MLK Quote

MLK Quote

Nature's Inspiration Movie -- Nature's Inspiration Movie: The photographs in this short video are from award-winning photographer, Ken Jenkins, and they are breathtaking. However, this video is much more than beautiful photographs! Peggy Anderson has compiled beautiful quotations from the likes of Emerson, Thoreau, and many others that truly capture the beauty of nature and solitude. Absolute must watch for nature lovers.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

How To Get Out of Winter Blues -- Tips For My Fellow Gardeners

I usually get winter blues, every year, as the gardening period comes to an end. This year is no exception. What is it in gardening that makes us happy? Is it because we are surrounded by green and genetically we are more accustomed to green (than any other color because of our forest/grassland dwelling ancestry)? Or is it because we are surrounded by sound, color, movement and beauty -- the buzzing of bees, chirping of birds; the fleeting color of butterflies; the swaying of grasses in the breeze; the vibrant displays of flowers? Or is it because we have so much work in the garden -- inspecting, mulching, pruning, deadheading, climbing, crawling, kneeling, standing -- that we do not get the time to be depressed?

If you think deeply, you realize that gardening should be a very depressing chore for all the various reasons:
  • It is hard-work; dragging all the heavy pots, mulches, compost across the garden is not a fun job.
  • Trees and perennials take time to reach maturity. Gardening needs patience. It does not give us instant gratification. As you put the plant in the ground and imagine how it will look in ten years time, other thoughts peeks from around the corner; "how will my life be after ten years?" "will I still be alive?" "will the people that I love be still around?" These are not joyful thoughts.
  • You become a mass-murderer of weeds; you are a serial-killer of seedlings of unwanted plants; you squeeze the life out of garden-destroying bugs without blinking you eyes. You are indeed a psychopath. You can never be happy.
  • You do not kill weeds and unwanted bugs; you refuse to take life. Well! your garden will never be like the ones shown on TV or in magazines. You can only long and day-dream for such gardens. How extraordinarily sad!!
  • You fall in love with a plant and then look at the price-tag......
  • Some of your favorite flowers bloom only for few hours; or a day. Their ephemeral beauty, their short stay remind you that our stay on this earth is also for a fleeting moment. You do not know where you have come from; you do not know where you will go at the end of your life; nothing is permanent in your life. We are just but temporary residents, doing some temporary activities. What's the use of anything, of gardening?

  • Despite all such melancholy thoughts, gardening always lifts me up. I become like the butterfly, fluttering across the garden, to drink-in all that it has to offer.

    I wait in anticipation for the plants to germinate, the seeds to arrive, and wild-lives playing hide-and-seek in my weed-ridden garden.

    To enjoy more of gardening I started doing, for the last two years, indoor-gardening. All of us can do this if we have either a basement or attic or some place somewhere in the house. It can even be a garage as long as the temperature is not freezing cold.

    I have it in our basement. Our basement is furnished (for my non-American friends, a furnished basement means it is like a proper room; it is not a damp, dark place where things are just dumped) and thus heated. If you want the plants to remain green and even bear fruits and flowers, then the temperature of the place should be like above 55 F (13 C). Thus, it is like a green-house but inside the house.

    We built the whole system with less than hundred dollar. We searched around Home-Depot, Restores and Lowes (they are home-improvement supply superstores here in the US), and found this industrial-strength steel racks for about $30 (I don't know why they were so cheap; or perhaps we were lucky). You need such racks to bear the weight of all the pots and soil. You can also use plastic racks but again they have to be of industrial strength to carry all the loads. We set up the racks; bought some grow lights (from walmart, $4 each) and light-fixtures (for about couple of dollars from Restores); fitted the fixtures with bulbs. Hung those up through the racks, and voila! we have established our indoor green-house.

    I know! I know! I hear you can I commit such crime against environment by keeping those lights on for about 8 hours every day? I can do so because they consume very less electricity. If I leave all the grow-lights on for twenty-four hours, then at the end of the month it will consume electricity worth less than ten dollar. So, it should tell you how little it consumes and I do not leave them on for more than eight hours.

    I water them only once a week along with some water-soluble sea-weed. I do not give them a thorough soak but enough to keep the soil moist. They are inside and thus do not have any of the outdoor elements like wind, sun, to dry them up. Too much water can kill them. I can harvest from them if I want to but I mostly for my enjoyment. Come Spring I put them in the ground so that they start fruiting again. I have bulbs, tubers, peppers, various herbs, tea-plant, curry-leaf plant, ginger and turmeric plants, tomatoes and other greens there. I also have other plants -- lemon, lime, bay-leaf, herbs, aloe, papaya, guava, longevity-spinach and other house-plants -- in front of every window in the house. Our house is a mini-forest during winter. Do you have any plants inside your house during winter?

    I'm joining in the memes hosted by Eileen,  Rambling WoodsSt Germain's meme.

    Wednesday, November 23, 2016

    The First Day of Snow in 2016

    We had our first snow on this past Saturday night (November 19). The rain turned into snow though the temperature was about thirty-seven degree Fahrenheit. It was a very strange weather phenomena.

    I rushed out to bring the potted tender perennials plants indoor.

    But it was not necessary. All the plants, even the heat-loving eggplants and pepper-plants, survived the snow. Apparently, plants can handle some snow and frost as long as the grounds do not freeze up and their stems/trunks do not freeze up and rot.

    Winter is definitely in the year. Another year is ending. For most people, the year ends and begin with the new year eve. For me, the year ends and begin with growing season. Though the sky is bright with soft-cotton clouds;

    Most of the trees have shed their leaves

    However, the majestic oak, here, is still holding on to the leaves

    grass is still green and much green can be seen among the plants but the growing period has essentially come to an end (unless of course one has a heated or some other kind of green-house). So, for me another year has ended. The new year will start sometime in April.

    It's usually the time to look back into the past-year to take stock of what has succeeded in the garden; what failed. I usually do not dwell on such lessons. A plant or a garden can fail for too many variables -- climate, micro-climate, soil, too much rain, too little rain, too high temperature, too low temperature. I usually look to the coming year. I have already ordered newer flowering plants and varieties of vegetable and flower seeds. I need to order live-plants. I plan to trim some trees, cut down dead trees, expand the pool and create more raised-beds, and grow more flower. I hope to connect the front and back-garden through a corridor of flowers for my pollinator friends. That is why it is good idea to have plants in garden that can keep on flowering till the onset of "true" winter when ground freezes up, temperature is always below freezing and the atmosphere is laden with snow. Until the true winter sets in, native bees are out hunting as soon the sun is up and shining.

    Saffron growing here. Saffron bloom in November and then again in April. I have to put up that protection-cover so that the bulbs are not eaten up squirrels and chipmunks. 

    All the roses have gone into sleep for the year; but this plant decided to throw a last-minute show. Only this lonely rose bloomed in the last few days when it snowed and temperature has really dropped. 

    Beside planning, I am enjoying the various color of fall in my garden,


    and the architectural-structure left behind by the dead plants and seeds

    I'm joining in the memes hosted by Rambling Woods, Photographing NZ and St Germain's meme.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2016

    The Beautiful Fall

    I have been away from the blog for a long time as I needed to rush overseas, due to family emergencies, on August 12. I was away from my garden, during the peak growing, blooming and harvesting season, for about a month. By the time I came back in the middle of September, temperature was becoming cooler and the vegetable garden was slowing down. But, the fall flowers were in full bloom; the bees and the wasps were hurriedly slurping up the nectar before the cold harshness of the winter kicked in.

    Flower of Okra (also known as ladies-finger). 
    Okras are very easy to grow but they need a long time to mature and produce substantial harvest. If you live in a colder region (zone 6) like I do, then you should start growing this plant from around December. Soak the seeds for at least 8 hours in warm water. Then, after you plant the seeds, leave the seed-tray in a warm place. Okras like full sun and heat, and produces the best flower (in my opinion) in the vegetable-world. The plant is tall (can even grow about 8 feet or so), strong and sturdy. I have never tried this but I think it can be very good support for beans and peas.


    Morning Glory
    Morning Glories have no help in the garden, as pollinators do not visit them, other than being such beautiful, intricate and interesting flowers. The blooms close as soon as they are bathed in sun-light. But a word of caution -- these plants can become invasive as they produce lots of seeds; the seeds can fall everywhere and survive the harshest winter, and emerge the next-year. I like these trailing flowering plants and just let the seeds drop wherever they want. So far, they have not become that invasive in my garden.

    The old-world Calendula
    One can make Calendula lotion and oil from these flowers. Pick up the freshest flowers and spread them out on a flat dry surface but away from the sun. So, let them air-dry (but don't dry them in sun or in oven). Then, put the dried flowers in oil (whatever oil you like -- olive, coconut, almond -- and whatever oil suits your skin). Leave the flower-infused oil in a dark cupboard. After a month or so, you can start using the oil directly (you can take out the dried flowers if you want; or leave them in the oil); or you can make lotion, balm, etc by using bee-wax.

    The old-fashioned Marigold with such lovely smell. 
    I love Merigold flowers, the original ones with good fragrance; not all the various hybrids that are produced nowadays. Pollinators also love these old-ones, and not the newer-varieties. They are so easy to grow. Take the seeds and sprinkle them on the ground; forget about them. They survive the winter in the ground; then they spring up next-year producing so many flowers; they bloom constantly from spring until it starts snowing. Once you have one of these old-fashioned plants, you do not need to buy any more. They produce so much seeds, you can spread them all across your garden and thus have them every year.

    Some kind of Gaillardia

    Aster September-Ruby

    Sheffield Pink Mum

    Native wood-aster, a magnet for pollinators as shown in the next picture

    Boneset or native Eupatorium Perfoliatum, another magnet for pollinators. Please click on the images to view the pollinators. I find this interesting -- pollinators, in large numbers, always visit all these wild native flowers than they do the hybrids. These wild Wood-Asters or Bonesets are the true wild native versions of the showy-asters (like September-Ruby or Sheffield-Pink) or Eupatorium (like Chocolate Joe-Pye-Weed), respectively. I wonder why? Do the natives have more pollen and nectar? Or are the pollinators know the natives better?

    It's middle of November and lots of work need to be done in the garden before the winter sets in. So, back to office, home and garden work.

    I'm joining in the memes hosted by Eileen,  Rambling WoodsSt Germain's and Today's Flowers meme.

    Sunday, August 7, 2016

    I'm joining in the memes hosted by Eileen,  Rambling WoodsSt Germain's and Today's Flowers meme.

    Look what I found on my parsley plants :-D. These are the caterpillars of Black Swallowtail Butterfly, a really gorgeous butterfly that is found in all over the North America. It is apparently the state butterfly of New Jersey. It constantly flies around in my garden but I never get the chance to take a picture as they are too restless a butterfly; all the time flittering around. A picture of the butterfly is in the top part of my blog -- it's that black butterfly with beautiful designs on its wings. It's the fifth picture in the series, right next to the tomato-cucumber picture.


    This is called the first instar of the Swallowtail catterpillar. This apparently looks like bird-poop and thus the birds leave them alone

    From the first instar, they become these chubby neon-green caterpillars with black lines and orange-spots

    When the caterpillar is disturbed, it protrudes out these orange V-shaped Ostemetrium. It's some kind of protection tools for the caterpillar. When feel threatened the ostemetrium puts out some kind of offensive odor. I tickled it, and it put out the ostemetrium. I didn't get any odor. I guess the predators find the smell offensive.

    After these photo-shoots, I went out to the garden. I'm growing lots of hot pepper this year along with some sweet and milder ones. So, this is a small harvest of various types of pepper, lemon-cucumber (a very prolific plant), ground-cherries, beans and some greens:

    This is Bhut Jolokia or Ghost Pepper. It is apparently one of the hottest pepper on earth; it is 400 times hotter than the hottest Tabasco sauce. And, I'm growing this :-) because I'm crazy :-P

    Small bees and wasps on sunflower. Do you know that the size of a sunflower is related to the size of space it gets to grow? I didn't know that. Being a lover of sunflower, I started growing them in every possible space I could find, and found out this truth: given bigger space, the sunflower will have the optimal bloom size. But, if it gets smaller space, the blooms become smaller.

    Honey-bee and aphids (the yellow ones) on Swamp Milkweed.

    Do you think bees sleep? Or they become too heavy to fly after  a good dinner? Now and then, I find bees clinging still (as if they are sleeping) on flowers; they will remain like that throughout the night and will fly away the next morning.

    Bumble-bee sipping nectar from flowers.