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3rd June 2011:
There was the annual horticulture exhibition/fair in Coimbatore last weekend. It was a great experience. Myself, wifey, amma, accha and Neha – full attendance. Irrigational systems, tractors/ploughers, automated one-man harvesting equipments, organic growth harmones, agri books, univ-courses, cocunut/mango-variety saplings, all veggies.
We also saw neat plastic cyclindrical bags say 1.5 ft dia and 1 ft high which had prepared soil/manure – with coir in them and which they said would last for 3 yrs and multiple crop changes during the period. 120 bucks per bag.
Farmers from TN landed up at bus/rail stations and had a free pick-up to the venue.
We bought some organic avil (poha), seeds of bottle-gourd, ridge gourd, corriander, manure, and a organic gardening book. Planted them in the garden on Sunday – team effort – Me (digging,) Dad (sowing), wifey (soil filling), lil Neha (manure filling.)
Now for something similar in the balcony in Chennai. I find 2 folks from Chennai so far in this thread. Rahul, car-lover – help if you can. Wifey found horti dept in Anna Nagar. However the quest now is for
- rectangular – 3 ft x 1 ft x 1 ft planter boxes. Where can we get it? They appear neater and more efficient/optimal to me that Circular pots. Is it at all available in mud?
- Are plastic ones good? What does your experience say? Is it good for the plant and is it ok for vegetable gardening? We will be consuming them after all!
- I was thinking about aluminium sheets folded and nailed in a shape which would nicely fit on top of the balcony parapet. But aluminium would get super hot and drain away the water from the soil. Any comments?
- Soil – How expensive is it? Where can I get it? Is it not ok to go away from the city and fill up your containers from vacant / govt land and drive back? Do people do it? Is the quality not good? Is it not legal? Comments please.
In hindsight we should have got those 120 Rs bags from the exhibition but probably half the fun's lost. Lets see how it goes.
All suggestions welcome from all places regards their experiences on the above. I will search for equivalents in my city.
Weekend is here, weather's gotten better after the summer dog days getting over here in Chennai and its time for some gardening!
5th June 2011:
Called up CIKS – Its only a publication office. Open 9 to 5.
Called up Horticulture, Anna Nagar – They are closed on weekends. Probably I will never see them They said opposite the Arch there are pots/soils available but thats too government run and so closed as well.
So what next?
Ok, we drive down the 100ft road and wifey had mentioned about seeing a nursery opposite the Chery. We reached there and sure there it was. There was a truck load of soil outside its compound. Lots of plants within the compound. We picked up 2 bags for Rs 60/- each. Good mixture of cow dung, soil, clay. Felt good. We would never have gotten that soil from open land – we had tried it Friday morning but it was only construction work debri. 60 bucks – worth it.
We had 2 small pots from old and a water tub – (Lil Neha's bath tub of old.) This morning filled all up. Used an old dust-bin to start collecting material for compost. Planted a few seeds of tomato (these were scooped out/watered/dried from a bought tomato,) methi, coriander. Transplanted couple of thulsi plants and kanikoorka (mallu word. medicinal leaves) in the 2 small pots. However I learnt that the transplantation should be done quick. It just withered away within minutes of uprooting. Hopefully life comes back into it. Kanikoorka looks fine.
Last but not least. Found a big centipede (size of the forefinger) all coiled up when we dug through the sacks of soil. First instinct was too throw it off. But a moments thought and realised what we learnt at school – "earthworm is the friend of the farmer". Maybe the nursery folks left it in for a reason. We still have it in the now half-full gunny bag. Maybe we will move it around into the next bag when this bag is done. Or maybe if that bag has already a bug in we will put this guy into the compost bin. No debugging here, please!
Lets see how much we can sustain this enthu. Dads coming over mid-June. We shall get some valuable tips from the master farmer and hopefully his presence would take it past a point where it would be second "nature" to tend to this hobby. Good start we thought on world environment day.
EDIT: One more thing: The nursery guy told this was not the right time for growing and one usually waited till Aadi maasam – mid-july to mid-aug. This is all a trial. I could not wait for everything to fall in place – it never happens. Some start is better than nothing.
6th June 2011:
Yes. We once went on the ECR and saw those concrete square/rectangular ones. It was heavy. Looks like those are kept outside govt buildings/university building entrance.
Wifey did use the stitching needle, kept it on the flame and punctured a few holes in the tub that we are currently using.
I did keep the tub/2 small pots in the early morning light sunlight – 6:30 / 7ish.
Btw, buying plastic square buckets from the local store is somewhat not eco. Yesterday there was an ad in the paper which mentioned about eco friendly plastic bags. Maybe they might have eco-tubs. I will call them up and find out. Oh, btw our neighbour shifted last night and left a water can along all the garbage. We picked it up. Maybe good for potatos. But in this hot Chennai weather??? But, what if we gave it a shot?
9th June 2011
The methi/tomato are showing up. Infact drastic change from 4th evening to fifth morning. Glad that the scoop/watering/drying/sowing worked. But the full result might not be as good as the ones from packet-seeds which are seeds from fully ripened fruits.
Corriander (malli) is taking its time and not shown up as yet. The corriander at Dad's backyard also did not show up for a week. I have no news from him post a week of sowing. Need to call him up and find out. How long does it take?
The Basil (tulsi/thulasi) one of the two independent stem transplanted is standing stronger but the other one does not look as strong. But as wifey says they are fighters.
I kept a couple of potatos for chitting.
- Does anyone have info or has done chitting in Indian environment? Place/weather?
- How long does it take? The few eyes are barely seen.
- Is it the right time for chitting in India?
- Do we store it in a cold/dark place or under indirect sunlight?
- Do we keep it in a couple of mm of shallow water?
All this for promoting eye growth. Impatience!
Btw, today's roof-gardening course had 40 seats and all got filled up by the time wifey enquired. Just curious what they would have to offer. They had said they did not have soil/manure/planters but had seeds.
We got this longish mud containers at Kodambakkam. Many pot shops from the Kodambakkam flyover towards Nungambakkam tennis stadium. We got couple of these and along with that couple of 12 inch inner dia pots + couple of 10 inch inner dia pots + couple of hanging pots + 1 golden painted mud show vessel (water+lotus/lily/floating-leaves front-room stuff) – 520 bucks.
Just wondering: those were so painstakingly built by artisans and it was so cheap. Something wrong. They would be so heavily priced in the western world. One walks into the big store BB and see imported Thai hanging plastic ones for 129 bucks, plastic pots for 100 bucks or so. Visited a nursery at Shanti Colony – next to the Sundaram foundation hospital and the plastic version of the above picture = 300 bucks – from Alleppey she said. There was a bigger deeper plastic squarish one – Rs 1400/-. I was tempted but held myself back from buying all these plastics primarily because I am thinking not to buy new plastics from stores, just re-use used ones if at all. Mud ones feel more eco! Moreover they are cheaper.
One more soil bag was purchased for 60 bucks.
Found the difference between centipedes and millipedes. The former are dangerous, can sting and eat good-doing beings inside your compost. Millepedes are friendly. Looked at both pictures in images.google. So our friend that I found in the soil-bag was not a centipede, it was a millipede. Ok. Moved the millipede into the compost and guess what, as soon as it was dropped on top of the pile it just wriggled inside.
Opened up the other bag which we had got Friday from Shanti colony – wow! Nice soil + manure + clay mix. Started to fill the tray containers. What did I see? Centipedes!!! Yes, they looked monsterous. Chucked them off. Found atleast 3. I also found an earthworm. Off it went into the compost bin – our millipede got a friend.
Mon-Fri, 9 to 5 the Urban Horticulture dept at 6th Avenue Anna Nagar is open. Went in at 9:30 Friday morning. Got hold off seeds – tomato, brinjal, bitter-gourd, okra, amaranthus (keerai), bottle gourd. Tomata – 25 bucks, rest 15 bucks.
The dept has 1 day programs on many subjects. They have a repeat of the roof-gardening course on 14th and 15th as the one last Thu was houseful. 77 odd people attended it. I have the list, if someone is interested I can share.
greenpatio.com gave good guidelines to plant them and just before Sunday lunch I set them all (except for the bottle gourd) sail.
The Basil stalks dont look promising. The tomato and methi are fore-finger tall now. Coriander is still hiding.
Oh and btw the potato chitting looks better now – fresh green spots are on it now.
Thank you very much for the updates. I am from chennai and post gives a lot of motivation. My biggest limitation is that I can focus only on weekends.
By the way what are the other things they have in the Urban Horticulture dept. Is it open in weekends? Anna nagar is quite far away for me and I need to make a cost benefit analysis ......(against my inertia ).
As usual there is no meaningful information on govt websites.
A few of my comments on your post above.
1. Plastic / cement ones are ok, but mud pots are the best. They help in maintaing the temperature and water draining, in my opinion. I have a few plants in platic and cement pots. The plants dont seem to have any problem.
2. Aluminium sheets, like you mentioned would get too hot. It is a very bad feeling to see your plants die. I got a suggestion that cement gunny bags are good, but have not tried them personally.
3. I used to get soil (red soil + manure) for 50Rs in nursery near my place. But recently they are complaining about price rise . Once I was lucky to get only manure in gunny bags for Rs50 as they ran out of red soil.
4. Timing of the plants... most of them do not tolerate Chennai summer direct sunlight + heat, unless they are in shade.
Finally finally finally. A Chennai garden lover! Ok. Hold on to this site and keep interacting. Not many around. Urban Horticulture is open only Mon-Fri 9 to 5. But if you are looking for seeds there is a place we went today (after searching thru justdial.com) and calling and finding. He has a good collection - 5 buck packets. We got spinach, radish, beet, all kinds of keerai, few beans variety, gourds, pumpkin. He is a wholesale dealer primarily. This place is opposite to Lake View Hotel on the lane close to the railway track close to Mambalam station (West Mambalam.) D Thilokchand Vegetable Seeds Merchant.
Got some more pots today at Kodambakkam. Got some more soil. So the place is full.
Btw, if you need seeds tell me. I can give few from my sachets. The TNAU packets had plenty.
Thanks for the offer Jeev. I sourced bitter groud, beans(karamani), bottle groud, keerai seeds from local nursery shop and when I went to my native place.
Karamani gives excellent yield, if you are trying new. But its a climber and will need something to climb on. Spinach is resistant to most pests and easy to grow and thrives on organic matter.
I will see if I can visit the seed shop in west mambalam.
My immediate need is organic pesticides for mealy bug and spider mites. I have contacted greenlands for Panchagalvya, vermiwash, vermicompost and they said they will get it next week. Will update on that.
I will try to start a new thread on pests...
- Got 2 more 12 inch, 2 more 13 inch pots, 1 rectangular tray clay pot, 1 squarish clay pot
- Got 2 more sacks of soil + (neem-cake+organic-manure) Rs 80/- from Kalyani Nursery opp Velachery Aerie.
- Got 10 packets of seeds (spinach, radish, red-keerai, cluster-beans, french beans, corriander, asparagus-beans, beet) from D.Thilokchand.
on Saturday. Got a headache after running around in the harsh sun and spending some time in the balcony. So yet to make use of all those.
Existing seed sprouting update:
++ Amaranthus is growing well. However finding it difficult to water the clustered/bushy setup. The stalk is very narrow.
++ Bitter gourd leaves - Dinosaur-like wings are growing well.
++ Tomato is growing well as well.
+ Methi leaves look worn out but I can still see leaves coming out.
- A set of 2 corriander shoots have come out and the jagged-edge leaves are also seen. Another one is sprouting. But I had sown lots of them. Maybe old treated seeds were already dead.
- 2 Okra seedlings are standing tall but look static for 2-3 days.
- Thulsi - one stalk looks ok and fresh, the other ones looking static.
- Potato chitting is not progressing looks like according to my wishes 🙂
- Hydro onions not progressing either. I am hopeful of one of them. Some portions of the outer most skin has dried up a bit.
- Kanikoorka leaves - a couple here and there are coming out.
- Brinjal - out of the 10 or so, 4 have come out and they are all in different stages. All are small and very recent sprouted.
Get up the Kodambakkam bridge from Vadapani/Liberty/Meenakshi college stop side and get down the bridge and go straight towards Nungambakkam. On the left and right there are many pottery shops. These cost about 80 to 100. However we picked up 2 on the first weekend and the next weekend there was only 1 left and we picked that as well. He had a squarish one which was also picked. I saw a squarish one in his go-down. There are other shops around. Please check there.
We went to Thiruvanmiyur to a relative's house and in his building we saw deep shopping basket kind-of mud pots with plants in them. I did not know whom to ask as to where they had got those. Oh... I remember now: we had analyzed it a bit further and found them to be concrete ones. The concretes ones are a no-no for my garden as its very heavy and I feel they are more packed in their composition than mud pots.
We used kitchen dhania. But only one of them grew and I can see the inside coriander jagged leaves come out now. We had sown plenty. Maybe these are roasted, treated ones to be packed and placed in grocery shelves only and so are dead within. OR it could be as Raman says we should break it open to get the 2 black seeds out (without damaging them) and then grow it.
We will be trying them this weekend and that too on the seeds we got from D.Thilokchand.
Regarding Planting coriander,palak,Molai Keerai and other leafy vegetables the best option if you have terrace make dealwood boxes container and set it on floor (sizes like 4ft X 5ft or any size of your choice taking into available space). After making boxes try putting a turpoline cloth over it and make holes for water to escape and fill it up with container mix or cocopeat & vermicompost. You can google it on net for better idea. Alternatively for a balcony you can have a small plastic tray which will nicely fit into any size balcony.
I went to city market bought a nice rectangular plastic trays poked 4 holes on bottom and covered holes with coconut fibres. Later filled it up with mix of cocopeat and vermicompost. You will see the result in 30 days time. I am attaching the link for your attention.
The plastic tray bigger one was Rs.50/- and smaller ones Rs.25/- (which can be used for seed starter tray). Regarding getting earthworms for a higher price Rs.300/- per kg, as kvs said get vermicompost from horticulture dept or GKVK campus for a quite cheaper rate and when you mix with cocopeat you will have worms which can be recycled for your future use.
You all have a happy gardening and nice weekend .
Today wifey took a few seeds from the packet and crushed them by keeping them within a bunch of newspapers and using chappati baton. I could see the two seeds inside. Seperated a few seeds from their shells but then patience ran out and planted them in crushed form. We also sowed the seeds for palak, red keera.
Tomato transplanting will take place next week.
This week it was making the soil conducive (clean stones, crush soil/gobar lumps, mixing with water and the soil globules were having air molecules trapped in for better breathing for the plants. Similar to ploughing in large fields. My own funda.
Growth around is good. One of the onion sprout is looking good and still hydro. The other onion was buried with the tip being seen.
Okra was soil-heaped and pot brimmed so that the stem is buried and the plant can withstand the wind. No more space for soil in that pot now. Something I learnt - leave sufficient space between the top of the soil and the top of the container while sowing. This is because the stalk just at birth is leggy and long and these need be buried after a week or so of birth.
I was to plant raddish and beans but folks said we have enough tomato saplings and so transplating will need many containers. So maybe after 2 months we shall visit the what-to-sow-now question.
Catch you all later...
Its Saturday again. Wifey tied 4 threads to the antennas of the bittergourd which now have been very naughty and catching onto what ever it can hold on to. This was done yesterday. The corriander/chilli have yet to show up. The original tub was cleaned up of its greenery. The methi taken off. The 2 very small coriander uprooted. And 18 of the 25 odd tomato seedlings were transplated to bigger pots. We wanted its transit time to be the shortest and hence prepared destination areas before uprooting the seedlings. It was tough on me - very sad to relocate them. Right now they are just recovering the exodus. They have been supported with broom stick ends inserted into the soil next to it and watered well. Twice already. How long does it take to start liking its new home?
The onion with 3-4 green shoots was buried today. The first buried onion did not show any shoots and so I lifted it out. Surprise surprise, it had fresh roots. Damn! Why did I take it out? I put it in back.
Tomorrow morning or tonight I shall try that one potato that I left for chitting. Not much chitting happening. I can see green small growths which is the best it can get to. So will try to bury it and see. Rest is all growing well.
Potatoes: Good, Camaroon. We buried our potatos as well as 2/3 pieces Sunday morning.
Onions: We put in the large ones. They are with the okra. I dont know if they are companion plants. Lets see.
Tomatoes: Btw after close to 48 nervous hrs, the tomatoes are brightening up. One of the plants which was given stem-support had its stem standing by itself, only a leaf was touching the support. Corriander takes time though we think we spotted a couple off the splits we sowed in 7 days ago. The methi sprouted today after just 2 days. They are damn damn fast. Btw we used the previous harvest (if you may call it :)) in making methi chappati. The next to be harvested is the keerai. But I am realizing that it is painful to cut something that we sow and has grown.
Brinjal/Okra. The growth is very very slow but fresh leaves do appear and all the leaves look healthy.
Spinach/Red-keerai: Growing well.
Bittergourd: They are having fun climbing and are growing tall real fast.
Packet-seed-Tomatoes: A couple were very loose at the soil. Transplated them in the same container with the main stem lying below soil horizontally. It seems the roots on the main stem start developing and it gets stronger and richer.
Tulsi: One stalk is growing well. The other stalk is just a stick now. But it has got fresh green spots here and there and there is still hope. Wifey is really hopeful.
Kanikoorka: This is growing very tall too. Very very impressed by its growth. Wifey had just planted a section broken from the plant growing in the building grounds below. It did not have any roots while planting and it has come up so well. Nature is wonderful!
(Oops - It seems from the net that its called Panikoorka 🙂 In English it is Coleus aromaticus and In Hindi it is Ajma Paan. Medicinal value.)
He he he… Yes. Many people have asked this. Gardening!!? Where? In the balcony! Is'nt it too small for growing anything? Do you have space? Yes. I created some space. Its a 4 x 10(breadth) x 9(height,) balcony. Infact I wanted to sow some more varieties but wifey said it would be good if we concentrate on a few and then explore a month later. Fair enough. I have
- 8 Nos of 1 ft dia / 1 ft high mud containers – 6 used for tomatoes, 1 for onion+okra, 1 unused.
- 4 mud hanging pots (corriander+chilli sproutings),
- 3 rectangular + 1 squarish – shallow mud trays (for two types of keerai/spinach/brinjal seedlings/tomato seedlings/bittergourd)
- 2 old smaller pots – 6 inches dia – for tulsi/panikoorka.
- 1 old water tub – methi seeds
- the chilli and brinjal would be transplated to that empty mud pot (top of the list above,)
- a couple of transplated ones in the 6 pots are not doing good and so I will pick the tomato seedlings from the tray and transplant them here.
Near Future -
I am actually looking for a government office iron racks with 4 shelfs and hopefully I can move the short height plants on to those racks to create more space. This will also help me place my reservoir on the topmost shelf and get a pipe with solenoid+timer (research on-going) and onto all the plants.
Bottomline. No clothes. Only minimal. And only when I am not at home. Keep the balcony neat and push things as close to the walls, nothing floating around. Everything tucked into the shoe shelf which currently is used as a stand to keep couple of mud trays on top of it. And you can indeed squeeze in stuff. Its a fantastic place out there. Necessity (Urge/Enthu) is the mother of invention! 🙂
Regards, Red Keerai - Yes. I do have it. Come weekend and I can give it to you for exchange of "one" worm 🙂 Theres lots of food for him in my bin! Just kidding.
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