Sunday, 21 August 2011

Outstanding Okra!

Since time immemorial, South Asia farmers have cherished Okra or Bhindi — a vegetable that originated in Africa. These dark green, tender seed pods were a favourite of Cleopatra of Egypt. Today, after travelling from Ethiopia to North Africa, the eastern Mediterranean, Arabia and India, they have found their way to the fields of urban farmers in Pakistan.

However, this is not where their journey ends; you can start your own kitchen garden by simply planting some Okra seeds in containers where ever you find a sunny spot in your house or apartment.
Sowing Seeds
Sow the seeds 1 inch deep and 12 inches apart, directly into well-worked soil. If you are using containers, use a 14 inch container for each seed. If you wish to plant the seeds in your vegetable patch, make rows which are 36 inches apart.
For fast germination, soak the seeds for a few hours before you plant them. For best results, use 30% organic compost and 70% soil.
Growing Okra in your garden
Okra seedlings sprout within 2-3 weeks and after a passage of 4 weeks you can harvest your first Okra pods. The plant grows up to 40 inches tall and spreads around 30 inches in width.
Your plants will love regular watering patterns. Water 1 ½ inch each week and do not let the soil dry out or become too wet. The Okra plant also loves a treat of organic fertilizer every 3-4 weeks.
Peppers, tomatoes, basil, onions and garlic are the best companion plants for Okra. They help repel pests, and if grown together in same soil they will help each other grow better.
To avoid pest build up, plant okra on a different patch in your garden each season.
Harvesting and beyond
Okras first blossom as stunning yellow flowers with a crimson center and then quickly turn into tender pods.
Watch closely! Do not let the pods become hard. Harvest Okra as soon as the pods reach 3-4 inches — freshly picked Okra tastes
For harvesting, cut the pods from the stem just above the cap.
Farmers around the country plant Okra from February to September. Unlike seasonal vegetables, Okra can become perennial in some conditions, which means you can enjoy harvesting vegetables the next season too.
You can get an extra winter crop by pruning your plants to 2 inches after its yield in summer. Soon the plant will produce new shoots and more vegetables.
Store Seeds for the next season
Okra is a seedpod itself. Imagine how many seeds your plants produce each season? Why not save some to plant again or share some with fellow gardeners?
You simply need to scoop out all the seeds and put them in a glass filled with water. Let them soak for some time. Some seeds will sink to the bottom and some will remain afloat. Dispose off the water along with the seeds that are floating. Sun dry the seeds that are left and store them in an air tight container.
Be an Organic farmer
There is nothing like growing your own organic food — the feeling of picking your first home grown vegetables is unmatched.  Make a resolution to yourself — Whatever you grow, you will grow it organically. Allow nature to do all the work for you.
To take a step in this direction, start your own exotic kitchen garden by planting Okra this season!

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, August 21st,  2011.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Mend pot-holes on Independence Day

ہم اس بار جشن آزادی اپنے شہر کراچی کی سڑکوں کی مرمت کر کے منا رہے ہیں ...آئیے ہمارا ساتھ دیجئے !

We are celebrating The Independence Day by mending pot-holes in our city Karachi.

Greener Karachi Trust will provide mixture of used oil and sand for this purpose. We will simply dump this into the holes and level it.
Planning meeting and demonstration was held on12th August, 2011. Activity is planned for 14th August,2011 4 pm sharp.

Help us identify more streets which need pot-hole mending. We will arrange for the mixture. Spread the word.

Lets make our streets better!

Media is invited on 14th.

Directions to the farm:

Sohana Farm is in Gulshan e Iqbal Block-1. Directions from Gulshan Chowrangi:
* From Gulshan Chowrangi go on road towards Rab Medical / Samdani hospital
* Turn Right on 2nd Traffic Light (ie No Turn on 1st Traffic Light)
* Go to end of Road, where you take Left
* Go all the way until you see "Laraib Gardens"
* Take a right into narrow lane just before "Laraib Gardens"
* Sohana Farm gate is on the Left at the end of this lane, next to construction site.

contact: Yasir Husain 0333 214 954 3
Sohana Farm :021 349 704 78

Thursday, 11 August 2011

DIY: Make Bombs!

Its dark and silent outside. I have got my bombs ready and I know exactly where to attack.

When I was watching clouds cover the sky yesterday, I knew its going to rain hard soon which means free watering system all over the city. If only I could spread the seeds all around and make those ugly empty plots look greener.

I remembered, I saw a tutorial to make seed bombs at a guerrilla gardening website. I had everything with me so I started making my seed bombs!

From seed bomb!
Make your own seed bomb:
You will need:
Clay soil ( potter’s powder ) – 5 parts
Compost – 1 part
Seeds -1 part
some water to bind
From seed bomb!
‘What to do next?
Simply mix everything together and keep the mixture easy to mold. Make 1 inch balls out of it. Keep it aside and let it dry for a day or two.
Which seeds to use?
I made mine using Spinach seeds. I know they grow fast and add so much color. You can use any easy to grow vegetable or herb seeds or any seasonal flower.
From seed bomb!
Where to attack?
Once you have got the seed bombs ready, simply go out for a walk and place some on the empty plots, barren roundabouts or any place that needs little greenery.

What ever place you chose, make sure you are not intruding into people’s privacy. I live on the 7th floor. At least 3 empty plots are easy to target from my lobby !

I am not sure what will happen to them when there is no rain to water them. But I hope that during these few weeks of monsoon, people will notice them and start taking care of them. Many people who will pass by can get inspired. Or I can simply water them once a week!

Clouds are getting darker and the silence tells me that its going to rain hard soon. I have got my bombs ready and now I am going to bomb my neighborhood!
So why don’t you join me ! Lets drop our seed bombs onto the barren lands near us and let the rains do the rest!

published on Pakistan Sustainability Network on 11th August, 2011

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Home Gardening: Control Fruit Flies and Slugs Organically

Farmers and gardeners have used natural techniques to deal with pests in the gardens since time immemorial. Sadly, now that quick chemical fixes are available, we tend to adopt those instead. But what we need to do is invest our time in experimenting with and practicing the most natural farming methods we can find.

Below are two questions recently posted on the Crops in Pots page that received a lot of attention. My detailed replies to each provide easy organic solutions to the problems. Read on so that you too can add some organic pest-fighting tricks to your gardening tool kit.

Q: Hello! I’m based in Lahore and have four guava trees in my garden. I need advice on how to eliminate the worms inside the ripe fruit, which makes all the fruit inedible.
- Zeba Ashraf

Dear Zeba,
It seems like a fruit-fly attack. Fruit flies lay eggs under the skin of the fruit. The eggs hatch as the fruit matures, and then larvae start feeding on the fruit. It is a natural wonder in itself, but it cannot be encouraged, as it will indeed make your fruits inedible.
Go for any of the following organic pest control methods:
  1. Grow strong-scented herbs under your trees, such as chives. You can also plant garlic and marigolds around your trees. This will help in repelling the fruit flies.
  2. Treat your trees with organic pest repellents. Add a few drops of neem oil per liter of water and spray the mixture on the trees. You can use the spray weekly. Start spraying before the next fruiting season starts. This will prevent flies from coming near your fruits.
  3. Bag your fruits while they are young. You can use calico fabric for this. Gently bag clusters of fruits on branches when they are young. Bags can be washed and used again.
  4. Pick unripe fruit. This is the last thing I want to do, since fruit that are left to ripen on the tree taste better. But I prefer to compromise on flavor and not on the no-chemicals policy when it come to my fruit.

 Q: I found seven slugs roaming around in my garden…what to do?
- Umme Kulsoom Inam

Dear Umme Kulsoom,
There are number of things you can try, and none of them involves using chemicals.
  1. Use slug baits available in the market that use organic compounds. Other poisonous baits are deadly for your pets and harmful for anyone who comes in contact with them.
  2. Use citrus or cabbage peels to attract slugs. They will gather under the peelings, and from there you can collect them with the help of tweezers and discard them. You will have to do this for a few days in a row, and then, as their numbers become less, once a week.
  3. Save and use eggshells. A gardener friend of mine recommends using eggshells near the root ball. Slugs and snails don’t like the sharp edges and will stay away from your plants.

published on NEWSLINE MAGAZINE   on 10th August,2011

Sunday, 7 August 2011

A creative trellis for vegetable vines

Few days back, Annie, a reader of Crops in Pots, emailed me these inspirational photos of her garden. I love the way she used a grill as a trellis.  Well done Annie ! :)
extra grill can not have any better use :)

Looks healthy!


Keep it up Annie! :) Thanks for sharing your pictures! Loved them!

 Happy Gardening !


further reading

crops in pots