Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Organic Gardening Tips - Chapter 2
Organic gardening medium

Gardening, greenery, nature has always been my first love. Nothing fascinates or soothes me more than nature, mother Earth and her beauties. While walking or travelling, unconsciously my eyes wander around nature, taking in the details of each and every plant and every leaf. As if I am writing a thesis, my mind takes in every minutest point of the beautiful nature, makes a mental note and later it keeps on dwelling on everything I have seen. The image, the thought of the plants and fauna always lifts my mood. 
According to research, lack of serotonin in the brain causes depression. And it's a very well known and well researched fact that when we do gardening, getting our hands dirty in the garden can increase our serotonin levels – contact with soil and a specific soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, triggers the release of serotonin in our brain.

So naturally it happens to every human being but God knows I just love it. I think I have inherited this quality from my mother because it was the subject we both used to love and discuss. While travelling or going around in a village, she used to point at plants and explain or narrate an anecdote and I used to be all ears at her fascinating stories. She had grown up in a very very remote village and those surroundings had influenced her a lot. Basically she was also a woman with a green thumb and in any possible space she would love to plant trees. And I am blessed to inherit it from her. Not just during growing up years, we continued this habit when I used to stay at home during two of my pregnancies and childbirth. She would be all starry eyed while narrating her childhood escapades and her dates with nature and agriculture.
I started gardening in a tiny place in my front yard and waged a losing battle because it's west facing and lacked sunlight. Then the school opposite our house raised another floor dashing my hopes further. Never to be the one who gives up easily I rose to the occasion ( pun intended ) and reached the terrace.
Then came the mud and cement pots and colourful saplings. They gave good yield no doubt, but always there used to be problems of load on the terrace, watering problem, problem with repotting etc.

Every cloud has a silver lining, as the cliche goes. One fine day in yoga class I came to know about the organic manure. Though I had dabbled in growing plants with coco peat in grow bags, I was never happy about it. For one thing, it is not a hundred percent ready to grow medium. You have to add manures, groundnut seeds dust or neem mixture etc. But still it didn't turn out to be extraordinarily fertile.

I was fortunate to visit the house of one Mr. Srinath who is successfully growing vegetables and fruits on his terrace using organic manure and on his advice, I shifted to this method and the result is there for you all to see.
First of all I purchased some 50 paint boxes. Yes, I was also surprised but there are scores of shops in scrap market in the heart of the city in Bangalore which sell empty paint boxes! Not just paint boxes, they will sell anything and everything which you once thought useless and threw and then cursed yourself and started to search, never knowing where to find them. From old plastic water bottles to plastic bags to boxes to..... Just anything and everything scrap!

This place is near the city market, next to Mysore road flyover. If you go there and ask anyone, you would get directions but the problem is you can't slow your vehicle or park anywhere there in the narrow stretch. So it's better to be sure about the address before you venture out.

And if you think that having driven on Bangalore roads, you should be able to easily drive here, you better think again. Though the scrap market inside is on a wide road where you can park your vehicle, the approach roads are very very narrow and there are many one ways and if you miss a turning, you will be forced to drive a few kilometres to come back and by then the motorists around you would honk so wildly that you may start thinking of dumping your idea of organic garden and run away! Please don't do that. Just think of the lovely flowers and healthy veggies you are going to grow and then all these little irritants would stop bothering you.

These big paint boxes would cost you anything from Rs.70 to Rs.100 depending
upon the number of boxes you buy. I paid 70 rupees per box as I purchased 50 boxes. 
And then for growing medium, as I had explained earlier I preferred the ready organic manure to the coco peat. 

In chikkalasandra in South Bangalore, behind the Shani Mahatma Temple there is a big outlet of this organic manure. It's an office with big open space where not only do they store scores of manure bags in the godown, they also grow their own vegetables and fruits. And if they are in good mood, or if you make a purchase there, they would be benevolent enough to give a few healthy vegetable seedlings for free. I have got these brinjal, tomato, chillies, cabbages and cauliflower saplings from them.
They procure the manure from their unit in Mandya and sell here at wholesale prices. The cost of each bag containing 25 kgs of manure is 210 Rupees which can be used for three paint boxes. The shop is closed on Sundays and while going there beware of the two extremely ferocious dogs. Never go on a Sunday as they would be let loose on that day and even on weekdays make sure that the dogs have been ties before entering the gate. Here I have given the address and the phone number and before entering you better make a call.

I fill in the manure only upto one third of the paint box and plant the saplings or sow the seeds. Because the beauty of this growing medium is it's extremely light weight and it requires no other manure except your kitchen waste. So naturally there is absolutely no repetitive cost. I save my fruits' peel, vegetables scrap, tea and coffee decoction powder, egg shells of the eggs eaten by my dog Pogo into a basket which gets filled once in every 4-5 days. I just move aside the manure in the pot, add all this kitchen waste and then cover it back properly. That's it. It acts as such a nutrient manure that the plants grow as if they are on steroids giving rich yields!

This manure takes just one third of the water we use for growing plants in the soil. You can give water twice or thrice a week and that too it needs bare minimum water. Unlike soil it has water retention quality as a result of which the manure will not flow out from the pot. It has double advantage. One, unlike the soil outflow, the manure will remain in the pot with no wastage and secondly the terrace floor will not be discoloured. 

If we use mud or cement pot, they would be too heavy for us to move them around. But here one can just move a big paint box with a single hand quite easily. And then there is an advantage about repotting. I have undergone spine surgery but still I can easily repot because like soil it won't become hard and always remains very very light. I take out the manure, loosen the roots, fill in the kitchen waste and refill the manure I have taken out. So naturally it is very much cost effective as there is no dependency on any outside help. And during the last one and half years I haven't used any pesticides except spraying water mixed with neem oil twice.
If we try to compost separately, there would be so many issues with smell, bugs, insects etc but here the composting takes place smoothly and by the time I come back to the pot after refilling other pots, the waste in the first pot would be completely turned into a healthy manure. This is helping me in getting highest yield from my plants, the size of the flowers has doubled and the taste of the healthy organic vegetables is incomparable.

So friends, go ahead and fulfill your dream of growing your own veggies and fruits and flowers, grow what you eat and eat what you grow. Lack of space is no constraint. In just a ten by ten area with sunlight, at minimum cost and efforts, you can grow anything you want. And it's not the fruits or the veggies but the pleasure of looking at your smiling plants and the positive effect they have on your mood and health is the biggest take away from your organic garden.