As the second wave of Covid forced us all indoors over the last few months, it has admittedly been a long, hot, and cumbersome summer. With the end of lockdown nowhere in sight, the only relief is that monsoons may hit us soon and we would get some respite from the scorching summer heat. If you have already tried your hand at gardening as part of your lockdown activity, the beginning of the monsoon may be the best time for you to try building a kitchen garden.
Now, if you already have plants in your kitchen, the following ideas may help you in maintaining them during the rainy season. If not, then you can easily adapt these techniques to create a lovely kitchen garden for yourself. In this age of adulteration, pesticide usage, and genetically modified produce, having a small patch of the kitchen garden that organically produces just enough for your family, is both about getting a great taste and being environmentally aware.
Here are a few techniques that you can use to maintain your kitchen garden this monsoon.
1. Let there be light in your kitchen garden
When you build a kitchen garden or even are looking to fine-tune one, you need to keep one thing in mind. Most kitchen garden plants, those of vegetables or herbs or even the latest fads, microgreens – all require good sunlight. You need to find a place in your kitchen that gets a good amount of sun. If your kitchen is in a location that does not get too much sunlight, shift your kitchen garden outside of it. Even if you build a vegetable and herbs patch on your balcony, it would still be called a kitchen garden.
Sunlight is essential for all plants. However, most kitchen garden plants thrive when they get good sunlight, even if it is for a few hours every day. During monsoons, this may become a problem as most of the day you may just find an overcast sky. However, even that amount of sunlight is essential for your kitchen garden plants.
Another pro-tip that gardeners swear by, is to shift the plants whenever the sun peeps out. So even during an overcast day, whenever the sun pops out for a few minutes, move your plants outside to absorb whatever little sunlight happens to be there. Your tomatoes would be extra red, your brinjals would be shiny purple and your chillies would glow green.
2. Do not let the water stay
So obviously you understand not to water your kitchen garden plants during the rainy season. If they are placed in an outside location, they would be getting more than enough water. If your kitchen garden is somewhat inside your house, they would still need minimum water as they would be able to absorb moisture from the atmosphere.
However, there is a mistake that most gardeners end up making and that costs them almost all their plants. Because of the water content in the atmosphere, whether or not you water your plants, there is a good chance that the soil beneath your plant is wet. This causes a build-up of fungus in the soil, depletes the nutrition content of the soil and the plant root begins to rot. This situation is so silent that you may only notice when the rot begins to move to the leaves or the main stem. By then, it would be too late to save the plant.
The best way to avoid this is to have a well-draining pot. Ensure that your planter has a great draining system and that your soil is loose enough to not hold the water too long. Mixing coco peat with your soil would be a way to go.
3. Weeding plants and pests in the kitchen garden
When the monsoons hit, they are bound to touch your plants in some way or another. During those first days of rains, the rainwater contains a lot of pollen and insect eggs. These may find their way into your plant and soil.
A few days after the first rains, you may find your kitchen garden plant surrounded by unwanted weeds or small insect pests. The weeds may end by killing your plant by cutting off its nutrition supply or taking over the pot completely. The insects and worms may simply feed on your plant, destroying new shoots and flowers.
Always keep an eye on your kitchen garden plants to scan for weeds or insects. Pull out the weeds as soon as you see them. There are many natural pesticides available in the market or you can also make one with simple kitchen ingredients, to spray in the soil that would destroy the insects and pests.
That said, you must keep an eye on earthworms as well. These are good worms that would keep your soil churned and your plant happy.
4. Prune away
Monsoon is said to be the season of growth. If your kitchen garden plant has been simply standing all these months, you would now see new shoots and flowers come up as the rainy season begins.
However, new shoots and flowers need space to grow and bloom. So keep a pair of pruning scissors handy and keep pruning. Cut out the leggy stems, dry leaves, or twigs, give a little shape to your plant by pruning those extra limbs and watch the new shoots turn it fresh and beautiful.
5. Protect the delicates
Finally, you must protect the delicate plants. Most vegetable, fruit, and herb plants are fragile and delicate. If there are indications of heavy rains, you may move your plants inside to secure them from the heavy lash of the rains. If your plants are in an unmovable location, you can use perforated transparent plastic sheets to cover them. These would ensure that the plants get enough air and light, but are protected from the heavy lash of the rains.
Building and maintaining a lush kitchen garden is a matter of pride and joy. Nothing brings so much satisfaction as being able to pluck the vegetable for your lunch, fresh from your own kitchen garden.