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.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Who Are They?

Do any of you know what sort of plant is this? It starts growing like a hosta right after the snow melts.

As you can see from the picture, last year it started growing in March. This year, being so cold, it emerged in April. It then produces these big red flowers on a tall stalk. The flowers look like poppy. Are these some kind of special tulip?

 I forgot the names of these flowers. Can you please remind me? There are lots of them in my front yard. They like little-bit shady, rich, fertile, moist soil.

Though the nights are chilly with temperature in low 40's (Fahrenheit, about 7 degree Centigrade), but spring is here. All the early spring flowers are blossoming. All the trees are with new leaves; dogwood's are blossoming and the yards are filled up with tall, luscious grasses. I no longer have to bring the tomato plants or other seedlings inside the house.

Sorry for all the blurry pictures. It was too sunny outside. Happy Spring Northern-Hemisphereans :-).

Friday, April 26, 2013

Happy Arbor Day

Today, April 26, is Arbor Day in NJ. Every year about 60,000 square kilometers (about 14, 826.3 acres) of  forest are destroyed. So, arbor days are celebrated across the USA and even in other countries to raise awareness about conservation and reforestation. Over ten million trees are planted on every arbor day. I didn't have any trees to plant; but luck struck me and my order of five blueberry plants arrived today. Now, you might say that blueberry plants are not trees but I will beg to differ :-). First of all, blueberries are native plants. Secondly, they are excellent source of food for wildlife (I will be competing fiercely with infinite numbers of squirrels, birds, groundhogs, deer, rabbits, raccoon that exist here). Except one, all my five blueberry plants will grow to about six feet in height and will form bushes. So, they will provide a little shelter, places to play around, sit, sing and fly away for birds. Thus, I declare my blueberry plants as trees :-).

Here are the varieties that I received:

Blueray: very sweet, light blue fruits resist cracking. Ripen in July and the harvest goes on for weeks. Plant with at least two other blueberry varieties to ensure adequate cross-pollination. The 5-6' tall bushes become a blaze of crimson in the fall, so they are ideal arranged as an informal hedge.

Blueberry Top Hat: Hats off to a perfectly delectable and beauteous blueberry. Give this ornamental blueberry a prime spot on your patio. Come spring it produces beautiful white blossoms; in fall, the foliage turns a pretty glowing orange. Top Hat is a compact 2-ft plant that produces firm, dusky blue fruit that ripens in late season and is ideal for baking.

Herbert: Blueberries in abundance! Herbert produces a profusion of jumbo-sized fruits with a rich, sweet, slightly tart flavor; it's a late-season variety and very winter hardy.

Coville: Coville produces high yields of large, sweet berries and has good disease resistance. Blueberry plants require pollination from at least one other blueberry variety; plant several varieties for improved fruit set and long harvest. Blueberry is a native shrub that was utilized by Native Americans. Growing 5-6', their productive season is July-August, but they also enliven the garden with blazing crimson foliage in fall.

Bluejay: This native American variety ripens in July and yields heavily for weeks. Plant with at least two other blueberry varieties to ensure adequate cross-pollination. The 5-6' tall bushes become a blaze of crimson in the fall, so they are ideal arranged as an informal hedge. You'll have fresh blueberries for pies and preserves for many, many years.

Apparently, these are good blueberries to plant in NJ. But time will only tell that. I already had a blueberry plant in the garden. So, all total six blueberry plants. I am so fond of this fruit that if I am successful with these plants, then I hope to plant a hedge of blueberries in the front yard. Do you have blueberries in your garden? Do you do anything special on arbor day?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Big Thank You

I love getting anything related to gardening (and which has happened only once so far when one of my best friend brought a wild-flower seed-packet from me all the way from Oregon. You can read it here). So, yesterday (4/24) was again a very unique day to me as I received another packet of seeds. Donna of Gardens Eye View and Susie of Life Change Compost were giving away seed-packets in their blogs. I won one of it :-).

Donna not only sent me the seed packet but she also sent a very beautiful hand-written card which you can see on the left-side in the above image. Thank You Donna. I am very humbled and my garden, the bees and I will be always grateful to you for such a lovely gift. I hope one day I will be able to do to you, to your garden and to all others something in return. 

The package contains about 15 grams of seeds which can cover approximately 225 square feet of area. It contains seeds which provide food to about 4000 species of bees that the US has. It includes seeds of Borage, Sunflower, Coriander, Siberian Wallflower, Dill, Coreopsis, California Poppy, Gailliardia, Zinnia, Basil, Cosmos, Purpler Prairie Clover, Gilia, Catnip, Lemon Mint, Black-Eyed Susan, Goldenrod, Hyssop, Bergamot. Does not the seed-packet looks beautiful? It looks like a piece of art to my eyes. 

I already know where the seeds will go -- half of it will go to the bed in the front-yard. For the other-half I am preparing a bed in the backyard. Our drive-way is too long connecting the front and back yard. I hope to put pots all along the driveway connecting the two yards. The pots will contain all sorts of flowers, and thus in that way a high-way of flowers and other sources of nectar will be created for the bees and butterflies between the two yards. But this is a project I have to tackle next year. 

Do you have any good news to share :-)? Are you doing anything special for our bees and butterflies friends? 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day 2013

Today being earth day I present this poem to you written by one of our best family friend Eric Hausker (he really writes awesome poems but never publishes them!!). Most of us gardeners already know about climate change, pollution and habitat destruction. So, on this earth day we can try to take pledge to help mother nature and her bounties. It has to be small as most of us (especially me) will not have money, resources or time to do anything big. I have been sitting and thinking what to do but nothing is coming in my mind. Almost all the small things that I can afford, I do -- chemicals inside or outside of house banned, growing organic, creating wild-life friendly front and back yard, recycle, reduce and reuse and becoming vegetarian. But there must be other things to do. Can you help? Do you have any suggestions/ideas or anything coming to your mind that I (we) can do?

Earth Day by Eric Hausker

I think that we began to sense
Before this decade was half-way thru
That Optimism will no longer carry us
That venerable ways of thinking
may bury us
Perhaps the world now apprehends
That admonishments from forty years ago
are proving true
That now our dreams and aspirations
must be cast anew

Imperceptibly something has changed
We gaze upon our structured realms
And fear that they hang by a slender thread
We know that there is much to dread
Our hope-filled future is slowly drained
Unless wiser hands can guide our helm
Paradigms and doctrines must be allowed to die
As hunger spreads throughout the tropics
and oceans rise

We awaken to the troubling fact
That for centuries our cleverest minds
Were less enlightened than they should have been
Not all their teachings will stay intact
Their gifts to us did raise us up
But also served to undermine
Our benighted world as it tries to mend
Honored creeds once writ in stone
must fade from memory
Just as mighty glaciers have been swallowed
by the sea

I hold a faded brochure in my hand
It bears a wistful poignancy -
"Project Survival 1970"
At Northwestern University we met
Discussing all night as the title evokes
The Great Winnowing, The Great Revising
Of The Human Purpose
Which could have been joined to the latent hopes
Of a yearning and eager population
Whose willingness to act lay near the surface
Since then have been born two generations
Our claims on our planet are still rising
And will soon transcend and dwarf their present scope

Those whom we choose to lead us are fully compromised
It is we who love the birds and forests
who will ultimately decide
The world on which our great-grandchildren's children
Will soon tread
There is much to renounce, and not much time
May theirs be a planet where ravishment ends
and all are fed.

I could not put in all the styles/designs (like line shifted in certain ways) like he has as I am not good in html-coding. I hope you will like the poem as I like it very much, especially the last stanza. Happy Earth Day All

Friday, April 19, 2013

Test of Patience

Internet, blogs, gardening articles, youtube videos - you name it - each and every one of those sources mentioned that when I hang a sweet potato in water, it will take a maximum of five to six weeks to shoot out slips. Well, here is mine. Guess how may weeks it took?

It took about four month (about 16 or more weeks)!! Those who can make them sprout in 5 weeks must be master gardener (even if they don't know). But, in the process I learned two important things. First, keep on changing the water at least once a week; the potato gets all the nutrients, it requires, from the water. If water is not changed on regular basis, the potato will not have any more nutrients to absorb from the water. Secondly, put the potato in a semi-dark room (a north-facing room which has all the curtains closed all the time throughout the day) so that the room is airy but with very muted (light) lights. If you put your sweet potato under a grow light, it is never going to sprout; you can take my words on it as my sweet potato did nothing for the first 5-6 weeks when it was under grow light. One of you (either Organic Garden Dreams
or HolleyGarden) told me to put it away in a darker place. I did so and voila within couple of weeks it first shoot out a long root. Now all these.

Pretty soon I will be planting it out. But now I am in a dilemma - plant it in container or in garden. Many you-tube videos show how sweet potatoes can be grown in containers. But, then I have come across an article which says that sweet potato needs to be planted in soil and its vines should be allowed to lie along the soil; apparently, the vines latches on to the soil by sending out roots; and wherever it does that it produces sweet potatoes. If that's the case and I have 13 sweet potatoes (I ordered 12 more from Burpee!!) to grow, then I think I can supply all of you with sweet potatoes assuming I am successful :-) as one potato produces huge number of potatoes. If cured properly, sweet potatoes can be stored (at around 50 degree Fahrenheit) for at least a year. Wow! in that case sweet potato can indeed become a staple diet during winter months when not many vegetables grow. 

Anyone has any experience growing sweet potato? Please let me know about your experience.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

First Harvest of the Year

I get a very blissful feeling in searching my garden and picking up my own food. I don't know why. Maybe because scientists predict that we are scared of dark and love all the outdoor activities because for millennia that's what our ancestors did before they settled down in cities and thus I am no exception. Or it could it be that I brought up these plants from seeds. How could such tiny, negligible seeds produce such big plants with intricate web of roots and provide us with nutrients that we need to survive? I take them for granted but I am just trying to imagine the earth without any plants/trees. None of us, from tiniest insects to largest land mammals, will survive. No wonder human history is rife with wars fought to grab lands for agriculture and resources.

Yesterday, I picked my first harvest of the year. It was not much; only 4 huge pieces of spinach, lots of turnip green, spring onion, oregano, lemon balm and rosemary herbs. I used these, home-grown potatoes, home-grown tomatoes (they were the product of 2012 harvest and have been surviving in the freezer), coconut milk and Japanese rice-noodles to make some kind of Thai soup. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

All these garden bloggers bloom day meme exists but I could not find one today to participate. Then, I came across Jason's post in">GardenInACity
. So, I also thought of posting what's blooming and happening in our garden. I am also feeling lazy to blog; I guess I am getting tired getting the garden (both front and back) ready. So, here they are:
The sea of golden daffodils:

What is a yard without some weeds :-)? My favorite Dandellion and two other unknowns:

Primrose and Hyacinth. Are primrose and primula same thing?  They were called African primroses! The name suggested to me that they were annuals and were going to die. But, they not only survived but they survive buried deep under the snow and one of the first flowers to bloom. I simply love them because they look so insignificant, especially beside the majestic lavender bush, but their burgundy blooms are simply beautiful to my eyes:

I forgot what these are called. Apparently they are native of North-East!

A collection of perennials. I forgot what the middle two - the reddish pink and white ones -- are called. The other names that I remember are viola, mix-viola and English Daisies and Foresythia: 

Do Foresythia needs pruning? Everywhere all the Foresythias are in full bloom; mine are blooming little. Other than the above, dill, oregano, lemon balm, strawberries, onions and garlic, all have started growing vigorously. Spice-bush, Blueberries, Blackberries, Dogwood, Pear(fruit-bearing)-tree, beach-plum, roses and Persian Lilac all have put on growth with new leaves and buds appearing all along their branches. Soon, they will also come in bloom. Ah! life is nice. What more can anyone want?

Monday, April 8, 2013

All Work And No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy...

I was brought up with the above saying. However, I have heard that nowadays it is considered politically-incorrect (not sure why). Whatever the case is, I am surely becoming dull and tired and dirty with the amount of work that I am doing and still have to do in my front and back yard. I am just focusing on the backyard now, treating the front-yard as my step-child (since I can't grow any vegetables there). Margaret Atwood's saying, "In Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt," is becoming true in my case :-). Those of us who follow this blog regularly might remember that I lost my mother last summer. So, since July 2012, our  yard was lying there, all neglected as I didn't have the enthusiasm or energy to do anything. But, now that the spring is here, you can imagine how much work I have to do -- cleaning, mowing, digging, mulching, preparing beds, preparing soil, pruning, weeding, designing, planning, building and the list with all sorts of -ing continues. I have to get everything ready for the guests to arrive; they have already started arriving. On March 29, the first three guests arrived -- Monarda Jacob Cline plant, a Lobelia Great Blue and a Lobelia Cardinal Flower plant. Then, on April 2, arrived 25 crowns of Asparagus!! There are more to come with more seeds, flowering plants, 12 sweet potatoes and 25 strawberry plants. Many more are already drinking and thriving in the pantry, but the place is becoming a bit crowded. Guests are here, but the hostess is not ready yet!! So, I delved in solving the problem. I started with the big 10' x 10' raised bed that we created.

As you can see, we have created our raised bed using these cement/concrete hollow block. Those holes in the blocks will be covered with soil and each hole will hold different plants like thyme, strawberry, merrigold, any plants that do not spread out sideways. This is what I mean: as you can see in the picture, a plant is growing in one of the holes:

We decided to use these cement/concrete block because they are natural materials; they will not leach out harmful chemicals (which happens whenever raised beds are made of treated lumber) in the soil and they will also last long -- really, really long; I might pass away but concrete/cement blocks will still survive. Buying untreated lumbers like pine or cedar, which will last couple of years in the snow and sun of NJ, to make a raised bed of this size is really cost-prohibitive. So, trenches were dug to put in those blocks. Then, the scud inside the bed was dug out. Almost double-digging was done to achieve loose soil. On top of it went lots of leaf mulches; then coffee grind and some organic garden soil; then some wood ash; lastly, the whole area was covered with straw to protect the top layer of the soil. I will have a narrow path in the middle of the bed to access all sides. There are two such beds in the garden. This is one of them. The other-bed is still incomplete. Leaf mulches will provide nutrients, humic and fulvic acid and easy drainage of water; coffee grind is supposed to make the soil a bit acidic and also provides other nutrients. Wood ash makes the soil a bit alkaline and also supplies other nutrients to the soil. So, I am hoping that the bed is full of essential nutrients and also neutral as most vegetables prefer little acidic to neutral soil. The bed is looking so comfortable that if I were a plant, I was going to demand to put me up in one of the bed :-). As I was doing all these, I noticed that the first daffodil has bloomed (for future record, the first daffodil bloomed on April 6 of 2013).

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Ten Commandments

We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors but borrow it from our children is, I think, the most famous and often-quoted Native American proverb.

This is a 500-year old Oak-tree, somewhere here in the US. I don't know where; if anyone knows, please let me know. The image is from It looks very much like the Friendship Oak which can be seen here, another 500+ year old oak-tree.

Apparently, the Native Americans also had some kind of commandments, much like the ten-commandments, a version of which is as follows:
1. The Earth is our Mother; care for Her.
2. Honor all your relations.
3. Open your heart and soul to the Great Spirit.
4. All life is sacred; treat all beings with respect.
5. Take from the Earth what is needed and nothing more.
6. Do what needs to be done for the good of all.
7. Give constant thanks to the Great Spirit each day.
8. Speak the truth but only for the good in others.
9. Follow the rythms of nature.
10. Enjoy life's journey; but leave no tracks.

These are really nice commandments to follow. Keeping all these in mind, I present some commandments that I follow regarding gardening. Many more might add up as I observe and learn more.  I don't know if these are correct approach or not but being a naturalist and a vegetarian and who is opposed to killing (well most of the time but I do murder as I lift out my leek - I murder such and other plants or inadvertently walk over insects :-( ), I can't seem to follow any other methods:

1. Don't throw the fall-leaves away to be picked up by your town. Collect them at one corner of your garden, open to natural elements. Over time, they will become the beautiful and not-so-commonly available leaf-compost; you can also use them to mulch your garden. As they break down, they provide vital nutrients to soil. Put them in your vegetable garden; they will make the soil loose, through which water will flow easily, and roots can breathe in nicely. Put them in your pots for same reasons. The leaves collected in one corner of the garden will provide homes and breeding grounds to many beneficial insects. Birds will collect those leaves to build nest, I guess, during spring. Sometimes some birds might simply build nest there (it happened to us last year when a robin family decided to make nest there)!

2. Don't pick up each and every leaf from the lawn; leave some there. As they break down, they become fertilizers for the lawn.

3. Don't clean your lawn and backyard too much. Let all the dead grasses and stalks and seed-heads and whatever stand through the winter. They provide shelter, food and nest-building materials for animals.

4. If there are lots of branches/twigs/stalks lying on the ground, collect them at one place and pile them up high. Again, they would provide shelter to insects, bees and wasps. You might also enjoy seeing the natural process of mushrooms forming on them and slowly devouring the woods.

5. Welcome animals and birds in your garden. It's true that they might destroy your vegetables and fruits and flowers. But, honestly they do not create such havoc. If you observe them, you will notice they they become satisfied stealing one tomato or one broccoli from your garden. They are not greedy. If you want to protect your plants, then provide some fence or put up some fine-mesh. The poops of animals (deer, groundhogs, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, skunk, raccoon, etc) and birds can become natural fertilizer. Many of them will also eat the insects/bugs that harm our plants. But more important than all these, think about these animals. We all used to be part of vast expanse of nature -- trees, woodlands, forests, meadows, river-banks. Now, all these are disappearing from world. Where will these poor creatures go? They also need places to eat, drink, sleep and survive.

6. Whenever you buy anything from outside for your garden, think twice before buying. Latest studies have shown that all the garden materials - gloves, knee-pads, pipes, containers, etc, etc -- contain deadly chemicals and they leach out to the soil/atmosphere under the exposure of sun, wind, water and dampness. Many of these might not last long, and then they will simply become land-fill, leaching out toxic chemicals and becoming havoc to water-animals and birds who might come across them in landfills or in rivers/oceans/seas/lakes. Try to think of alternatives or buy those that are costly but will last long and/or free of most toxicity.

7. Please do not buy anything that contains peat moss. Peat moss comes from peat bogs and they are more intricate natural environment than rain-forests are. Peat-bogs, along with its complex natural environment, plants, animals and insects which depend on it, are getting completely destroyed because of demand for peat-moss among gardeners in the US/Canada. A whole thesis can be written about peat-bogs and peat-moss. If you really have to use peat-moss, then do research and buy those that are obtained without the destruction of peat-bogs.

8. Do not use any sort of chemicals, even a tiniest amount for a small space, any time. Most of the present day chemicals are extremely complex and toxic. They will keep on surviving for eons to come; they will not break down into harmless products; they leach and spread and often time plants take them up through roots and stems and they spread through-out every nook and cranny of the plants. Washing the fruits/vegetables will not take away those chemicals. I already talked about one of such chemicals - neonics in one my earlier post. Chemicals will not only cost you money but they will create a chain-reaction effect. You will buy chemicals to tackle one problem; the chemicals will create another problem. To tackle that, you buy another chemical and the cycle will continue.

9. Take care of your soil and the soil will take care of everything in your front and backyard. It will produce healthy plants which will be able to survive against most attacks from pest/bug/diseases. Also, such problems might not even arise on the first place as healthy soil will produce healthy plants and good living organisms.

10. Above all, have utmost respect and love for your yard. We might not be able to see with our naked eyes or feel it, but everything out there - plants, insects, animals, trees, fungus, microbes - from deep underground to high above the tree-tops -- are working in tandem, hands-in-hands, they are pushing the wheel of nature and life. Just a simple example: you find slugs and kill them; with no slugs in your garden there will be less birds in your garden; less birds mean no-free-bird-poop-fertilizer and also increase of other and perhaps harmful insects. If you don't want to see slugs in your favorite plant, then put some rocks/egg-shells around the plants. That will deter some slugs. Then at one corner of the garden, provide slug food and put all your slugs from your favorite plants to those places. If you don't want to do such things, then get hold of those insects/bugs that you don't like and put them in your garbage bin. They will not die there and they might get transported to some other better location when the garbage is collected. Every life is precious, be it the life of slug or human being. If you still insist on killing, as we are all the time killing all the weeds (another life-form), then apologize to it for killing, and pray that it becomes free from the life of misery and achieve nirvana.

Monday, April 1, 2013

This Is Incredible!!

Either our government and all its bodies have lots of free money or lots of free time. If this raid was for current CIA employees, it was understandable. But, raiding former CIA employees homes using SWAT teams because they brought some hydroponic equipment to grow tomatoes and squashes is not acceptable and, honestly, beyond comprehension. The whole operation which the SWAT team did could have done in a civilized way by sending two officers to the house who could have searched the house and questioned the occupants. A SWAT team is not required!!


The father allegedly was forced to lie shirtless on the foyer while a deputy with an assault rifle stood over him. The children, a 7-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy, reportedly came out of their bedrooms terrified, the teenager with his hands in the air. And all because the couple, Robert and Adlynn Harte, bought indoor gardening equipment to grow a small number of tomato and squash plants in their basement, according to a lawsuit filed this week.

Read more here:

Read the details here or click on the link

We all should be really scared now as I am pretty sure we all buy lots of garden equipments, fertilizers, soil, mulch, compost and plants. Maybe one day I will get a knock on my door because no one can see what I am growing in my greenhouse or perhaps because I bought a plant that looks like marijuana!! How ridiculous, waste of time and public money.