02 November 2010

Double whammy

This year we had an extended southwest monsoon. Before it got over, Bangalore was hit by the northeast  monsoon. So my garden has taken a double hit. With winter nearing, the sun is hidden behind a tall building, whose owners have been thoughtless enough to build right up to our garden wall. Deprived of sun, the garden and balcony plants upstairs are infested by mealy bug. Today our part-time gardener, Nagaraj, is giving everything a neem-oil spray -- the task is too much for me.

Even the fire bush, which is usually pest-free, has a bad case of mealy bug. It's being pruned and then sprayed. I had to overrule my husband, who forbade Nagaraj from pruning it on his last visit. Today, Nagaraj brought a fire bush sprig to show me how bad the infestation was. I asked him to prune it immediately, but he still checked with me twice if it was ok with 'Sahib'. I told him Sahib had been informed of the crisis and there was no danger of an eruption from him.

It's interesting that Nagaraj calls my husband 'Sahib'. In south India, honorifics like 'Anna' (elder brother) and 'Amma' (mother) have always been used. In these more egalatarian times, even in the more-feudal north, 'Sir', 'Madam', 'Didi' (older sister) have replaced Sahib and Memsahib. Nagaraj has a north-Indian bent -- speaks fluent Hindi -- and so calls me 'Maaji' (respected Mother) instead of Amma. My daughter's household help in Delhi, on the other hand, feeling that 'Maaji' doesn't suit my tinted locks and jeans-clad look, just call me 'Mummy' -- sometimes 'Mummyji' when they feel I deserve extra respect.

No pics this time; garden in too depressing a condition.

29 October 2010

Tomato harvest

I harvested the last of the tomatoes today. I will now have to start a new lot; the old ones are shaggy and mealy bug-ridden.

The only other plant giving us a regular harvest is the curryleaf, which we use everyday for cooking

I would have been looking forward to a mandarin harvest, and making marmalade from them, if so many of the green fruit hadn't been taken by birds/rats/whatever. Every time I go to the shrub, more green fruit have been taken.

Meanwhile, the heliconia golden torch blooms have matured and developed what looks like seed formations. Are these seeds or something else?

The sun has deserted Bangalore so I am going to wait for a while before I start the next lot of tomatoes, chillies, lettuce and brinjal. Hope I have better results this time.

09 October 2010

Accidental harvest

While re-staking some tomatoes, I broke the stem of two that were heavier than I realised. So I had an accidental harvest. While I was about it, I also took another harvest of the poi saag. Husband likes the taste of the raw poi saag leaves and wants me to try making them into a salad.

If anyone knows this plant's name, please let me know

We've had heavy rain and overcast skies for days in Bangalore and so only a few perennial bloomers like the dancing lady begonia are managing to bloom. Other prolific bloomers like the coral vine are putting out only a few flowers. But today we noticed that a plant I don't know the name of is putting out its little purple flowers--you can just about see one right at the bottom of the picture.  If anyone knows this plant's name, please let me know.

My husband took this shot and also got one of the patio and a corner of the garden. You can't see the potted plants on the patio properly because my maid has lined them up like soldiers on parade. Husband and I arrange them nicely but when she cleans the patio she puts them all back into their strict line-up.

I want to seed some petunias, white and red radishes, chilies and some more tomatoes but am waiting for the sun to make a comeback.

24 September 2010

A harvest and feast with thanks to our expert bloggers

Today I want to thank three people who have benefited me a lot with their steadfast blogging and great advice: Raj Panda of Organic Kitchen Gardening, Mani of geekgardener, and Raji of the food blog Talimpu.

I picked some poi saag leaves from a creeper grown from seedlings Raj gave me and made some fritters with them for lunch, using a recipe from the Talimpu blog (http://www.talimpu.com/2010/09/16/mixed-greens-fritters/). The recipe is for mixed green fritters but I used only the poi saag because it was the first time we were eating it and I wanted to know how it tasted. It was wonderful -- mild and sweet, maybe how lettuce tastes when it's cooked but I'm not sure that's the right description. Next I will try a poi saag recipe I got from a blog on Oriya cooking. If Raj sees this post, maybe he'll send me his family recipe!

Poi saag plant 

Leaves washed and drained -- some are as big as my hand

Poi saag fritters

The next harvest will be of marmande tomatoes for which I need to thank Raj for the seeds and Raj and Mani for their fabulous workshop at which I learned how to properly grow vegetables in containers. I would  never have got the results below without their expert advice.

Flowers in my garden this September

Nothing spectacular to report  but my pink hibiscus is putting up a good show (for my sun-deprived garden anyway) so I thought I'd record it. And while doing so, I decided to record the other blooms in my garden this September.

Pink hibiscus

Heliconia golden torch


The pink wall you see behind the plants is the bane of my life. It cuts out most of the sun from my garden.

On the patio I have:

Voilets . . .

. . . and perennial bloomer dancing lady begonia

Finally, not a flower but a sight that gladdens my heart:

Mandarin orange

The strange thing about the mandarin orange is that some creature seems to be picking off the fruit when they are tiny. A lot of them come out but only a few survive (and there are none fallen below). When the same plant was in a bed next to my patio, I used to get enough fruit to make marmalade. The monkeys leave this fruit alone; they must know it's very bitter. I can't imagine what creature would want to feed on these bitter fruit unless it's some type of bird. If anyone has any idea, do let me know.

10 September 2010

Linking to a wonderful garden: Elephant's Eye: September garden walk and our beginning

Elephant's Eye: September garden walk and our beginning


As in an earlier post, this time I'm keeping a perspective on my gardening attempts instead of just lamenting my lack of success with vegetables. (At the moment, the only veg growing well are some marmande tomatoes.)

Today there was some rare sun in this monsoon season so I got a few pictures. I also took a 'perspective' shot of a corner of the garden and got in one of some plants I'm growing in water in my living room. This is to keep some moisture in the air for some antique Chinese furniture, of which  you can see a red cabinet in the picture. The wire at the base of the bowl is for a small electric motor that keeps the water bubbling to prevent mosquitoes. The plants don't show up well enough in the picture, unfortunately.

Bamboo, elephant's ear and spider plant growing in water

Dracena and clerodendron enjoying the sun

Philodendron in the sun

Clerondendron tangling with the bamboo  
(looks less untidy in real life)

Philodendron and money plant starting to fill up the trellis
(nothing else will grow since it's a shady area)

A corner of the garden with a 'rustic' gate, palms and other greenery

Schefflera, monstera, heliconia and star jasmine sharing a bed

31 August 2010

'Rejoiced' too soon . . .

. . . the cucumber is dying. Not surprising since the vine is more or less dead already.

I'm just going to dust my hands of this episode and replace it with passion fruit vine. That will not only look good but cover my makeshift support, just a nylon net thrown over a line. I've been successful with growing passion fruit in the garden but had to give up because the monkeys raided all the fruit. My sister has grown passion fruit successfully on her balcony, although the fruit were small. But that doesn't matter because it's the magnificent flowers I want. It will be a bonus if some fruit appear and are not looted by the hateful monkeys.

A consolation is that the tomatoes are putting up a fight against the lack of sun and constant rain. Here's a marmande. There are very few on the vine but enough to cheer me up.

Fingers crossed for the passion fruit. Will look up timings for planting on the Net.

14 August 2010

Voila . . .

. . . a cucumber. The only one so far. It's been out for some days but I wasn't well enough to photograph it until today.

First cucumber

The cucumber vine itself isn't doing too well; leaves are dying off although strong tendrils remain. I've decided to just watch and wait. Maybe this is just a stage of growth or the vine throwing out one fruit in its last gasp. This cucumber plant has put me through too much. I've decided to remain detached -- give the plant what it seems to need but not get emotionally involved in its fate.

On a more joyous note, my two hydrangea plants are blooming. Other bloggers in Bangalore and elsewhere have reported and posted pics of hydrangea blooming so this must be its season.

Pink hydrangea
The pink colour shows that the hydrangea is growing in basic, not acidic, soil. There are tips on how to get blue hydrangeas but I'm not going to try them. Will probably just kill the hydrangea.

My calladiums seem to be dying out so I'm off to the nursery to get another lot. This time I will ask for growing tips and see what I can learn on the Internet instead of planting them and hoping for the best with just routine feeding and watering.

31 July 2010

The foxes' wedding and the monkeys' dance

It was one of those times when it's raining and the sun is shining at the same time. As kids, we were told that this is known as the foxes' wedding and the monkeys' dance. The light cast on my philodendrons and firebush was so beautiful, I had to try and capture it.

I got a good approximation with the philodendrons.

But I'm not sure I got close enough to the real thing with the firebush.

26 July 2010

Unappreciated stalwarts - instalment two

I have another strip of  'garden' -- two long beds along the driveway of our building and a corner with huge palms, planted with calladiums, an agave and what I call maranta but I've been told is another calathea. The plants here are also doing well -- though I haven't given them much thought lately. I do regularly feed everything, check for pests and spray soap solution as needed, so they're not neglected and do reward the attention.

Heliconia and monstera

Monstera and schefflera

Spider plant in a box

Star jasmine

I have recently replanted the area around the palms so it's looking bare. That's why I haven't photographed everything together. I hope that once the calladiums are well established, this will be a pretty corner.
Maranta or calathea


Agave hidden by the maranta

Unappreciated stalwarts

All the while I've been lamenting the slow progress of my vegetable plants, other plants in my garden have been thriving, unseen and unsung. I did post a picture of the coral vine the other day, but only today I noticed what a lovely group it makes with two draecena growing next to it. Another corner of my (tiny) garden has a group of ferns --  that make a better picture than the one I've taken.

Coral vine and draecena

Fern corner
The unsightly wall behind the ferns is to be painted. I hate to think about what this may mean for my plants. I can sacrifice the clinging ivy but it will be hard for the painters to get at the walls without harming the other plants.

The curry leaf plant is also thriving and, although the crown of thorns plants next to it remain stunted due to lack of sun, they flower all the time. 
Curry leaf, crown of thorns and fern

The vegetables are still struggling gamely. The tomato plants are growing tall, trying to reach the sun, and the cucumber plant has reached the grill enclosing the balcony (the picture will show that I don't have picturesque backdrops for any of my plants). I didn't have the heart to pull the cucumber away from the grill today but will have to prevent it from shutting out the sun for the other plants. Will rig up my own support since the carpenter has clearly abandoned us.

Tomato and cucumber reaching for the sun

The chili plant gave a good harvest today, just before it's jettisoned for the new lot I plan to start soon. Perhaps knowing this, a stray tomato plant is growing vigorously in the same pot as another dying chili plant. I will give the tomato its own pot tomorrow.

Chili harvest

Tomato usurping chili plant's space