Saturday, 5 July 2014

In a hurry? Make "blender" compost!


Warning: After reading this piece, you will be left with no excuse to avoid composting at home.


If you appreciate composting but have not tired it yourself, chances are that you are in a hurry like me. Here is the fasted way to make compost that I am trying for my  raised bed garden. You should try it too.

"Blender" Composting
We are consuming enormous amount of fruits and vegetables each day. I hate to throw away the nutrient rich peelings, eggshells and left over coffee. On the other hand, I need good compost for my raised bed project fast. I came across this idea of "blender" composting and loved it. Its super simple to make it.

Simply add all the organic kitchen waste in a blender with lots of water. Blend it into a smoothie. Now use it directly on your soil or collect it in a bin and let it decompose. If you use it directly, you will not see results until the compost is completely decomposed.  The best part is that it will take just a couple of weeks to decompose because it is blended!!!

I will also add Indigenous Microorganisms or IMO4 to speed up the process. I will share more about it in upcoming posts. Adding IMO4 to my compost pile will help me harvest compost in just three weeks.   

I am blending my kitchen waste every day and feeling rich already. Lets pledge to put all the organic waste from our kitchen in to a compost bin and not in to a dust bin.

Happy Gardening






Saturday, 3 May 2014

How to get 40 kg yield from a 18 sq.ft. garden


layout design by garderns.com

I spend a lot of time in planning my kitchen garden. This means a lot of calculations. 

After spending an hour on gardners.com, I was able to make several layouts for my garden projects. Next, I calculated average yield per plant based on my own experience and research papers available online. This one produces 40 kg of a variety of vegetables from a small space of 3 by 6 sqft.

How to get 40 kg of vegetables from a 3 by 6 sqft garden

Raised beds gardens are said to be most productive. Different types of vegetables and herbs are planted in a square foot according to the space requirement of each plant. Plants grown this way create a micro climate and benefit each other even more if companion plantation is practiced.
A layout that I made using gardeners.com garden planner.

Companion plantation is one of the most important element of  my garden layout. This simply means growing two vegetables together that benefit each other. For example, Beans provide nitrogen for corns to grow healthy, tomatoes deter pests that attack cabbage and lettuces while chives keep tomato protected from pests. This is how brilliantly nature works. We just need to learn more from it and mimic its ways. 

Other important element of a garden plan is to know which vegetables do you want to grow, how many plants will you need and how long will it take you to get the harvest. Keeping in mind average yield per plant, I calculated how much will a 3 by 6 sqft patch or a raised bed will produce based on my layout.

Tomatoes 14 -20 kg
Cucumber 2 kg
Eggplant 3.5 kg
Corn ears 4-8 
Spinach 0.75 kg 
bell peppers 2.6 kg
hot pepper 1.5 kg
beans 5.5 kg
Lettuce leaves 0.5 kg
Squash 10-25 squash 
Chives a few bunches 


Out of all these vegetables, Corn can be planted twice or thrice during a 5-6 month season. Peppers, chives and eggplants will stay for more than a year or two during which they will produce even more. Radishes and micro greens can also be included in this plan.

Each plant has a different space requirement. In a 1 sq.ft area you can plant 16 leaf lettuce plants, 2 cucumbers or 1 squash. 


More Variations


A raised bed of same dimensions with 14 tomato plants can produce 40-70 kg of tomatoes along with bunches of basil, chives and leeks.




Here is a garden layout by gardeners.com. This is how a raised bed will look like when planted according to the plan in the next image.





Kitchen gardening is a never ending learning process. You can sketch your garden plans or use one of the garden planners online.  Make gardening fun, challenging and productive!


Do share your plans with us crops.in.pots@gmail.com or www.facebook.com/cropsinpot


Happy Living!





Note: Due to some technical issue, I am unable to reply to comments made here. If you have a query please feel free to write to us on crops.in.pots@gmail.com

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Cacti garden: Desert rose


Cacti provide gardens an eccentric beauty . PHOTO: ZAHRA ALI

A garden without leaves can only be a cacti garden. Its striking landscape and distinct architectural form strays away from a conventional one (rich in palms, seasonal plants and creepers), giving the space a cutting-edge look.
There are more than 1,500 varieties to choose from and some cacti can live up to hundreds of years and produce countless offspring with their seeds, eliminating the need to buy new plants. “Cacti live for as long as you can take care of it,” says Fahim Siddiqui, founder of the Cactus and Succulent Society of Pakistan. His collection consists of more than 5,000 cacti and 800 succulents and the oldest cactus in his garden is almost 35 years old. “The thing about cacti that attracts me the most is its tactics to survive in the most difficult conditions… a trait rare to us.”


Pink blossoms of a Mammillaria. 

The shape of a cactus is determined by its capacity to store water or minimise water loss. This makes it an ideal plant to grow in the country, where water shortage is a perennial problem. The slender, finely toothed Yucca variety grows slowly and can reach up to 3ft, while the Golden Barrel species, covered in rows of sharp spines, takes a spherical shape and produces yellow flowers. “A Mammillaria’s bloom fascinates me the most and there are more than 170 varieties that one can grow as a beginner,” says Khalid Suhail. His cacti collection of over 15 years features interesting red, yellow and white ones.
The Queen Victoria Agave cactus.

Buying a cactus
Start by buying potted cacti first which cost somewhere between Rs100 and Rs500, depending on the type. A wide variety of ornamental species are imported, primarily the eye-catching colourful, grafted cacti. Although they look vibrant, they do not last long as grafting means slicing your cactus in half which could go terribly wrong if not done properly. Also the colour is injected in the plant which overshadows its natural beauty.


Caring at home
Well-drained soil is ideal for a potted cactus. It can be 20% organic compost or animal manure and 50% sweet sand, with the remaining 30% covered in a layer of stone chips. Weekly watering patterns work best as the plant requires minimal water only when the soil dries out and during winter most species don’t require any watering at all. For this purpose, get pots that are barely one to two inches bigger in diameter as bigger pots allow the soil to store water longer. And the best time to re-pot or divide the plant is during spring.


Gardening enthusiasts like to collect unusual cacti.

Conservation alert
Over-collection and habitat destruction has led to a threat of extinction. Preserve the endangered species by growing them in your own garden or donating to a botanical garden. Cacti take several years to grow large enough to be used for landscapes. If you come across one at a very low rate, it has probably been sourced from the wild unless the seller can prove otherwise.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, April 13th, 2014.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Recipe: Bell Pepper Nachos



I am enjoying my daily harvest of bell peppers and salad leaves. These yellow banana peppers are vibrant addition to not only my garden but also to my plate. Yellow peppers contain 305 % vitamin C which is why it must not be over cooked.
Here is a fun recipe using that I loved.


Bell Pepper Nachos
Heat a pan and add a dash of olive oil. Add finely chopped garlic clove and spring onions. Keep stirring while you add a tsp of garlic powder, paprika or red chili powder, salt, 1/2 tsp cumin powder, 1/2 tsp of oregano and crushed black pepper. Add a cup of cooked and shredded chicken. Toss well. 

Make a slit in two bell peppers and remove all the seeds. Carefully fill each pepper with chicken mixture. Top with olives and cilantro. Bake for 3 minutes. 

Serve it with brown rice or with a salad. I made my salad using some mix salad leaves, dried tomatoes and parsley.


Growing your own vegetables makes your food so much more special. Grow your own food!

Happy Gardening
Z






Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Recipe: Chicken-and-Broccoli florets with Garden Salad

Grilled chicken and broccoli with garden salad . image credit :Zahra Ali


I love eating raw vegetables especially the ones from my organic kitchen garden. These scrumptious vegetables fill my plates with color, flavor and unbeatable freshness! 

Here is what my lunches usually look like. Cooked fish, chicken or beans with fresh salad. This simple recipe is packed with nutrients and will charge you with energy and brightness!

Chicken-and-Broccoli Florets

Combine a tsp of soya, 1/2 tsp vinegar, salt and red chili powder in a bowl. Add a cup of chicken strips to the mixture. Mix well and let it marinate for 10 minutes. 

Heat a grill pan or a basic non stick pan. Drizzle a tsp of olive oil. Add chicken and cook for two mins and keep stirring. Add finely chopped onions, a clove of garlic and a little ginger. Mix well. When the chicken is almost done, add broccoli florets. Stir and  cook for 3 minutes. enjoy!

Garden Salad

The idea of making a garden salad is to simply go out in your kitchen garden, pick your fresh produce and combine to make a colorful and flavorful salad!

Fizz lettuce and red pear tomatoes from my garden
Since I grow several varieties of leaf lettuce, its always fun to try a new type or to experiment with a blend.

I picked some "Fizz" lettuce leaves, " Black seeded simpson" lettuce leaves, red pear tomatoes, bell peppers and some red cabbage. 

Chop cabbage finely, use cherry tomatoes as whole, use your hands to tear the lettuce leaves, squeeze a lemon, add some salt and you have your very simple and fresh salad!

If you love your vegetables then grow them at home and make them as pure as possible by not using any chemicals on them.

Join our community  for more inspiration and ideas.

Happy Gardening!

Z

further reading

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