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What is a Sustainable Garden?

Sustainable garden at a rooftop.

What is a Sustainable Garden and its meaning

What is a Sustainable Garden. Many of us like gardening and there are talks about Sustainable Garden. For some people, this can be a very satisfying experience. Plants are very grateful, in the sense that a little care brings forth excellent results. For professional breeders and gardeners, a beauty of the garden lies in its bountiful bloom. To achieve these ends, often breeders choose mechanisms that may ultimately harm the landscape. The health of the plants determines the health of the soil. If the soil loses its quality, plants will suffer. This is where the concept of a sustainable garden comes into play. Anybody can develop a sustainable garden using minimum inputs, mimicking the natural way of things.

Fewer inputs does not mean poor produce in a sustainable garden

Many of us think that to get a stellar output, we need to pump in a lot of supplements. While this may be true in the short term, we often forget that

What is a Sustainable Garden

doing this may ultimately harm the soil. The land is endowed with a limited amount of resources. Water and nutrients have been accumulated in the soil over millennia. However, these resources are adequate to support the existing flora and fauna. These creatures have learned to adapt themselves to the soil profile. So you may not get a supernatural outcome every time. But the product will come regularly.

What is a Sustainable Garden and its Benefits

A sustainable garden has many advantages. To begin with, this is an environmentally appropriate way of gardening. Limiting artificial inputs ensures unaltered soil profile. Soil conditions determine much of the ecosystem. An ecosystem comprises of not only the plants in the garden but also micro-organisms, insects, pollinators, animals, and birds. Each of them has a role to play in the sustenance of the ecosystem. Sustainable gardening ensures that each of these members of the ecosystem gets to retain its home.

Following these practices has far-reaching consequences. Normal tilling and utilization of the soil ensures that the resources last longer. Also, this offers replenishment of the resources. One should remember that replenishment takes much longer than replacement. Also, without restocking, growing subsequent generations will require more inputs, thus increasing more costs and more efforts.

How can you develop a sustainable garden?

A sustainable garden needs good planning right from the beginning. This begins with developing a sustainable landscape, wherein the land is designed in a way which requires minimum artificial interference. The best to go about sustainable gardening is to use indigenous flora and fauna. The existing foliage is always the best suited to grow on a piece of land. If all gardening activities limit the use of machinery and chemicals, then it gives more sustainable output. Sometimes organic options do not work on pests. We can use artificial means to treat diseases and harmful pests.

A sustainable garden is a holistic solution to the problem of pollution. This is an excellent way to stay connected to nature. This understanding also helps us to view our existence as a part of this earth, not as a reaper, but as a contributor.

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How do you increase the alkalinity of soil pH fast?

Effect of soil pH on various factors.How do you increase the alkalinity of soil pH fast? Alkalinity. Soil acidity comprises 2 parts – active and reserve acidity. Active acidity is the pH of the current soil. Reserve acidity is the pH held by organic matter, nutrients and clay. When active acidity is neutralized, reserve acidity replaces it. So we need to counter both of them to increase the alkalinity of the soil. A soil test provides an effective solution based on these values. Based on the recommendations you can choose an appropriate amendment to make your soil alkaline. But before proceeding, take a pH test to confirm that the soil is indeed, in need of an amendment.

Lime

Generally, limestone is an effective soil amendment. But it is slow acting. When the particles become fine, the process is fast. Finer particles are available in various forms:

Lime and its role in changing soil pH
  • Fluid Lime also called liquid lime or suspension lime or flow-able limestone can raise soil pH rapidly. Finely ground agricultural lime is suspended in an equal proportion of water to form liquid lime. It is easier to spread uniformly through an irrigation system. So it acts quickly, but is ideal for a small garden. For a large area, it is costly and requires frequent use. About 500 pounds of lime and 500 pounds of water is required for an acre. Since only 50% lime is present, quantity of fluid lime required is double the amount of dry lime.
  • Pelletized lime is also finely ground lime compressed to form pellets or granules. It is water soluble and acts fast in increasing soil pH. It is easy to spread the pellets. A minimum of about 25 pounds of pelletized lime is required for 1,000 square feet land. Water the soil after applying lime.

Pearl Ash

It is also known as potash or potassium carbonate. It is water soluble and can be used in your irrigation system. Using Potash satisfies the high potassium requirement of some plants. Use about 2 to 5 pounds for an acre. Keep the pH of the resulting solution below 7.5 pH. Otherwise the pipes will get clogged. Use a high-nitrate fertilizer that contains calcium and magnesium before or after applying potash. It will remove the excess potassium content and restore mineral balance in the soil. It is a highly effective, fast option to raise the soil pH.

Wood Ash

Wood ash is used to increase alkalinity of the soil pH.

It is a cost-effective, efficient, organic method. Don’t use wood subjected to chemical process like painting. Spread ash on the soil and mix it well. Avoid contact with roots or other plant parts. Water the soil, to start the reaction. Ideal recommendation is 20 pounds of wood ash (same as lime) per 1,000 square feet of soil per year. Amount may vary with your soil type and soil pH. In general, it very quickly raises the soil pH and is long-lasting. So, don’t add it to neutral or alkaline soil.

Conclusion

Generally pH changes with irrigation and fertilizer usage. Therefore, in addition to the above measures increase the alkalinity of the water used for irrigation, use basic fertilizer to maintain the achieved pH. Test the soil pH after each amendment. Follow the product instructions for store-bought products. Soil pH and soil type varies with each region. So there is no definitive solution. Choose a method based on the availability and your requirements.

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What should I grow in my Vegetable Garden?

Vegetables in your gallery or on terrace

What should I grow in my Vegetable Garden? Vegetables grown in your own Vegetable Garden will be fresh, succulent, and free of chemicals. But planning a Vegetable Garden is not an easy task. Every plant has its own needs – sunlight, water, soil, climatic conditions, etc. So we should consider all these factors and the size of our Vegetable Garden, before growing the plants.

Sunshine duration needed in your Vegetable Garden

Plants require minimum 6-8 hours of sunlight to prepare food. Some plants like tomato, pepper, eggplant, okra, beans, etc. require maximum sunlight exposure to thrive well. Salad greens like spinach, root vegetables like carrot, beets, herbs like parsley, oregano, require only 4-6 hours of sunlight. Ginger grows well in indirect sunlight. Plan your vegetables based on the sunny and shady areas in your garden.

Water

Water requirements also vary with plants in your Vegetable Garden. Some plants are drought-resistant, they need very less water once they pass embryonic stages.  E.g. sweet potato, peppers, corn, squash, some varieties of tomato, watermelon, etc. Herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, legumes like tepary beans, black-eyed peas, pole beans, etc. also have only low water need. Others like cauliflower, onion, potato, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, celery, herbs like coriander, mint etc. grow well only with adequate watering. So even if you have desert-like dry conditions in your region, try the heat-resistant varieties of vegetables for your Vegetable Garden.

Soil structure

Root crops like Carrots, potatoes, beet, turnip, require well-drained, loose soil and can grow even in sandy soil. Cabbage, cauliflower, beans, leafy vegetables, etc. grow in well-aerated, moist soil. Most vegetables require loamy soil to penetrate their roots in search of water, nutrients and to breathe. Some plants like Radish can grow even on rocky grounds. Even after mixing sand to your clay soil, if it does not dry, you can try other vegetables. Leafy vegetables like varieties of spinach, cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, grow in clay soil. For waterlogged areas where drying is impossible, try growing watercress, taro, American groundnut, and arugula in your Vegetable Garden.

Temperature

Frost destroys vegetables like eggplant, pepper, melon, and okra. So it is best suited for growing in hot climatic conditions. Onions, garlic take a very long time (annual – a year) to grow. But they can survive cold conditions. Some other plants that love cool temperatures are broccoli, carrot, Swiss chard, cilantro, radish, peas, etc. Fast-growing plant varieties like zucchini, spring radish can be harvested within 1 or 2 months of sowing. So, irrespective of the climatic conditions you can still grow a Vegetable Garden if you choose the right veggies.

Vegetable Garden Area

Shallots, garlic, ginger, herbs like oregano, basil, etc. occupy very less space, and can be grown even in containers. While heavy runners, creepers like watermelon, pumpkin, squash, etc. will cover your whole garden, some vertical climbers like pole beans, peas, cucumbers can be grown in limited space with proper support. You can grow corn in a large garden or when you have bigger space on the terrace. Plants like lettuce, spinach, etc. when directly sown in the garden, fill up a lot of space while growing. Similarly, space out root vegetables like carrot, beets, etc. so that their roots can develop in a small space.

Productivity

Nutrient-rich products for health can be grown in your garden

Plants like dill, cilantro, mustard, fennel, sow themselves and are high yielding. Similarly, plants like tomato, squash, green beans and carrot have a high success rate in any soil. You do not always have to buy seeds and saplings for your garden. you can even use vegetable scraps to create your garden. Waste like root base of carrot, green onions, stems of basil, celery, avocado pits; you can place them in water and regrow. In addition to this, you can place half sliced potato, garlic clove, and ginger in moist soil.

Conclusion of what should I grow in my Vegetable Garden

In the end, it is best to grow, what we consume on a regular basis. Grow the food that you like the most. With the availability of raised beds, container and indoor gardening (with supplementary lights), anyone can have a flourishing Vegetable Garden if maintained well.

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How Do I make My Own Organic Fertilizer?

Making Own Organic Fertilizer. Food and water are the basis for our survival. But with genetic modification, growth hormones and toxic chemicals used in cultivation – nutritional value of our intake is deteriorating. So, the world is shifting towards organic farming (use of organic fertilizer) to promote healthy eating. Even nations like UAE, with less rainfall and dry environment, are using innovation and technology to carry out farming. So why not make your own  organic fertilizer.

Components of organic fertilizer

The Way Ahead in making Own  Organic Fertilizer

Organic farming uses only naturally sustainable methods and products. Traditional methods that are harmless to our health and earth, are used with some scientific improvisation. Some of the techniques employed in Organic farming are,

  • Use of organic fertilizers like compost, etc.
  • Change of crops to enrich the soil
  • Reduction of weed growth through mulching, digging, etc.
  • Use of natural pesticides
  • Use of traditional farm tools

If you make your own  organic fertilizer. you create Wealth out of waste

Bio-degradable waste when discarded decomposes and emits greenhouse gases, which cause global warming, pollution, etc. So to reduce the waste sent to the dump yard, we should recycle or process it. Some easily available items that can be processed into Organic fertilizer under controlled environment are,

  • Treated Manure – waste of cattle, sheep, poultry and other farm animals
  • Chemical-free crop residue, lawn trimmings, foliage, etc.
  • Household waste – vegetable & fruit scraps, egg shells, coffee & tea residue, paper, wood, etc.

You can make your own  organic fertilizer by Composting process

Select a ventilated place with adequate sunshine but with partial shade. You can compost in a pit, or bin or compactor. Place 1 inch of straw in the base. Gather your waste items in the compost – ideally, carbon-rich items like newspaper, dried leaves are mixed with green waste for carbon-nitrogen balancing. Sprinkle little water. If your pile is too dense, add sawdust, cardboard, etc. to allow air flow. Leave it for few days for microbial action. Constantly check the temperature (pile will gradually heat up), odor and moisture content (not sopping wet nor dry). If the compost temperature drops suddenly or if it emits a foul odor, it’s time to turn your pile to allow air flow. When the pile changes into a dark soil like form, your fertilizer is ready. Mix it with your garden soil and plant 2-3 weeks later or just cover your soil with the fertilizer.

You can make your own organic fertilizer by Vermi composting process

Vermicomposting is composting done using earth “worms”. Unlike composting, it requires moderate temperature, wet bedding for the worms to thrive. Therefore, avoid a large pile and keep worm-bins in a shady area like inside of the house. First, add wet newspaper or cardboard followed by wet soil to the worm bins. Add food scraps; leave it for a couple of days, before introducing the worms. Worms will aerate the pile, so you don’t have to turn it. If you have a large pile, first compost it to kill the germs at high temperature and then proceed with vermicomposting in numerous small worm-beds.

Liquid Fertilizers

While organic fertilizers act slowly, liquid fertilizers provide quick nourishment to the soil. Mix manure or any green waste with water. Leave water with manure for 3-4 days (after this it emits a nasty smell); Green waste for 2 weeks. Stir occasionally. The nutrients from the waste seep into the water. Remove only the concentrated liquid. Mix the liquid fertilizer with adequate water and spray it on the roots of the plant. Make a fresh batch whenever needed with manure; Plant concentrate can be stored for few days.

Organic fertilizer is a mixture of day to day waste

Conclusion

Making own organic fertilizer is ecologically sustainable, affordable methods of creating fertilizer anywhere. Since the type of soil, the nature of plants, weather conditions vary with the place, the amount of organic fertilizer that can be used can only be determined by a soil test. So make your own organic fertilizer

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How do you fertilize the soil with organic fertilizer or chemical fertilizer

 

Organic methods of soil enrichment

How do you fertilize the soil. Fertilizers supply the essential nutrients to the soil. Hence, they are vital to fertilize the soil. When the soil in your garden is not naturally rich, add fertilizer to improve the plant growth and yield. Nutrients are released from the fertilizers, depending on the microbial activity, temperature, moisture content, and pH of the soil. Hence take a soil test to determine the condition of your soil. All the fertilizers contain basic components – nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, and some minerals and micronutrients like zinc, copper, magnesium, sulfur, etc.

Types of Fertilizers to fertilize the soil

You can choose one or more fertilizer to fertilize the soil based on your requirement.

  • Chemical: These synthetic fertilizers can give you the immediate result but will deteriorate the soil in the long run. They are available as granules or in a powdery form. Use it for some cool season vegetables like lettuce and radish for fast-release of nutrients and quick harvesting.
  • Slow-release: These granular fertilizers release the nutrients slowly into the soil and provide long-term results. They have fewer chances of getting washed away by rain. It is ideal for raised bed gardens, container gardens, and flowering plants. E.g. Methylene Urea, Urea Formaldehyde
  • Controlled-release: These inorganic fertilizers are concentrated and are highly effective in increasing the yield. Temperature and soil conditions do not affect their performance. Ideal for lawn and flowering plants and vegetable, fruit garden.
  • Covered: These fertilizers are protected by an outer polymer, plastic or resin coat and nutrients are released gradually to the soil. Water and temperature affect the rate of nutrient release. Ideal for lawn, raised bed, inclined planes of the garden even during rain. E.g. Nutricote, Osmocote, etc.

    Organic Matter in Soil

  • Natural Organic: Commercially bought or prepared at home as compost or manure, organic fertilizers are an ideal choice. Though they release the nutrients slowly, they improve the soil quality steadily and are environmentally safe. Until these organic fertilizers break down, add slow release or controlled release fertilizers to the soil. Special organic fertilizers are available for lawn, container garden, roses, tomato, etc. For flower and fruit trees, add bone meal or soft-rock phosphate, blood meal or organic alfalfa meal, alfalfa pellets.
  • Liquid: Chemical or naturally organic, liquid fertilizers immediately provide nutrients to the plant. Organic fertilizers include compost tea, seaweed, etc. There is regular use of liquid in container gardens. E.g. Nitrosol

Propagation Types

There are several methods of applications of fertilizers in the garden. Following paragraphs discuss them below.

  • Broadcast application – For lawns, or any large garden, before planting or sowing, spread dry fertilizer using tools like, hand rotary, etc. Till or water it into the soil.
  • Deep Soil Application – Till the soil to a depth. Mix dry fertilizer or organic manure well with the soil using a rototiller or plow.
  • Top dress application – Place granular fertilizer or organic matter around the base of the plants or as a strip in row planting. It is ideal for shrubs, perennials, vegetables.
  • Base application – Apply Liquid or water-soluble fertilizer at the base of the plant and water it. The water absorbs nutrients hence, liquid fertilizers are more suitable for container and trees.
  • Foliar Application – For reviving the plant immediately, apply diluted liquid fertilizer directly on the leaves of the plant. Opt for this when the soil is too dry for transmitting nutrients or when the leaves are wilting. Ideally used for vegetable and fruit plants.

Conclusion

Fertilize your soil before planting or sowing the seeds, preferably with organic matter. This will give the soil ample amount of time to absorb the nutrients. You cannot change things once you finish planting, so plan ahead and nurture your soil. How do you fertilize the soil