Wednesday, June 20, 2012

More about harvests, and some Gardening Gyaan

I realized a gardening update is long overdue - I've been lazy as I put up photos on FB too(instant gratification and all you know), but realized I'm missing all the wordiness that goes with it when I put them here on my blog ;).

One thing I've been telling myself in the last year is that I should mentally prepare myself for not expecting bountiful harvests as there is just so much to figure out in organic gardening. From persuading my gardening help that spraying chemicals is a big no-no, to learning to carefully remove aphids from the underside of each leaf with just a water spray - so many learnings along the way which of course leads to quite a few plants getting lost to pests or other reasons too. Here I've tried to make a short list of my biggest learnings which should hopefully help any beginner too:

Use recycled containers: From sacks to plastic trays that nobody wants any more, you can be very inventive with the containers you use for your gardening. I have known of people making amazing finds at the recyclers (though I've not been lucky enough yet and have needed to scrounge for each one usually), and would love to have a steady source of these ;). But I've used sacks, old tubs, even cut up old plastic water pots (kudam) with pretty good results.

Brinjal in a sack
Proper drainage: Ensure that your pots have good drainage when you first do your potting, this means they should have adequate number of holes - mud or cement pots usually have only one, while plastic are more prone to water logging so need several. You can keep your pots raised on a pot holder of some kind or even use bricks, so that water does not get clogged on the bottom part touching the ground. This is especially important when your plants are on an open terrace or ground during the rainy season.
My beans plant that died because of inadequate drainage :(
Potting mix: You may hear about many proportions here from 1:1:1 Mud: Vermicompost: Cocopeat, to 3:1:1 Compost:Mud:Sand, but the main thing to consider is that your pots need some replenishment of nutrition every week to 10 days. Without this, the plants may suffer from stunted growth or some kinds of nutrition deficiency, and these may be difficult to rectify at a later stage. For example I tried a variation of potting mixes and containers for my 5 brinjal plants, but all of these are doing nearly equally well as the watering and nutrients they are getting has been the same.


Close inspection: Especially for the gourd varieties with large leaves, pests like aphids always start colonising on the underside of the leaves, and if you wait for the leaves to start showing symptoms it may be too late. It's better to check the leaves at least once every 3-4 days if not more often, and spray them off with water immediately.

Preventive pest control: This was one of my biggest learnings - for plants such as chilly varieties it is a good idea to perform an organic spraying ideally using neem oil, every week to 10 days. Though many may argue this is not necessary I found that my chilly and capsicum plants kept dying to a leaf curl problem until I started doing this. Although I try my best to have a "let them be" attitude, losing each and every chilly plant I ever tried to keep on my terrace had to have me changing my stance on this.

Other than all this, there are so many other "small" things like over-watering/under-watering, how much sun each type of plant needs, that has to come with experience and sometimes losing a few plants - Phew! have I scared off everyone now? :). Well let me show you a few pictures of the positives, after I made use of all the above information.


My red capsicums (sowed from seeds from a store-brought one!) went through the stages of green->brownish->purple to now finally turning that brilliant red and will be ready for harvesting in a few days.







My brinjal harvest from 5 plants on my terrace that were planted from seed just 4 months ago, and are flourishing now. One of them is a thorny variety that I was being so careful with while watering etc but managed to prick my fingers on about 5 times in my enthusiasm to get to the brinjal :).




I'd not taken too many photos of my cherry tomatoes as I got a bit complacent at just how bountiful they have been, but as I was just about to post this one, I thought I musn't miss them out! The green ones are those that fell out of the plant because of squirrels and the such, will put them into a sambhar probably :).





Realized that just between this post being in drafts a couple of days back, and my posting it today, this blog has now passed 25000 page views. I'm thrilled :) !!! Thanks to you all, especially my regular readers you know who you are ;).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Seized!

By the cooking/baking enthusiasms yet again :)

There was a recipe for Amritsari Ajwaini Paneer that I have been wanting to try out for a few weeks now, and somehow never got around to it. So a couple of days back, I said this is it, have to do it now. I love so many of Archana's recipes I don't know how I'm going to manage to them all out - she writes so clearly and simply and puts together flavours so well, I'm totally in awe of her cooking. Here's the recipe from her page:

http://www.archanaskitchen.com/indian-recipes/vegetables-in-gravy/422-amritsari-ajwaini-paneer
I had no wish to do any tweaking, only small difference was I used chopped tomatoes and not puree, out of sheer laziness.

And here's the photo of my attempt. Not bad, huh :)


And I was not done yet for the day! Had picked up a bottle of Nutella and after finding myself dipping the spoon into it a little too many times for comfort, I decided I had to do something more useful with it. Started looking around for recipes, and this one was just made for me - it has all of 4 ingredients, and it is so simple that S literally helped me mix it ;). Made in cupcake containers so that each is good enough for one serving, I used peanuts and left some without the topping as I can't be sure what my kids will feel like on any particular day. Miffed to be told by D after I left them out on some - "But I like peanuts!".

http://savorysweetlife.com/2010/08/4-ingredients-nutella-brownies/
Since I use a convection oven, I used 160 degrees C for 17 minutes, I think even 15 minutes would work though I wasn't sure so gave it a couple more.

And the picture :). Yes yes I am trying props and the such, but not much helped by my camera really not functioning very well in low light, and I couldn't wait until morning to take the pic could I? ;).


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Generosity!

Yes that's with an exclamation all right. In today's world, generosity is not something you come to expect easily. After all it's a dog eat dog, pushing to get to first in line, ME first kind of place most of the time.

But in the last few days and weeks, I have come across some amazing people, mainly through Facebook (yes, I live online a little too much!). The first group that is a wonderful one for getting introduced to the world of recycling/upcycling is Second to None. This is a place where people post great upcycling/refurbishing ideas, and also put up second-hand, sometimes even nearly unused stuff for sale. Usually the very unusual or interesting items get grabbed within minutes, and we jokingly now refer to the mechanism as FFF or Fastest Fingers First :).

But consider this: there was this very interesting item, originally from IKEA, unused, which was up. And of course it was grabbed in 30 seconds or so. I reached it about 4th in line, and just left a comment saying Oh how nice this was, or something to this effect. Within 5 minutes, I got 3 offers, all from people I never met, to procure me a similar one from Dubai, Bahrain and Mumbai !! I was completely zapped by the generosity of folks to even offer something like this. One of the three I had interacted with quite a bit(mostly online until then), but the others I only knew through one group or the other.

And one more Zap moment happened soon after, when another person offered me some metal rods she had left over from a dismantled wardrobe, as I had talked about needing supports for my plants in another gardening group, quite a few days back. It is amazing to me that people remember requests from days ago, sometimes tagging another person just to direct their attention to a post they may be interested in, and all this with no vested interest whatsover!!!

Must not forget to mention the Foodies group, where people share recipes, restaurant reviews, and sometimes also just where to get a pot or pan! No feeling of keeping information to oneself, or being selfish.

Just in case I ever begin to despair about my children growing up in a selfish world, something or the other comes along to change my mind :) !

Note: This one has been in my drafts for a while, thought it was about time it saw the light of day.