YOUNG WORLD

How does your garden grow?

DEEPA ALEXANDER

Green fingers: growing your own vegetables is a matter of pride

Green fingers: growing your own vegetables is a matter of pride  

HYDERABAD

Before the insanity of a torrid summer is upon us there is a pleasant nip in the air. Although spring is a brief visitor to the twin cities, it's a time for digging your hands into the earth and doing your bit for the garden. Children make natural gardeners because they are curious, like to learn by doing and love to play in the dirt. Working in a garden, can help you observe the cycle of life firsthand. Gardening is also a great way to learn about environmental awareness by exploring the workings of nature.

To begin with if you are living in an independent house get your own garden bed. If you live in an apartment get a couple of used car battery casings and drill a hole at the bottom. These serve well as miniature gardens. If you can't get a ground plot or a container, get a couple of pots to begin with but plants grow better when they are planted directly into the soil. Keep it small.

Get serious tools. Cheap plastic gardening tools are no good as they break easily and frustrate the user. Also remember to wear gloves if you spend more than an hour in your garden. Get help from your parents or older siblings when preparing the soil and planting. If birds are pecking at your seeds have fun making a scarecrow.

Here are a few flowering plants and vegetables you can have fun growing.

A sunflower is a must for a child's garden. Plant just one or two since they require a lot of room. Sunflowers will sprout in one week, become a small seedling in two weeks, and should be two feet tall in a month. In eight weeks, the buds will flower revealing hundreds of seed kernels. Be sure to grow `confectionery' sunflowers, which are edible. They will dry naturally by summer and you can roast the seeds, which are rich in protein and iron, for snacks. Remember to save a few for next year's planting.

Quick results for the young gardener can be got from growing radishes. Radishes germinate in three to ten days, and have a very short growing season of 20-30 days. They can be planted closely, and require a moist soil.

Cherry tomatoes are great fun to grow. Plant them in full sun and use seedlings rather than planting from seed. Put in a stake alongside each seedling, as they need to be tied loosely as they get taller. Add lots of compost and water at ground level, trying to keep the leaves dry. The growing season is 50-75 days. Cherry tomatoes can also be grown in containers.

So show off your garden and stop worrying about water scarcity, you won't need more than half a bucket a day. Get your hands down in the dirt and discover life.

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