Experiences from a Balcony Garden

This article intends to share organic ways to maintain and grow balcony garden. I am sharing some of the experiences I personally had while maintaining my garden as I experimented with variety of natural ways I learnt through wide range of books and online study.

I am maintaining an Organic garden in my balcony for the last 1 year approximately. I am sharing some of the experiences which might be useful for the beginners.

1.I consider sunlight as the single most important factor for plant growth. Since my garden receives sunlight only during the second half of the day(after 2 P.M) .Most of my plants struggled to grow and bear fruits until the days were bright and sunny .

2.I have personally observed that Tulsi plants love well drained soil and ample sunlight. They struggled to grow in poor sunlight locations and soil with poor drainage. I have failed on more than three occasions in growing Tulsi and finally realised that due to lack of proper sunlight in my balcony and realtively wet soil (due to poor drainage ) the plants wilted and died gradually.I can now boast of two Tulsi plants growing as well as never before in my garden.

3.Tomatoes can be grown just by cutting ripe tomatoes and placing the cuttings inside the soil. The plants will appear within a week's time.

4.The classical music which i usually play for my plants early in the morning around 5.30-6.30 am, has worked wonders as the plants have thrived well and the stems and leaves grew unusually big and thick. I especially observed this in my cucumber plants.

5.I have observed Pigeons destroying Marigold saplings on 2-3 occasions. They have a strange penchant for tiny Marigold plants.

6.The Tendrills of Cucumbers and Peas are always in look out for support and they cling to the support as quick as 30 minutes or so.

7.The Nerium(Oleander) plants grew by placing cuttings in the water. The shoots started appearing within a Span of 10 days.

8.Applying raw cow milk to plants have helped a lot to control powdery mildew one of the most common diseases in vegetable plants and flowers. I have been able to prevent tomatoes which are considered most susceptible to such diseases.I have experimented the same with my Beans, Brinjals ,Zinnias and Cucumbers successfully.

9.Blossom end rot where the underside of the tomatoes turn brown and slowly the fruit is rotten , is caused by uneven watering and i have observed that disease leaves the plant once we water regularly and evenly.

10.Squash Bugs are one of the most common problems observed in Bottle Guard plants and applying
finely crushed Neem leaves mixed with water helps control the Bugs within 1-2 days.

11.Pinching top of the flowering stems of Tulsi plant helped grow plants bushier. Everytime we remove the stems a set of two shoots appear on either side of the Main stem.

12. I have used the water after soaking leaves and leftovers of fruits and vegetables for 2-3 days on a regular basis and it has been found very effective for plant growth.

13.Cover plants especially leguminous plants like peas, pulses etc helps a lot in drawing nitrogen from the soil for the main plant.This helps in fast growth of new leaves and branches.

14.I consider spinach,,onions, garlic as the plants which can be grown with the least effort and care as they require only proper sunlight and good drainage.

15.I was able to realise the trials and tribulations a plant goes through to reach from a seed to plant only after doing organic gardening as i never used any external fertilisers even with organic levels as I was not sure that they were really organic.

16.I believe that we can only do organic gardening in true sense if the compost materials that we use are also organic i.e they are derived from your own organic garden where no fertilisers are used.However, it may take a bit longer to realise as initially the sourced material from seeds to compost will be derived from external sources only on which we will not have control.

17.Honey bees play a key role in pollination of N number of plants and their roles become very important for the plants which bear both male and female flowers. I struggled a lot initially due to their absence in my garden as my cucumbers did not bear fruits though they produced both male and female flowers in large numbers.

18.Growing plants from seeds helps us in understanding various problems a plant faces at different stages of development.The plants are attacked by variety of diseases especially during their early stages, just like our children.

19.I must recommend the book "Secret life of Plants" for all those who love to explore plant life.This book is loaded with some of the most interesting facts about plants.The experiments on plants carried out by the scientists in different parts of the world mentioned in the book are really awe inspiring and we can learn and experiment many of those to improve our understanding of plant world.


Author: Juana06 Feb 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 15

You have created an informative article on organic gardening. I was into organic gardening and successfully grew vegetables and fruits in a container garden on my terrace. Here are a few things that I did and which would help anyone taking up organic gardening –

Pest control:

1. Keep rodents such as squirrels away by sprinkling chilli powder around the periphery of your terrace/garden.
2. Protect the tender plants from squirrels and birds by covering them with an old cotton sari or chiffon dupatta.
3. Plant garlic and marigold in your garden as they repel bugs like aphids, whiteflies etcetera
4. Regularly spray chilli powder mixed with water on plants to repel bugs

Organic fertiliser:

1. Banana peels act as an excellent fertiliser. They are rich in potassium, one of the key nutrients required for flowering and the growth of plants. Bury banana peels in the soil and watch the plants bloom
2. Crushed eggshells provide calcium to plants and are beneficial for plants such as tomatoes. Make sure to wash the eggs before adding them to the soil
3. Used tea added to soil increases its nutrient value and benefits plants growing in it
4. Buy a compost bin and put all your kitchen waste into it, to make your own compost

General tips:

1. Blossom end rot can be prevented by adding anti-acid tablets to the soil – crush a few and add to the soil. Alternatively, add a few calcium tablets to the soil. The egg tip, mentioned above also prevents blossom end rot in tomatoes and bell peppers
2. In the absence of pollinators (bees) use a paint brush or an ear bud to gently transfer the pollen from the stamen of the male flowers to the stigma of the female flowers
3. Some plants like okra have a self-pollination mechanism that requires gentle breeze. In case the terrace does not have sufficient breeze, shake the plants by hand every day for pollination to occur
4. Stake not just climbers like beans, cucumbers, peas etcetera, but also tomato plants
5. Oleander is a poisonous plant and must be kept away from children and pets
6. Pinch off tips off plants to encourage better foliage.

Author: Juana20 Feb 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 9

Apart from all the tips mentioned above, here are a few more that can be used in the balcony garden -
• Don’t throw away the water used for soaking rice, beans, and pulses etcetera. Use it for watering the plants. The water soluble nutrients in these items provide nutrition to the plants
• Water in which eggs are boiled is also good for the plants, especially tomatoes
• Use the water used for boiling potatoes or sweet potatoes for your plants. In fact, don’t throw any water that has been used for boiling/blanching vegetables down the sink, use it for your plants
• Water used for boiling rice, pasta and noodles is full of starch and good for the soil. Starch helps release nutrients in the soil more easily. Just ensure there is no oil or salt added to the water
• Medicines that have expired can be crushed or dissolved in water and used to water the plants occasionally.

Mid-day summer sun can be more harmful than helpful for potted plants. Plants tend to wilt under the sharp sun. So, either shift them to a shaded or build a greenhouse to protect the plants. I hang a thick curtain across the railing to protect my plants from the sharp summer sun.
• Use large cardboard cartons to protect plants from cold winds at night, in the winter. Remove the flaps on one side of the carton and place it over a plant like a sleeve
• If you see ants near your potted plants that is bad news. Ants carry bugs such as aphids and mealy bugs and colonise plants. They eat the secretion and larva of these bugs.

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