Thursday, October 24, 2019

Make Soil Initiative

Hello my fellow gardeners,
I totally forgot to post about this amazing initiative called make soil. It lets gardeners all around the world to make soil together. The idea is to make compost with shared resources that otherwise would go to a dump. You register at their site and either create a “site” to receive composting materials, and/or join other peoples’ sites around your area. You can do both, for times when you have more than you can compost. I just received my first drop off today from Sumithra, who dropped off three bags of orange peels and a huge bucket of Bokashi. She composts but had too much.
On the Make Soil site you can specify what you accept, when to come to your place etc., and if you’re the one contributing you can see what the site you’re dropping the materials to accepts etc. Only registered users can see and join sites. Registration takes a minute and is straight forward. Have you joined already? You can do so here:

Saturday, October 12, 2019

How to sow seeds

Seeds, seeds, seeds everywhere (literally). Finally, after so many months, I’m back in the garden. I started later than usual this year, but I finally got to it. And of course I started with my favorite: tomatoes. I enjoyed working in the garden today. That feeling of the seeds in my hands, the texture of the soil through my fingers (I recommend you use gloves, but I just can’t help it), the smell of the garden, the sounds of the birds, and the sight of seeds, the calmness, it all brings me inner peace. I feel so good and energetic when I work in the garden. Early afternoon was still hot, but later the weather was perfect for working outside. 

Today I’d like to talk about and show you how to sow seeds. Lots of times beginners have no idea how to sow their seeds, and it’s one of the reason of a failed attempt. Sowing seeds is easy if you know how to do it correctly. There’s nothing hard about it, I promise, but you have to follow some basic rules and steps. So if you’re new, or have failed before, read on. 

I wrote a blog post about starting seeds before, and you may want to read that before starting your seeds:   
That post gives you general guidelines, whereas today I’m showing “HOW” to sow the seeds part. 

So let’s get started:

1. Get your plant markers and seeds ready. I prepare my plant markers at home first. I usually use wooden craft sticks cuz I can compost them later, but today I used these plastic ones I had from before. I use a water resistant permanent marker to write the plant and variety. I usually write the date in my journal. I also have a tray ready (you’ll see later why).

2.  Moisten your seed starting soil mix (the post above talks about what mix to use) and put it into your planting containers (aka yogurt containers, plastic cups, or whatever you’re using to start your seeds), and press lightly. NEVER, I repeat, NEVER start with a dry mix.

3. Once you put the soil into your planting containers water the mix again. The soil may settle after this initial watering, so make sure to fill up any spots where soil level has reduced. Don’t soak it wet though.  

4. Place your markers. Always mark you seeds, especially if you’re growing a few different varieties, cuz you really don’t want to be guessing when planting them out. 

5. Make holes for the seeds. As a general rule you plant your seeds about 2x their size. For smaller seeds I simply create a slight indentation with my fingertips. For larger seeds I use a
blunt object to make the holes. Do not use sharp objects cuz your seeds can drop to the bottom of the container and never sprout.

6. At this point I put the seed packets that I’m going to be planting on a tray.

7. Next is the sowing step. Put your seeds in the prepared hole. Put two seeds in. If the seeds are old or are known to be hard to germinate put in three or even four. I put one type/variety at a time.

8. Now cover the seed with soil and press gently (very gently). Some seeds don’t need to be covered as they need light to germinate, but most need to be covered.

9. Now put away the seed packet that you just planted. I put them back in the box in which I store them in. This way you don’t get confused. The ones in the box I have already planted, the ones in the tray are still to be planted.

10. When you finish planting all the seeds, water them gently (very gently, you don’t want to wash them away) or spray them with water.

Congratulations!!! You’re done planting your seeds.

To know how to care for your seeds after planting check my post How to Start Your Seeds and Not Kill the Seedlings 
How to Start Your Seeds and Not Kill the Seedlings 

Monday, August 26, 2019

Updates to my Downloads Page

Hello my fellow gardeners and readers,
I have added two awesome resources by MOCCAE (the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment). Both are planting guides with planting dates. One includes some crucial planting info too. Visit the USEFUL DOWNLOADS and you’ll find the guides under Gardening in UAE and Sub/Tropical Climate. 
NOTE: you can access the downloads page under the heading “useful downloads” in desktop view, and by pressing on the “triangle icon” next to “home” button towards the top of the page in mobile view.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Permaculture UAE group

Hello my dear readers,
I’d like to let you know that we have group called “Permaculture UAE”. It’s for new and experienced permaculturists who would like to live a more sustainable lifestyle and make a change too. You’re all welcome to join. Together we can bring permaculture to UAE on a wider scale. Let’s make the positive changes towards a more sustainable future together.
If you don’t know what permaculture is then you’re missing out. It’s relared to organic gardening but it’s also so much more, gardening is like one piece of the puzzle. I can’t put it in one sentence really. It’s a way of life, a philosophy of sustainable and regenerative ways that is in tune with nature. When I first found out about it I thought it would be difficult to implement in our climate, but I was wrong. Despite the fact that our climate is harsh it is still possible to not only practice permaculture here, but to also thrive at it.
Our group is not new, but it was in a little stall mode. I hope together we can bring it to life and help each other create and the community to improve our ways for a sustainable future. Join us with the link below:
Permaculture UAE Facebook group

Happy Gardening

Monday, June 24, 2019

My Moringa is back

My Moringa tree is back. I pruned it hard last year, well I simply chopped it off up to one meter away from ground. It took hard pruning really well before but not this time. It didn’t grow back and appeared dead. I was devastated as it was such a big tree. The only reason I cut it so low is because some of the branches had sooty canker (a fungal disease of the trees) and from my research the best action was to chop off the branches that were affected. Since I read about a practice of cutting moringas all the way to one meter from the ground I decided to give it a go. And now, months after the cut, it’s finally came back. It was such a pleasant surprise. I’m extremely happy. Yes, I compromised one year’s harvest, but I hope to get a stronger tree as a result.
If I find the pictures of when my tree was affected, by the way some of my mulberries were affected too, I’ll post more about what sooty canker is.

Happy Gardening

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Stop!!! Don’t eat this - Solanum Berries

Solanum genus, some members of which I’ll be writing about today, is in the Solanaceae or the Nightshade Family. The Nightshade Family is very diverse with a wide range of annuals and perennials of various sizes. According to the “Flora of United Arab Emirates” book by UAE University (picture in the end of this post) the Nightshade Family is represented by 6 genuses (or “genera” to be academically correct) in the UAE. These genesus are further represented by 9 species, excluding the cultivated ones.
Everyone, well at least those who have gardened long enough, knows that most of the species in the family are poisonous. Some are even deadly. Now, there are some familiar species that are perfectly fine to eat such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and peppers. There’s is one interesting species of solanum that is edible, yet is easily confused with the non edible and poisonous ones. It’s is the Solanum Nigrum or Black Nightshade. It’s berries start green, when they’re highly poisonous, and turn to attractive black little things that resemble blueberries. The black ripe berries are edible and are often  eaten by kids in some places, and is apparently even made into jams and preserves. It grew in my garden a few seasons ago and it was then that I was introduced to it. You can read about it here.
This is what the volunteer Solanum Nigum that grew in my garden looked like:

This year, I’ve noticed a lot of similar looking plants growing in my backyard, among my edibles. It may have come from manures, compost, or got spread by wind or birds. I guess I’ll never know and it doesn’t really matter, or does it? Well, as it often happens, gardeners in the same area happen to be bothered, or blessed, by the same weeds. And from what I’ve seen in Facebook posts, these seem to be growing in other people’s gardens this year too. Being the cautious me, coming across these I felt I shouldn’t trust my “faint” memory of the volunteer plant from seasons ago. Not in a hurry to try it, off to the books and Internet I went to search more about it and to correctly identify it. My guts were right again, it seems. The species that is growing in my backyard now is probably not the edible one. I’m not 100% sure but I’m not going to take the chances. Here’s the picture of the plant growing in my garden this year:

At first sight, both look very similar. Attractive, little black berries waiting for you to taste them. Ignoring the leaf shape for now, if you look closer you’ll see that there’s a difference in the calyx/sepals (this is the part that surrounds the flower and later adorns the berries):

Have you notciced how the sepals are turned away from the berries in the picture on the left, and how they're gently hugging the berries in the picture on right? Here’s the clarification, I circled it for you:

According to the internet search, the picture on the left seems to show Solanum Americanum and the picture on the right seems to show Solanum Nigrum. Most sources on the internet state that the Solanum Americanum species is poisonous, so I personally would go with this. But, since the Solanum genus is represented by 4 species in the UAE including the Solanum Nigrum and excluding Solanum Americanum, I decided to double check using the “Flora of the United Arab Emirates” book that I got a few years ago from the Sharjah Used Books Festival:


The only issue with the book is that it doesn’t include colored pictures for all the species, so matching the species sent me back to the Internet. Considering that that other three species, Solanum Incanum, Solanum Luteum, and Solanum Surattense, all have yellow fruits when ripe, I came to a conclusion that the unidentifed fruit in my garden is either the most probably poisonous Solanum Americanum, or some other unidentified solanum that I wouldn’t want to consume. I am not even sure now if the solanum that voluntarily grew in my garden a few seasons ago was the edible Solanum Negrum, even though I did try it back then.
I do not claim that the species mentioned here are what I suppose them to be, so please use your own judgment and do not consume anything you are not 100% sure is edible. Please share your thoughts in the comments and correct me if I’m wrong.

Happy Gardening

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Gardening Meetup

Hello fellow gardeners,
It’s been a while since I posted. I promised you to organize a meetup this year but things didn’t go as I had planned. Luckily, Mr.Bishnoi, from Dubai hardening Group, is organizing one on Feb 22, at Dubai Festival City. Great opportunity to meet others and exchange seeds/plants and experience. Please contact Mr.Bishnoi directly for details: 0526759781