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Winter bloom and rain

By Laila Karim

Morning dew on the grass, some leaves still trying to hold onto the soft, translucent drops from the previous night, falling sheulis and bright marigolds all remind us that winter is in the offing.

In the lonely afternoon, we can hear the callings of 'dhunis' (quilt makers) in narrow lanes. Colourful blankets, comforters, shawls and fancy warm clothes are taken out from the cabinet. The 'bhapa pitha walas' are once again becoming busy on the street corner -- winter is special to us as it is very short-lived nowadays.

This year, we have seen that the climate has become as crazy as our daily Dhaka city life. Particularly like the traffic jams -- nobody knows what lies ahead. A few days of November were quite sunny after the 'chhonno chara brishti' for a long period and then it gave up. We, the urban gardeners became busy with our winter preparations: cleaning the summer worn-outs, making the soil ready, planting seeds of popular vegetables like tomatoes, okra, radish, beans, aubergine (eggplant), spinach, coriander/cilantro or herbs, and seeds of sweet, bitter and plain gourds. Some of us even went as far as sowing potatoes in the used bathtubs on roof tops.

The planted baby/miniature marigolds, chrysanthemum, sylvia, zenia, cosmos, dahlia or petunia were out in the form of young saplings showing up their young, smiling, healthy faces. Suddenly the sky became gloomy for two-three days and it was pouring non-stop for about a week.

Urbanites though, love this kind of rain and see it as an opportunity to have hot khichuri with ghee and listen to Tagore, Mehdi Hasan or Pankaj Udas to match the mood of nature, but we, the amateur gardeners, feel the opposite thinking about possible damage to plants. After the rain, I saw that most of the tiny plants either were gone with rain water, or died an untimely death. The fertiliser-mixed soil was also drained out -- efforts gone in vain.

No giving up. Let's start again!
The days are sunny again, so let us start reshuffling the soil for two-three days; let them become dry and be ready for the new seedlings and saplings. Meanwhile visit the nearby nursery and you will feel rejuvenated with so many options and colours.

All the winter flowers and vegetables, or fruit-bearing plants, need sunlight to grow well and be healthy. Get some fertilisers too as you need TSP for the fruit-bearing plants. Potash alone will safeguard your plant and soil from insects and will also stop untimely fall of the new buds, or baby fruit. Urea is for fast growth and going green. All types of fertiliser packs are sold in a range of Tk.40-60 per kilogram.

Buy a small bottle of insecticide to arm in the fight against deadly invaders. The young saplings of all popular winter flowers are sold between a range of Tk.5-50 depending on their sizes and growth. Rose cuts in poly bags start from Tk.50. The vegetable saplings like egg-plant, tomato, green chilli, hybrid papaya starts from Tk.5 to Tk.20 in the commercial nurseries, but we can get those at almost one-third the price in the government-owned BADC nurseries located in some places. The large one is between Banani road #27 and Gulshan 2 (near American Club). It has a wide variety of plants and seeds.

After planting those in appropriate pots and containers, give them full attention for a few days -- watch it -- are they happy in their new home? It will take two to three weeks to be accustomed to the new environment and don't forget to eliminate weeds and make the soil 'fluffy' from time to time with garden forks. Let the soil inhale some oxygen and bask in the sunshine regularly. The next dose of fertiliser will be required after five to six weeks of planting.

Remember, plants need required amount of water, not too much and not too little Don't allow the soil to be too dry or too wet. Check the moisture level in the soil -- it will tell you what to do. Small portion of everyday watering is needed for some plants as they are thirstier than others. Check their health; if the leaves and spine show signs of health, they are okay. Soil needs to be free and clean of all types of weeds and plants' body/leaves from fungi. Take out all the mutilated leaves, branches or unhealthy parts attacked by insects or diseases to keep other plants safe and well.

Please feel free to send me email to share your thoughts, feedback, and photos of your garden, or to tell your story; or ask a question on the garden issue. Email:lifestyleds@yahoo.com


The beginners' gardening portfolio

Gardening can be viewed as an investment portfolio. You want some plants which will give you short term returns and some which are for the longer term; you also want diversity in a garden. But this is not Finance 101 so let us stop talking returns and start talking flowers and fruits.

For the amateur gardener, it would be wise to diversify the garden with sturdy plants in order to prevent a disappointing beginning to the adventure of growing a garden. Hence this 'Gardening 101' lesson will give you tips on what plants to choose in your first gardening escapade and how to ensure their healthy life.

You can begin your gardening experiment with an herb, a flowering plant, a fruit-bearing or vegetable plant and the less experimented varieties of decorative plants.

The merits of henna are known to us all. Its use as a hair strengthening and colouring element is widespread in our culture and has a special place in our hearts because of the joy it adds to festivities. The henna plant is also sturdy with leaves that look good in a back or front yard. All this plant requires to grow is adequate space and sunlight. You can then leave the rest up to nature and reap the benefits once your plant matures in as short a time period as two months.

In choosing a flowering plant, it would be wise to start with the sturdy and fast growing and blossoming local rose plant. These are minimum maintenance species which give you a healthy dash of colourful bloom in around six months. The biannual local rose plant can be found easily in any nursery around the city where you may even encounter interesting hybrids of the species. These hybrids can surprise you further with roses in other than the traditional colour of red and add to the joy of your first blossom.

Fruit-bearing plants are generally more in the category of the long term assets. The shortest time for a plant to bear fruit is a year and hence the lemon is the suggestion in this category. Lemon trees can grow in a deep barrel and hence are the ideal choice for a space constrained environment. It also allows you to taste the sweet returns of some sour lemons with your meals, within one year. All you would need to do to aid the healthy growth of your lemon plant is to water it once daily.

Tomatoes are the vegetable plant you would want in your beginner's portfolio. This vegetable has two benefits; the first is the fact that it is sturdy and more or less self-sufficient and the second is that, unlike most vegetables, tomatoes are not tubers. This means that you will be able to marvel at your gardening acumen as you watch your tomatoes slowly grow and ripen, before decorating your meal table with this supply from your own garden.

Last but far from being the least is the mysterious decorative plant. These are plants which do not bear flowers or fruit. Ornamental plants enhance your landscape and add sophistication to it. The ornamental plant to choose for the beginner's portfolio is the twining vine which is also known as the perennial vine. The name itself gives away its sturdy feature; it's perennial, meaning it's always there and never dies. The things you would need to allow its healthy growth is, well, nothing. You just plant it, provide it some support if you want it to grow upwards and remove your other plants from its reach.

To end this lesson of 'Gardening 101' a quick summary of the basic gardening steps is a must. While planning your garden, first ensure that the chosen area is flooded with sunlight for at least 4 hours a day. Second, periodically enrich the soil with compost or chemical fertilisers depending on the density and makeup of your garden. Third, ensure adequate space for each of your plants to grow in while planning and planting the garden. Finally, read up on the specifics of growing the plant you have in mind before embarking on this wonderful journey of grooming and growing.

By Raisaa Tashnova
Photo: LS Archive


Storage management

An essential element of every house is storage. If you want a clutter free home or a well organised living place you need proper storage. Good storage offers more benefits in terms of practicality and efficiency.

Before you start thinking about what sort of storage you want, you should categorise your goods based on product type. Accordingly, storage and shelving options can be designed. Kitchen utensils should be stored in the kitchen, or at best, in the utility closet or dining area. Bed linen should be kept in a designated closet in your bedroom or your dressing area. If you are a book lover, then you need a study corner with proper book shelves. There are many different things such as medicine, magazines, tool kits and stationary which can be hazardous when kept in a scattered and disorganised manner. For these, we need interesting shelving ideas with accurate measurements within our range.

The obvious advantage of built-in-storage is that it will make the best use of space in a streamlined manner and will accommodate all things that need storing. Another great advantage of built-in storages is to correct unavoidable architectural faults in your room. For convenience, sometimes we increase our bedroom space or we shorten a common space or veranda. This can lead to the exposure of unavoidable sanitary pipe work or beams which can then be covered by useful storage cabinets.

However, the insides of these cabinets need to be deisgned according the type of goods you want to store in them. For bedroom closets, you need designs that allow both folded and hanging systems for clothes. For your winter suits you need hanging space and shelving options for daily wear with the added fine touches of tray systems. We can also opt for divided tray system drawers for smaller articles of clothing.

Kitchens are the busiest areas of our homes. Nowadays, kitchens are no longer closed door service areas. A compact modular kitchen is essential for any home. But it should also be able to accommodate all kinds of appliances and accessories. Fine touch drawers with heavy duty hanging channels and hinges can support most storage requirements. These drawers can easily carry heavy crockery and cutlery. Refrigerators, washing machines, ovens, microwave ovens and dishwashers can be easily installed in modular kitchens. Use corner cabinets wisely. Corner cabinets can be tricky and purposeful; otherwise we may not be able to make effective use of corners. For this, corner moving shelves can be used. Spices and dry foods can be stored with an attached ladder unit.

Sometimes small storage punches are also useful. We can make some drawers under the bed or use traditional trunks for extra goods. Alternatively, a sleek low magazine shelf can easily be attached to a sofa set.

A double-sided storage cabinet is ideal for dividing rooms. We can use different colours on either side to help define the two spaces. As with any storage, avoid a uniform pattern of divisions. Varity for instance in shelf height, adds interest and a feeling of individuality. Free standing closets or cabinets are ideal for storing.

Your home is your sanctuary of peace and keeping it clutter-free should be a strong priority. Good storage facilities are an important first step in ensuring all your belongings are kept in a clutter-free and efficient manner.

Nazneen Haque Mimi
Interior Consultant
E-mail: journeyman.interiors@gmail.com
Photo Credit: Journeyman Archives/ Tamim Shujat


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