June 4, 2012
I have been a long time avid reader of this wonderful forum, and inspired by many-a-wonderful articles written by GG. Finally decided to join in and say hello!
I am from Gurgaon, love gardening, and am stuck with 3 small balconies which get partial sunlight during some part of the day, depending on the season. Two of the balconies don't get any sunlight during the winters. However, one bedroom's window and one balcony get some sunlight during winters.
Nevertheless, I am very much in love with gardening and have been trying to learn. While almost everyone has some plants sticking out in their balconies, I think very few people actually know the correct available materials and approaches.
Over the last 2 years I have been learning and experimenting with gardening, and increasing my general knowledge. Recently I have switched from using soil as a medium to using a coco-peat based medium.
My current general potting mix consists of 2 parts cocopeat and 1 part vermicompost. If I plan to grow some bigger plant in the pot, I add some little soil to add some 'weight'.
I plan to fertilize about once with some NPK + magnesium sulphate mix. In general, I add about 1/3 a teaspoon of NPK 20-20-20 in about 5 litres of water and give it to about 10 containers (right after I have watered them). I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
In past I have experimented with some organic homemade liquid fertilizers with okayish results, but I wanted a more controlled approach, and I think a little fertilizer might not be such a bad thing. Hopefully I am not exceeding the salts to a level where all microbes would die off. Would the vermicompost be of any benefit if the medium doesn't have much microbes.
(Am I being stupid by adding fertilizer, if the medium already has some vermicompost? Am I better off just adding vermicompost and skip fertilizers all together? However, I tend to drain every watering and hopefully the medium will not accumulate salts.)
I have interests in growing bonsai, and also some herbs etc. Right now I am in the process of replacing soil in my existing containers to the cocopeat based mix. I recently planted some coriander in one of my pots. Also I have recently transplanted plants to the new potting mix. However I am afraid that peak summers might a good time to transplant, so I have moved all the transplanted plants to indoors for the time-being. Do you think that is a good idea? While transplanting from older containers, I am removing the soil and roots are getting some exposure, and probably a good amount of damage.
Thanks and Regards
June 6, 2012
Great to see your post, and if I could say your post, prompted me to register and make mine. Like GG I am also a techie who is getting curious by the day into gardening. And like you, I am also from Gurgaon.
I have 2 balconies with get ample sunlight in the summers. I have just started gardening and don't have a lot of knowledge or idea on this. I have started with 5-6 12" pots.
I am interested in growing lemon grass (used in Thai cooking), Mint leaves, tomatoes and chillies. Also some flower plants as the balcony looks very deserted currently.
I don't wish to hire a gardener as I am a DIY kinda guy. I am unsuccessful in getting results, so I am sure I am going wrong somewhere.
You mentioned cocopeat and perlite etc, I read the same in GGs posts as well. Could you please help me explain more about them and where can I source them in Gurgaon?
I think the biggest flaw is my soil itself. I haven't germinated any seeds so far, always bought plants from nurseries, and transplanted them into pots. The soil which I or the nursery guy used was regular mud (yellowish with lots of sand and dirt) as per him this is what they also use themselves, but I don't believe them.
Sometime back some one in my office told me to your dried cow dung manure which I bought from a nursery. Have added this to the existing soil, but am yet to see any results.
I am sure I am doing something wrong here. Waiting to hear your inputs in having a better garden.
June 4, 2012
You should definitely first go and get cocopeat before you go too far because later on it will just be more work to throw all the mud away and so on. Cocopeat is like fluff, it is so light. You can lift two 12-inch pots, one in each hand and feel like you are not lifting anything heavy at all (this is after the pots have a decent amount of water in them). Pretty much, most of the weight of the pot will be the water, and the rest will mostly be the weight of the pot itself. I will also recommend plastic pots to make them even lighter.
To buy plastic pots, cocopeat, vermicompost, seeds etc. you can go to basai road. Basically go to rajiv chowk, and then head towards courts (towards old gurgaon) but keep going straight. After about 1.5-2 km you will hit basai road. Turn left, and after about 100-200 meters you will see a 'Beej' store (I am forgetting the name), but pretty much it has all the stuff I need.
Cocopeat is excellent by itself, but I think you can add vermicompost to meet basic nutrition needs. Instead of vermicompost you can put cow manure, or compost too. I think most herbs should grow fine, but tomatoes might need some fertilization.
I have to say that I believed for a while that soil is as good. But having recently transplanted into cocopeat, I happened to take out two of the newly-planted plants about 1-2 days after they were transplanted into cocopeat. I was shocked and amazed at the amount of new roots I saw. I had never seen such a thing, it was like a season's worth of new white roots in just 1-2 days. I think this stuff just lets the plants breathe so much easier.
June 6, 2012
Thanks a lot for the prompt reply, encouraging reply and of course directions to the Beej Store. I am surely heading there this Saturday. But I would need some more pointers and information from you. I will put my questions below -
1.) Coco-peat - Is this sold in cakes or tiles or in gunny bags? Also approx what should be the cost per kg etc?
2.) Is vermicompost same as the yellow orange and green bags which the nursery guys sell in the name of "Khaad" or Compost I saw the same brown-black powdery stuff with wood chips etc. Is this different from Organic Compost? If yes how? And which one's shall I buy? Again approx cost for estimation?
3.) Vermiculite - Do I get this also at the beej store? The pic on GG's post shows this as chunks. Shall I break them into coarse powder when I am sowing seeds or let them remain as chunks.
4.) Perlite - I read about Perlite v/s Vermiculite and I came to know that the latter is better as it absorbs moisture and also nutrients and releases it slowly to the roots, so water hungry plants do well with Vermiculite and others do well with Perlite. Again, approx cost of this/ kg if you're aware.
5.) For fertilizer, what shall I ask the shop owner? Can I just say fertilizer? Also how much quantity do you think will be enough for a large balcony? 15-20 pots at the max?
5.) Will this Beej Bhandar also have those small cone/ cup shaped trays in which you could add a little medium and sow your seeds? Just curious as that seemed the best for germinating seeds.
5.) Have you been able to germinate flower/ veg seeds successfully? What was your medium/ mixture composition? Which seeds have you been able to plant successfully in Gurgaon weather?
7.) Any specific brand of seeds that I should buy? Any flowers you would recommend for the current weather?
8.) Lets imagine, I make a good medium, sow the seeds, water them and they germinate in a few days. And now its time to transplant them. When I transplant, shall I put them in Soil or can they survive in the same medium mixture in a bigger pot? I mean I am finding it a bit shocking that they can survive without soil/ mud. I was under the impression they always require soil to flourish. I guess I was wrong.
9.) Do you suggest Plastic pots over earthen/ clay ones? Do you get better prices for them in the beej bhandar as I may need to buy them in quantity.
I guess these will be enough to trouble you for now. If you are short of time for answering them and its too much to type, I could probably call you sometime and get these queries answered from you? Which ever way you please.
June 4, 2012
Cocopeat is sold as solid blocks weighing 5 kgs. Although I am sure it might be sold in other forms elsewhere, but I think solid blocks is the most compact and lightest form. Basically you add water to the block, and it 'uncompresses'. The final volume after a few minutes of watering and breaking etc. will be about 5-8 times the volume of the block. It absorbs about 3-4 times it's weight in water and fluffs up. Ultimately you have a brown compost like very-light and coarse material once it is moist.
Cocopeat is assumed to be mostly inert, meaning it just provides anchorage and water to roots. It is light enough that you should be able to easily mix around a bucket full of moist cocopeat. If you add too much water, it becomes slightly denser, but I think once there is drainage hole in the bottom, cocopeat just holds enough water to make it decent light and airy.
Perlite and vermiculite are also both inert – meaning the only purpose they serve is anchorage and water retention (besides being 'airy'). In my opinion, cocopeat is all you need. You don't need to add perlite or vermiculite. Cocopeat is a local ingredient and will be much easily available.
Cocopeat is available at that shop (I think it's called bansal seed bhandar, or something like that). It's on basai road. 5 kg bocks sell for 100 rs, and one block makes about 6-8 12-inch containers. 12-inch containers are sold in that shop for 40 rs a piece (in my opinion much cheaper than you would get at any nursuries or other stores, seeing the way retail shops are in gurgaon). I wouldn't be surprised if the same pot is quoted at 80 rps at nursuries.
For fertilizer, you can ask for vermicompost. I bought a 50 kg bag from this shop. Most nursuries sell some compost or vermicompost for about 50-100 rs per 5 kgs. This 50 kg bag cost 400 rps.
You can also use NPK fertilizer, in which case you can get a 1 kg bag of NPK-20-20-20. However, I am not an expert at using fertilizers. All I can say is that add very little, and every week drain all your pots so that excess salts don't build up. Currently I fertlize once a week, with a tea-spoon worth of powder in about 30-40 containers, dissolved with lots and lots of water. It is too easy to 'burn' the plants with excess fertilizer, and unlike drought, this burn is permanent, meaning any tissue that dies because of excess fertilizer is permanently dead. It is better to fertilize twice as often with half the amount.
NPK supplies all 3 major elements needed. The only other major nutrients needed are magnesium, sulphur, and calcium. The rest are micronutrients and you shouldn't need to worry much about them. That shop also has a magnesium-sulphate fertilizer which you can add a little bit too. (I would really like to hear comments from someone else on fertilization – Please! Specially guys who practice hydroponics).
Yes, I think this shop has seed starting trays. Although I think you can start them straight in the pots too.
I think a mixture of cocopeat, and some compost (or vermicompost) should be fine for plants. Same goes for seedlings. This mixture should work fine from germinating seeds, to growing them into plants etc.
I tried asking that shop guy for plants that can be grown in current gurgaon weather. (I just went and bought some seeds last weekend). He suggested that I could grow corriander. He also said that I could grow spinach, and muli closer to rainy season. He also suggested bhindi etc. but I am more interested in salad plants and herbs at this point. So right now I am going to try to grow corriander, spinach, and muuli. I will report how that goes.
I think the prices in old gurgaon are way better than any retail shops in most of the new gurgaon. But also, most nursary prices are ridiculous.
I prefer the plastic pots because of weight. In general cement pots are slightly better for plants because they might allow some air, water exchange from sides as well. But I think plastic pots look better, are easier to handle etc. If your potting mix has good drainage, I don't see any real benefit from cement pots, besides the ugliness and extra weight.
You can write to me at pankajchandgupta at gm..l dot com if you want more directions etc. or my phone number.
June 6, 2012
Thanks a lot for your patience and such a thorough and prompt reply. I have mailed you separately on your Gmail account. So you could share me your number there.
You are right, the 12" containers or pots as they are called are sold for around 60-70 Rs in nursuries. And honestly, I find the nursuries a total rip off. The guys manning them really have no clues of what they are talking about.
You mentioned you got 50 kg Vermicompost for 400. Where as I was quoted 200 Rs for the same 50 kg bag of Bajaj Brand from Sri Krishna Beej Bhandar (details below). Could there be any difference in the same? Also I am confused, please advise, is Vermicompost a type of fertilizer? I thought N-P-K was fertilizer?
Oh ok, I read your post again and understood. Both are from the fertilizer family. But then one is very diluted and one is very concentrated I guess? coz one is 50 kgs and the other is 1 liter? Which one is better? Shall I just get one or get both for myself.
I understood your idea of fertilizing them twice with lesser quantity rather than fear of burning them.
Coriander is on my list, and so are mint leaves. Will be waiting on your success story on Muli, Spinach etc.
I am interested in Mint, Lemongrass, and Kafir Lime (gree lime for its leaves).
So for starters I have 2 shop addresses now which sell all the stuff I think I need. One is Shree krishna beez bhandar. He is open all 7 days from 8 AM to 8 PM – he claims they sell seeds plants and all supplies.
Following were the rates he quoted me for the stuff I showed interest in.
5 KG block of Coco-peat – 90 Rs
50 Kg Vermicompost (Bajaj brand) – 200 Rs
Fertilizer (N-P-K 20:20:20) – 1KG/Litre for 140 Rs
Fungicide – Something chloro~ – 1Litre for 240 Rupees.
Vegetable seeds – 20/- packet Flower Seeds – 10/- packet
Forgot to ask about Root promoting Harmone – ? Also didn't ask about Perlite and Vermiculite as you mentioned these are just auxiliary.
His shop is in Old Gurgaon, right opposite the Maszid Door called Sri Krishna Beej Bhandar.
Now the other shop is suggested by someone else on the Forum. Mr Subrata Mitra I think… This is on Basai road on the left side.
I checked google maps and I found out that a few 100 meters after taking the right turn you get Haryana Seeds and fertilizers Directions are – Basically go to rajiv chowk, and then head towards courts (towards old gurgaon) but keep going straight. After about 1.5-2 km you will hit basai road. Turn left, and after about 100-200 meters you will see a 'Beej' store (I am forgetting the name), but pretty much it has all the stuff I need. –
I think I will try the Govt shop first; I anyways have the rates from Sri Krishna for reference. Its located here – https://maps.google.co.in/maps.....'z=18
Now coming to my questions. Firstly do you think what I am buying above it enough for starters?
I have 2 balconies approx 4 ft by 20 ft. Although one is adjacent to the kitchen and gets a fair share of sunlight. The other is a bedroom balcony and it gets too much sunlight. Also, since I am a beginner I want to start slow and aim at planting in just one balcony. Am sure if I am successful I will set up the other one as well. Now coming to my questions there are as follows, I am afraid it might seem too much to type for you, in that case I will call you and get the answers.
1.) Once I get a block of Coco-peat, I guess I can break off the amount I need and then store the rest for later?
2.) We talk about pots having good drainage, the plastic pots have 2 small holes at the bottom, the mud one's have 1, is this enough or do I need to make more holes for drainage?
3.) Once the germination has happened and the seedlings start to appear, its time for transplantation. Shall I transplant them into a bigger pot with the same medium or shall I go for Soil based medium? Basically I am still not convinced if a full plant can grow in just cocopeat + perlite + vermicompost mixture? Please advise what should be the mixture in the medium for the bigger pots.
For now I think answers for above questions will quench my thirst
Thanks again for your time and helping me clear my doubts.
June 4, 2012
Would love to hear what prices you get for coco blocks and pots etc. I haven't optimized much...
You can moisten the entire block and then store what ever mixture is left in a gunny bag. I think a single hole might be enough but two should definitely be enough for small to medium size containers.
I have only recently started using the coco peat and compost mix. But I believe that with some fertilization, it should be fine, from what I have read. Let's not forget that people get excellent results by just growing in air and water (hydroponics).
Most putting soil mixes in USA seem to be mostly peat moss (similar to cocopeat, hence the name coco-peat), perlite or vermiculite, compost etc., fertilizers or other minerals.
You can always add some soil, some sand also. Sand is probably a substitute for perlite.
Based on my internet research, people seem to be having good results with just coco peat itself. Try searching for coco peat grow bags.