Thursday, March 24, 2011


A short while ago, we came across a fantastic website which is a Colorado based company promoting the organic cause.  Here is an excerpt from the information on their site, plus a few additions from us.
Intercropping, companion planting or symbiotic planting are all techniques of growing different plants together or in succession, to deliver best results. Here is another good resource with loads of info:

Some common intercrops or companion plants are listed below and can help promote growth, fruit taste or quality and protect against diseases. (Does not eliminate need for pesticide or weeding though)
Holy Basil (Tulsi): Grow with Tomato’s, Capsicum, Oregano, Asparagus and Petunias. Basil is helpful in repelling thrips, flies and mosquitoes.
Bay leaf (Tamalpatra): With Beans.  We Gujaratis have been putting tad patti or tamalpatra in each storage container of beans or grains to deter pests since kingdom come.
Beans:  With Carrots, Corn, Brinjal, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Wheat and other grains. All beans enrich the soil with nitrogen fixed form the air, improving the conditions for whatever crop you plant after the beans are finished.  Beans are great for heavy nitrogen users like corn and grain plants because the nitrogen used up by the corn and grains are replaced at the end of the season when the bean plants die back. Besides, remember the nursery rhyme we sang as kids? 
Beans Beans
Good for your heart
The more you eat
The more you fart
Sorry, couldn’t resist. Hehe

Beetroot:  With Lettuce, Onion, Cabbage, Good for fixing magnesium in soil, and that in turn helps plant take up nitrogen. Companions for beets are lettuce, onions and cabbage, cauliflower. Grow beets alongside garlic.
Chamomile, Mint, and Dill: plant with brassica like Cabbage and Cauliflower. Do not plant near tomato and chilly.
Broccoli: Mint, Garlic, Dill and Marigolds and Methi
Coriander: Potato
Garlic: Roses, Cucumber, Pea, Tomato, Carrot …almost anything!  It’s a great natural fungicide that is high in sulphur content.

Do let us know if you have anymore us at

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Green Curtains From A Lovely Country

It is a dark time for the human race. We here at Greenbay want to express our grief and sadness of recent tragedies in New Zealand and now Japan. Some of the best things come from Japan- Bonsai trees, ukiyo-e, and Nintendo wii. It is unfair that such terrible things happen to such good people. Our prayers are with them.
 Here’s an example of the fantastic creativity and environmental consciousness of Japan: Green walls at Kyocera Corporation, a leading company of Japan that produces a range of things from solar power energy solutions to kitchen appliances.
Image taken from the Kyocera Corporation Website

 The company website has very interesting information on how to build a green curtain and provides first hand information on how much it can cool your home! They have grown Karela (bitter gourd) on a wire mesh and trained it up the building walls. 
Just Imagine:  if we all do this for our homes in our city, how much relief we would have from the heat…
1) Building a mandvo is the traditional Gujarati way of growing creepers or vine vegetables like Karela , Parval and Tindora.  If you want to do in at your home, but don’t have a big enough backyard, you can do it on the terrace. Just remember, these plants require full sun and long days. Do not plant them in a shady place such as under a tree.

 2) For terrace gardens, install angles on the sidewalls of the terrace to support GI wire mesh structure from all corners at the top. Plant seeds in a seed tray or pot, or get seedlings (dharu) from a nursery (Go to Baroda Roses Nursery in Sama or Tropical Horticultural Service in Gotri for Speedy Dharuรค Seedlings)
3) Plant the vegi plants ideally around Jan-Feb as it starts getting warm and throughout monsoon to early fall.  Fill a pot with mixture of mud, organic manure or vermicompost  and cocopeat. Plant the seedling preferably during late evening to give enough time for it to stabilize before the harsh rays of sun. Water well.
After a few days give it a good dose of micronutrient and liquid chemical fertilizer like Sunpurna. You won’t need to use these again for a while- ideally, use micronutrients only twice a year, and chemical fertilizers very sparingly may be every month.
4) As the plant grows, trail it with a string and help it climb up towards the mesh. As the plant grows it will cover the entire ceiling.
5) Move plant into a bigger pot as it grows, or it will get pot bound. You can get big cement pots (15cm diameter) or use plastic drum or barrels. These are available from factories in Gorwa and some times offices throw them away. Be creative in your container search. If you can’t find anything, nick your neighbour’s.
6) Water once a day during morning or evening for pots, and once a week for soil beds. These plants like warm and humid atmosphere, but well drained soil.  Dig up soil to aerate it once every 2 weeks. Use “Chinni Kam” or a herbal neem based pesticide if you see any signs of trouble.
7) Parval and Tindora produce vegis almost all year round.  Parval goes dormant in winter, and starts shedding its leaves. Don’t panic. Water it less frequently in winter and give it lots of water-soluble nutrients.
 8) Start picking the vegetable 2 weeks from first vegetable appearing, and then pick them once a week.
 9) If the plants starts flowering, but is not developing any vegetable, be sure to use Sunzyme or a similar plant growth hormone. Another reason for no Parval could be that the male plant has not pollinated the female flowers- you need move them closer and pray. Ideally you should have 1 male plant to every 9 female plants. For other plants like Karela and Tindora, you don’t have too worry, all flowers will turn into fruit!
 10) Enjoy your home-grown vegetable in 2 to 5 months from planting. Karela is a powerful aniviral, antimalarial and anticancer food- it’s so good for you, that’s why its bitter. Parval is good for digestion disorders, strengthens eyes and is great for immunity. Tindora is a powerful anti diabetic food. Both have been recently found to have Cholesterol reducing property and they taste good in curries as well.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"NPK- The big three" FAQs

1)    What is NPK? All plants, any species in the world, needs 4 major elements for its survival, growth and reproduction -Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K) and Carbon (C). The first 3 are coined as NPK available as chemical fertilizer and carbon is generally available from organic manures.

2)    Great, where do I get it? Your plant will get these normally from soil and manures. However, they need to be broken down into forms that can be absorbed so the plants can use them. Our invisible friends such as bacteria and visible wriggly friends such as earthworms do this. Think twice before you chuck out the hardworking critters.

3) What does Nitrogen do?
  • Nitrogen is a part of all living cells and is a necessary part of all proteins, enzymes and metabolic processes involved in the synthesis and transfer of energy.
  • Nitrogen is a part of chlorophyll, the green pigment of the plant that is responsible for photosynthesis. 
  • Helps plants with rapid growth, increasing seed and fruit production and improving the quality of leaf and forage crops. 

4)    What does Phosphorus do?

  • Like nitrogen, phosphorus (P) is an essential part of the process of photosynthesis. 
  • Involved in the formation of all oils, sugars, starches, etc.
  • Helps with the transformation of solar energy into chemical energy; proper plant maturation; withstanding stress.
  • Effects rapid growth.
  • Encourages blooming and root growth.

5)    Why Potassium?
  • Plants absorb potassium in larger amounts than any other mineral element except nitrogen and, in some cases, calcium. 
  • Helps in the building of protein, photosynthesis, fruit quality and reduction of diseases.

6)    So do I need to add a chemical fertilizer containing NPK to my soil?
Yes and no.  Often a cause of debate (chemical fertilizer production causes pollution and harms the environment in some cases) NPK formulations have been used since as far back as 1800’s. Farmers and commercial growers swear by it, because these fertilizers are fast acting and absorbed by the plant very quickly. They also need to be used in smaller quantities for same result as organic manure- because they are concentrated.

7)    Are chemical fertilizers more expensive? Of course! But you do get more bang for your buck…

8)    Are they all I need? No. Fertilizers containing NPK, contain just that. They are the basic plant food, but not the complete set of nutrition. Plants still need micronutrients, other macro elements like Carbon, Sulphur, Calcium, and Magnesium etc.

9)    So should I stick to organic manure? Sure. But if you have very old pots with soil in them, or you have moved into a newly built plot with no garden, just bare empty soil in your backyard, the soil will need to be replenished. Use a combination of NPK, which will give a quick boost of nutrients to your plant along with organic/farmyard manures or compost, which will release smaller amounts of nutrition over longer period of time.

10) Have you got a drip irrigation system? Water-soluble NPK formulations will work great with your drip system and because they are absorbed quickly, and dispersed more accurately than flooding the bed.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


We asked Dr. Santhan of about his views on kitchen gardening in general. Here's what he has to say:

"Kitchen gardening is good hobby and can be done around the house or even on the terrace.  Mushroom can also be cultivated at home by getting spawn from near by agri universities/science universities. Bhendi, chillies, brinjal, drumstick, herbs like mint and coriander can easily be grown in containers or shallow beds.

Also bitter-gourd, bottle guard, papaya, radish, cow pea etc can be grown at home and eaten as fresh vegetables.  Greens and culinary herbs from home can be grown in pots or bases of plastic drums! Anything can be reused. Soil, sand and farm yard manure should be mixed in equal proportion and filled in it and planted. All the care you need is regular watering and weeding. Good sunlight should be available to the plants. In a short while, we can relish the taste of our efforts."

Write to Dr Santhan about growing medicinal plants at: santhan_herbal<at the rate>