Start a Small Garden
There is no better way to go Organic than growing produce yourself. All homes are conducive to growing some useful herbs, vegetables and fruits - you simply need to find a good sunny spot. In India, we've found that Tomatoes, Coriander, Papaya, Brinjal and Chilies grow quickest, with very little maintenance and can be sowed almost year round - this means you can plant them anytime and you will get a great yield.
To begin your journey towards a blossoming garden, buy a few extra pieces of the above mentioned organic fruit/veg/herb the next time you shop. We find the best and easiest way to start off is to use the seeds or stems directly in the soil. You can also buy organic seeds which are readily available at Farmer's Market.
Creating a healthy mix of good organic soil is also very easy today, for the maximum good health of your soil always ensure that you use one part coco peat, one part organic compost and one part organic gardening soil. One of the best fertilizers in the Indian market today is organic cow manure, now readily available in small and large size packages. Our favourite brand is Garden Manure which is virtually odourless and can be bought on Amazon..
To grow a tomato, simply cut the fruit into thin slices which reveal its seeds on both sides and plant them an inch into the soil, water generously and continue to water daily until you see little sprouts. Watch your sprouts carefully and remove the weaker ones so that the stronger ones have enough room to grow, eventually one pot should have one strong plant. Tomatoes are largely water-based and hence need sufficient water to grow, so make sure you water your plants regularly and generously. We've found that topping your plant every three weeks with a little cow manure does wonder. Once little yellow flowers bloom, it's a good measure to aid fertilization by gently vibrating the stems which have the flowers. Very soon you will see little green tomatoes develop. Once they ripen and turn red they are ready to eat!
These grow rapidly and all you need is the roots of the coriander you buy - simple, easy and super affordable! Cut off any unused stems and leaves from a small bunch of coriander and place the roots in a glass of water and leave in a nice sunny spot. Within a few days, you will start to notice small green roots and shoots develop. Once you see enough of these you can transplant into a mix of healthy organic soil. Water the plants daily and ensure they get enough sunlight and soon flowers, stems and leaves will develop. Pluck, wash and its ready for your dishes, chutneys and everything else.
One of the most rewarding experiences is growing Papayas, not only do they grow very fast and do not require several manure tops-ups but they yield nutritious and delicious fruit. Papaya can be used in the raw or ripe form and its versatility and presence in most South Asian cuisines make it a stellar fruit to grow. We started with saplings bought from an organic market and planted these in our organic soil in a spot with plenty of sunlight. However, Papayas grow really easily with seeds too. Washing the seeds from a ripened organic Papaya and removing the outer jelly bag helps the seeds to germinate faster. These seeds can now be planted in saplings trays or a little pot and transferred to a bigger one once the shoot thickens. A Papaya can grow really tall and are best grown in a balcony or outdoor garden where the sky's the limit for the tree. Picking the fruit can be tricky sometimes, so we advice use a hooked long stick to cut the stems slowly and let them fall to the ground.
Brinjals tend to take a little longer to grow and is not a very attractive looking plant. Its leaves have spines or sharp needles and these can seriously hurt if touched. However, they have the most beautiful purple flowers and do not require too much soil to grow in.
Again like the Papaya, we bought the saplings from the market and planted them in bigger pots once they outgrew their trays. However you can use the seeds from organic Brinjals and plant one in a sapling tray or upto four in a regular pot. Remember to pull out any weaker sprouts and only keep the strongest ones. Brinjal plants are prone to mites and pests and the best way to remove these is to simply pick away all the white spots and use an old toothbrush to scrub the leaves clean (be careful of the spines). Once the flowers fertilize you will notice a green little brinjal form, and this is the time it is integral to water the plant generously. When the fruit ripens it turns a nice purple color and its ready to eat! Do keep in mind however, homegrown brinjals do not grow as big as store bought ones but are more delicious!
Another extremely rapidly growing plant - chilies - can be planted in any season and one seed can yield upto 20-30 chilies. We found the best way to do this was to simply remove the seeds from an organic chilly and plant it, an inch deep into a regular pot with a good mix of organic soil. Planting about 6-8 seeds per pot is a good idea. You will start to see sprouts within a week and then all they need is a generous amount of water and sunshine. Pull out weaker sprouts from the pot and leave 3-4 seedlings, Water daily and you will soon have chilies. We grew the Indian green chilly which is a long and light green variety and not vehemently spicy. These can be added to dals and vegetable curries to add a dash of spice and color.