Hey everyone ! how is it going? I hope you all are safe and taking care of yourself in this truly horrifying time in history. I have said this before but I am going to say it again.Spending time with nature can help a lot in alleviating symptoms of depression, loneliness, anxiety, and stress. House plants are super fun to maintain and good pass time when there is absolutely nothing to do. House plants purify the air and improve health and wellness overall.I also feel like I want to know where my food comes from and growing your own zero waste urban garden is a sure shot solution. I love getting out there and working the earth, digging in the dirt, and seeing what my hard work can produce.
I know most of my blog posts start with a little rant because a) I am frustrated b) I can’t gloss over the fact that this pandemic has continued for 14 months now and there is still no end in sight. Locking down cities and countries seems to be the only way to control the community spread. I live in a population dense country, yes India and we have surpassed all world records so far as long as we believe the numbers, people are saying they are undercounted and unreported. But any who that is how things are and for the sake of our mental peace and well-being I will stop my rant right here. I know you all have access to social media and the news. And as always please stay masked at all times whenever you are around people. WHO has admitted the virus is airborne and spread with aerosole, you need a N99,/N95 type of FPP3 masks for protection if you happen to be in close proximity or are in the medical field treating patients. This is as per the latest CDC guideline and I will try to keep you all posted if things change.So as long as this virus is raging the planet and going places while we stay holed up in our rooms glued to our screens lets find better ways to channel that energy.
house plants , where do I start?
First off , no matter how much you want to grow all of the things, do yourself a favour and start slow and start small.There are certain questions that come to mind when any of us plan to start a home garden. Do I have sufficient space? Is the soil in my house good enough? Which seeds should I select? Do I need to add any fertilisers? How much money would this cost? What kind of potting soils should I use? What is compost? Can I setup a bokashi compost at home?Don’t worry you have come to the right place, your gardening 101 if you will.Before you read any further I would recommend you to check out one of my previous posts on gardening and may be draw some inspiration.This ones from 2020 and now its 2021.I know time has lost all meaning.But I strongly recommend you to give this hobby a try. If nothing you would have fresh air for the next 6 months and something happy to look at every morning regardless of how things have been for you during the pandemic lockdowns work from home shelter in place what have you.
When you talk about starting a zero waste urban garden in your home, no matter how small the space there are certain things you need to plan ahead. This would be evaluating the space you have for your garden, deciding what seeds to pick, assessing the quality of the soil you have at hand and what you can do to improve the NPK content , keeping pesky bugs away fro the start, watering and laying the bed, finding out the appropriate temperature, humidity and light and of course the seasons that are friendly to certain plants.
Evaluating your space
What I mean by evaluating your space is that you identify potential areas where you could plant , this could be a well ventilated window sill , a kitchen balcony or even a spacious garden right around your house. You have to identify and plan the layout of your garden ahead of time so that all seeds have enough place to grow and at the same are protected and nourished by the elements. Most seeds love some sunlight , moisture and well aerated soil. Now some do better in the dark, some prefer partial sunlight and some might want to be in bright sunlight. Make sure to keep this in mind before planning your garden. You may even start small by building your own garden using either cardboard planks or old packaging. I re-purposed a cart packaging that came for my laptop to work as a starter nursery for all my seeds before they could be transplanted to a designated area in my garden.You have to make sure that you chose a space that is not too damp or too dry. Balance is key here. You may also want to remove any weeds, grass and such from the plot because they tend to deplete the soil of nutrients.
I will link down some sample garden layouts for you to get some inspiration.Please visit my patreon page , all of these are digitally downloadable.
Selecting your seeds
A lot of gardening websites provide information and even sort the different varieties of seeds by season, by weather, by location and that could be a great starting point for you to develop a sense for what kind of seeds you would want.Depending on where you are located you may or may not experience all the four seasons and in that case you could may be opt for perennial plants that grow throughout the year. Starting off with desk plants like the snake plant, the zz plant, aloe vera, palm , fern , jade and pothos will give you an idea about plant care and whether it’s something you want to do. I find this an incredibly rewarding hobby but everyone is different and may be there is someone out there who doesn’t like spending time with plants like the rest of us.I apologise I digress what I trying to tell you is that get a feel for what you are planning to do for at least the next 6 months of your time , plants require love, care and patience. You can’t forget watering them for months and expect them to thrive.
I will link a few sites which I used to purchase my seeds. I picked a variety of seeds from various sources because I didn’t know which one had the best quality of seeds for my needs.I recommend allthatgrows and the affordable organic store if you are in India. You also buy seeds and plants from amazon if you wish to but these two are the ones I found had the best germination rate.All that grows also sends regular newsletters on gardening tips and how you can improve. Affordable organic store has these compact and simple kits to both fertilise as well as grow your garden. They are fairly inexpensive. My favourite are their jute grow bags which I think are perfect to start some fresh green sprouts in. They are eco-friendly, zero waste and plants love them too because they are recycled from coconut shells.I am personally not a huge fan of micro-greens but if you are they are great for small spaces and you can even grow them inside your kitchen in any left over milk carton or egg tray.
Assessing the soil quality
You may already have a lot of soil available for and that is great. But if you don’t you can always purchase potting soil, coco-peat, perlite and may be even some sand from a beach. A good soil mix consists of 50% potting soil , 20% compost 10% sand and 10% coco-peat. You can change these ratios depending on the seeds.For instance watermelon grows best in a mix of 50% soil and 50% sand. I will share a soil guide on my patreon and link it down here for you to download.Good garden soil is typically a good mix of clay, sand, organic material, and mineral particles. Heavy clay soil, on the other hand, does not have a good mix of these materials and can be very difficult to deal with as a gardener.Tilling and aerating are perfect solutions to transform a fertlie yet difficult to work with clay soil.
Test your soil
You can also test the soil, take about a cup of soil in a a mason jar and add water. Shake the jour vigorously till the soil is broken into crumbs and let it settle. You should see three distinct layers. You can also test the pH of your soil using a. vinegar (for alkaline soil) and b. baking soda (for acidic soil). If your soil starts to fizz when you add a or b you know which side of the pH spectrum your soil lies in. You want to pick the best soil for your garden and knowing what you are working with is the best solution to get started.You may also choose to add epson salt or other such easy to use products to control the pH of your soil.Make sure that the soil is raked and watered well before starting the planting process.Putting a border around your plot with blocks, timber, or even that cheap landscape edging will help keep the weeds and grass out of your garden.
For the plant roots I recommend sprinkling some turmeric and even neem powder or neem soil to keep pesky bugs away.Perlite is great for helping with germination and growth of green sprouts. You don’t need to buy perlite, you can just use left over egg shells, grind them fine and spread them on the upper layer of the soil.I prefer growing plants such as marigold, lemon balm and chamomile, not only are they fragrant but also they keep bugs, insects away from their natural strength. My favourite one is my little pineapple chamomile , the flowers when rubbed between the fingers leave a fruity scent like that of a pineapple.You can also make your own compost , starting off with a bokashi compost bin. I will briefly touch up on it but will leave you a more detailed step by step process in an upcoming video. You can also soak a banana peel in a jar of water and pour that water in your plants to give them a natural phosphorous boost. Growing beans can improve your soil quality.
Water, How much ?
When it comes to laying a bed for my plants I like to start off by layering the bottom most section with some pebbles. This would be great if you were starting off in a wooden crate or even a mason jar. Next up I add my potting soil mix and voila you’re done. If you are growing anything that is a creeper or vine you may want to make a simple trelis, you can make this from pruned branches in your garden or even use barbed wire used in chicken coup.Pebbles help with circulation and I strongly suggest you to water you soil and even plants from the bottom instead the top. This makes sure the roots get adequate water and you don’t end up killing your plants by over-watering them.I always like to touch the top soil before pouring more water into the plants. Typically in summers you might have to water your plants twice a day but again this does not apply to some hardy plants like the snake plant , cacti and various similar hard to kill plants.
Research the seed and ideal conditions for growth
The title is self-explanatory here but just to add some context. You want to make sure you plant the rights seeds for seasonal vegetables and fruits.Usually temperatures in the range 10-20C are adequate for plant growth and germination but some seeds may have special requirements and its always best to learn ahead of time. This is not something you can factor in after you are done planting. You may also want to research about companion plants that help each other grow and offer protection.
That’s all folks, I hope you enjoyed reading.Make sure to comment, click subscribe and visit my patreon for more information.