 😊 I know I enjoy my garden.. it teaches me life lessons I couldn’t have learnt elsewhere.. I think gardening should be made compulsory for all children..  they will get to know so much.

Also following my post on ‘Pruning negative thoughts’ 

https://awkwardlyinconsistent.wordpress.com/2016/12/11/pruning-negative-thoughts/
I thought I would add a quote or story or simply a gardening tip from a fellow gardener I speak to or read about in newspapers or blogs or Facebook posts (don’t worry I will always cite the source, so you can always check them out if interested). If you want to be a part of this, please do email me at amulysai@gmail.com with the subject ‘Gardening tip’ and I will add your story or quote.

Gardening tip 1: drainage holes. A pot must have drainage holes, if you don’t have/want them, then make sure to add a thick layer of stones at the bottom (at least 2 inches). This will act as a drain layer that will keep your plant roots from rotting. One of my friends, a fellow urban gardener based in the US says, 

“I learned that if in closed vessels plant will drown and wilt also (much like people in suffocating relationship).. so always have holes in your pots” — Mersad (24 July 2017, Instagram exchange [he grows orchids and the one he shared on insta is the prettiest little thing I have ever seen! I couldn’t take my eyes off it]). 

  

  

Following are pictures from my roof garden 😊

  
  

  
 

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Pruning negative thoughts 

My potatoes have some kind of a disease. It could be wilt disease or blight, I am not too sure. But it seems, I learn something or the other from my plants everyday. When my plants started drooping, I googled for possible solutions. I found out that the plant needn’t be uprooted, just the leaf or branch suffering is to be plucked. Unfortunately for my plants, I read this a little too late. 

What I learnt though, is this: say you have had a fight with a friend/cousin/lover etc, what do you do? Do you ruin your relationship in its totality? Or do you prune these bits out and encourage healthy growth? More often than not, our thoughts are like the disease of a plant. It first hinders proper circulation of water and oxygenation, creates an environment of suffocation that leads to early (warning) signs of  death. So instead of letting the whole plant die, you cut the leaf that’s most affected, support healthy growth by feeding it neem powder or some other kind of organic pesticide. 

What, then, do I have to say about toxic relationships? From my experience in the garden, I will say, usually a potato with three eyes is planted in the soil, in the offchance that one does not grow properly, there are two more. Our lives are full of people. When one toxic relationship dies, like the potato plant, cut the affected plant and let the other two grow. In the absence of three plants trying to get nutrients, you will have just two and chances of better yield also increases. 

PS: you should smell the soil in which potato tubers grow. It smells of a newly born babe. Raw and kind of a metallic smell. First I was a little scared if it was the wilt causing this, only to realise I had smelled such a scent before, around newly born babes. In India, babies are given bath only on the 12th day, therefore it isn’t the best kind of smell that lingers around babies. Just like the smell of the soil in which small potatoes grow. It was then that I realised, we are all truly connected beings. My Garden teaches me life lessons and how! 

Organic living 

A post, yet again, on organic living. My dear cucumber plant gave me one cucumber, perfectly round and yellow (orange on the top), it looked yummy. How do you know your cucumber is ready for harvesting? Touch it, you will know. Yes. Just like that. When it’s too young to be plucked, cucumber feels like a baby’s head. Soft, tender, and just a wee bit hairy. You will feel like stroking it, like you would, your baby. And sometime even crooning how much you love it. Or maybe it’s just me going totes cray. But I fell in love with my baby. By the time it is ready for harvest, it is fully yellow and hard. When it’s hard is when you know you can pluck it (although there’s no guarantee you will want to pluck it even then, it looks perfect on the plant). 
Stage 1: my little baby

   
 
Stage 2: Soft and 

   

Stage 3: 

 

Also, I finally perfected the recipe for my hair powder. I bought various powders, like Areetha, Vetiver, lemon etc. This is me mixing it. I enjoyed the process. Hopefully, my hair will appreciate the effort I put in by hanging gloriously down my shoulders (😛).   

 

Wild Ideas

So I have had a fantastic month, I hope you guys have had a good time as well.

My efforts to be environmentally conscious have led me to use Herbal hair wash powders, body powders, and of course growing plants. Gardening, especially, has helped me blow off steam. Growing lemongrass is rewarding, it helps with stress. I have experienced this, there is some magic in its light tangy, citrusy fragrance. 

But this post is about my new herbal wash powder. Years ago, my mother would wash my hair with this soapnut powder (with some other herbal ingredients) named Raaga, by Nature Care. With liberalisation and entry of foreign brands into our market, NC sold its company, although in a later interview, the man behind the product (cant recollect his name) said that if he had only borne losses for a few years, they could have jumped right back into competition, he is right, it was I think in mid 2000s that (some) Indians felt disillusioned and put off by those shiny/glossy branded shampoos. Most craved SLS/Paraben free shampoos, a rage that started in the West, as usual. Had Raaga still been in production, I don’t think I would have made the transition to sunsilks or head n shoulders. 

Anyway, I watched their ad on YouTube a few days ago. Many a Sunday mornings were spent admiring the beautiful purple box it came in. Yes, purple, those guys were hip even back then. My shower would smell of soapnut, shikakai, vetiver for a couple hours. Aah! 

After a lot of search, including Meera powder and my concoction of different herb powders from Munnalal Dawasaz, I finally found the product. Wild ideas herbal hair wash powder. The smell isn’t as strong as Raaga’s but close. And my hair fall has reduced, I think. The label on it reads that it is made by disadvantaged rural women in Tamil Nadu. The feminist in me rejoiced at that, before I realised, capitalism can play all sorts of tricks on you. Anyway, here’s a picture, in case you ever want to try it. The traditional oil bath powder is Rs.100, and the daily hair wash powder, Rs. 80. I am not sure if that’s expensive, considering the money I spent on my hair and also the kind of packaging it comes in, not to mention the invaluable trip down the memory lane every time I uncap it. 

  

Happy Earth Day 

So, since today is Earth Day, I thought I would post about my little garden. I grew some plants (100% organic) on the terrace. I make my own pesticide (hello, essential oils) and fertiliser (compost bin is a very good idea). 

  This is Cucumber. This photograph was taken a couple of weeks ago. It’s growing beautifully. Although some leaves are turning yellow now. I read that magnesium deficiency can do that, so I started drying  banana peels instead of putting it in the compost bin. I will powder it and mix with water. Hopefully, it will work? I am all ears to more suggestions or diagnosis. 

 Purslane seeds. I just waited for the flowers to be pollinated. They burst open when they are ready (it’s all brown), but sometimes I hasten the process by lightly pressing on the cap myself 😋. I have such cute little purslane seedlings now. Did you know that Purslane leaves are shiny and glossy and have purplish pink border? They are a sight took at! 
 Papaya seedlings. They are so little. I don’t have the heart to snip the weak ones off, and I never in my wildest dreams expected all the seeds to germinate. So, one pot, but, around 5 seedlings.. 😕
  
These is a carrot umbel. It’s the most delicious smelling flower, ever. I put carrot tops that were yellowing in a pot, I didn’t know what to expect. Carrots are bineal plants, in their second year, they grow long shoots with flowers. When pollinated, they turn into seeds, of course. All I did was to wait for them to become brown. A spider attacked the plant, and one of the shoots turned brown. I thought spiders were garden friendly, like garden bugs. Was this a spider mite, then? Do they also spin webs? I have no idea about this. 
I have more photos, of course, but not all in one day, not all in one post. Next up: watermelon, mint, Amarnath, Basil, Lime (that has since died 😢) plants. 

Gardening 

So, quite by a lucky chance, I started gardening in late December. Now I have a small garden on the terrace and I couldn’t be happier. 

I planted sorrel seeds and hoped some of them would germinate. To my delight, all of them germinated which also meant that the rather huge pot I put those seeds in, was (over) crowded. I harvested scallions, carrots, and Amarnath leaves. Now I have mint, Musk Mellon or Cantaloupe, watermelon (I am not sure will survive), cucumber, purslane, curry tree, coriander growing. I couldn’t be happier.

Every time I harvest something, I make it a point to turn the earth in that pot. Gardening does not just lower your cortisol (the stress hormone which is also responsible for the feeling of hunger. Normally, body increases cortisol levels which reaches its maximum by noon, lunch time, and then gradually lowers and reaches it minimum just in time for you to sleep without any hunger pangs.), but also the wet soil/dirt smell increases serotonin and the joy of seeing leaves or fruit triggers the release of dopamine (both are happy hormones). 

But apart from all this, what else did I learn from my new hobby? 

1. Plants are not competitive at all. They share resources. Be it water, or manure, they don’t fight to get the most of it. Why do I say this? A lot of sorrel seeds germinated in one pot, and in another just 2 or 3. Those 2 or 3 plants in one pot grew taller and thicker than those teeny tiny sorrel plants in the overcrowded pot. Not one plant was thicker or taller than the other. They grew together at the same pace. 

2. In another pot, Basil grew in the same pot as the sorrel plants, I didn’t plant it, I am thinking a dormant seed lay there. So the Basil plant grew with its leaves close to it’s main stem so as not to disturb the plants already growing in there. As soon as it outgrew the other plants, it spread its leaves and leetle branches out. 

3. In another pot, grew Garbanzo plant and carrots. The Garbanzo plant which is harvested quite quickly grew into the carrot shoots to my surprise. Why, I asked myself. Carrot shoots can take the heat. Garbanzo cannot. So it took shelter in the carrot shoots. The carrot shoots did not seem to mind that at all.

Plants have a great deal to teach us. Only if we are ready to observe, learn, and hopefully incorporate it in out lifestyles as well. They are amazing, these plants. They teach us holistic living. They teach us the spirit of co-operation. They teach us that a highly competitive and sometimes combative world is a world of our own making. We could also make a world of love and peace where there is no hiererchy. A world where we can all share resources. But more than anything, a world in and to which we give more than we take. After all, borrowed planet, and borrowed time folks. 

Also, welcome summer! That time of the year when plants can grow happily, provided they are watered twice a day. Yay!