Organic Gardening in The Land of Oz

My grandmother was an avid gardener during her younger days. I might have gotten the ‘green thumb’ from her. It was said that whatever kind of seed that she would happen to throw out of her windows will surely turn into a healthy and robust plant.  I witnessed her replanting jackfruit, guava, tamarind and other fruits. She had to replant them because they were growing right out of our windowsill. After eating, she might have thrown them out of the window or just by the door and surely they’ll live and start growing.

During those times, there were no chemical fertilizers to help her plants grow. The roses in our gardens were so big that others thought Grandma was spraying some magic potion. I usually complained though that her flower garden smelled like fish at times. Our fruit bearing trees were growing large healthy fruits. They were bigger than those of our neighbours. She’d tell me stories on how to do it and I just listened but never really invested so much time paying attention. Little did I know that this was already my initiation to Organic Gardening.

For some time, I had to work with a private company whose main office was in Reagent’s Park in New South Wales.  Seeing the nearby Auburn Botanic Gardens made me more homesick.  The place where I stayed didn’t have a garden. Well it had a ‘mini garden’ if that is what you would call a wall and a pot or two. It was not what I was used to. I longed for home and whenever work got too busy, I didn’t really find any solace joining peers who went to the malls or went to bistros like the Tai Pak Chinese restaurants or even Giovanni’s. So I decided to do something. Either I create my own comfort zone here or just pack up my bags and head home.

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Stargazer Lily

The Asian family whom I stayed with was quite ecstatic to hear about what I planned to do. They gave me full liberty to make their place ‘green’ as much as I can. The weather in New South Wales was almost similar to our weather in Manila.  I’d say it was a bit hot and humid at times but generally we enjoyed fine weather. I love flowers and anything green as long as it would be easy to take care of them.  I already found some greens that I can use for my hanging gardens.  A friend gave me an ornamental; the stargazer lily (species lillium orientalis). It was so pretty that I was almost scared to take care of it. The lavender pink flowers smelled like perfume when in bloom. It also lasts for a long time. The question is how to ensure that this plant will survive and make it insect free.

I headed off towards the nearest gardening supplies store to get some stuff. This was to be the start of my quest for organic materials. It is not an entirely new concept to me but I was gardening again after such a long time that I wasn’t so sure if I still have the ‘green thumb’. My sister who happened to be with me at that time wanted to buy those tried and tested chemical fertilizer that the store man was suggesting but then I thought, there were kids in the house and I didn’t want to harm them. I am an advocate of things that are all natural and that goes as well with choosing my gardening materials. I wanted organic fertilizers. Aside from the fact that an organic fertilizer is safer than that of the chemical type, chemical fertilizers actually kill some healthy organisms like earthworms. The soil suffers due to a decrease of aeration and other nutrients without the help of these creatures.

Finally deciding on the supplies that I needed, I got my ‘organic stuff’. It says right on the package:  that it can retain moisture in soil so it will be an ideal mixture for my mini garden, it also improves soil condition, and it makes the plant disease resistance. At the same time it increases the nutritional content of the plants enabling it to produce better fruits or flowers.

So what else should I worry about? I already have my plants and fertilizer and the next on the list is how to make sure my plants will be pest free. Well there are commercially available pesticides but I would rather make my own. What I wanted to make was something that will repel the insects and ensure that my plants remain healthy. I decided to use what my grandmother had always used. The Orange Peel Spray. The children at home loved to eat oranges and I might as well make good use of the peelings.

The Orange Peel Spray targets the bad bugs that destroy our plants.  It’s best to use on mealy bugs, aphids, fungus gnats, and as well as on ants. Here’s how to do it on your own: Pour 2 cups boiling water over orange peels and just let it sit for 24 hours. Strain and add a few drops of castile soap.

It would be best to spray the mixture on top of leaves as well as underneath at least once a week. Best to spray later in the day to avoid leaves getting burned especially on a hot day. If it is about to rain, wait spraying till the rain has stopped and the leaves are a bit dry. Remember to use in moderation, excess spraying will cause damage to plants.

Plant in a Bottle

With the limited space that we have, I just maximized the use of the wall by hanging some hanging plants and herbs that I placed on my recycled Coke bottles. One major reason why I decided to go organic is because I wanted to plant herbs. I have one which is scientifically called PeperomiaPellucida Linn and it treats gout, arthritis, skin inflammation and abdominal problems among others. So why risk our safety when I can do organic gardening and at the same time ensure me and my family’s safety from the harmful effects of a chemical. I get to enjoy my organic herbs and smell my flowers in bloom without any fear.