Yessssss, the rains gods are showering blessings upon us in Mumbai, and in full fervour! It’s early July, our lakes are filling up fast, and should soon reach capacity. Ground water is getting replenished, and the earth is fertile with life-giving moisture all over again. All around us, nature is bursting forth in lush, vivid, freshly-washed green!
And, as we all know, when it rains in Mumbai, it POURS – a new challenge for us urban farmers, some of whom may be struggling to keep their plants alive in the drowning deluge! Having kept my open-to-the-heavens terraced urban farm alive for several years now, here are some basic survival tips I’ve learned:
- Ensure Good Soil Drainage: If your containers are not already fitted with drainage holes, ensure that this is attended to before the monsoons arrive/asap. Water must never be left to stand above soil level in containers. If you notice this occurrence, use a thin stick to poke air/water holes through the soil and drain right through.
- Trim Down Your Greens: Most veggie plants (not so for gourds or tomato) will do well with rigorous trimming before and during the monsoons. The main purpose served is that foliage is kept in check, thus ensuring ventilation/sunlight between the leaves, and lowering the incidence of fungus. Also, keep cutting off diseased foliage before it rots on your plant with the excessive moisture.
- Shelter Saplings and Desertified Species: Most saplings cannot withstand the full force of our Mumbai rains and winds. Hot weather loving plants like aloe vera, other cactii, herbs like thyme, and even chillies and capsicum, need to be sheltered from wet soils that lead to root rot. Move them indoors to a sheltered but sunny windowsill, and wait out the deluge.
- Grow Seasonally: Most importantly, instead of being stubborn and waging war with the rain gods, adapt to the season, follow our Planting Calendar and choose to grow what grows best during the monsoons. For more info on Mumbai’s Planting Calendar, do join us on facebook and access it on our files….
Here’s what’s keeping my table green and my spirits up, while the rains come down….
Bushels of Malabar Spinach – easy to grow, healthy to eat – I’m getting more of it than I can eat! I cook it simply – stir-fried with onions, garlic and little else….
Cantaloupes that grew wild from seeds of summer fruit – an unexpected treat!
Okra/Bhindi from plants that surprisingly refuse to die down in the rains, despite being notoriously staunch hot-weather plants.
Ash & Ridge Gourds, and the unstoppable Sweet Potato – swelling steadily through the rains!
(Photo Courtesy: Rhea)
A new learning for me this monsoon was to see my bean plants (survivors from last winter, dormant and depressed through the heat of summer) get a new burst of life with the cooler temperatures of our monsoons, and start fruiting again. Super! Who can complain about more fresh beans?!
We have a couple more months of this monsoon mania, before Mumbai begins its second summer. Get set for that, folks, by starting your saplings now. In fact, the high atmospheric humidity of our monsoons will conspire with your inner green god/dess, and every seed you sow will germinate, every cutting will sprout new shoots!! And come September, you will be all set for a new season of growing….
So protect your plants from the deluge, start prepping for September, and when you’re done, make yourself a cuppa, order in some hot pakoras, cosy up with a good book, and enjoy the rains!!!