10 Mistakes that will Kill Your Terrace Garden

Transplanting Everything
Seedlings are not cute. They’re as clingy and needy as newborn and throw tantrums like toddlers. At the top of the list of seedlings that will die of shock are cucumber and bhindi (ladies finger/okra). Tomatoes and brinjal (eggplant) will survive transplantation but if you’re a beginner like me, then only barely.

None of the transplanted creepers in the back survived. I should have culled the radish in the front

Too much attachment and too little culling
If you’re a first time gardener like me, you probably get excited looking at any seed that sprouts. Don’t. Most seeds that sprout will not make it. So the point is to be ruthless and just cull a seedling . So the ratio is something like this – about 80% of seeds will germinate and about 60-70% of those will grow into some kind of viable plant. As the seeds get tinier the ratios get worse so plant a few seeds per hole and cull, cull, cull till you get the right number of plants.

Watering too little
Forgetting to water your plants for a day or two in Chennai will, unfortunately, kill them as I found out when I locked my house and went away for a weekend. I watered my plants on Friday evening and came back to droopy babies on a Monday morning.

Watering too much
I learned my lesson and outsourced watering to my maid when I was out of town last weekend and I came back to find that my mint had drowned. Quite literally.

Over watered and under fertilized.

Insufficient fertilizer
Call it a hangover from pregnancy five years ago but I’m happy to never even look at a vitamin supplement again. While that works for humans, it doesn’t work that way with plants. The soil you spent all that money on? Turns out it’s not going to feed your plants even for a few months. You need to fertilize your plants every freaking week. Bad enough I need to plan for groceries to feed the family three meals a day. Now I need to buy food to feed my plants too?

Planting stuff wherever
I never understood why my bhindi wasn’t growing despite water, mulch, sunny spot, fertilizer, no aphids, and lots of talking and love. Turns out the bean creepers on the wall (more about this later) cast a shadow on the bhindi for most of the day. The bhindi decided to bolt.

Whatever the case, bhindi blooms are so precious 🙂

Planting stuff whenever
Case in point, I have two lovely green broad bean (chikkudikaya) creepers that will never flower or bear vegetables because I planted them too late. I will have to uproot two perfectly healthy plants because they’re basically useless both to me and to their own evolutionary purpose. Sigh!

Insufficient Support for creepers
Creepers are attractive to new gardeners because ooh, they’re so cute and ooh, I don’t need too much space to grow them. But guess what? Creepers are like the tiny dogs of the plant world. They need a lot of maintenance especially in the early days. If you don’t provide a creeper with support in the first couple of weeks it will not grow. Once you do provide support you need to train the creepers up the support. And you also need to keep pruning the lower branches because you cannot…

Should have pruned the lower branches and trained the creepers up much earlier

Trust the benevolence of nature
What is that you say? Trust nature? Sure, that’s exactly what I did before I lost an entire bed of long beans creepers to aphids. Where did the aphids come from? Well, I didn’t prune the lower branches of the creepers well enough and that was enough to infect the entire stems and lower branches. Not just that, in one week the aphids spread from the beans to the bhindi and destroyed half of those too.

 

Storms and other s*it
When all else fails, rest assured that a water tanker strike or an out of season cyclone will kill your remaining plants.

Killed, just killed by Vardah

I’ve decided to thank our farmers and treat my terrace garden for what it is – an expensive, soul-crushing, time sink of a hobby. What am I saying, I’m just going to do it all over again in June because hey, I’ve made all the mistakes possible, right?

A harvest of long beans

10,000 steps: A month of Fitbit

I’ve been using my Fitbit (this year’s birthday present, Yay!) for close to a month now. When I got started I felt like I’d nail the 10,000 steps every single day. After all, it’s just a matter of being more active, right? You just need to walk around every hour, take the long way to the restroom, take the stairs instead of the lift, and just generally be a superior (and annoying) person. Right? As it turns out, the goal is not that straight forward.

Here’s the arithmetic:Picture1

10,000 steps a day basically commits you to a walk (or a run) every single day.

That’s the problem, isn’t it? If I was walking or running every single day to start with, I wouldn’t need a Fitbit. I would have perfect abs and a smug look on my face while I watched you eat samosas. I would wear net or chiffon saris every single day. I would not have to will my creaking joints to rise off the floor after feeding my son dinner. You would be caught unaware by my awesomeness which would travel through this screen, over the internet, lie patiently and bedazzle you just as you groggily and browse your daily feed. The bedazzling would be done by my “look how hot I look” selfies.

Alas, and perhaps it’s better for the world that it is so, I do not exercise every day. I simply can’t find the time. I work long hours, I have a young kid, and I’m lazy. Those are the things I’ve hidden behind. Lately, I’ve had to stop making these excuses because the evidence stares me right in the face. Obesity and/or heart disease will find me sooner than they did my parents. So I’ve finally started to haul myself off for a walk when I stay late in office to take calls or wait for someone else to finish their work. I haven’t reached smugness-worthy levels of activity yet but I can see the difference.

The other thing my Fitbit tracks is sleep. It measures, quite accurately, how long I sleep and how restful or restless the sleep is. The good thing is I again have the evidence of terrible sleep habits. I do not sleep as early or as long as I like to believe I do (timestamp of this post is also evidence). Not just that, I also don’t sleep as well in an air conditioned room as I do sleeping on a thin mattress on the floor under a fan. The bad news is, instead of waking up and taking a moment to just be happy about the day ahead, I rush to sync my Fitbit.

What I love about the Fitbit is the data. I can’t make excuses when there’s hard evidence telling me to exercise more and sleep more. What I hate about the Fitbit is the data. I have different levels of energy each day. So while 10,000 steps is a breeze on some days it’s agonizing to even get to 6k on others (There you are, end of cycle energy slump!). Too much data shifts the focus from how I feel to how well I did.  It’s like having a daily report card. Here’s what it looks like on a good day:

image

My goal this year was to be healthy and given that I’m not highly self-motivated, I’m going to stick with using my Fitbit for another 11 months. After that, I’m going to trust my newer, sharper instincts.

Month 1: Learned to be more conscious of how much I’m moving.

Code Crushes

If you love coding, you’ll probably love this profanity notwithstanding:

Sometimes, you gotta love the code. When you think about it, reading someone’s code is a lot like reading their blog or their poetry. It gives you a deep insight into how they think. So why can’t you fall in love with someone who writes the most elegant, tight, Java method you’ve ever seen? Unless Java is the only language they know 😉

Have you watched Silicon Valley? I watched and loved the first season before they decided to kill HBO in India so I’ll have to go search for the second season online. Sigh! I have such streaming inertia…