Pass the spinach….er…..diazinon please! ~ Guest post ~ Kamini Raghavan

Access to organic food without the hassle of plastic packaging means a lot. I came across a post by a fellow blogger, the very talented Kamini (of Saffron and Silk and Zingara Girl) and requested her to share her (and her husband’s) experience with Hydroponics…..What to know more …read on…:)

Over to Kamini….

Food! We all love food, some of us live to eat, some of us eat to live. But either way, we all have a love/hate relationship with food.

I am not a huge foodie and I am not at all fussy, give me my roti/dal, a couple of veggie dishes (especially if spinach is one of them) and I’m happy. All I ask is that the veggies be organic and fresh! But where I live getting my hand on organic vegetables is almost impossible, so I have been settling for the next best thing – fresh vegetables from the local vendor around the corner. I make sure I buy them when his truckload arrives around 9am in the morning, so at least if not organic, its fresh! So imagine my horror when I found out that the vegetables in the local market are grown with 700 times the allowed pesticides that can be used. 700!!! Not 5 or 10, but 700!!!

Yes, so along with my cauliflower curry I have been eating Cypermethrin, the okra fry I love is laced with Monocrotophos, Palak Panir is accompanied by Malathion and Diazinon…..apples, oranges and grapes are not exempt either and are known to have residues of Aldrin and Chlordane, 2 deadly pesticides! There is irrefutable evidence to show that these residual pesticides can lead  to all kinds of health problems including cancer, kidney and neurological diseases.

This is when my husband and I decided to take matters into our own hands and grow our own vegetables. We researched soil, we learned about pest free gardening, we went into the backyard and peered at the ground to see what creepy crawlies were living there, we poked, we prodded, we bought fertilizer, we bought manure, we bought organic pesticides, we got rid of our gardener whose mantra was spray, spray, spray…..and while we were in the midst of all this we chanced upon the whole concept of HYDROPONICS! I won’t go into too much detail, you can read about it here, but basically it is growing vegetables without soil, but only in water, where the plants are anchored in vermiculite or rock wool. Pests live in soil, so by default no soil = no pests! Pretty simple.

Of course, reading about it was one thing, actually starting our own hydroponic garden was quite another. No one had heard of it here in Hyderabad. So some more reading and googling and we found a vendor in Tamil Nadu who was selling bags of coco peat. Coco peat is just pure and simple ground up coconut husks and have the appearance and texture of soil, but none of the mineral content. So it mimics all the characteristics of soil without the problems associated with soil. (A little side note here about my husband…..he’s the left brained engineer type, so nothing he does is ever without a whole lot of research and study and discussion and total concentration…and then he jumps into the project headlong and gives it his all!! No multi tasking like us women!!). So it would only be fair to say that this gardening project is entirely his baby, my only contribution was suggestions as to what vegetables to plant.

Hydroponics can be as simple as growing a single plant in hand watered bucket or as high tech as being fully automated, monitored and controlled with your cell phone!!! The average home hydroponic set up has a growing medium in trays, a reservoir/tank to hold the nutrients, a submersible pump and drip irrigation tubing for ease of watering, a simple timer and an air pump to oxygenate the nutrient solution. Of course light, natural or artificial is also required.

Since we were almost out of space in the backyard, we decided to set up shop on our rooftop terrace. So this is basically our set-up! The 4′ long x 8″ wide bags of coco peat came in flat bales which swelled up once we wet them with water. Each bag went from being an inch high to 8″ high. Then 3 or 4 “X’s” are slit on top of each, into which the seedling is planted. If you are scattering seeds for veggies like spinach and lettuce, you can make a long rectangular cut out and scatter the seeds. Once the little veggie saplings are planted, they need nutrients. The nutrient/fertilizer is concocted according to a very specific formula…..NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium), magnesium and calcium and a host of trace elements, are mixed together in water. (A small note here: even so called “organic veggies” in US markets, have NPK in their soil). A huge plastic container holds this nutrient mixture, and the pump and timer feed it to the plants via the drip irrigation system at specific intervals.

Here are some pics so you can understand better….

Little seedings getting watered by the drip
 The timer
 The reservoir holding the nutrient mixture
Tomato plants
Tomatoes getting bigger
and bigger…..
 Green leaf lettuce
 Tomatoes and okra harvested today
 Green peppers
 Cauliflower
 Greens – lettuce, fenugreek and spinach
 Cabbage – yet to be harvested
Chili peppers
Of course, as with any new venture, we had successes and we had mishaps! My husband totally overestimated how many tomato plants we would need, so now we get about 2 kilos a day!!! I have been doling out to all and sundry, I have juiced and souped and jammed and jellied, my next step will be taking it to the veggie shop and selling it!!! We planted too few lettuce plants, we should have staggered them, so now we have run out! The cauliflower got waterlogged and rotted! We only have one good okra plant so I get 2 or 3 okras a week!! By the time I cut them and make okra fry, we get a mouthful each!! 
But nothing can beat the thrill of picking your own freshly grown veggies however tiny or measly it is. Its an indescribable feeling. Every morning I head upstairs and see what is ready to harvest – all I need is a straw hat and I’ll be like Ina Garten.. 🙂 We have a long long way to go before we are completely self sufficient, but its good to know that at least part of what I am putting in my mouth is organic and pesticide free! The last time I made this salad – pic below – it took less than 5 minutes for the lettuce to get from plant to table and the taste was amazingly fresh!
I hope I have inspired you all to go organic! If you are lucky enough to live in Chennai or Bangalore or any other big city, you can get organic at the market. But if you still want to experience the thrill of growing your own vegetables hydroponically, e mail me (Kaminiandraga@gmail.com) and my husband and I will happily share info with you! And for those really interested, here is an inspiring read!
Bon Appetit!
Thank you Kamini, for sharing such an informative post on the Green Crusader.

Earthowl.net – Care a Hoot for the planet

I had been to Climate Change Lobby monthly meet up last Saturday. It has been a few months since I joined the group, however, I could join in the monthly national meet up only last weekend. It was a great experience interacting with fellow Green crusaders and lobbyists. More about the meet in a later post…

As of now, I thought I’d share something about a fellow CCL member’s website which sells heavy duty Cotton Canvas bags.

They sells well made canvas bags with witty messages on them.

I appreciate their effort to make a difference.  I recommend a visit to the website and knowing a little more about their effort and maybe a purchase if you could spare $10 and make a commitment to carry your own bag to shop.

Pictures and Link source- EarthOwl.net

Guest Post – The Eco-Friendly Backyard: How to Save a Little ‘Green’

It is a pleasure when thinking individuals acknowledge my crusade and want to put in their two cents! I was contacted by Elizabeth Greene of – My Dog Age My Blog, for featuring a guest post, I agreed. Its a pleasure to introduce Joy Paley and her take on American Consumption patterns and her thoughts on Lawn maintenance in particular. I am sure you will love this post…:). Onto Joy


The post
There’s no place near the “normal” American home that doesn’t reek of conspicuous consumption, and the backyard is certainly no exception. As post-WWII suburbs sprawled across the nation, so did the idea that a happy home was one in which the front and back yards were covered in emerald green turf. Not only does keeping a carefully maintained lawn use up an incredible amount of water (and money!), it also keeps rainwater from making its way through the soil to groundwater and causes pesticides and fertilizers to flow into nearby streams and rivers. Here are a few tips to green up your backyard and save a little dough in the process.

1. Get Rid of the Lawn
What is the alternative to a cushiony green pillow extending from your doorstep to the curb? How about a garden of native shrubs, flowers, and trees? It’ll need to be watered and troubled over much less than a lawn, will allow water to percolate through the soil, and it will attract native wildlife.

2. Collect Rainwater
Having the sprinklers or the hose running all the time zaps money from your pocket and uses up precious resources. Consider putting barrels in your yard or under your gutters to catch rainwater to use on your plants, instead.

3. Mulch Those Plants
Even if you get rid of your water-sucking exotic plants and make the switch to native species, you can still preserve energy by mulching around what you do have. Mulching keeps the sun from sucking up water out of the soil.

4. Compost
Composting is a low-cost way to generate nutritious soil for your garden and cut down on the amount of household waste you send to a landfill. A tumbler or regular barrel is a great way to start. Check out this Cornell site for the basics.

5. Use Earth-Friendly Yard Products
Most people maintain their yards to actively enjoy them, by picnicking, letting their kids play outside, etc. But would you really want your kids playing on a lawn that had been cared for with toxic pesticides and fertilizers? Check out organic lawn care options that are safer and easier on mother nature.

6. Upgrade Your Mower
Some old gas lawnmowers emit an incredible amount of pollution. Switching to a push mower is best, as they use less energy than ride-alongs. If you can’t stand the idea of pushing a mower across your lawn, an electric ride-along is your next best bet.

source: Joy Paley
This eco-friendly “no mow” lawn made of native grasses and plants is more attractive than any suburban turf I’ve seen

About the author

Joy Paley is a science and technology writer based in Berkeley, California. Check out her musings as a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog or as a writer for Online Schools.


Guest post – coming soon!!!

I was contacted by Elizabeth Greene of – My Dog Ate my My Blog with a request to feature one of their guest authors on The Green Crusader. 
I thought I’d share her mail here …

Dear Sudha,
Great blog! Your posts are very informative and I appreciate your post entitled “An Introduction to Ecocide”.
My name is Elizabeth, the assistant editor at My Dog Ate My Blog. We have been blogging about politics, education, and technology for a few months now and we think it is about time to start reaching out to other passionate people.I would love to have one of our bloggers write a guest post for your blog. If you have any topic or style guidelines for guest posts, send them my way.I am looking forward to talking with you more.
Elizabeth Greene
Assistant to the Editor – My Dog Ate My Blog

PS: 
My Dog Ate My Blog is a creation of editors, writers, and marketers in the education industry looking for an outlet for their general creativity and immaturity.