Sunday, 31 October 2010

Grow your own food the ancient way

There are always some valuable lessons to learn form the past. The ancient way of farming is one of those. When I say ancient way of farming, I simply mean “Organic Farming”.

Organic farming is practicing environmental friendly ways of growing crops. It is learning how everything present is nature is interlinked and how it compliments and serves each other.  In short, it is experiencing the divine ways of how nature works around us while being a part of it. 

Why grow organic food?        Many gardeners appreciate organic gardening as it is free from man-made chemicals used in form of fertilizers and pesticides in the fields which can cause an imbalance in ecological system.   

Organic gardening is not only beneficial for you and the wild life but also the organically-grown crops are healthier, tastier and guarantee freshness.

Five ways to get started

Take your farming practices back to the basics by following these 5 simple steps.

1.    Give it back to the Earth
Start off by making your own compost. Fruit and vegetable peelings, eggshells, teabags, shredded paper, pruning and even fallen leafs can turn into a rich compost that will improve your soil quality. Make a compost bin in which you can collect a balanced mixture of organic waste and let it decay.
2.   Welcome Wildlife in your garden
Pesticides sprays done on crops that we eat, not only devastate our health and environment, but they also kill beneficial insects that are less tolerant to these deadly chemicals.

These friendly bugs are nature's way of pest control. Attracting beneficial insects and wildlife to your garden will control many pests for you such as snails, slugs and greenflies. These friendly bugs are very sensitive and less tolerant to pesticide sprays.

3. Encourage Companion plantation

Crops with strong fragrance are grown along side to avoid pest growth such as carrots and leeks are advised to be planted together because they drive each other's pests away.
 Dill attracts aphid eating hoverflies. Strong scented flowers not only attract bees and other beneficial insects but also discourage pest attacks on your crops. Garlic plants keep away aphids. Planting marigolds with tomatoes also ward off aphids.

4.    Practice Crop rotation
Grow crops on alternate plots each year to avoid disease built-up in soil. Take care of your plants so that they stay healthy and pest free.

5.    Adopt Natural Weed Control
Hoe your plot to get rid of the weeds before they could disperse their seeds. A layer of mulch can also prevent weeds from taking over your vegetable patch.

Adopt some if not all of the practices of organic farming and play your part in preserving nature.

Happy Gardening

( published in t2extra pages: ExpressTribune on 31st Oct,2010)

Thursday, 28 October 2010

A night out...with plants

Lime in the moon light.

It was a very pleasant night with beautiful moonlight glittering on my terrace when I decided to do all the garden jobs that had been pending for a week.
Transplanting vegetable seedlings
The seeds that I had sown earlier were ready to be transplanted. During the week, I had bought large containers and filled them with a good mixture of soil and manure for my vegetable plants. I spent some time marking the pots and transplanting the tomato and bell-pepper plants into the large pots. It had to be done quickly and correctly.
Pumpkin seedling being transplanted.
Seedlings must have moist soil  and two sets of true leaves prior to transplantation. The roots are pushed up gently by a stick while you hold the top of the plant in your hands. The roots of the seedlings should not be exposed to air for long. They are to be quickly planted in the bigger pots or the plot. Then they should be watered with a soft shower. Transplantation is done in the evening when its cool.
Getting in touch with plants
Next, I wanted to know how my plants were doing. The lime tree is producing lots of juicy limes, the orchids are blooming, the chiko has some new flowers and bright green leaves, Allamanda looks stunning even in the night, and the grafted cactus has two beautiful flowers. Flower seeds need transplantation as well, the pumpkin plants are about to bloom, Bonsai needs some attention, button roses survived trimming,  potatoes and garlic look happy too but china rose has had an aphid attack.
Appreciating the night
When I was done with a round of the garden, I sat down, looked around at the plants and thought about how much they had grown. It felt good to see the seeds that I had sown were growing, trees that I planted were fruiting, and all together the garden created a beautiful blend of shades of green and contrast of colours. Thank you, God!
I looked up in the sky and got lost in the brilliance of the moon that shone right above my terrace and the bright star that shined beside it.

Published on Express Tribune Blogs on 28th Oct, 2010

Sunday, 17 October 2010

One morning in my garden

Exotic yellow flowers that makes the day even brighter.

No matter how small is the flower, it can make you stop and appreciate its beauty.

Sun rises behind this beautiful Allamanda vine making the flowers even more beautiful.

Another Allamanda that makes me smile. Its right next to the door.

They are caged but at least they are a part of my garden. Their chirping creates a wild ambiance.

It does nothing. Usually people think its a stuffed bird.

I planted the a very thick cutting of the scared fig tree for bonsai making. It has sprouted!!

All the seeds of the flowers that I planted few days back have sprouted.

Friday, 15 October 2010

United Against Hunger

Poster for World Food Day 2010 by FAO of UNO

One billion people are hungry and I am so angry! Next time you are having your favorite meal at a restaurant, remember that 1 billion people around the world are facing chronic hunger. When we eat more than we need, we are making someone, somewhere starve.

The plate is half empty

It is extremely heart rending to know that more than 18 million out of 1 billion figure belong to our own country. Half of our country’s population is facing food insecurity. Can we even imagine how that feels?
I felt sorry for such people before, but the recent flood has bought who live below the poverty line closer to us. It makes my heart ache to learn what life is like for people who do not know when they will get their next meal.

The eating day
Sadly, a large percentage of people suffering from poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition are living near us in the cities. There are families in Karachi who have days fixed for their meals. Each day one member eats and all the others wait for their turn.
We all know it is the responsibility of the government to end hunger, but I think that we, as a nation are more powerful. It’s time we take charge and be the change that our country needs.
FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations) is observing World Food Day . The purpose of which is to shake up politicians around the globe to end the food crisis. But we are not going to wait for the government to take action.

What can we do
Lets sign the petition and make a resolution today that we will act to end hunger. How do we do that?
Here are some ideas.
  • Adopt an area and encourage community farming by provide the residents with gardening tools, seeds and basic knowledge.
  • Plant a fruit tree for the poor
  • Present some vegetable plants to such families
  • If you have your own restaurant, why not have a share for the poor?
  • There are some NGOs working to provide free meals to the poor. Help them.
  • If you are growing crops on a large scale, share your crops with needy families.
Do whatever you can in your own capacity. But act to end food crisis.

( published :Express Tribune blogs- 16th Oct, 2010)

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The best present a gardener can get

A present from :)
The best present  a gardener can get is a packet of seeds of his(or  her) favorite flowers or crops.

I recived my large parcel packed with an amazing selection of seeds by Rizwan of day before yesterday. It contains some herbs, flowers and vegetable seeds. All that I love! 

The most special pack among those is the seed pack of dwraf sweet peas because these are the seeds from Rizwan' garden in Luton. 

Seeds of sweet peas from Rizwan' garden in Luton.

This morning I decided to sow some flowers that Rizwan sent me and some that I bought for my garden. I started off by filling my 5 inch pots with soil and making tags for the flowers I wanted to grow. Flowers that I planted are Nasturtium, Pansies( mix), Hollyhock( rosea), Stock, Sweet Peas(dwarfs) and Night scented flowers.

Used sieved compost to cover the seeds.

I used sieved compost to cover my seeds lightly. placed the tags, watered with a soft shower and placed them in sun. Soon my seedlings will appear and soon after that, my garden will be filled with winter colors.

Pots must have tags!

Welcome winters by sowing some winter flower.

Happy Gardening!


Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Shari on a Dessert Pine Bonsai

Dessert Pine ( Before)
Dessert Pine Bonsai ( after)
I spent this afternoon trying to make my first shari on a bonsai. We have bonsai making classes on every Saturday at Com. Khalid Sohail's ( V.P Bonsai Society of Pakistan) place here in Karachi but somehow I have not been able to post about any one of them yet. Here are the photos of the plant before and after I was done with it. Almost chopped off my thumb in the process.


( ps. just noticed that I need to cut extra wires. bad pic.too much shari. i am learning!)

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

How, where and when to plant seeds

Once you have decided which crops and flowers you want in your garden this fall get ready to plant some seeds for winter garden.

When to sow seeds?
For winter harvest sows your seeds as soon as fall begins. For people living in Karachi and Lahore, last week of September and beginning of October is ideal. Read your seed packs to find out more about the temperatures required for germination of seeds. Most of the vegetables will be ready to be harvested in 60-80 days.

Where to sow seeds?
You have three options here. Select according to your skill level and plant requirement.

1. Direct Sow: Some plants do not like to be transplanted. Sow the vegetables/herbs and flowers directly where   you plan them to grow.

2. Seed trays: You can start seedlings in seed trays. Plant seeds in individual cells. Latter on you will need to transplant them to bigger container or to the plot.

3.  Large containers: It is an alternate of seed trays.

How to sow seeds?
1. Read your seed pack and find out the depth the seed need to be sown.
2. Take a seed tray and cover the drainage holes with a piece of news paper.
3. Fill each cell with a good mixture of soil (70%) and manure/compost (30%).
4. Put the seed on the surface.
5. Cover with sieved manure lightly. ( * most of the vegetables and herbs will be covered ¼ of and inch deep)
6.  Water with a soft shower and put it in sun.
7. Do not forget to put tags!

I have used 3 inched seed tray and used wooden sticks as tags. I sowed my seeds on 17thSeptember, 2010. Most of the seedling emerged by the next week. It is time to transplant some of them.  Which seeds are you sowing this time?

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Can a morning get any better?


Saturday mornings cannot get any better than this. As usual I was up early for my bonsai class. Stopped at a plant nursery at Karsaz where these stunningly vibrant marigolds were blooming. This is a first sign of winters:)


further reading

crops in pots