Cultivate a Kitchen Garden (in 3 quick steps)

Always wanted to have a kitchen garden, but haven`t gotten around to it yet? Follow our quick tips and you`ll soon have a flourishing green patch of your own.

Averil Nunes

Setting up a kitchen garden is easier than you think. We detail the procedure, list a few plants that are easy to grow and give you a heads up on the `nos nos` of raising healthy plants. Jayashree Menon, a seasoned journalist and plant whisperer, spoke to Averil Nunes

Three quick steps to set up a kitchen garden:

Step I) Find a sunny spot on your balcony window ledge or grill. Plants like people thrive in sunlight, but you already know that.

Step II) The container – It doesn`t matter whether you use a light plastic vessel, a heavy mud pot or an old used tin. What does matter, is that you`ve made provisions for adequate draining by punching a few holes in the base, if there aren`t already holes there.

Step III) The Soil – You can get good soil in any local nursery, but layering is important. Put in a few charcoal pieces or small bits of red brick over the drain holes you have created. Layer the soil over it. Drop in your seedlings and lay more soil over it.

Now sing to your plant. I`m kidding! Actually I`m not. Research shows that talking to your plants will help them thrive better. If you do intend to sing to your plants, do keep in mind that plants that are exposed to classical music seem to thrive better than those subjected to hard rock or heavy metal.

10 Easy-to-Grow Indian Kitchen Essentials

1) Kadi Patta (curry leaves) – loaded with vitamin A, calcium and folic acid
2) Ajwain (carom seeds or bishop`s weed) – boosts digestion, overall health and supposedly even your sex life
3) Pudina (mint) — detoxifies blood, soothes headaches, freshens breathe
4) Tulsi (basil) — stress buster, germicide, fungicide, anti-bacterial
5) Mirchi (chilli) — burns calories, promotes skin health, improves vision
6) Lemon Grass — improves circulation, reduces stress, prevents coughs and colds
7) Kothmir/ Dhania (corriander) — anti-diabetic, anti-bacterial, anti-anaemic
8) Methi (fenugreek) — reduces cholesterol, controls diabetes, eases PMS
9) Nimbu (lime) — antiseptic, anti-ageing element, weight-loss agent
10) Rai (Mustard) — relieves pain, promotes hair growth, lowers cholesterol

Green Thumb Tips

Seedlings like babies, need to be handled with care. Do not flood a pot of freshly planted seedlings with water. Sprinkle with water for as long as it takes for them to sprout. In fact, refrain from dousing plants with water, until you`re certain they are strong enough to survive a storm.

Overwatering plants, can result in waterlogging and rotting roots. Drain out excess water if you notice water accumulating on the soil surface. Keep tabs on your plants to gauge what they require. A plant that has already has a good dose of rain, probably does not require another watering.

Neglecting your plants is not a criminal offence, but as in life, you reap what you sow. So if you expect an abundant crop, make sure you give your greens the time and attention that they require.

In-house compost is an excellent fertiliser. Use an old pot to layer mud and kitchen waste alternately. Add a few earthworms. And voila! Organic fertilisFertier. (Do note: Seedlings and sprouts are a little too young for fertilisers. Keep an eye on the leaf condition and general health of your plants and you`ll know exactly what they need and when.)

Space your pots out a bit, so that if one plant catches a fungus it does not infect the rest. Cut of affected plant parts pronto, to curtail the spread of any infection.

Pics by Image Courtesy: Avril-Ann Braganza

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