Read about some of the amazing uses of Hibiscus, including Hibiscus tea which controls cholesterol and is a rich source of Vitamin C.
Do you have a garden and are you confused about how to design it? Why don’t you try giving it a theme? There are various landscape design styles or themes depending on the country they’ve originated from. Give your space a new character by choosing the one you that suits your house and surroundings.
If I were to say that you should garden based on the phase and position of the Moon, you would call me a lunatic! This is exactly what I remember thinking to myself when my uncle was very passionately explaining to me about full moon period for germinating seeds. This was until I searched this out on the internet and found tons of information on this. There’s even a separate term for it – it’s called Lunar gardening !
Do you have a square foot to spare? Plant a bitter gourd seed to get a lifetime’s supply!
If you want to landscape your garden, balcony or a terrace garden, either on your own or through a professional landscaping company, the first thing you must do is to answer a landscaping checklist.
Feng Shui is a Chinese design philosophy and the literal meaning of Feng Shui is wind and water. It is a traditional Chinese belief that wind and water are the source of all life energy. This life energy is called “chi” and this brings abundance and blessings into your environment and your life.
If you spend more than half an hour in your garden everyday then you surely must dress up for it.
Imagine this – the sun’s setting, you are sitting in your favorite armchair in the garden and having a nice cup of tea watching the sun go down, seeing the birds return to their nests…and someone buzzzzzzzes in your ear before delivering a sharp sting – Ouch! You run around or holler for some mosquito repellent, quick sprays ensue some of which lands in your tea. You summon all your courage and continue to sit outside but soon beat a hasty retreat cursing at those monstrous mosquitoes. Well, how much can a mosquito repellent help in an open space?
Sitting in your garden in the evenings can be a harrowing experience with mosquitoes and flies having their fill of you. Dousing the surroundings or slathering yourself with chemical mosquito repellents is not an healthy or effective option. Won’t it be great if there weren’t any mosquitoes around in your garden – naturally? Thankfully there are some plants which are very effective at keeping the mosquitoes and flies at bay – 24/7. Let’s look at some of these:
Plants that’ll drive mosquitoes and flies away:
- Citronella: Citronella is a very strong smelling perennial grass, growing up to an average height of 2-3 feet. It is the most common naturally occurring mosquito repellent and it is used in numerous mosquito repellent creams, scented oils etc.
Citronella has a very distinctive smell not offensive to humans but the smell overpowers the scent of all other attractants to the mosquito and it becomes difficult for the mosquito to find you. Many varieties of Citronella are available but make sure you buy only the Cymbopogon nardus or Citronella winterianus. Other plants do not have the mosquito repelling qualities of true citronella. Citronella grows freely and wildly and it would be a good idea to separate clumps of Citronella and re-plant them in other places in your garden. Give it a trim often to keep the growth in check.
2. Catnip (Nepeta cataria):
Nepeta cataria is more commonly known as ‘Catnip’ – because cats for some reason like the plant so much that they roll in it. Catnip like Citronella has a very distinctive smell that mosquitoes and flies find offensive. Though it is not as effective as Citronella, planting Catnip at the sides of the patio or seating area or on the steps etc will reduce the extent of mosquitoes in your garden. Catnip is very easy to grow and is related to the “mint” family. Catnip is also said to have a calming effect and is used against insomnia (sleeplessness), headaches like migraine etc. The plant also has little showy white flowers with pink strains for some time of the year.
3. Lemon Grass
Similar to Citronella in the way it looks, lemongrass or Cymbopogon Citratus/ Cymbopogon Citriodora is a citrus smelling grass. It is an insect repellent and it is planted similar to Citronella in the garden to keep the mosquitoes away. Lemongrass is used as a flavoring in food and beverages – particularly in Asian cuisines. It is also used as a fragrance in soaps and cosmetics.
Lemongrass grows unbridled so buying just one plant would do. It grows fast and spreads easily. You can then separate the clumps and plant them in a different place.
Lavender or Lavandula is grown widely for its flowers, the essential oil of which is distilled and used for making perfumes, creams and various other cosmetic products. The smell also has a calming effect. The Lavender plant is an annual with flowers only blooming for a short time in a year. The plant needs medium shade to full sun and can also be grown in a wide container in a sunny balcony. Lavender keeps bugs and flies away and you can crush the flowers and apply it on your skin for added effect.
Marigolds are Annuals with pretty and strong smelling flowers which act as an insect repellent as well as a pest controller. In companion gardening, Marigolds are often planted alongside Tomato plants as they repel the pests that usually attack the tomato plants. Marigolds should be planted at the entrance of the house or near the gates to ward off insects and pests. They prefer full sunlight and are annual. Once dry the flowers need de-heading to encourage new flower growth. New plants grow easily through the seeds in the dry flowers – and the seeds can be stored for new germination.
Did you know that very often greens that we buy in shops (spinach, Coriander, Mint etc) are not grown in full fledged fields but in unhygienic places like near gutters/ sewers, along the river side etc.? Chances of falling sick after eating these greens is very high. One would have to follow the strictest cleaning procedures for them to be ok for consumption and even then you can’t be sure.
One of the ways we can avoid this is by growing our own greens. Growing green leafy vegetables and herbs is the most rewarding of all vegetable gardening experiences as they grow fast – from seed to harvest taking as less as 30 days at times. We will look at 4 greens that can be grown easily without much effort.
Different Greens that you can grow at home and the care required
There is a wide variety of greens that you can grow at home. Greens grow equally well in containers as their root system is not very deep and I prefer containers as they can be transported anywhere. Also this way they are away from my pets trampling over them.Some of the ones you can start with are Spinach, Lettuce, Leaf Amaranth and some daily herbs like Mint, Fenugreek, Basil, Coriander, Parsley.
Spinach grows so easily and effortlessly at home. You can grow it in any container that’s at least 6 inches deep and a feet wide. Spinach likes a lot of sun but not too much that it burns the leaves. So plant it in semi-sun or an area which receives sun for about 4-5 hrs a day. Spinach is hence very well suited for balcony gardening too. Spinach seeds are small, black and really tiny. You can sow these seeds in a container with just coco peat or a mixture of coco peat, compost and red mud, cover it with a tiny layer of and water just to keep the soil moist. You will be able to see tiny seedlings in 2-3 days and within a month, you would have bright green Spinach leaves ready for harvest. Harvest the outer big leaves and leave the small ones inside to grow. If you keep planting fresh seeds every month, you never would have to buy Spinach again.
Iceberg Lettuces or Crisp Head lettuces need cool weather so don’t think of growing them in harsh summer conditions. They also need ample sunlight and good watering. It is a good idea to first grow the seedlings indoors under partial sunlight and then once the first 3-4 leaves appear, thin the seedlings or spread them out into the container each one about 10 inches away from the other. The distance between the seedlings is absolutely important for the Iceberg Lettuce as it needs space for the head to grow. As the plants grow, give them a dose of compost tea or some organic manure introduced at the sides of the tray. Water them well and when the head is formed and is between the size of an apple and a coconut, you can harvest them – this takes approximately 45 days but can vary. If you’ve planted many lettuces, you can space the harvesting to just make sure you don’t end up with all fully grown lettuces harvested on one day.
Leaf Amaranth is very similar to Spinach in the way it is grown only that it is hardier than spinach and resists medium to harsh sunlight. The leaves are used just like spinach and can be used in chinese cuisine for stir fry dishes and soups. Indian cooking uses them for oh so many dishes and the tangy leaves just lend enough flavor to your dish. Scatter the seeds similar to spinach in the container with the potting mixture. Cover with a thin amount of soil or potting medium – the usual logic is that one should cover the seed with soil for about three times the size of the seed. Since the Amaranth seed is just a tiny dot, you would need a very thin layer of soil. Sowing to harvest time is again just 30 days.
Fenugreek or Methi (Azadirachta indica) is very easy to grow again and the average Indian doesn’t even have to go buy seeds for it. Methi seeds that we use for cooking at home can be used for growing Methi/Fenugreek plants. Fenugreek is used for a number of indian dishes. The leaves are slightly bitter and the cut and grow back method doesn’t usually work here. One can harvest as soon as 2-3 weeks post sowing and the whole plant is plucked out in most cases. Small thinnings of the plant are used for certain dishes and salads while the grown plant is used widely. The leaves are also often dried out in the sun and the resultant crushed powder is called ‘Kasoori Methi” which is used for seasoning.
All gardens at some time or the other are plagued by pests. If left unattended, these pests will slowly but surely destroy your plant friends. If you are reading this, please congratulate yourself first on opting for the Organic way of getting rid of garden pests. It is but the best way to preserve biodiversity.