Premila Balaji tells why last month’s unexpected rainfall was a damp squib for those maintaining a backyard of plants and what care needs to be taken during such times
November was a washout for Premila Balaji. The garden enthusiast, who has been nurturing her backyard with a variety of flowers, vegetables and fruits, did not predict the rains to be so heavy that it would knock down the precious tomatoes and marigolds.
“I could save only 50 percent of my plants and I cannot say they are doing great,” says Premila. The cauliflower that she has been caring for from the seed stage was badly damaged. “This was disappointing as it does not generally happen during winters. Last year, my cauliflowers were a hit and even my neighbours got a share of them,” says the senior citizen who is a member of Chennai Organic Terrace Gardeners.
The papaya tree also met with a similar fate. Due to too much water, she suspects the roots suffered a fungal infection.
The rain waters had entered the ground floor of her independent house in Kodambakkam that she could do little to save her plants on the terrace. So, what are some lessons for monsoon care of plants?
Rainwater provides plants nourishment but too much of anything is not good, so move pots to a place where they get sufficient but not excess rain water. Ensure the containers/pots have proper holes for water to drain out. Ensure these drainage holes are not clogged up. Premila says 2015 Chennai floods was a good teacher. “I did not have stands for all my grow bags and they were kept on the floor. Later, I constructed stands and revamped the arrangement completely,” she says.
Providing a shade with a net is effective many times unless there are heavy winds accompanying the rains. She cautions that sometimes pollination does not take place as expected with a net.
Mix the top soil
If the mud is not too porous or if the water does not seep in easily then it means they need a proper mix. “I add coco-peat to the soil so that they hold water at the same time they don’t become dry,” she says, adding that bio fungicides do help.
Gardening requires a lot of care and patience and in Chennai’s weather one can enjoy the fruits only for six months, she says.
Make sure to plan what to plant and when. Avoid greens during rainy season. Try planting seeds in trays during monsoon and transferring them to the ground or pot when rains subside.
Premila’s big saving grace this time is the Ivy Guard plant; they continue to bear fruits, and the family are relishing the garden’s fresh produce.