Have an empty patch outside your home? Here's how to transform it into a garden

Raising plants is an engrossing process. You deal with the earth and the elements and the process of life unfolds before your eyes.

There are few cities in India that are as blessed with conditions for raising a garden as Bangalore. The rain is just right. The climate is kind and the soil, for the most part, is good.

So even if you have a small patch of land, you could raise a thriving garden there. If you do not, your terrace or balcony will work fine to raise French marigold, spring onions and chillies in containers. Hanging baskets are excellent to grow flowers and herbs.

First step

The all-important first step is getting the soil ready. Good soil has the right mixture of sand, clay and organic material: it will be slightly crumbly, will hold together lightly when gently squeezed with the fist, and fall apart when released. Texture and nutrients are the key. Plenty of organic compost like dry leaves, saw dust, livestock manure and lawn clippings can be added.

If you do not get these, there are alternatives in the market such as coir peat with or without added nutrients. Add these generously even if it is a little expensive. A well-conditioned soil would pay rich dividends for a long time.

To begin with, remove all the garbage, weeds, old roots and stones. Then, for aeration, dig six to eight inches deep and turn the soil over. If the soil is difficult to work with, it needs to be conditioned. You can do this by adding coconut peat to make the soil loose and help retain moisture.

To this add in about three inches of a combination of compost, cow manure, shredded leaves and mix it into the soil. Keep the ground moist, not too wet, for three to four days.

Keep aerating the soil by turning it over and even out the surface. Now your soil is ready for the next step: planting, and some TLC.

This column will be your guide as you raise your own garden.

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