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Category — Flora

The Cycle of Life Workshop on Composting and Container Gardening

If you are into Organic Terrace Gardening and live in Bangalore, one of the names you’d hear very often is Vani Murthy. Vani is a treasure trove of information about composting and gardening.

Vani started out with composting and garbage segregation a few years ago. It was the compost she made that led her to gardening. She is a compost queen, there is very little Vani doesn’t know or hasn’t tried in the arena of composting.

I’ve been meaning to go for a workshop with her leading for a over a year now but something always comes up. This time when I got an email from the WCFM team, I scrambled to get things in place so I could attend. I didn’t want to miss out again.

Of course I didn’t know that my khambha was turning one in the same week or that I had been composting for over a year. Quite a coincidence wouldn’t you say?

The workshop had sounded great, a session with Vai on composting and a session with Hariram on terrace gardening. That’s two fish on one hook!

I got Devisri of Urban Dawg to sign up too and we arrived at the workshop destination in time to grab the front seats. In such things I’m a front bencher. 😀

The workshop started with an introduction to garbage and it’s problem. Uma, Claire, Vani and Shyamala walked us through the different types of garbage and how they can be managed and segregated. The stats are mind boggling when you realise how much waste we generate. And how much we can do by simply separating and sending the right junk to the right place.

Now that we understood types of garbage, Vani took over on her speciality – wet waste. She started out with explaining what wet waste was and then delved into the aerobic method of composting. It’s process and do’s and don’ts.

Vani then talked about the aerobic method, also called the bookish system and how it worked. This is a great method for indoor composting. This method also works better for meat and leftover food. And the leachate generated is an awesome payoff not only for plants but also drains!

Then she got to what I have been wanting to know about for a while now. Earthworms!

These little benign creatures can make for the fastest and best vermicompost. But they are also really delicate and fussy creatures. They need a lot of love and care!

That completed Vani’s session and we headed down to for Hariram’s session which was to be both theory and practical. Harris started out with telling us about his background in gardening.

He talked about how his grandma grew vegetables and how he outgrew the fascination of it as a child. But when his child commented one day that vegetables came from the fridge, he knew it was time to go back to the garden.

He started out small with 3-4 pots and today has over 140 pots. Over the last couple of years he has grown and documented a variety of herbs and vegetables – from sweet potato to corn.

After telling us about the types of soil, climate, sun, etc. Harris took a break for lunch. It was a simple wholesome lunch of bisibelabath and curd rice. This was followed up with the practical sessions.

The first thing we got our hands dirty with was mixing and preparing soil.

The bunch of us were split into groups and each group did one activity. Group two got on their knees to filled pots and grow bags with the prepared soil.

We then learned about planting seeds in seedling trays. How many seeds for what type of vegetable/herb and what depth.

After that it was time to transplant saplings. All the know how about removing and placing a little plant into a new pot.

All the practicals complete, we headed back to the presentation to learn about crop rotation, pests and friendly insects. How to discourage pests with organic methods and tips on encouraging the good insects.

And that completed our session. We’d exceeded the time limit and would have gone on I think, if we’d had a chance and choice.

I learned a lot in one day. The program was packed with knowledge and information. And the chance to pick the brains of experts like Vani and Hariram was an opportunity I’m glad I got. 😀

I’m so looking forward to getting my own Bokashi system set-up, making my composting more robust and getting my kitchen garden started off. Hopefully if all goes well, you’ll see me soon asking for help to eat all the veggies I grow. 😛

If you are into composting and/or gardening and would like to attend one of these workshops, please write in to cleangreenworkshops@gmail.com.

March 20, 2015   No Comments

A Year of Composting

Time flies quickly, maybe very quickly. I got reminded of this yesterday when I received an email from the DailyDump.org team. I know a year has gone past, it is now 2015 but I hadn’t noticed the time going by.

I’ve completed a year of using the Khambha they said. That’s one year of not throwing any wet waste out of my house. That’s nearly a 100kg of waste kept away from a landfill according to the DailyDump guys. And that’s something to celebrate!

Che and I don’t cook so much and yet we generate a fair bit of waste. I used to feel really guilty about this but after the Khambha came and I started composting I don’t feel so  guilty anymore. At least not about wet waste and kitchen waste.

All my kitchen waste like vegetable peels, vegetable discards, egg shells, bones, and even left over food goes into the composter and comes out as black gold.

I must have made about 5 or so batches of compost until now and have used the compost too. The plants seem to love it and thrive on it. The whole cycle makes me smile and feel so satisfied.

I’m giving back to nature in a way, becoming a part of a natural cycle and in the whole process I’m contributing less to landfills and my dustbin doesn’t smell anymore. I don’t care if the garbage collection guy doesn’t come daily for with only dry waste, there’s no smell or insects to worry about.

The process of composting itself isn’t very intensive. It’s simple to do, takes 5 – 10 minutes daily and maybe an hour or so once in a few months when the compost is ready. And even though all the veggie stuff you put in is decomposing, the compost while it’s getting done does not smell bad.

I love the smell of my compost, it’s an earthy rich smell that fills me with joy every time I stick my nose in there. I started out with composting as gift to myself last year and what a gift it has been. :)

Do you compost? Where did you get your composter? What’s your experience with composting?

March 18, 2015   No Comments

Taking Care of My Money Plant in Water

I grew up to a saying that if you stole a piece of money plant and it grew and flourished in your house you would prosper and get rich. So its a plant most houses had and its a hardy plant so we had a few of them at home too.

Some months back in an attempt to add some green to my house, Mom got me a cutting to grow in a bottle. Now that the plant has grown at bit and has settled into the bottle, I got down to do some reading about it.

Some things I didn’t know about the money plant –

  • The scientific name for the Money Plant is Epipremnum aureum or Scindapsus aureus.
  • It is found from Northern Australia through Malaysia and Indonesia into China, Japan and India.
  • It flowers in the wild.
  • The sap of the money plant is poisonous if consumed. The presence of insoluble raphides make it toxic to dogs, cats and children. Symptoms may include oral irritation, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing. I need to keep it out of reach of the dogs.
  • It has even caused enough ecological damage to be listed on the USDA Florida Exotic Pest Control Council list 1999 as an invasive species.
  • Other names of the money plant are – Australian native monstera, centipede tongavine, devil’s ivy, golden pothos, hunter’s robe, ivy arum, silver vine, Solomon Islands ivy and taro vine.
  • Money Plant is efficient at removing indoor pollutants such as formaldehyde, xylene, and benzene.
  • It can be used in aquariums, by placing it on top of the aquarium and allowing the roots to grow in the water. The plant absorbs many nitrates and uses them for growth.

Some I didn’t know but had figured out over time –

  • The money plant is a hardy plant and its leaves last longer that most other plants.
  • It grows in both soil and water but once planted the medium can’t be changed.
  • The simplest way to get a new plant is to take a cutting off an existing plant and planting it into soil or water.
  • Water grown money plants are smaller and more slender that soil ones.
  • The first couple of weeks require constant changing of water. As the plant settles-in the die-off causes a lot of foul smell.
  • The water tends to stay clear longer after the roots have settled in.

Notes to myself from around the internet to help me keep my plant healthy –

Temperature – Requires temperatures between 15-30deg C, below 10deg the leaves develop spots and turn yellow.

Sunlight – Leaves turning yellow and shedding  is a sign of excessive sunlight. Money plants don’t like too much heavy sunlight so in summer you could place a wet cloth above it and put some ice cubes in the plant in the afternoon.
Update 26/09/’16: My plants are kept in a mostly cool and mildly lit place. Not much sunlight reaches here so my plants have been growing very slowly. In an attempt to make them grow faster, last month I put my plants out for some light and by mistake put them out in direct sunlight and forgot. By the time I remembered again some hours had passed and most of my leaves had gotten sunburned. I did try salvaging them with lots of TLC but only 1 out of 4 plants survived. DON’t put your house plants out in direct sun!

Watering – It is advised to change water every 2-3 days. (I did this in the initial weeks but now the plant has settled so have reduced the change to once in a week or two based on water quality.)
Update 10/07/’15: After losing my first plant to a virus and taking care of 3 new cuttings for a year now, I’d add that after the plant has settled with a good number of roots and if the water quality is good and doesn’t get messy, the change of water could be done once a month. If the water is clean, you need to change just half the water. If it looks dirty and has a lot of debris, rinse the bottle and change the water completely.

Gel – I have to try gel out for my bottled money plant. Theoretically the gel should absorb the water and the plant can take from it as and when required.  I’ll have to top up water every week or so but it solves any mosquito problems. That said  I’m not sure if this would work for a water grown plant.
Update 10/07/’15: I bought some gel last year and tried it out for a year in two bottles while the third stayed as a control with water. I didn’t see any marked difference between the plants growing with gel and those without. It also meant I couldn’t change the water in the gel bottles through the year and had to just keep toping it. That’s an upside though as it made it really low maintenance. But as such the gel didn’t make a difference to my plants wellbeing.

Trimming – New leaves grow out from the tips of the creeper. Trimming side shoots will give a  single long stem or cutting off the tip will encourage side growth to give a more fuller plant. Also as the plant is growing I keep pushing it back into the bottle a little off and on. That way the nodes that touch the water will give out roots and over time I will be able to snip off the bottom roots as they start to rot without affecting the plant much.

Fertiliser – It can survive on naturally found salts in water and does not require addition of nutrients to the water. But any nitrate base fertiliser can be used. A weak solution of liquid fertiliser to be added into the water keeping in mind to add it late evening because in strong sunlight the fertiliser can cause root burn. (Don’t add fertiliser to newly cut or trimmed plants as fertiliser can damage the plant. Roots and leaves have different types of fertilisers.)

Pesticide – The money plant does not attract a lot of pests however it sees its fair share of ants and mosquitoes. A water based household insect spray like Sheltox would get rid of the ants and mosquitoes. ( I tend to use narrow necked and clear bottles so I can keep an eye on water quality. )

Do you have a money plant at home? Do you have any advise for me? What can I do to make my plant flourish and hence get rich? 😛

Related Articles
How to Grow Money Plant at Home – Ace Gardener

January 22, 2013   96 Comments

Revenge and Green Fingers

Last week was a blur of activity. We started the week with Pascal coming to Bangalore. – In our family we have six dogs. Three with us, one with my Mom and Bro and two with my in-laws. Our long term plan is to keep all the dogs with us in a big place and this was our first step in this direction. Pascal came to Bangalore, got groomed thoroughly and got neutered too! He’s now being homed at Windward Kennels while going through re-hab and training to settle down in a all new place. As a child I loved the Golden my neighbour had – he was amazing. It’s going to be fun getting to know Pascal and having him around.

I’ve never really tried gardening and don’t know if I have green fingers. My Mom does, she always has a flourishing garden. So, I decided to give it a go and bought three plants for my balcony (until now I’ve only had the money-plant in a bottle). One looks like a mini Christmas tree, the other is an ornamental plant with green and white mixed leaves and the last is a herb I guess since its supposed to keep snakes away. I bought them from a little boy who came by home last week but since he only spoke Kannada I don’t know what these plans are called. That’s this weeks project – identify the plants 😀

Our latest TV hook is Revenge on StarWorld. We watched the first episode this Saturday and liked it. And as always with serials that we like, we don’t have patience to wait week on week so we downloaded and watched 6 episodes in a row. More to go today… Revenge is a story set in the Hamptons in the ‘upper class’. Amanda’s father had been wrongfully charged and punished when she was a child. She is now back as Emily Thorne to take revenge on all those involved and each episode is a new plot.

In other news – I spent a lot of time browsing my feeds on Feedly this week. Should have a list of articles you may have missed for you to read tomorrow. :)

October 15, 2012   No Comments