Growing is fun

Nandini D

Everyone wishes to be happy and healthy. Gardening is a simple way of achieving both health and happiness. It can be taken up by any one at any age. Gardening enhances awareness of one’s surroundings, improves cognitive skills and provides an opportunity to appreciate nature, especially since most of us live in urban jungles. While nutrition gardens and eco-clubs are slowly making their way into schools, many are still unaware of the benefits of gardening. Therefore, starting with this issue Teacher Plus brings you a monthly column on gardening. Articles in this column will provide information about common plants and their use in daily life. Each article will focus on a set of activities and provide a broader scope for further learning.

Vivan, my neighbour’s son came to me asking for a glass of water. I was working in the balcony with my plants. I replied, “Why not dear, instead of just water, I can give you fresh fruit juice. Wait for a minute, I will wash my hands and come.”I kept my gardening tools aside and went to wash my hands. Vivan looked at the plants and said, “See plants in the balcony are drying up, scorching sun!” I replied to the 10-year-old, “Yes, Vivan it is summer, but it will rain soon, and the plants will revive.”After sipping lemon juice, Vivan picked up a cartoon book from the shelf in the room and started reading aloud. A few minutes later, cool breeze started blowing and suddenly we heard thunder.

The next day when I was repotting on the terrace, Vivan came in with his friends. They were curious at the way I was turning the pot and fixing the plant in the fresh container. Anand said, “I like to grow plants in my balcony too. Can you help me aunty? What kind of plants I can grow in my home?”

To make gardening interesting, I asked him, “Can you make a juice garden, Anand?” This stirred their curiosity. “Oh! How is it possible? What I must do for it?” Anand asked.

“Growing plants is easy and fun! If you grow, you can harvest and have fresh juice, soup, or salad too.” Anand, Vivan, Shilpa started shouting, “I will grow. I will grow plants. Tell us aunty, what to plant, how to do this.”

“I can show you how to grow and what to grow. I will give you seeds and saplings. Bring a few used plastic bottles, boxes, trays and pebbles to my house tomorrow.”

The next morning they were ready with containers and trays at my door. As they entered my balcony, they started asking about the seeds and plants they will get. I asked each of them to choose the kind of garden they wished to make – juice garden, soup garden, aroma garden. After a few rounds of discussion, they decided among themselves and asked me to start the demo.

“Ok, let us start our work with a few plants. Once you are familiar with the preparation, you can keep adding plants to your garden.”

Juice garden plants: Passion fruit (Passiflora edulis), Lemon (Citrus limon), Butterfly pea plant (Clitoria turnetia).

Soup garden plants: Amaranthus (Amaranthus spp.), Malabar spinach (Basela alba), Coriander (Coriandrum sativum).

Aroma garden plants: Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum), Night queen (Cestrum nocturnum), Coleus (Coleus aromaticus).

How to grow plants from seeds
• Take a plastic container, make a hole at the bottom.
• Place a few pebbles at the bottom of the container, so that extra water does not remain in the container.
• Add potting mixture, which is a combination of soil, sand, and compost (3:1:1).
• If you are using a small ice cream cup, make a 1/2 inch deep pit in the centre of the potting mixture and place a seed.
• If the container is bigger, you can sow 3-4 seeds two inches apart.

Example: Tulsi, Amaranthus, Butterfly pea plant, Passion fruit.

• To sow coriander, take a tray, mark parallel lines in the potting mixture with a stick two inches apart.
• Sow a single seed in a line.
• Cover it lightly with the potting mixture again. Sprinkle water twice a day. Avoid pouring water with force.
• When the seed germinates and produces four to six leaves, you can transfer it to a bigger container.

How to grow plants from stem cuttings
• Choose a large container, like a bucket. Take a pencil size thick stem of minimum three node length.
• Remove the leaves at the nodes on the lower side.
• Make at least one node length pit at the center of the container.
• Hold the stem slightly slanting and fill the potting mixture around it.

Example: Night queen, lemon

How to grow plants from plantlets
• Separate small plants along with roots.
• Take a pot and make a one inch deep pit at the center of the pot and place it.
• Cover the roots with potting mixture and sprinkle with water.
• Hang from the roof or tie to a railing or metal frame.
(Note: Bigger containers are better to grow lemon, climbers like Basela, Passion fruit, Butterfly pea plant.)

To make hanging pots with a water bottle, cut open bottle on the top or sideways (as shown in the picture) make a hole at the bottom and add the potting mixture. Tie a thread to the bottle, to hang it form a railing or a hook fixed to a support.

Vivan took the passion fruit seeds, lemon stem cutting and butterfly pea plant seeds.
Anand collected amaranthus seeds, spinach sapling and coriander seeds.
Shilpa took tulsi seeds, night queen stem and coleus plantlet.
As they started preparing the pots and trays, Shilpa asked, “When I can see the tulsi plant growing aunty?”
“You can see the germinating plants after two weeks. But do not forget to water every day. Keep the pots where they get proper sunlight.”
Anand asked when he could pluck the leaves to prepare soup.

“Anand, you can pluck coriander after two weeks, but spinach is a climber, so allow it to grow for a month. You can spread seeds of Amaranthus in a pot. After two weeks you can pull the young saplings and place them in a bigger container. After 40 days you can cut the top portion of the stem and leaves to make soup. The plant will grow again and spread out producing more branches and leaves.”

Plants in bottles and containers tied to a metal gate.

Vivan said, “I know lemon plant grows like a tree. It takes time to grow and bear fruit. But when can I pluck passion fruit aunty? What is this butterfly pea plant? How to make juice out of this?”

“Passion fruit plant takes time to grow. First it bears beautiful flowers, which will turn into fruit. You should wait for the butterfly pea plant to grow and produce purple flowers. You can make juice from the flower.”
“Oh! From flowers, I will invite you to show when it flowers aunty.”
Yes, you all can come here and join me to grow more plants, we can make juice and soup next week.

Note: The scientific names of plants are written in italics.

Suggested activities

  1. Make a list of common herbs around your house.
  2. Name the plants you can grow in your home.

References

  1. Ganesh Babu and Nandini D 2016, I love my Herbal Garden, FRLHT, Bengaluru
  2. Nandini D 2018, Sustainable Utilization of Medicinal plants – Biodiversity garden. Training Compendium. Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bangalore
  3. Nandini D 2018, Value addition & marketing of NTFP: Medicinal plants, Training Compendium, Institute of Wood Science and Technology, Bangalore

The author is a botanist. She has been involved in teaching and research for more than 25 years. Currently she is a Consultant for We Care Society (WCS), Bengaluru and serving as visiting faculty member at Research Institute of World’s Ancient Traditions Cultures and Heritage (RIWATCH), Roing, Arunachal Pradesh. She can be reached at [email protected].

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