With the onset of the covid 19 pandemic, many people around Sri Lanka resorted to home gardening. The lockdown of three months saw many people finding self-sufficiency in planting their own vegetables and medicinal herbs. This kept most occupied and in control at times of fear and confusion. But there were many others who were uncertain as to where to begin and with very little or no garden space in the cities and the disappointment of ill-looking or failing plants, a few just gave up.
But this doesn’t have to be the case. This got me thinking that I need to pen down my experiences, just so that I could encourage the discouraged with my very own little two cents on how you could begin your own little home garden and help keep it thriving. It really does not require much effort if you get your facts right and go about it the right way. I myself am restricted to a rooftop garden, but with a little help from the internet, this rooftop could give you the happiness a normal typical garden would.
So how can you start this off? Most of my plants are in black plastic pots which I find are more durable than the green ones you would find at your local market. Get yourself a bag of compost that would cost you no more than Rs.100/= and some good garden soil. A handy spade and a huge watering can is a must. Now that you have all the “tools” ready let's finally start talking about the plants!
1. Curry leaf plant
One of the easiest and essential plants that all home gardeners in Sri Lanka must have is the humble curry leaf plant. It requires very little effort and rarely gets infected. You need to get yourself a small sapling, which you could easily purchase at any plant nursery. This plant needs quite a bit of sunlight and has to be watered only when the topsoil gets dry. Let the plant grow to about 50cm before you start picking the leaves, as I find picking them at very early stages weakens the plant. Once they are about 80cm keep trimming them for bushier plants.
Rampe is another plant that is a “breeze in the garden”. This too would require a sapling that has to be kept under partial sunlight. This plant needs daily watering, being a plant that usually grows near the wells of our ancestral houses. You may need quite a wide pot for this, as this plant sprouts, sister roots quite quickly.
3. Lemon grass\Sera
This plant loves its sunlight and needs a shower once a day during the dry climate. The lemongrass plant also would require quite a big pot, as it grows quite fast. This plant, I find also keeps the mosquitoes at bay. So leaving them right outside your windows can be quite effective.
4. Chilli plants
These plants give you so much joy once they start fruiting. Sowing in a few seeds of good quality chilli that has been dried, for a few days, can give you multiple plants.I purchase my chillies from the local vegetable shop. And when I come across a variety that has a lovely flavour and is of good quality, I make sure I leave one for drying and planting. You can do this with any chilli type, like, small green chillies, kochi, nai miris, capsicums and even bell peppers. After you sow the seeds you find sprouts shooting up in just a week or 10 days’ time. After the sprouts grow to a height of around 20cm you can move it to direct sunlight. It needs very little care but make sure you water the tiny plants a bit carefully without damaging them.
Commonly known as “das” flowers in Sri Lanka these plants I find are very important to gardening. The big bright flowers not only attract pollinators like butterflies and bees but the roots of the marigold plant, when planted alongside other plants, help keep away root and fungal infections. These shrubs can be easily grown as it needs little to no effort with just a shower daily. The dried-up flowers contain the seeds, so just crushing up the dried flowers and sprinkling them back into the soil is all you need to do to grow new plants. It’s that easy!
Other stuff that helps in the garden is a monthly sprinkle of compost or any other natural fertilizer. Picking out those weeds that creep up now and then and trimming your plants to keep them manageable is all you need to do. I find checking up on your plants early in the morning not only benefits the plants but boosts positive energy in you, which helps you start your day off on the right foot. Watering them in the mornings than in the evenings does help reduce plant-related sickness and keeps your plants happy and healthy. Once this gets started, your one on one time, with your plants just turns out to be your most favourite time of day!