Thursday, June 19, 2014

Composting I do

A new batch of Free first-aid course in homeopathy had started.  Its venue was our house, year was about 2002 or 2003 and the weekly evening lectures were attended by a number of persons, every Saturday.

One such evening, I was sipping tea under our fiddlewood tree sitting on the stone bench as was my wont.  It was well before the start of the lecture.   Attendees had started to arrive.  One person who had been attending saw me sitting there as he arrived.  He recognized me and I recognized him as Ramesh [Kikkeri], my high school classmate.  We were face to face after nearly 30 years.  A very happy reunion happened.

Ramesh was a renown mischievous lad in those days and of the adventurous type.  Everyone used to envy him just because his house faced the school gate, but milder ones were somewhat afraid of him just because he was of the always-up-to-something sort.

It did not take much time for us to know the many things we had in common as we began to meet often outside the lecture days.

Old picture, house and my garden in 'that portion'. 

One evening before the lecture, he came and sat beside me as I was sipping tea again.  The fiddlewood tree had dropped hundreds of tiny flowers.  I had swept them aside into a pile.  This caught his attention. “What a fine manure you have there!” he exclaimed.  Till that time, I was simply spreading them to the base of plants without actually knowing its value to soil.  "Just put there, it will become manure" was what all I knew.  Ramesh opened my eyes on 'composting'.  The subject was also latent in me.  But I came to know several other related things that I did not know before.  This was to change the way I garden.  I had just then become part of Dave's Garden and there was some scope for me to know more on the web.   

Another Fiddlewood tree in my portion on the right, Almond tree on the left.  See fallen flowers. Most recent picture.

Just about that time, another old friend and schoolmate Ramaswamy, whose house is in a vast plot full of greenery, became 'more friend'!  Because he, Ramesh and I all seemed to be having the same interests but they were already veterans in subjects like rain water harvesting, energy conservation, environment protection, plants, trees and more.  They had gained practical experience which I never imagined and I never had, because of their engineering background.

I began to observe in Ramaswamy's garden how he did not waste the branches, leaves and other things.  I learnt more from him about how they break down and contribute to the earth.  Why not I too do such things I thought, because I had some space then.  I had stopped thinking of using inorganic manure which I earlier used sparingly.  There was a huge load of dry leaves and other organic material from the trees at my disposal in our plot.

Pictured before the almond tree was reduced to half its height.  This is just about half the volume! 

That is ONE LEAF!

I dug up a large pit and started to dump all the huge leaves from the almond tree that shed twice a year.  I had to compress them with my weight into the pit. They were just dry leaves, the 'brown matter' as I learnt long later.  Listening to the farmers’ programme on radio gave me more insight that 'green matter' also contributes to composting.  The matter in that pit was ready in 6 months.  I used to remove and stock it for my potted plants. The stuff was just like soil!  I was amazed the first time I dug up the mature contents!  Wow, I can create soil!! I also stopped burning up the dry leaves to dispose them, once I realized the value of this ‘green gold’, as one attendee of a later course expressed and asked me if he could have some for his garden.  I happily gave him many bags of them as I had so much extra!

Just to show the other half portion of the plot, picture 2013. Click to enlarge.

The plot underwent a division issue and my garden became half.  Things became easier to manage our yard, but still the almond leaves became a problem due to lack of space to compost them.  So I got the top half of the big almond tree cut down – to reduce the amount of leaves.  The place I used to do became no longer mine.  See above picture.

I had seen how Ramaswamy composted his kitchen waste and other 'brown matter'.  I too did similar things to good effect. Ramesh is an organic farmer and an amazing fellow knowing many skills, always up to something as is his wont even now!  He was to build a fuel-efficient boiler/hearth in our house for which fabricator Ramaswamy made the steel drum. And more recently we jointly did the plumbing work for our house - on the outside!  Such is the versatility of Ramesh, but these are just a couple.

Ramesh, with his 125th hearth/boiler he built/designed, 2009.

I am now composting kitchen scrap and most organic matter including spent coffee and tea powder, in my small way that suffices my garden requirement.  I have made two small pits, each about 16x16x12 inches deep.  One will be active and one waits to break down.  I rotate the contents once in a while, but mostly I leave them as they are until the pit is full.  When the lovely black powdery compost is created, I transfer it into bags or directly on to flower beds - it takes about 2-3 months.   Results are nice.  Moreover, my soil gets added with organic matter. Earthworms love this and I need not tell about the value of earthworms to the quality of soil.  Composting has become a part of my gardening activity and worth every joule of effort!  There are a few methods of composting, but this is my method. Also through Ramaswamy and Ramesh, I came to know about Mysore's Pinjrapole Society which sells 'vermicompost'.  I have started to buy this also at times as a supplement to my own compost.

Bottom rectangle is where the two pits are.  Smaller squares above it are the places I had planned to move them when I reshaped the area.

This was just before I dug up the new pits just a couple of feet away. 

Flies and mosquitoes are attracted to compost.  Let them, but not to open shit!! 

Happy composting, happily composting!!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Senecio confusus - found and more

 I had been longing for this beautiful vine, ever since the one I pruned - probably too much - 5 years ago did not survive.  This is Senecio confusus, also known as Mexican Flame Vine and Orange Glow Vine.

Picture from 2007 when it was in its full glory.

Single flower from the cluster.

This is a favourite of the butterflies.  Here is a Blue Tiger enjoying its nectar. 

Seeds, but not known to be viable.  Yet, my Mexico-living friend Bev has success in germinating seeds.  I wonder is that why it is a 'Mexican Flame Vine'?  She has sent me seeds from her vine for me to try half way round the earth. The first batch I sowed failed.  I wanted to give it another try and waited for summer to end.  Just as it ended and I was getting the garden bed ready, I got that mail from Bev about her web search for Jaquemontia she wants to grow.  I have four of this blue vine of which I had sent photos to her.

So that Bev mail triggered my search for the Senecio on the web since it was not available in local nurseries.  This vine was sold some years ago and I saw this in many people's gardens too, but not now.  I wondered how people can overlook such a fine vine that does not ask for too much attention either.  

I landed at one supplier in Bangalore who was ready to supply. I waited before confirming my order.  I was off work and made use of this time to visit a nursery that I had not gone before, but had seen its presence in passing.   So went there, skipping my post-lunch-holiday nap.  It was Sampath Nursery on Bogadi Road.

After going round the vast collection of plants, I picked up a few plants and then asked the owner "Do you have Senecio...."  Before I completed, he completed the plant name "confusus, Senecio confusus, yes I have."  I was delighted, both in finding my plant and also the knowledge of the man with plant names.  He went a few steps and picked up one.  I bought two.  The man here is putting my plants in the cover I had carried. I bought Verbena [trailing], an Angelonia and one other which he named as Heliotrope, but it was not.  But he admitted that he was not sure.  I am still to find its name.  The lone flower had fallen off during my scooter-transit of 7 kms.

He is writing my bill.

The Bill.

 I had a place earmarked to grow Senecio near the wall.  I had all hopes of finding it 3 months ago.

I needed a small trellis for it to climb up the wall.  The 'ladder' was ready - a part of a crude arch I had got made in 2006.  I fastened a nylon net [an old piece from my cricket club net] to the 'ladder'.  The next morning, I planted the new vine in the ground as soon as the support was ready. 

The other Senecio went for the arch near the pond.  One side has Jaquemontia and the other has Morning Glory 'Grandpa Otts'.  Since this MG is short lived, I will now grow the Senecio here and grow  the MG anew in a pot. 

I sowed Zinnia and Cosmos seeds the next day once the Senecio was in place.  They sprouted nicely on the 3rd day.  Hopefully, the new season will have pleasing colours.  Bev has already dispatched a packet of Zinnia singles which she grew from the ones I had sent her.  So one portion of the bed is reserved for them -towards the far end of this bed.

Updates will follow in the coming posts.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Getting ready for 2014 season

Rains in April end and May brought out the lovely blue of Jaquemontia.  Taken early in the morning. 
Our milkman Subramanya calls this as 'blue lights' and is his favourite too.

Hemerocallis fulva bloomed nicely for 15-20 days.  A gift from a gardening friend in Jamshedpur, Jasmine who shares the same birth date.

Next to my pond I prepared this bed.  I had bought some plastic mesh to try for the purpose of growing small vines. I used two 'vine support poles' one of my earliest garden projects [10-12 years ago] to erect this mesh.  I planted volunteer seedlings of Cypress vine and Orange Morning Glory to grow on it. In the bed, I sowed seeds of Dwarf Cosmos along the kerb and in the centre, sowed a line of Marigold from seeds collected last year. 

Look beneath the green gate.  I replaced those 'hollow bricks' [left picture] with rocks [right picture] that I removed and needed a place to keep. 

The pot of Epidendrum had overgrown roots. See there, it has been kept ready for some attention.  It had not been repotted in many years and I think it is with me since almost 20 years now!  

I removed the excess growth of roots and spent plants.  The one half seen on the left and the one next to it were repotted last year.  They usually bloom between September and April - long duration.

I also cleaned the excess growth in the pond.  The old water lily plant had grown too big inside and it was removed.  The younger plants will take over.  Towards the bottom right, see how clear the water is.  It can get clearer. I removed the thin silt on the 'level' there so that we can get a good view of the small fishes. 

This small-pot stand was not being used properly.  I painted it and kept it beside the brick container [near the pond] and displayed the cacti and succulents - just a small number of them.  

That brick container that once held Evolvulus had been idle since a year.  Now I filled with seedlings of Fortnight lily and other plants.  Kept Hydrangea and Day Lily plants around it. This allows me to water all of them standing in one place!  Now this is an option for keeping some pots around.

Tomato cage is ready, pit is ready. I will use the small area near the edge to grow coriander. Have to find tomato seedlings.

Red whiskered Bulbul perches on the wedge I provided near the birdbath.  It is thinking of splashing into the water again. It just had one splash - the day was quite warm towards the end of May. 

The tailorbird picks up cotton I provide just for that.  Easy pickings for them as they need not waste time to search!  It has a nest in a leaf of the almond tree. 

Beds are ready for plants.Things are in place. 

Expecting monsoon to arrive any day.