The lone capsicum

Once a lone capsicum grew in my garden.

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It looked pretty and perfect. And it grew.DSC00832

And grew some more.

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And then a small troop of monkeys came, ate the capsicum and tore up the plant. So I don’t know how home-grown capsicum tastes like.

Sorry about the tragic short story!

The Pigeon story

Unlike the tailor bird story, this is not very close to my heart. Because I am not very fond of pigeons. The dislike comes from living in apartments where pigeons are a big menace. And I have something against their personal hygiene. They poop where they sit, their nests are made of poop and they seem to revel in the messiness they can create in a short while. I have tried covering windows with nets, but the pigeons managed to come in through some hole in the net. I tried having spikes, but they made their nest inside the spikes!!

And so it is, that one day a pigeon laid two eggs in a tray my balcony. I was looking forward to seeing a small bird in the balcony, and decided not to disturb the bird.

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The two tiny hatchlings. Unfortunately, only one survived.

Baby pigeons

That’s one ugly, but cute at the same time, baby pigeon.

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Long story short, it grew up and flew away. After that, whenever a pigeon laid eggs in my balcony, I threw them in the dustbin. Because my balcony was covered in pigeon poop for the 3 weeks that the family stayed. Apologies to all animal lovers, but I DON’T LIKE PIGEONS, especially if they live in my balcony.

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Brinjal plant and the tailorbird’s nest

Brinjals were planted by the gardener and thrived quite well for the first few months.Brinjal plants.jpg

And I got a good yield from them as well.

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The special things is that there was a pleasant surprise awaiting me when I went for a 3-week vacation and came back. A tailor bird had made its tiny nest in one of the brinjal leaves. How lovely and delicate it looked with the leaf bent carefully and a nest stitched inside it!!

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We were not able to lift the leaf and look inside for fear that we might scare away the birds. But we could get a glimpse of two little eggs inside. Daddy and mommy birds took turns brooding them, with a shift change in the morning and evening. After a while, the birds started leaving the nest unattended for longer time periods, and we kind of guessed that the eggs had hatched.

To the delight of my daughter, when we moved the leaf, two tiny beaks would open wide for food. The little birds stayed in the nest for the next for a couple of weeks and then disappeared. I hope to God that they flew away, and was not eaten by stray cats or eagles.

We miss the little birdies and hope they come back again to nest in our brinjal plants!

 

Green chilly

Green chilly was one of the plants that were planted right at the beginning and they grew well when the garden took shape.

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The first yield of green chillies were so bountiful that I had to distribute them to all my neighbors.

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I have very low spice tolerance, and these chillies are perfect for me. Not too hot.

But after a while, the leaves of the chilly plants started curling. There was some bunching of buds on top, and the yield was almost nothing. I was wondering whether to pull them out, and sow seeds again. But then my maid advised me to prune them. She told me to pluck out just the leaves so that new ones will come in.

But after some research, I pruned them severely till there were just stumps left. And few weeks later, they grew back beautifully. So the moral of the story is “Prune chilly plants till they are mere stumps”. Chilly plants are relatively perennial in tropical climates. They will not survive harsh winters and snow, but in warmer climates, they can grow over multiple years.

We Indians love chilly, regardless of any health benefits they might have. But they actually have a few health benefits including lowering cholesterol and making your immune system better.

So go ahead. Grow some chillies!

Pesticides and Fertilizers

This is a very very tricky thing to discuss. Everybody has their own philosophy on what can be used and what cannot. I am still very new to this field. So please don’t take the advice I give without testing it out for yourself.

The gardener gave me a product called

Mikboost plant grown enhancer
Mikboost – Produced by Milkens Bio, it is said to be an excellent plant grown booster derived from natural substances through fermentation process.(whatever that means)

 

Leaf miner on tomato leafMikmine – This one is also produced by Milkens Bio, it is specifically for leaf miner. Leaf miner is this Picasso of a bug that makes pretty designs on leaves. Now I don’t mind designer leaves, but these affected leaves wither and die after a while. That’s not cool. And I wanted to get rid of them. Mikmine seems to help since I haven’t had much trouble with leaf miners after that.

 

I believe in good faith that these are organic pesticides and fertilizers since their website says so. But if you are very fussy about not using anything artificial, here are some things you can do.

  1. Neem oil – I use a tablespoon of neem oil in half a liter of water in a spray bottle and spray liberally.  Add a little detergent so that the neem oil spreads in the water and does not float on top.
  2. Marigolds – You should try this. Try growing marigolds near your vegetables and the number of pests come down drastically. I was growing some beans once and the leaves were wilting and diseased very soon. For the next batch, I planted marigolds beside it. The leaves are quite healthy and the yield better. Bugs and bees are attracted to the yellow color. The plant also has a very strong smell that repels insects.

Marigolds as pesticide

Go ahead and try these little pretty flowers. They make your garden bright, and also keep away pests.

3. Banana peels – I was told by an awesome gardener neighbor that the water from banana peels soaked for a day can be used as pesticides. If you soak them for 3 days, you can dilute the water and use it as fertilizer. I’ve tried it once. They don’t stink. In fact, the vessel smells faintly like wine.

4. Neem cakes – Not tried,  though I have a small bag of neem cakes waiting. Will get to it soon and post the results here.

Setting up my little garden

Green Essence was the final choice for setting up my garden because they were cheaper than the others. And also because the owner was very enthusiastic. But this is India. Nothing happens on time, nobody rendering services turn up on time. After a lot of waiting and following up and getting mad enough to pull my hair out, things started happening slowly… very very slowly.

The pots came.

Pots for the garden

There was this ONE sincere guy digging away, setting up a small water lilly pond in the center.

Digging for the lilly pond

The pots started filling up.

Garden getting some shape

The stepping stones were set in place.

Stepping stones in place

The lilly pond came alive.

Lilly pond

And voila! the little garden is ready….

Garden is ready!

The seedlings were green chillies, brinjal or eggplant and cabbages. There were seeds of bitter gourd, fenugreek, cucumber and bottle gourd. Now we just had to wait for them to grow.

Searching for a garden designer

We didn’t need anybody to design the garden. I had a fairly clear idea what I wanted to do. I cannot post my design here; but here’s what Seby, my encouraging and creative husband made based on my explanation.

Initial garden design sketch

We needed somebody for initial set up. And I started researching for

  • terrace gardens bangalore
  • garden landscaping bangalore
  • garden designers bangalore etc.

It was easy to shortlist a few, but tougher to get them to actually come and have a look. Many didn’t pick up calls and many didn’t call back after my initial call. These are the three that I finally zeroed in on.

Xanadu Organic Gardens  – They gave me an initial quote of over 1.5 lakhs and that was enough for me to say no. They charge Rs.2000 for an initial visit. And then sent a fancy PDF proposal.

Mydreamgarden – I love these guys. They have a very nice terrace garden near Banaswadi. They promised to give materials, but no delivery and no setup. So that didn’t work either.

Greenessence – Christopher from Greenessence was very prompt, very enthusiastic. And gave me a very reasonable quote. So Greenessence it was. But the set up is yet another story, for yet another day.

Green Essence

 

Trying to set it up myself

My daughter Nina has been with me from day one. So there’s another post dedicated to her. Nina and I initially thought that we could do it ourselves. But some digging up with rudimentary tools after watering the rock-hard mud, was enough to convince me that I had to get somebody specialized in terrace gardens.

The owner cleaned up the weeds before we moved in. And I started watering the garden profusely in an effort to soften the mud.

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That’s Nina and I digging away. Well, I’m on the phone and she’s digging!

Digging up the garden