28 December 2013

2013 Garden adventures: growing from seed

I have been attempting to garden now for about 4 years. I was a prolific killer in the first couple of years. Being ambitious, I wanted to grow things from seed - not a good idea for someone endowed with a brown thumb. Not even weeds used to grow in my garden. I got around this by buying fully grown plants and then killing them slowly. Buy, water, kill - that was the unintentional cycle I was in. This year though I think I finally managed to grow from seed and maintain, that's right, maintain healthy plants. Yippee.

When I started to garden, like with most pursuits, what I did first was to read the literature and then disregard it completely. My introduction to growing from seed was inspired by a natural farming method advocated by Masanobu Fukuoka. I was mightily impressed by the concept of throwing seeds around and letting nature do the job. Let's remember that, at this point, I was trying to apply a philosophy for farming fertile acres, to a pot of crumbly soil I got from the roadside, in the balcony of my apartment. Somehow this irony escaped me before.


Scattered seeds
I got a crate together and threw seeds around of different plants on it. I thought that once they grew up, I could recognize them. It slipped my mind that I don't have a degree in Botany. This technique I applied to a bag of salad greens (I wrote about it before). The result, as you can see, looked good, but I had no idea what I was eating! So at the next trial, I decided to be more regimental about where I scattered the seeds. I did them in rows. Only I forgot what I put in each row. Aaargh. Also when some of the rows had nothing, I got exasperated and threw in methi or coriander seeds just to have something green. Gardening is supposed to teach you patience; I still don't think I know of the concept.

Finally, I got a seed tray. I got cocopeat. I learned from the GeekGardener how to prepare it for seedlings. Importantly, I wrote down what I planted where. Success. Oh, this also happens to be Gardening 101 which I had carefully disregarded previously.


The [dead] Cucumber
I planted this season - jalapenos, cucumber, tomato (Turkish) and peanuts. The cucumber flourished, gave flowers and then got these black ants all over. I tried to get rid of them by spraying neem oil - nothing changed. Then one afternoon I was on a butchering spree - needed to get my 7 ft tall kadipatta plant (who couldn't support itself) down to size, and the lemongrass, which looked like savannah grass, trimmed. Since I was chopping things anyway, I did the same to the cucumber plant. Not a good idea. It died. The lemongrass and kadipatta made it though. See, I told you I had become better at not killing the plants!

When I transplanted the tomato, there was only one plant in the pot. Soon there were two. I know twins don't happen magically; then I remembered that the pot used to house a tomato plant in my previous home. Maybe a seed survived and bloomed because there was a lot of fertilizer in it? Now I had previously grown a cherry tomato variety in this pot. What I got were golf size tomatoes. The turkish plant on the other hand was giving cherry sized tomatoes. Go figure.

Peanuts I grew as an experiment to rejuvenate the soil - they will plant Nitrogen through Rhizobium. Ultra scientific and all. The plants have come up, so have a couple of peanuts, and surprise, so did a rat. I left the bag of nuts for planting out on the balcony and it turned into a steady supply in the winter for a rat that came in through the balcony door one night and gave us thrills for a couple of days.

Jalapenos - success. 100%.


Then there were things I didn't seed that also showed up - thai basil and beans. The basil is from another pot, so it was in the garden already. The beans are a mystery. Did they come from the leftover kitchen water that I use for watering the plants? or the compost?
I leave you with this picture of the *Star of Bethlehem*, the only flowering plant I have. The sight and fragrance are gorgeous; too bad they only last a night.






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