Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Gardening in India

I've managed to kill every household plant. No amount of water, fertilizer, fresh soil, or TLC has helped. I've tried three times... changing plants, talking with local nursers.  The sun is too intense in summer, the monsoons are too wet. It's too dry in fall. I'd all but given up.

"If you want little garden, why don't you just hire a gardener?" a friend suggested. Did I really want someone else knocking at the door each week?  But our balcony was ugly and empty and the weather is slowly getting cooler. I knew it would be really nice to be surrounded by a little greenery while sipping a hot cup of chai on a cool, fall morning...

I relented. The "mali"charges me $4 a month. A mali is a local gardener and essentially a plant expert. He went with me to a nearby nursery. It was nestled in the shade down on the steamy banks of the Yamuna River. After selecting some hardy-sun tolerant plants and a little price-haggling, we bought six for about $12 (including a bag of mulch).  Lord knows what was actually in the mulch.  The nurser threw in a seventh plant (Tulsi) for good luck - supposedly because he liked me...  I figured he probably just a felt a little guilty because I'd already paid too much...

We returned to the apartment. My mali carried the plants up and immediately set himself up to work.  (I already had the pots from our previous flat in Noida, so didn't need to purchase any.)  First the mali poured the existing soil from my pots into a pile. Then he did the same with mulch from a burlap sack. Two neat piles were standing in the middle of the marble floor of our front balcony. He mixed these together using a flat, metal tool and wonderful circular motions with his hands.

Next the mali used bits of broken pots and small stones to create a layer for drainage in the base of my seven pots. A plant was gently set into the center of each. His soil mixture was then expertly tilled around the young plants. He swept up and told me not to water my new plants for two days. He would return in three to check on them. He would trim them after a week.

True to his word, in three days there was a soft knock at our door. It was my mali. He quietly entered, watered each plant and then re-tilled the soil in each pot. Four days later he returned again and did the same. He trimmed the ficus and my basil.

Finally, with a satisfied look on his face the mali told me I'd done a good job: "Hanjee, Acha, acha." (Yes. Good, good).

What he really meant was, "thank you for not over watering the plants..."

1 comment:

Praneta said...

Love your Mini Garden...