The Gulmohurs are blazing in my garden! I've been waiting for them all season long and I love driving down the Mumbai roads and seeing huge swathes of scarlet everywhere. These dramatic trees are grabbing as much attention as they can get now but it looks like their days in the sun are almost done.
The Monsoons are on their way!
This is my favourite season. I love the rains ... even when it blows all those lovely blooms off the trees. And even when it rains non-stop for days on end and everything is a big squelchy mess. Actually 'rain' is such a bland word for the sheer drama that our monsoons bring... I just can't wait for the show to start.
Oh, it's still as hot as ever in Mumbai but the sea got a whole lot rougher and huge puffs of thunderous-looking dark clouds have been teasing our skies. The countdown has started, though. The day the monsoons reach the Malabar coast of Kerala, the people of Mumbai start counting off the 10 days they have before the Great Monsoon Spectacle lavishes Mumbai with some much-needed rainy affection
But that also means that I have just that many days to get my garden monsoon-ready.
The preparations have been going on for almost a month now. The vegetable plot gets a lot of pampering, naturally. The monsoon season is the best time to grow vegetables here and the area where I grow my vegetables has been left fallow for the last 3 months. Building up, conserving all that earthy goodness for the season of abundance.
Then, about 3 weeks ago, the land was cleared of weeds, ploughed up and dressed with a healthy mix of sun-dried manure and wood-ash.
Did you know that wood-ash is an important part of traditional Indian farming practices? It is a deterrent for soft-bodied pests and is also fantastic for conditioning the soil. Oh yeah... the things you learn! I never knew this when I started gardening but I saw the local farmers regularly heap up tiny mounds of dry leaves and grass on their fields and burn them in May. Which makes a lot of sense; kills the weeds, kills the pests and conditions the soil. Of course, you have to be alert to prevent the fire getting out of hand but these are really small heaps, less than a foot high
Now the vegetable plot is done .... terraced on the slopes and heaped in small little mounds in other places. All I'm waiting for is the first drops of monsoon showers to soak in and I'll be out planting seeds.
But my garden isn't done with just that! The coconut trees are being fertilised too. Truckloads of manure and sacks of dried fish have been bought and put out in the sun to dry some more before being used. The sacks were a bit 'alive' much to the delight of this Magpie-Robin who hopped on to snack on the beetles crawling on them.
Wide troughs have been dug around each coconut tree and filled up with layers of dried manure, dried fish and wood-ash. On top of all this, a layer of green leaves is added ... the cherry on the cake!
I would've loved to add some pressed and powdered neem seedcakes too before the pit is covered up again but I didn't get any this time. I think I'll add some later on but I wish it could've been done now. It would've driven away a lot of pests and diseases.
By the way, did I mention that I only used natural fertilisers? I love making my earth happy. A happy earth means happy plants, naturally.
Of course, I have to admit that all this needs a lot of labour and very strong muscles and I had to hire some locals to help me out. Isn't it fantastic that India is an agricultural country so I don't really need to explain to them just what needs to be done . Nor do I need to even supervise the work... what a great excuse to get busy with my camera !
Adding a touch of beauty to all the hectic activity is a restless cloud of butterflies attracted by the strong smells of cow manure and dried fish. What a perfect counterbalance to make up for all that smelly stuff!
And, just as I'm typing this, the sky darkens and a cool breeze gusts through the city with a welcome swoosh of lovely, cool rain. It's a precursor to the real thing and will be called 'just a pre-monsoon shower' by the papers tomorrow, but oh what a wonderful gift for a city that has been seething and simmering in Summer's cauldron for so long now!
(I'm a bit handicapped now because my trusty desktop computer has conked out and I'm just not comfortable working on my laptop. So please keep that in mind when looking at the photos because I just can't make out how good or bad the quality is.)