• Thursday, November 27, 2014

LOVING AND LIVING WITH PLANTS

Roof gardening and monsoon essentials

By Laila Karim

Dear plant and garden lovers, this is a good time to remind you of the seasonal action points you need to undertake in August. The season with rain and sunshine gives us the opportunity to grow our own plants. Let's arrange our available spaces wisely -- like roofs to add greenery and also to have a source of fresh vegetables free from insecticide/formalin or from any kind of chemicals. Those who have access to roof gardening are lucky -- I would urge you to utilise the space.  

Mind mapping and initial investment:   
As usual if you are a beginner, start with a solid plan of the space in three or four categories: A) Where to put the long-lasting trees (highbred saplings for mango/lichis/guava/lemon, pomegranate, etc. -- seasonal and round-the year-fruits): These should be ideally placed along the walls so that they get enough sunlight to grow well and also be protected.
B) For monsoon vegetables which need to climb like sheem/ borboti /lau/puishak/mishit kumra/chaal kumra, etc., wide body containers will be needed.
C) Vegetables- those grow on flat-body containers such as used in bath tubs or brick/cement containers of 5/6x3 feet to make rows. Bamboo or wooden structure will also do. Introduce some variety through these rows -- for instance use one for laal shak, another for paat shak, kolmi shak, puishak, dhoney pata, etc.  For the standing crop like your eggplants, tomatoes or vendhis use individual earthen, plastic or cement pots of 16/18 inches. In addition you will require two other containers -- one to dump everyday kitchen waste like vegetables/fish waste and ringed water of rice. These containers should be kept to one side of the roof so that the foul odour will not disturb anyone. From time to time the content should be shuffled up and down and after two-three months, this content will be transferred to the other empty container marked for home-grown fertiliser. From time to time you will use this to nurture your plants. Please remember to have a water outlet and buy a plastic hose based on the distance between the water source and the plants. In addition, while planning, please keep some space free in between the sections for seasonal flowers and for creepers like madhabi lata. You may also create different layers with stones, raised beds, waterfalls in your garden to give a nice, pleasing look. You also need a space to relax!    

You can do all these in the style of a project with a capital investment of about Tk.10,000 for a 2,000 sq. feet roof space. Or, you can go step by step with a particular section of your choice. The course of action is similar to the analysis of project development, implementation, monitoring, review and taking the lessons for future interventions or decisions.

Organising the homes of your plants
After organising homes of the plants, saplings and seeds, you go for the needed amount of soil -- rich with fertiliser, quality seeds and saplings from your trusted nurseries. Let the rains stop and after checking the weather forecast prepare your soil to have at least a few days of bathing in the sun -- during these days, you need to shift the soil upside down. Now the soil is ready to hold the seeds and saplings. In addition, a sufficient number of bamboo sticks is required for the standing and climbing vegetables.  And also the low height macha/climbing sheds to be built for the creepers (sheem/lau group veg). You can make bamboo sheds which need to be changed every two years or so, or you can make a long-lasting structure with rods and ropes.    

Growing the seeds and saplings
Sow five-six seeds of the listed types two inches beneath the soil and cover that by used paper or by paddy hay (comes with the mango baskets).  When the seeds grow to about 5/6 inches high, keep the healthiest three-five (maximum) and softly bind those with the bamboo stick towards the macha/sheds. Soon after the plants reach the macha base, give them the first instalment of fertiliser of your choice, natural dry cow dung or organic but not much in quantity -- keeping a few inches' distance from the main stem. After a month it will be time for the second instalment. Continue this as long as the plant is alive or till it fulfils its life cycle.
Now for the tomatoes, eggplants, chillies and/or capsicums. You either grow your own saplings by taking the same measure as mentioned above or buy them from a nursery.
Get the tree-like highbred mango and other saplings from a reputed nursery and nurture those in large containers -- in half or full drums after making the soil ready in the same manner. The only difference is the amount of soil and fertiliser will be more and proportionate to the size and nature of the plants.
Do not miss everyday watering on all plants based on their individual needs. On extreme hot mornings and evenings watering is needed for some plants. But do not make the soil too wet. Please remember, the roof should not have any leakage of water, there should be a good drainage system.

Saving plants and trees from insects
First try without pesticides. Check the individual plants on a regular basis and see what harmful objects affect them. Then remove/kill those instantly or destroy or cut the affected areas. Despite all of your sincere efforts, there will be bugs and insects; take the advice of nursery personnel. Keep the area and all pots and containers clean and dry, otherwise the daily dirt/dry leaves/dead foliage will accumulate and invite insects, rats and mice. Weeding is necessary for every garden. It is necessary to clean the weeds and make the soil soft and fluffy on a routine basis, say every two weeks, for the climbing and seasonal vegetables and for the tree types like shajne, mango, guava/lemon -- once a month will do.

Harvesting
Depending on the type, usually it takes around two-three months for the harvest. But for shaak types of vegetable, these become ready to go to the kitchen in only 3/4 weeks' time. The highbred plants produce their fruits only when it's their season (there are some exceptions -- some sajne and mango plants produce two times or round the year, but quantity is less during the off season).

Please feel free to send me email to share your thoughts, feedback, and photos of your garden, or to tell your story; or ask a question on the garden issue. Email:lifestyleds@yahoo.com

Published: 12:00 am Tuesday, August 19, 2014

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