5 February 2011

Garden Politics

Lately there has been much war and strife in my life; and I have created it.

At my last visit to the foreign shores I picked up a packet of seeds for Salad leaves. I was looking for Arugula (Rocket) to grow but didn't find it so I settled for a packet that cheerfully announced itself as "Speedy Salad Mix - Harvest in 25 days". At the back it also talked about how you can impress your dinner guests with this home grown collection of greens. I don't have dinner guests but I figured that maybe the salad was a good way to enlist some and perhaps, impress them?

My gardening skills are, ahem, pathetic. But my brown thumb doesn't stop me from trying to grow just about anything - after all, what will happen? They will wilt and die or not sprout. Having gone through the emotional trauma of losing seedlings, large plants, small plants, once-upon-a-time healthy plants I have become immune to the failure of no-growth. So it was with this faith and optimism that I prepared my garden tub for the speedy salad mix.

The packet advised that one must plant them 6 inches apart and increase the distance once things have sprouted. Well, that doesn't apply in my case because, hey, the survival rate of any plant in my concentration camp is close to 10%. Besides the seeds are so small that planting them singly 6 inches apart calls for neuro-surgical skill levels of teasing and implanting. I simply gathered a third of the seeds in the packet (allowing myself to fail 3 times) and scattered them in half my garden tub.

In parallel I also decided to grow Zucchini. Having seen squash blossom out of my compost even, I was more confident that these seeds would not disappoint thanks to their inherent hardiness. So I plopped two zucchini seeds down in the north sector of the tub.

Lo and behold, there was action on the soil front in almost a week. Little leaves had emerged and I continued to water them, smiling each morning, wondering how long they would really last. Well, the joke was on me. Because 3 weeks later, I had war on an unimaginable scale.

Previous inhabitants of this tub were some mint, lemongrass and a chilly plant. The mint was growing like a weed, a statement that must be eliciting a vigorous nod from my gardening enthusiast readers. So, I tore it up and transplanted to a more contained pot. Of course, a stray root had escaped my barbarism and sprouted mint. The Chilly plant too had received a razor cutting at the time the seeds were planted - to stimulate it to put out more chillies. The Chilly plant was one of my first attempts at growing stuff. I had carried it from home, that distant land, on train and given it the No 1, Garden Street address. In it's 1.5 years with me, for the the first 9 months it put out leaves and flowers - no chilly. Exasperated, I shared my idea with N with de-planting it to make room for something that actually gives a product. But N accused me of discrimination on basis of fertility and defended the right of the plant to live, just because. So the plant stayed and two months later produced its' first chilly, much to N's delight. Since then, it has retained it's princely address on Garden Street. The lemon grass was shifted from its luxury compound to No 4, Pot Enclave where it now shares it's balcony with purple basil and can see italian basils' bedroom from it's kitchen.

What started as a ocean of space and calm though has now become an urban jungle of the Salad Kingdom. I still don't have dinner guests to impress and can only get through so much salad in a week. Even the mint, which is quite good about surviving any invasion has buckled. The Zucchini is inching it's way out by growing out of Garden Street and into Pot enclave. The chilly has held it's ground by sprouting leaves but boycotted the status quo by not making chillies anymore.

That's urban planning for you. Reminds me a bit of Bangalore actually - what it was and what it has become. I will leave you all now to impress myself with a cheese sandwich stuffed with fresh greens.


  1. Hi Megha,

    I am a bangalore resident too and came across your blog while doing my search to start a kitchen garden. This post has been written so well and gives tips for newbies like me.So,Thank You! And yeah the Garden politics were so funny ;).
    How are you faring with your Garden now?


  2. Hi Basanthi,

    Thanks for your comment. My garden is better now - things thrive more easily in Bangalore. Also, instead of the tub I have individual pots. Although I think the tub provides better ecology for the plants. Good luck with your garden. It's a delightful pastime.