Monday, May 11, 2009

Garden Strawberries

After coming to Germany, Strawberry picking was something new for me. These fruits in India were so costly during my childhood, I almost thought it came from space. LOL! :) Now I know the reason why they can't be cultivated any where in the World.

They are an excellent source of Vitamin C, are juicy & have wonderful color.

Some Trivia I found from Wiki: - Garden strawberries are a common variety of strawberry cultivated worldwide. Like other species of Fragaria (strawberries), it belongs to the family Rosaceae. Technically, it is not a fruit but a false fruit, meaning the fleshy part is derived not from the plant's ovaries (achenes) but from the peg at the bottom of the bowl-shaped hypanthium that holds the ovaries.

Cultivation: -
I usually start to plant the nursery bought plants during mid Spring. They need at least 6 hours of sunlight, direct sunlight is ideal. Watering the plants is a must. Care should be however taken to avoid stagnant water & drought.

Picking: -
I leave them to ripen fully in the plant itself, before picking them. Care should be taken not to squeeze the fruit before pulling them from the plant. Use a pair or scissors or a sharp knife.

Photos of the previous years' Harvest: -

This year's cultivation: -
Strawberry flower & unripe fruit.

Gladiola plants

This weekend, we did a lot of work in the Garden. We'd hired a gardener to cut the hedge, remove the unwanted plants & trees that were growing near the kitchen garden. After he left, we cleaned the 3 patches along with the kitchen garden. It was more than 2 days work. As it's been raining & sunny since the last few days, the lawn seems to be growing at a rate twice it's normal speed. So mowing usually takes lot of time.

Getting back to Gladiola plants, it's been around 3 weeks now, since the first sword shape leaves made their way out from the corms. Below is a photo of one row. We planted around 50 corms in two different patches. Awaiting the first blooms late in Spring or early Summer.

Tomato flowers

It's been a week since the 6 Tomato seedlings started to flower. We cleaned the area around the patch & freed it of unwanted weeds that had started making their home. Then a mesh was placed over the Tomato plants to give them support against strong wind.

It's been raining & quite sunny as well. The plants seems to like their new home now.

I shall post the photos of the first fruit when we get to see in, hopefully in a couple of weeks.

Friday, April 17, 2009


I'm back from Easter holidays & a bit exhausted. I'll be entering my last trimester in a few days from now. Not feeling the change yet. It was a long break we got together; 5 days in a stretch.

During the last few weeks of winter, the summer corms are sold usually in super markets & garden shops here. We'd bought a large bag of Gladiola corms, about a 50 of them. Guess they were of different colors. During the first few weeks of spring or after the last frost has disappeared, these bulbs can be planted.

So we prepared two patches to bury them. Two things to make sure before burying them; one is that patch should be receiving about 8-10 hours of sunlight daily & the other the soil should be loose & moist. We buried them at a height of approximately 8 cm from the ground level with a distance of 5" from each other. If you want to have a continuous bloom season, then don't plant all the corms together. Plant them with a gap of 2 weeks of so to have blooms till the hard frost sets in. Watering is essential. The soil should never dry out. Rain seldom supplies enough moisture, but start watering when there are five leaves on the plants.

Cutting the blooms: -
An impressive suggestion given by of the Brenda Hyde is quoted below. I would be following the same.
"Cutting your gladiolas is a little different than most flowers. You want to cut when at least 3 of the "florets" on the stem have opened. They will continue to open in the vase. Cut when it's cool, in the morning or evening. When cutting you want to leave as much foliage as you can on the plant. Like other corms and bulbs they receive nutrients through the foliage. If you have the room it's really nice to have a cutting garden where you can grow rows of glads that have been staggered in their planting as I mentioned, to cut and bring in the house throughout the summer season. They are an elegant and beautiful flower worth growing for border color and cutting. "

Care & storage of the Corms:-
Individual flowers can be cut off as they fade. Cut back flower stalks once all flowers have gone. I would prefer to leave the foliage intact, so that the corm for the next year is good enough. Care should be taken to remove the weeds. The new corm & the new roots are formed on top of the old one during the growing season.

To store the corms / bulbs for the next season: -
Leave about an inch of the stem & then cut. Dry the corms & store at about 20 Deg C for a month. Divide the bulbs carefully & clean the debris. Do not wash the bulbs with water at any time. This might decay the lot. Let them be at 20 Deg C for a week. Then they can be stored at 10 Deg C in a box with paper or hay.

As & when we've the blooms I shall post the photos.

Friday, April 3, 2009


Tulipa is commonly known as Tulips. I got to know this of course from Wikipedia. I knew Netherlands was famous for Tulips. But, never thought Tulips were not native to Netherlands. Forget Netherlands, Tulips are not native to Europe itself. Most of the European countries who formed their colonies throughout the World brought the tulip bulbs back to their home countries as a souvenir. The flowers usually have 5 petals. But now there are so many hybrids & more & more research yields a new lot every year.

A tulip or a daffodil bulb is an embryo or the food storage of the plant. One of the website called these beauties "the jewels of Spring". It's so pleasing to see the colorful buds that make their way out in early spring. "New Life" as it's rightly said marks the arrival of Spring.

The way I'm planting the bulbs in our garden since the last 3 years is quite simple. I don't use lot of compost or fertilizer to provide nutrition to the bulbs. I plant the bulbs in late fall sometime in the last week of October just before we change to winter time. The bulbs are placed with the pointing edge facing the sky. A good 8-10" hole is dug in the soil & onions are placed at a distance of around 5-10 centimeters from each other. I chose a fairly sunny spot for it. The foliage start showing as early as February when the soil temperature slightly increases. I've observed this for the last two years. If you want to force them bloom, then the bulbs can be planted in a pot; kept outside till you see the foliage & then bring them inside. But I wouldn't recommend this. If the fall season is very dry, then the bulbs need water. So I think I'd watered them like once in two days.

Care for the Tulip bulbs after they bloom: - After the flowering in spring has gone by, cut the flowers stalks till completely. I usually leave the foliage to turn yellow naturally. These bulbs are also similar to the Daffodil bulbs. If the foliage is chopped of early, there is no food stored in the bulbs & they might not bloom during their next season. Once they dry, cut them. The onions are removed from the soil, cleaned & then stored in boxes with dry grass / hay or paper.

There are many websites guiding the plantation & storing of these bulbs. Most of them suggest the same procedure. I avoid the usage of fertilizer.

The snaps above are of the blooms from our Garden. Some of the beautiful memories captured over the years from our frequent trips to Lisse, Netherlands.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tomato plants

We've a big garden now & I'm planning to grow few veggies this spring & summer. Both me & AmAr are excited about it. He is going to take care of the bulb plants & I'm trying my hand at getting few veggies to grow. Earlier we'd a small patch where we could grow only few plants. We'd bought just one tomato seedling which yielded around 40-50 tomatoes. So decided would start with it this year as well.

Last weekend when we were shopping at a Garden store in Hockenheim, I was on hunt for vegetable seeds & seedlings. They'd good variety of tomato saplings, ready to be planted. So bought a crate of 6 seedlings. Last weekend the weather was not that appealing to plant them immediately. So had to wait.

The forecast for this week though was good. Temperature not dipping to frost the soil again. After researching on the web for the right time to plant these seedlings, planted them finally on Tuesday in the late afternoon (Temperature was around 15 Deg C). I gave them little water as the soil was quite dry. Tomatoes plants like lot of sunlight, warmth, fertile soil, regular watering.

Today is Friday & I'm happy to see that I made the right decision of planting them. They seem to love the sun shine on them for around 8-10 hours daily. I'd watered them yesterday once in the afternoon. I'll have to get supporting stalks for each sapling before they get damaged because of their own weight. So, that is on my shopping list next. I know I've made the mistake of not buying them earlier. The advise is that, the stalking has to be done while planting the seedlings to prevent damage to the new roots that will emerge.

I'll try to upload the photos as soon as possible. The website I refered to is Grow your tomatoes.

04.04.2009: - One of the 6 tomato seedlings.

For the flowers that bloomed from this plant, visit this link.

Monday, March 30, 2009


The above photo is showing the blooms from our last year's yield.

Daffodils belong to the Narcissus family of flowering bulb plants. The above photo is from our garden patch last year. At the moment I don't have a camera to upload this year's snaps. We now have some huge White & Yellow Daffodils growing in our garden.

These onions come out of hibernation shortly after the Snow Bells. The buds emerge out of long stalks & are usually dull green in color. Daffodils I've seen are either yellow or white in color.

I found on Wikipedia that all Narcissus varieties contain the alkaloid poison lycorine, mostly in the bulb but also in the leaves . So better be careful when cutting the flowers from the bulbs or while planting the bulbs in late fall.

After the plant has shed all its flowers during the late spring season, I usually remove the onions from the soil, clean them & store them away from light in boxes containing dry grass / hay or paper pieces to keep them warm. I replant them back in late fall, just before the first frosting happens.

Few snaps from Keukenhof, Lisse: -

A typical Dutch house & the flower fields. White & Yellow Narcissus.

Care for the bulbs after the flowering season is gone by: -

I usually allow the leaves to turn completely turn yellow. I guess the leaves usually provide nourishment to the onion below, which helps store energy to produce the blooms next season after they come out of hibernation. As mentioned in the post earlier, I store in a moderately warm place like in a box of hay or paper away from light. I re-plant them during late fall, just before the first frost sets in.

04.04.2009: - Some of the Daffodil blooms from this year's yield.

Spring decoration

As I mentioned in the previous post, it was a custom in Germany, to decorate windows & doors as the seasons changed. It was like a competition. Whose decoration was the best! I used to always take a new route back home from the bus stop to see just the decoration people put up for Spring. The flowers that we blooming were a sight to watch. We dint have a garden at that time. I used to be amazed & dreamt of having a patch of land some day to put up my own show as well. The multi colored Tulips, Daffodils & Hyacinths couldn't be left unnoticed.

The photo below is from one of the farms in Keukenhof, Lisse. A typical Dutch farming display; a canal by the farm.

After we moved to a bigger apartment in 2007, I'd collected enough over the years to put up my own Spring decoration on the windows. The windows were really huge & just loved the fact of seeing so many colorful things hanging from the windows. I used to visit the malls in the city center, just to see the decorations that were being put up by the staff. AmAr used to get bored of me getting excited & was rather scared. Scared because, he used to always think the next would be that I wanted to buy some more decorative stuff to put on in the house as we'd so many road facing windows. I used to see the looks on his face & would immediately tell him, "Oh! Don't worry I wouldn't buy those stuff, until the ones at home are lost or would get damaged!" Me being so stingy, would rather buy something that is affordable & not very expensive.

Few snaps of the spring decoration put up this year are yet to be clicked. At the moment I don't have my camera. It's on a trip. Once I've it, shall update the post.

04.04.2009: - Yipeeeee! My camera is back & I got busy with it clicking. Here goes our Spring 2009!

This photo is of the living room window. WoW! Look at those lil bunnies, so cute.

This photo is of the Kitchen backyard entrance & the House main door.

Snow bells & early spring plants

Since the time I've moved out of tropical climate of India, I've got an opportunity to experience all the seasons in an year. In my home town I've seldom seen trees going completely bald, without flowers or leaves & looking like sticks standing to be chopped off. Most the plants there enjoy tropical climate without going into hibernation during late fall or winter. Even if they did, it's not that noticeable. So, well never knew what spring was nor fall.

The first year of my stay in Germany started in the mid of spring, where the ground was frost free & was no sign of snow any where. The only thing I remember telling AmAr was "Wow, how is it that everything stays so green & colorful here?" The camera was my to-go necessity like my purse. I was not good at photography then. I'd two mechanical cameras back home given to me by my Uncle & grand mum. The only disadvantage with them were, I'd to wait till the film was developed to find out my mistakes in a photo. Well, when I first came into Germany, AmAr gave me his camera, a digital camera to be precise, Kodak. Even though I've a better camera now, I was amazed to see so many features in the Kodak camera. I'd never known how to take close-ups of a flower or get the background & the foreground properly in the same photo. Well, I'd something to explore now.

The first trip was to Netherlands! I'd heard about Netherlands being famous for the Tulip gardens. By now, AmAr was already fed up of me screaming "WoW" at every other Tulip field we passed to reach the Keukenhof Gardens. I was shocked! to see what on earth the Dutch had created. Lisse is such a small town & it attracts tourists from the entire world just to see the beauty it proudly shows off in Spring. I literally went mad, when I saw so many colorful flowers in front of my eyes. It was probably the 3rd time AmAr was entering these gardens. If it was not for me, he would've have never driven for 5 hours continuously to see something what he'd already seen thrice. Anyway, I used the camera till the warning started flashing to recharge the battery & then it wouldn't turn on! Remember the song "Dekha ek khwab to" from the movie Silila, few scenes were shot in these fields. If you've forgotten, thanks to Youtube, you can view it here.

The winter of 2005 was mild & not that severe as everyone told me. But for me, it was more than what I'd expected. I knew it was going to snow, I would be seeing snow for the first time in my life. But, another surprising thing was that never expected that the trees & plants would shed their leaves & stand unwelcoming for the next 3-4 months! When the frost season set in, the grass was white, the branches of the trees were grey & no other color but grey or white was every where. It was so dull & depressing. The very thought of this happening every year for a duration of 3-4 months made me so unhappy. Even the wardrobe that people were wearing seemed to be colorless & dull; it would either be black or some other shade of black. The colors had vanished some how.

I was taking German lessons during this season. It was so annoying to get-up & reach these classes at 8 in the morning. I was being dropped every day & would take the bus back home. The bus stop was a good 15 minute walk for me. I hated to walk in this bad whether. But, the kids who used to take the same bus with me every day, had no sign of depression or they weren't even affected by winter. If there was heavy snow for few days, a good amount of snow would be waiting for these kids in the bus stop to play. They enjoyed skiing on it or even hitting each other with snow balls or making a snow man. Phew, I wondered how on earth could some one love this whether so much.

Anyway, the winter was slowly passing by & during one of my walks back home, I noticed that there were white colored drooping flowers that were trying to make their way out from the small buds, with their heads bent down. I was not only surprised, but also thrilled to find out that finally the grass had got it's color back & also there were flowering plants! They were snow bells. At last the ground was warm & the onions were out of hibernation! The other flowers that were making their presence felt were the Crocus. Multicolored, white, yellow, purple., etc. Within a few days, the winter decorations were out of the windows & doors in the neighborhood & colorful Easter bunnies & Tulips were in their place! It was such a pleasing sight to my eyes! Not only this, when we were returning back from the Gym in the evening riding our bikes through the fields, we even saw so many wild hares munching on carrots that were growing under the soil. A few weeks passed & the other bulb plants were slowly making their way out. The birds were returning back from their winter vacation too.

They are referred to as Snowdrops or Spring Snowflake. I prefer to call them Snow Bells (Die Schneeglöckchen, in German)