Homey Gardening


Greenhorn’s Granary

Maybe you decided to venture into gardening from being raised in a place where you constantly saw life sprouting in pots, planters, or your grandparents’ backyard. This familiarity with the rural side of life led you to try it on your own. Or maybe you’re the purest greenhorn gardener, at last getting those hands muddy.

Whether you’re from the city and only recently moved somewhere more spacious, or the city is still your haven and you don’t intend to leave it, still, that doesn’t mean one can’t have a share of flora rooting within four walls and a tight balcony. There’s room for everything and hope for everyone… just dig in!

Gardening is always an interesting activity. One of the most satisfying pursuits, after you start, is to keep learning and gathering a selection of plants and beautiful objects you can craft uniquely for your home and garden.

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A Fulfilling Hobby

Many believe in the theory that gardening is an activity for anyone who wants to escape daily stresses. In truth, though, taking care of a garden or even a pair of houseplants is no trivial chore.

What I mean is that it demands regular attention and shrewdness. You need to be ready to dedicate a fraction of your day’s time to your deserving greenery. But don’t wrongly assume that gardening is too demanding or overwhelming either.

You alone choose the volume of effort you’re willing to put in — there isn’t a great obligation. It’s actually the opposite, as there’s a good heap of contentment to be felt once you succeed in seeing your first plant to adulthood rather than letting it down and off to premature demise.

A Healthy Addition to Existing Decor

It’s not too rare that we hear some saying that plants shouldn’t be kept inside our bedroom because they steal oxygen, which isn't true. Instead, what has been proven is that plants purify the indoor spaces while also influencing our well-being on a much deeper level.

These green roommates do play a vital part in calming us down and boosting the current decor level of our place. If not inside the bedroom (because after all, we cherish our privacy!), anywhere from the many window sills to by a lonely kitchen sink.

The spots begging for a plant are plenty, you must simply find them. Sometimes it feels odd to make changes in our home, but when it comes to flower pots and the life they contain, you can never really go wrong, and I am certain too that you’ll never look back either.

A Reason to Come Home More Excited

After sowing a seed or planting a root, bulb, leaf, or twig in the soil, we count the days until it comes to life. When will it emerge and the first sprouts start to unfold? There’s excitement in even the most minute of developments, as soon as you become attached to the process.

Since it’s mostly after long periods of absence — during a night of sleep or a full day out at work — that the garden seems to grow more, and the expectation for surprising changes gives you one added incentive to return home faster.

Put the key to the door, step in, and keep your fingers crossed, lest your flowers have thrown a wild rave in the living room!

A Pride in Having a Beautiful Collection

Few things are more fascinating than being allowed to follow, up-close, the progress of life, from seed to senescence.

Plants will flourish according to how you feed and care for them. In this and many other aspects, plants are really the same as all other living beings. The difference is that we get to run through each stage of their lives at a much faster pace (unless we’re speaking of big, big trees) and that makes it only the more exciting.

Besides, I think I’m not speaking only for myself when saying it’s a great boost in our spirits, but more so to our ego when we manage to maintain a functional garden, glowing with health.

A Way to Engage With Our Loved Ones

Gardening is very therapeutic even when done in solitude, but it’s way more enthralling if you bring those you cherish into the party.

Call them over to contribute every time you need to plow, sow and weed, reminding everyone that those who don’t sweat early on, won’t be invited to break bread when it’s time to taste the ripe tomatoes and crispy lettuce, dressed in olive oil and with a sprinkle of that oregano you also grew on a little sunny patch.

The only thing they must be aware of is that no one is expected to be born with a green thumb. As long as they’re willing to get their hands dirty, all is well and ready to grow.

All About Maidenhair Ferns

Ricardo Elisiário

Ferns are now still as trendy as ever before. Since Victorian times they’ve been used for the nice and exotic looking houseplants they are, displayed either by themselves or inside a terrarium or greenhouse, where the environment can be made most appropriate to raise these plants.

This one is very common. Probably because of how easy and fast it grows, for it sprouts without any trouble, with its light-green curly buds unfolding from within the earth to rise tall, as high as the plant’s age allows.

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Temperature

For maidenhair ferns, temperatures should be neither too chilly nor hot — keep it at 15-20 degrees C.

Care to shield the plant from the outside’s hostile weather that creeps in from any open windows during the peak of winter. Temperatures beyond this cozy interval might cause yellowing and stunt this fern’s growth.

Light

In truth, ferns are made of light much more than they are of darkness, so don’t let their misty, crawly appearance fool you into thinking otherwise. They prefer the brightest spots, though ideally never direct sunlight as it can easily and irreversibly burn the paper-thin leaflets.

Be thus really careful with the sun and especially with the heat. I once saw mine suddenly droop and little did I know that it only needed a bit more water than I had given it — it was then the high of summer, a very hot day even indoors.

Water

A lot of species like this one don’t require their potting mix to be soggy but you cannot let it ever dry either. What they also enjoy is a high level of moisture in the air because the stems of the maidenhair fern are fragile and vulnerable to drought.

The supplement this water that’s constantly evaporating into the room, spray the leaves daily or place the flowerpot on top of a larger container with a thin layer of water (which should however not be always in contact with the bottom holes of the pot, or rotting might occur).

Soil

Use any kind of mix but preferably one that’s light and rich in organic matter. These plants aren’t picky in regards to where they sink their roots in, they only need to be able to do so unobstructedly, also because the rhizome grows at a shallow depth underground.

If you can, use a potting soil meant for ferns and mosses, that contains a bit more of the usual ingredients plus some vermiculite and sphagnum turf. These parts will make the humidity in and around the pot much higher and the need for watering hopefully less frequent.

Transplanting

Whenever you feel that the vase is depleted and roots are already coming out of the bottom, it might be time to renew the mix and divide the plant’s rhizomes. You can do this every year or two because the fern grows wildly during the warmer seasons.

One rule to follow is not to bury the crown of the rhizome beneath a too heavy layer of soil, for the new sprouts come all green and ready from there mostly. However, I actually tend to cover that crown just enough for it to be hidden below the surface, since I find it less neat to see the whole budding mess that’s going on underground.

This way, the only shape that appears is that of the actual shoots, one after the other. And it’s quite impressive how fast they come out and unfurl once the plant is well-rooted.

Propagation

Maidenhair ferns are best multiplied by simple division of their convoluted mass of rhizomes. By spreading the bulk apart you’ll get many new roots, almost as many as you’d like, that you can then replant in multiple pots.

Do this procedure on spring and only if the fern has grown enough new rhizomes. Also, unlike some other ferns, this plant doesn’t produce new plantlets directly from its fronds.

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Place and Decorative Purposes

Being suited for both suspended or simpler ground level pots, this fern’s leaves are based on firm, thin brown stems with an erect tendency that’ll keep them from dropping down too much.

Preference aside, this plant goes well with every kind of decor and room type. It’ll maintain its form and growth if your house is heated, and if not, then wait a couple of months for spring and it shall then burst again like ever before.

The maidenhair fern makes for a great houseplant for those who like it simple, elegant, and very easy and gratifying to tend to.

Paneer Lajawab Recipe

For all our readers who don’t understand Hindi or Urdu, lajawab means “unanswerable”, literally, though it actually signifies “matchless”. This serves to say that we’ll be aiming high with this dish. The fusion of spices will smack your tongue and your family be compelled to mop off the plate with their fingers.

Here’s our paneer (cottage cheese) recipe containing some mild spices, fresh garden herbs and veggies, and a whole lot of passion and flavour meant to tickle your tastebuds.

Paneer Lajawab

Yields 2 servings.

Ingredients

  • 250 grams of paneer (if you don’t have it, can be replaced by tofu)
  • 1 cup of tomato paste
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 green chilies, slit lengthwise
  • 4 tablespoons of oil
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh cream
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons of dried and crushed fenugreek leaves
  • 2 teaspoons of ginger garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon of coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon of chaat masala
  • 1 teaspoon of pav bhaji masala
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of carom seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Dice the paneer into cubes.
  2. Inside a deep bowl, combine the paneer with the dried fenugreek leaves, chili and turmeric powders, chaat masala and salt.
  3. Mix gently and place it in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  4. Finely chop the onion.
  5. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and put them in a small mixer jar. Add 3 tablespoons of water. This will enhance the smoothness of the paste.
  6. Blend it into a soft paste.
  7. Take a non-stick griddle and heat 2 tablespoons of oil.
  8. Add the marinated paneer and shallow fry them for only 3 minutes, on high to medium flame. Toss occasionally.
  9. Remove from the pan and keep aside.
  10. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, then add the carom and cumin seeds. Sauté on medium flame for 30 seconds.
  11. Add the finely chopped onion and sauté still on medium for 3 more minutes.
  12. Add the garlic paste and green chilies. Mix well and cook for 1 minute until the raw smell of garlic is gone. Stir occasionally.
  13. Add the coriander powder and a pinch of salt. Keep cooking for 3 more minutes on medium.
  14. Add the fresh tomato paste and fennel seeds. Mix well and let cook for 3 minutes.
  15. Add tomato ketchup and pav bhaji masala. Cook well for 5 minutes.
  16. Finally, add the cooked paneer plus 3/4 of a cup of water, and it should cook for 3 to 4 minutes, now on low flame till the flavors infuse the paneer cubes.
  17. Add fresh cream and garnish with coriander leaves.
  18. Mix it up a bit to mingle all the aromas and colors… and it’s ready to plate!

Give this Indian treat a try and come up with lovely comfort food that has all the taste without much of that sometimes painful spice. Truly a dish one can cook on any occasion to win the hearts of even those who are skeptical about vegetarian food.

Organic Béchamel Salad Recipe

Bechamel salad

Yields 2 servings.

Ingredients

Sauce:

• 2 tablespoons of butter
• 1 tablespoon of refined flour
• 2 tablespoons of finely chopped garlic
• 3 cups of milk (preferably warm)
• Salt (to taste)
• Freshly ground cayenne pepper
• Oregano
• 4 tablespoons of cheddar cheese (grated)

Salad:

• 1/4 head of iceberg lettuce
• 1 medium-sized carrot
• 1 large tomato
• 1 medium-sized onion
• 1 teacup of sweet corn
• 1 handful of walnuts (roughly chopped/crushed)
• 1 tablespoon of olive oil
• 1 tablespoon of vinegar

Directions

To make the sauce:

  1. Take a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat it. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and let it melt. Add garlic.
  2. Stir the garlic till it starts turning pinkish.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of flour. Stir constantly.
  4. Cook the paste till it turns golden, for almost 3 minutes on low flame. Stirring continuously is key or you’ll get your sauce lumpy.
  5. Add the heated milk. Warming the milk is a bit of extra work but you’ll obtain a perfectly smooth sauce this way.
  6. Stir continuously and bring the milk to a boil till it starts thickening.
  7. When the sauce reduces to half, add another half cup of milk.
  8. Stir for 1 minute.
  9. Add salt, pepper and oregano, according to your taste.
  10. Turn off the flame and add the 4 tablespoons of cheese, mixing till it melts completely.

This part’s done! Now while the sauce cools down, you should start preparing the salad.

To make the salad:

  1. Take a round bowl, large enough to fit the whole salad.
  2. Cut the veggies into juliennes.
  3. Add the corn.
  4. Roughly crush the walnuts and sprinkle the vegetables with them.
  5. Lastly, pour the salad sauce into the salad bowl containing the crunchy veggies (or the other way around).
  6. Mix it thoroughly so that all the salad is evenly coated with the dressing.
  7. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Serve quickly, and eat it while you can still feel the freshness of the salad contrasting with the warm white sauce.

A Grower's Night Out: How to Garden If You Work the Day

Ricardo ElisiárioIt can be impossible, or feel like a nightmare, to manage a garden while the sun is already shining on the opposite half of the world. Yet, it’s not, and if you’re forced to garden at night, then know that it could be worse and that there are even some upsides to it.

It’s dark and quiet… What now?

Maybe the moon is full and the evening free from clouds, and maybe, luckily, your garden doesn’t sit too much under the shadow of your tall house. If all these conditions match, you’re off to a great night of gardening out back. But what about when it’s not so easy?

Well, light can be produced at will, so much that there’s not even much thought as to what to do when it’s suddenly dark outside.

Every one of us has a phone, a flashlight or even a classy lantern that you can hang on a branch. I confess that the candle is oftentimes the most exciting alternative, or at least I used to always find an excuse to light one whenever the power box short-circuited at home.

Go grab your seeds or plantlets, the watering can and leave your house to go pay a visit to the lonely grounds. If the moon is idling, pay her your respects and move on because the night is dark and full of tasks to finish.

Watering at night can be bad, so do it right

We all have heard a bit about the fungi over the leaves and how such rots can indeed mean the end of a plant — or garden — if you happen to be watering on a Friday the 13th.

Watering at night gives a dampness that will remain on the plants and the soil beneath them during the whole night, which isn’t advisable, to say the least. Sure, many people do water early in the evening and that’s alright if they’re doing it in a climate that is dry and hot.

If you really have to water your plants long after the sun has set, then you should follow the basic rule that says not to sprinkle the leaves, only the earth. Use your lantern and find the feet of your garden’s little specimens and give them what they need without making a mess, or you might pay the consequences.

Good time to hunt plant-eating pests

Right now, I may have just instructed you to casually water the plants on their base, but even that doesn’t come free from certain downsides. For example, the most frequent types of plague are the snails and slugs that hide so well under and within your plants’ lower leaves, and shallowly underground too. These savages come out at night to binge on our yard and what does one do about it?

You may buy chemical feed to exterminate them or instead do it yourself, as a short nightly exercise — some squats, each one gets you a tad closer to their extinction. The slugs themselves are sneakier and also nastier to the touch and harder to kill. Often, I used to see my grandfather make what looked like a miniature barbecue stick of slugs, as that was one of the only ways to really finish them. Either that or death by drowning, it’s your pick, just (don’t) tell us how it went.

Besides these, at this hour of the evening there won’t usually be any other animals roaming, or they’re just too cryptic, tiny and harmless to you or your garden. What you might find there though is a stray cat or two, either groaning loudly because it’s mating season or simply trying to use your yard as a bathroom. With cats, do as you please — scare them away or let the poor critters be — after all they’re just contributing to your garden’s fertility.

Choose night-flowering, pale and scentful plants

Seeing that your only chance is to take care of the garden at eventide, I’d assume that that’s also your unique time to cherish it and appreciate its beauty. Nighttime is a little dimmer but with the artificial lights that you well know how to turn on, there is just about as much to see as there was a few hours earlier.

Some plants are obvious night bloomers and they’re also said to often be the most fragrant. So why not make use of their features and plant a generous corner of flowers that live for the night as much as you work during the day. Pale colors and big petals are also a smart choice if you want your candlelight to reflect somewhere else than dark green and mud.

A garden, when observed under the moonlight, gains a curious magical hue that seems to detach it from its background, and if you choose to keep the backdropping walls more discreet and in the shadow, then the flowers will pop up three times more than they would otherwise.

Use the fresh evening to plant them

Another tip to share regarding every good way in which you can use the dusk to your benefit is to adopt this hour of the day as the moment for preferred plantation and sowing.

Sowing might be harder, I admit, especially if the seeds are thinner than a crumb of chocolate cake, but if they’re biggish, then I think the moon, your phone’s flashlight and the glow of your joy for being out there doing such a tranquil task at that hour should be more than enough to illuminate the way.

You can even do the hard work at home or in the garage where you have a strong bulb behind your back, leaving everything ready except for the final steps that must be taken only when you’re outside on the gloomy backyard.

Doing mental working at night can be quite straining on the eyes and spirit just the same, so I truly feel that going out and calming ourselves down doing something that isn’t too demanding and also a lot of fun, is probably the greatest way to bid a long day farewell.

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