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, January 31, 2012

HolleyGarden! You Have Made My Day

HolleyGarden of Roses and Other Gardening Joys has made my day. She has awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award. This morning only I was thinking how few people visit my blog and what I can do to make it interesting; and, then in the afternoon I get the message that I got the award. Thank You HolleyGarden :-).

The rules for accepting this award are:
1. Add the Versatile Blogger Award.
2. Thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
3. Share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
4. Include this set of rules.
5. Forward this award to 15 fellow bloggers, and inform them with a comment on each of their blogs.

All the above rules are easy to follow except number 3! 7 random pieces of information about myself? That is a tough job since I don't think I know myself. Okay, so let me try very hard as all my student do. There, you got one piece of information - I am a teacher, professor to be more exact. My zodiac sign is Leo and strangely I have all the characteristics of the sign - stubborn, very determined, not afraid to call a spade a spade. So far only three pieces of information and four more to go!! Phew!! Okay, I love animals and nature; so far, I have rescued fishes, birds (pigeon, crows, parrot and eagle), dogs, cats and a got. Currently, I have two dogs adopted through an organization that rescues dogs from high-kill shelters. Both of them are sweetest pets one can have; it's beyond understanding and imagination that they would have been killed if not rescued. They already have brought so much fun and joy to our lives. I am very concerned about climate and environment and so much so that I am getting trained as an Environmental Steward and want to change my career and get into the Environment field. During my undergraduate days, I used to hike the Appalachian trails during winter. Being short, I would hike through almost thigh-deep snow wearing only a pair of sneakers, sweat-pant and a thin winter-jacket. Lucky that I never got any frost-bites. It's my dream to visit the world and enjoy all her natural beauty; but unless I get to do so, I am trying to convert my garden into a natural, heavenly beauty. Wish me all the luck please. I think I got all the seven pieces of information, didn't I?

Okay, so here are the fifteen, actually sixteen, blogs that I nominate for this award, in no particular order:
1. A Little Paradise of Mine
2. One A Day In The Garden
3. Slade Valley Roots
4. Alternative Eden
5. PerthDaily Photo
6. ISingCakes
7. Marks' Veg Plot
8. Suburban Tomato
9. Edible Landscaping Made Easy
10. Gardening Blog
11. Tropical Texana
12. Roots'n'Shoots
13. Organic Garden Dreams
14. Urban Organic Gardening In Sidney
15. Arignagardener
16. 0.09 Acres

Thank You All for such beautiful blogs.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Some Indoor Blooms

I am so fed-up of the bleak, bare-boned, dry garden right now that I got these three primrose plants from the Whole Food; and, they were cheap too. Each plant cost $1.99; come spring and summer and each of these plants will cost anywhere between $4 -- $6!! I could not resist buying them for the price and the bloom; however, I took about 45 minutes, standing at a corner in the Whole Food Store, researching about the plant since I don't want any invasive species in my garden, however much beautiful the plants and flower might be. As I got home and opened my garden journal to write about my new plants, I realized that I already have a primrose in the garden! Darn for my poor memory for wasting 45 minutes researching about a plant that I already have in the garden.

I am finding that Primroses inside the house in pots require lots of watering; every two days the plants need to be thoroughly watered so the soil is completely moist. However, the plants should be not sitting in water. Once the plants are planted outside in the garden, then they really don't require any care; at least that's the case with my garden primrose. It sits nestled among the Lavender and Astilbe plants, getting whatever shade it requires from these plants, and flower profusely.

One of the indoor succulent plant is also ready to flower. It's flower looks BEAUTIFUL. Sorry I don't have any photo but I promise to take one next time it flowers. It seems like this plant flowers twice a year - spring and mid/late summer.

My Poinsettias are also going strong. How long do they survive? I read everywhere that these plants do not survive long and thus they are thrown out after Christmas. Of course, I am never going to throw them out. Plants from my house are thrown out (into the compost) only after they die. That's why I don't even uproot my weeds and feel too much pain when I dig out my root vegetables :-(. I guess this Hinduism/Jainism/Budhism upbringing, where no living creatures are to be harmed, is creating quite a havoc in my mind; now and then I feel like quitting gardening because I am finding it difficult to deal with aphid-problems as they need to be killed. Okay, enough of my mindless blabbering. Here are my Poinsettias:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Something About Soil

We gardeners know how important soil is; it is our best friend and is as precious to us as gold and diamonds. So, here are some important facts about soil that I thought of sharing with you all. I have tried to tell it in as simply as possible without including any of the scientific jargon.

Soil scientists classify soil into 13 different orders based on the presence or absence of diagnostic horizons and major differences in soil forming factors or properties. Soil is also further classified based on texture. The texture of a soil is due to the presence of clay, silt and loam.

Sand is predominantly made of quartz; the sand particles have size range in between 0.05 to 2 mm. The particles are large enough to feel the individual grains. Silt particles have size range in between 0.05 to 0.002 mm; the particles are broken down enough and thus individual particles cannot be recognized; it has a texture like a flour. Clay particles are smaller than 2 nm (nano-meter) and clay can be molded into any shape.

Soil is an eco-system that is alive. Not only trees need soil, but soil is home to insects, fungi, bacteria, nematodes and protozoa on which depends the survival of many small mammals, birds and other bigger insects. Thus, if the soil is destroyed, not only an ecosystem that will die but also many birds, mammals and arthropods.

Soil usually refers to the topsoil or the "dirt" under our feet. Resource Conservation Glossary define it as "the unconsolidated mineral and organic material on the immediate surface of the earth that serves as a natural medium for the growth of plants." Simonson in 1957 defined it as "the link between the rock core of the earth and the living things on its surface."

This topsoil or soil has developed over millions and billions of years. It can never be recovered or replaced if destroyed. Soil has formed over millions of years by the action of organisms and climatic forces, modified by the topography, upon the parent material over time. Thus, rocks and boulders are weathered into smaller particles (which will eventually become soil) through physical (wind, air, water) and chemical (due to heat and pressure inside volcanoes, in the deep core of the earth) processes. These weathered particles, organic matters and living organisms are decomposed into inorganic materials like minerals and chemical elements make up the soil. Thus, topsoil sold by garden stores are not soil; they are just some compost. Once the topsoil is destroyed, it is gone for ever because, as you see, to create it, we have to wait at least million years.

Soil is made up of minerals, organic matters, water and dissolved salt and air (nitrogen, oxygen, carbon-dioxide and water vapor). About 50% of soil is made up of solid components (minerals and organic matters); the other 50% is made up of pore-spaces which are actually occupied by either air or water. Thus, for plants, soil acts as bank of nutrients, water reservoir, in which plants anchor their roots; soil also helps in the diffusion of gas (exchange of carbon-dioxide and oxygen between soil and air) and plants can breathe. Soil is also part of the earth's hydrologic cycle. Rainwater percolates through the topsoil into the groundwater reservoir. Trees draw rainwater from soil and gives out water through transpiration into the atmosphere (which again comes down as rain). Water also gets evaporated from soil into atmosphere which will eventually again come down to soil as rainwater.

Now for us gardeners: a good soil is characterized by the soil texture, presence of minerals, organic matters, porosity, fertility, productivity, microbial activity, water retention and water infiltration abilities. Good soil texture allows for the roots of the plants to move easily, spread out and anchor. Microbial activity (which is responsible for decomposing the organic matter into plant nutrients, compost), soil fertility and productivity, presence of minerals and organic matters are responsible for the plants to thrive. Porosity is important for the diffusion of gases to take place through which plants breathe. Plants die or become extremely weak if soil is so compacted or of poor quality that it has no pore spaces and plants cannot breathe. Pore spaces also ensure that roots can move freely and anchor properly. Plants need water and thus soil that can retain water will be good for plants. Sandy soils have large pore spaces and water move freely through it and gets drained. Thus, plants growing on sandy soils will not have any water available. At the same time, water infiltration (that is how fast or how slowly water drains out and spreads out) is also important. If the soil is so heavily compacted that water cannot drain easily, then the roots of the plants will be sitting in water (and we gardeners know what a deadly situation that is for most plants); roots will rot or will be very poorly developed; a healthy plant is one whose roots are spread out and deeply anchored. Thus, water in the soil needs to be filtered out at a proper rate for prevention of root disease and deeper roots to be formed.

Good qualities of soil can be achieved through the addition of compost (organic matter) and humus (organic molecules which cannot be broken down any further). Such addition results in good porosity, water retention and infiltration and microbial activities. The addition also helps in maintaining the 10:1 carbon nitrogen ratio which is optimal for good plant growth. A good soil should have about 50 to 60% carbon, 5% nitrogen, 0.6 - 1.2% phosphorous and 0.5% sulfur. The 10:1 ratio of Carbon to Nitrogen can also be obtained by growing legumes and to some extent young grasses. However, addition of pine needles, leaves, straw, hays, manure, corn-stalks and woody materials disrupts that ratio; for example, addition of leaves results in a ratio of 60--100:1 (that is more carbon is present and less nitrogen). However, as leaves decompose, the ratio slowly becomes 10:1. But before the balanced ratio is achieved, plants have to compete with other soil micro-organisms to harvest the available nitrogen and such competitions are not good for plants.

Those of us who have clayey soil should consider ourselves lucky because clayey soils have high Cation Exchange Capacity, that is the ability of soil to retain nutrients. However, clayey soil have poor water infiltration quality. It tends to retain water and water spreads out through the soil very very slowly. Thus, if you water the soil, that water will be available to the roots down below the soil after much much long time because it takes a LONG time for water to percolate through clayey soil. Thus, there is a high chance that the water will evaporate from the top of the soil before it even gets infiltrated down into the soil. Thus, people with clayey soil should mulch a lot so that the water is not lost through evaporation.

Essential plant nutrients are supplied by soil and soil minerals. Nitrogen, Phophorous and Potassium are the macro-nutrients; calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, copper, iron, manganese, zinc are the micro-nutrients. Besides macro-nutrients, plants also need air, water, temperature and light. These and the macro-nutrients are considered the limiting growth factors for plants. If one of the limiting growth factor is deficient, it needs to be fixed for the plant to survive. Deficiency of the micro-nutrients will not affect the plants much.

An optimal balance of nutrients and other factors (as mentioned above) are required for healthy plants. Over-surplus of nutrients is as BAD as deficiency. Over-surplus creates toxicity for plants. So, how do you do know what your soil has? Do Soil-testing. Soil scientists say that it is an absolute must especially if wants to have good production.

In summary, prevent compaction of soil so that pore spaces between soil does not decrease. Small pore spaces result in water retention and limited gas diffusion. Thus, do not walk on the soil on which you are growing your fruits, vegetables and flowers. Avoid soil erosion; topsoil lost is gone forever and it is the soil that is responsible for human and other animals existence. Do soil testing to determine the quality of your soil and take steps accordingly. Do not add fertilizers just because the garden center says so. Add LOTS and LOTS of organic matter into your soil - they are key to everything good for soil.

Our composting places. I also have another small bucket for compost. And, I also compost by digging in all the compostable material into the garden soil directly. Now, this might not be a good ideas as such material takes up nitrogen from soil as they decompose but I am too lazy to do anything.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Today is January 18, 2012. For the last three days, I am noticing that the outside is becoming very bright, with all night darkness gone away, by 6:30 am. Yipeee.......soon days will become more longer, the sun will rise higher up in the sky, and spring will be here with the message to start gardening and planting seeds. I can't wait to witness the miracle of tiny seeds becoming plants to produce big, heavy, sweet, delicious, fresh, healthy food for the rest of the world inhabitants. Here is a picture of some of those produce from my garden of 2011. This year I am hoping for more and lots of varieties.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Garden on Roof Tops

Diane Cook and Len Jenshel traveled across the world taking photographs of gardens and farmings on roof-tops. The Dailymail has published many of those photos here. It is so refreshing to know that it is mandatory in Switzerland and Germany to have garden on any flat roofs. With the dire state the environment of the world is in, all the countries of the world should pass such rules - to have gardens or solar panels on flat roofs.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


I am indeed hoarding and feeling like a rat, squirrel, collecting all sorts of seeds. But then, hehehe.., I better collect, save and hoard seeds as 2012 supposed to be the dooms year. With the world supposedly coming to a halt and thus no food supplies, markets, I need to survive by growing my own food :-). So, here are the seeds that I have collected so far:

Vegetable Seeds
Carrot, Pak-Choi, Rutabaga, Okra, Ridgegourd, Bittergourd, Pumpkin, Kohlrabi, Drumstick, Cherry Radish, Jalapeno, Bean, Beet, White Icicle Radish, Snap Peas, Scallion, and Onion and garlic are already planted.

Herbs, Green-leafy Vegetables
Chives, Cilantro, Lettuce, Oregano, Swiss-Chard, Amaranthus, Kale, Parsley, Spinach, Argula, Fenugreek, Mustard, Cumin, Chikpeas, Lemon-Basil

Fruit trees ordered and already that exists (bought in October)
Chicago Fig, Strawberry, Blueberry, Grape, Black Chokeberry, Lingonberry, Dwarf Banana

Mammoth Sunflower, Alyssum, Dahlia, Lupine, 4 o'clock, Zinnia, Small Sunflower, Cosmos, Black-Eyed, Blanketflower, Carnation, Achillea, Star-glory (Cypress Vine), Milkweed, Roselle Hibiscus, Passion flower, Delphinium-plants, Echinacea-plant

I need to order...well...the list is way too big to put it up here but some definite must that I am going to buy soon will be Neem-plant, gooseberry-plant, dwarf lemon or orange plant and perhaps raspberry plant.

I can't wait for March to come when I get to play with all these seeds and hopefully get to grow lots of flowers, herbs and vegetable plants. As I am already growing some indoor, our house is slowly turning into a jungle, or shall I say "occupy-Boonton," with all the tables, kitchen counter-tops, stools and any empty open top occupied with indoor plants and seedling-pots.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Essential or Junks?

Below is the picture of my two Rosemary bushes covered with rice sacks! when the temperature recently dropped to about 11 degree Fahrenheit here. The rice sacks are made of jute (I think they are called burlap here in the USA), and I have been saving those ever since I started gardening. Previously they used to end up in some land-fills. Not only sacks, but I have been saving newspapers, used pots and pans which I don't use any longer and all sorts of plastics tubs and trays and even some aluminium pans. The plastic tubs become where I grow all the seedlings. The pots and pans become where all those seedling-tubs sit in water. I have found that in that way I can consistently maintain the moisture-level of the seedling-soil. I would like to think that I am re-using all these discarded items to save the environment; but in reality I am doing this to save my money. I am a big miser and would need to spend too much money to buy all those professional seed-growing kits. The downside of all these junk-saving is I have to clean my garden shade way too often. Still it remains such a messy place that two tiny white rats take up shelter there among all the junks, chewing up the newspapers and the plastics to construct a nice cosy bed on the pots! Does anyone else save such junks?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fantastic Videos - A Must Watch

Roger Doiron - the man who helped in creating the White House Vegetable Garden - talk about "subversive plots" in this TED lecture. As per the TED website, "A vegetable garden can do more than save you money -- it can save the world. At TEDxDirigo Roger Doiron shows how gardens can re-localize our food and feed our growing population."

The video is here:

Another fantastic video of pioneers working on window gardening, that is growing vegetables, year round, in low light condition in one's own apartment. The idea was developed by Britta Riley. As per the TED website, "Britta Riley wanted to grow her own food (in her tiny apartment). So she and her friends developed a system for growing plants in discarded plastic bottles -- researching, testing and tweaking the system using social media, trying many variations at once and quickly arriving at the optimal system. Call it distributed DIY. And the results? Delicious."

The video is here:

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

Weather in the last two year has been very strange. 2010--2011 saw lots of snow, even in April and then lots of rain. 2011--2012 saw hurricane Irene, a blizzard in October and then absolutely no snow; the temperature and weather, now, feels like summer. The garden is also behaving strangely. The bulbs of Daffodils, Iris, Lilies and Crocuses shooting out new leaves. Newer leaves are also emerging from the Persian Lilac tree. Leaves of Rose bushes and other flowering plants are looking invigorated, as if spring has arrived!

Thus, I am really worried about what's happening to our climate, environment, nature. I got more worried as I went for grocery shopping yesterday and wherever I went - A&P, Shoprite, Indian Grocery Store, Target - I found that people were using plastics to packet and wrap everything. Even potatoes were first wrapped in a thin plastic bag and then those plastic bags were put into the grocery store bags which are all made of plastics. So, two different plastic bags were used to buy just one vegetable - potato! Each individual vegetable were bagged in similar ways, using two different plastic bags!! I hope people do recycle those bags.

So, I hope that 2012 will see more people becoming aware of climate, environment, nature and takings steps to protect them; more countries of the world coming together to limit pollution and greenhouse gas emission, pass resolution to protect natural resources and environment, upheld clean air and water acts and exist peacefully.

Honor the sacred.
Honor the Earth, our Mother.
Honor the Elders.
Honor all with whom we
share the Earth:-
Four-leggeds, two-leggeds,
winged ones,
Swimmers, crawlers,
plant and rock people.
Walk in balance and beauty.
-- Native American Elder