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Monday, 26 November 2012

Mango-Ginger (A crop that can be grown even in shady area)

Mango ginger is not related to Ginger or Mango botanically. It is morphologically similar to Turmeric and scientifically known as Curcuma amada. The rhizomes of Mango ginger is used for pickles, chutney, candy, sauce, salad etc. It is also used for medicinal purpose. It is seen effective for biliousness, itching, skin diseases, bronchitis, asthma, hiccough, and inflammation due to injuries.
Mango ginger can be grown well in partially shaded area as an inter crop with vegetables. Rhizomes are used for propagating this crop. Disease free rhizomes weighing 15-25 gm are suitable for planting. Many local varieties of Mango ginger are available.
Grown on bed with mulching
Plant Mango ginger in April with the commencement of pre-monsoon showers in holes on beds with a spacing of 25x30cm. Cattle manure or compost can be applied as basal manure. Mulch the crop immediately after planting. The rhizomes start germination within 3-4 weeks.
Remove weeds time to time and earth up two months after planting. Harvest can be done six months after planting.

Friday, 17 August 2012

GINGER – A spice crop

Ginger is a spice crop growing well in tropical region. It is scientifically known as Zingiber officinale. We can grow it easily in our homestead garden. Being a spice, the use of Ginger is widely accepted in almost all countries. Ginger oil and Ginger oleoresin are some of the ginger products.
Ginger prefers well drained rich soil with organic matters. It can`t withstand in water logged area even for a day.  It grows well in the sun as well as half shady area.
Some of the promising varieties of Ginger are Maran, Wayanad, Mimachal, IISR-Varada, IISR-Rejatha, IISR-Mahima, Rio-De-janeiro, China, and Tafengiya.
Ginger is propagated by its rhizomes. Chose healthy and disease free seed rhizomes for planting. The best time for planting Ginger is during the first fortnight of April, after pre-monsoon showers. For irrigated Ginger, planting can be done in the middle of February.
Plant seed rhizome bits of about 15gm weight in small holes at a spacing of 20x20cm on beds. Apply one or two handful of dry cattle manure in each hole while planting. Mulching should be done with dry leaves immediately after planting.
Regular weeding and earthing up should be done for Ginger. Manuring may also be done before earthing up, if necessary.
Harvest can be done from 6th month onwards for vegetable purpose and 8-9 months after planting for dry Ginger.

Monday, 13 August 2012

ARROW ROOT – A plant that gives easily digestible starch

Arrow Root is a tuber crop that can be grown very easily in our homestead garden. This is mainly cultivated for making Arrow root powder, that is, starch. Its tubers contain 23% starch. This starch is easily digestible. Hence it can be used as baby food. It is also used for medicinal purpose.
Arrow root grown in coconut garden
The scientific name of Arrow root is Maranta arundinacea. This is a perennial plant grow about 2-3 feet high and its tubers are about 30cm long and 1-2.5cm thick.
Arrowroot is propagated vegetatively by rhizomes. Healthy rhizomes with at least one germinated sprout can be used for planting. Arrowroot prefers partially shaded condition and rich soil. Hence it can be grown as an inter crop. It is planted in May-June at a spacing of 45x30cm on raise beds. Apply organic manure according to soil fertility. Mulching using dry leaves or other vegetative portion of plants may be done immediately after planting.
No major pests or diseases are noticed in the crop.
The crop matures for harvest 7 months after planting. When the leaves start drying crop can be harvested. Dig out tubers with care.
Starch extraction: Tubers are first washed, and then cleaned of the paper-like scale. The scales must be carefully removed before the extraction of the starch because they impart their disagreeable flavor if allowed to remain. After the removal of the scale, the roots are washed again, drained and finally reduced to a pulp by beating them in mortars or subjecting them to the action of the wheel rasp. The milky liquid thus obtained is passed through a coarse cloth and the pure starch, which is insoluble, is allowed to settle at the bottom. The wet starch is dried in the sun or in a drying house. Thus we get arrowroot starch.


Friday, 10 August 2012

LESSER YAM –A hairy tuberous vegetable

Lesser yam is a tuberous vegetable widely grown in tropical region. Its botanical name is Dioscorea esculenta and it belongs to the family of Dioscoreaceae. It is a spiny climber growing up to 12 m high, with numerous shallow-rooted tubers. This is a 6–10 months crop with short dormancy period. The tubers are small and are found in clusters of some 5 to 20 slightly below the soil surface.
Generally the Lesser yam is  a rainfed crop. Its planting season is later part of dry season i.e., March-April. If the planting is delayed seed tubers start germination. This should be avoided.
Seed tubers are used for propagation of Lesser yam. The improved varieties of Lesser yam are Sreelatha, Sreekala etc. Select medium size tubers weighing about 100-150 gm. Plant the whole tuber on ridges or mounds. Cattle manure up to 1kg may be applied for each tuber.  Mulching should be done for maintaining moisture and optimum temperature.
Weeding and earthing up may be done one month after planting.
When the plants start vining, trail the same by fixing small poles or providing other materials.
The crop will be ready for harvest 7-8 months after planting.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

SWEET POTATO-A sweet tasting tuber

Sweet potato is a tuberous crop that gives sweet tasting tubers as its name indicates.  Its scientific name is Ipomoea batatas.  In Kerala it is known in the names of Madhura kizhangu, Chakkara Valli etc.  It is a rich source of Vitamin-A, C and digestive fiber. It requires warm humid tropical climate to grow. 
Sweet potato can be grown as rainfed and irrigated crop. Rainfed crop can be planted during June-July and September –October. Irrigated crop is planted in October-November and January- February.
H-41, H-42, Sreenandini, Sreevardhini,Sreeretna, Sreebhadra, Kanjanghad, Sree Arun, Sree Varun, and Sreekanaka are the available improved varieties of Sweet Potato.

Sweet potato is propagated by vine cuttings. To obtain vine cuttings, selected tubers are planted and grown in nursery. Vines of 20-25cm length can be planted at a spacing of 15 to 20 cm on ridges, 15x15cm on beds and mounds. Plant the vine cuttings with the middle portion buried in the soil and the two cut ends exposed. Keep the soil always moist for early sprouting. Apply a layer of organic manure and incorporate with soil before planting.
Some fertilizers may be applied one month after planting for better formation of tubers, if the soil is poor in nutrients. Regular weeding and earthing up are also needed for the crop. For irrigated crop, watering to keep the soil moist is inevitable.
Generally the crop can be harvested 4-5 months after planting. When the leaves become yellow in color the crop can be harvested.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

GREATER YAM - A profitable tuber crop

A greater yam plant (Vine) climbed over a shrub

Greater yam is a tuberous vegetable widely grown in tropical region. Scientifically Greater yam is known as Dioscorea alata. In Kerala it is known in the names of ‘Kachil’, ‘Kavuthu’ etc. We can grow it in our home premises with little care. Its tuber contains 1.3% protein, 0.3% fat, calcium, phosphorous, iron etc in addition to a large portion of carbohydrate.
A 10 days old Greater yam plant 
Greater yam prefers well drained rich soil. It does not grow in water logged condition. It is usually planted during March- April.
Seed tubers are used for propagating the yam. Large tubers are cut into pieces for planting. When pieces are cut ensure that each piece has head end for sprouting. Each piece should also weigh at least 250-300 gram. Dip the pieces in cowdung slurry and allow drying under the shade before planting. The pieces can be planted in pits of 45x45x45 cm size at a spacing of 1 meter. Pits should be filled with top soil and organic manure before planting. After planting, pits may be covered with dry leaves to keep the soil moist.
Organic manure or fertilizers may be applied one month after planting for formation of large tubers.
Trailing is essential for Greater yam. This has to be done within 15 days after sprouting. Trailing materials or Trees grown in the field can be used for trailing.
The crop becomes ready for harvest within 8-9 months after planting when the vines are completely dried up.

Monday, 30 July 2012

COLEUS – An easy growing tuber crop

Coleus plants of one month old

Coleus is a tuber crop that can be grown very easily in our homestead garden. Coleus is also called Chinese potato. Its scientific name is Solenostemon rotundifolius .In Kerala it is known as Koorka. Its tuber is widely used as vegetable.
Tubers of Coleus
Coleus grows well in tropical and subtropical regions. This is mainly planted during the season between July and October. Promising varieties available in Kerala (India) are Nidhi and Sreedhara.
Coleus plants grown on a bed
Coleus is propagated by vine cuttings. Cuttings can be collected from raised nursery. Selected seed tubers are planted in nursery for this purpose. Usually we can take cuttings of 10-15cm length after three weeks from planting. Plant the vine cuttings collected from the nursery on ridges at a spacing of 30cm or on raised beds at 30x15 cm spacing. A thick layer of organic manure may be mixed with soil before planting.
Weeding and earthing up along with fertilizing should be done 30-45 days after planting for better growth and yield. Cover bottom portion of vines with soil to promote tuber formation.
No major pests or diseases are seen in the crop.
Harvest can be done five months after planting.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

POMEGRANATE - A plant of highly nutritious fruits

Pomegranate fruits
Pomegranate is a fruit plant that gives highly nutritious fruits. It grows up to 15 to 20 feet high like a small tree. It belongs to the family of Punicaceae and scientifically known as Punica granatum L .In Kerala (India) it is known as Mathala narakam. Pomegranate fruits are rich source of Protein, Calcium, Phosphorous, Iron, Potassium etc. Pomegranate plants can be grown easily in homestead garden.
Some of the promising varieties  of Pomegranate  available in India are Bedana, Kandhari, Alandi, Dholka, Kabul, Muscat red, Paper shell and Poona.
Pomegranate favors a semi-arid climate and is extremely drought- tolerant. It is propagated by hardwood cuttings and layers. Rooted cuttings or layers are planted in pits of 60x60x60cm size. Apply some organic manure in pits before planting. Irrigate the plants regularly in initial days.
For good growth and production, the plants should be manured and irrigated regularly. Manures may be applied according to the fertility of soil.
Pomegranate starts bearing one year after planting.  After 3-4 years it begins to give better yield .Usually the fruits ripen 6-7 months after flowering. Harvest only matured fruits.
No major pests or diseases are noticed in Pomegranate crop.


Monday, 2 July 2012

COWPEA – Season and different varieties

Bush type Cowpea

Being a rich source of protein cowpea is cultivated as vegetable and grain. People of Kerala are very much interested in the cultivation of Cowpea. Cowpea is also cultivated as fodder.
Season: Cowpea can be grown in any season. As a rainfed crop it can be grown in the month of June in Kerala (India).In June after the heavy showers cowpea can be sown.
1-Vegetable type :
Semi trailing type
a)     Bushy: Bhagyalakshmi, Pusa Barsathi, Pusa Komal. b) Semitrailing :Kairali, Varun, Anaswara. Kanakamoni, Arka Garima. c) Trailing type : Sharika, Malika, KMV-1, Lola, Vyjayanthi, Manjeri Local, Vylathur Local, Kurutholapayar.
2-Grain type:
   C-152, S-488, Pusa Phalguni, P-118, Pusa Do Fasli, Krisnamony, V-240, Amba,       GC-827, CO-3, Pournami and Shubra.
3-Dual purpose type:
   Kanakamony and New Era.
Plough the area to be sown thoroughly. Make channels of 15cm depth at 2m apart to drain off excess water. For grain type and dual purpose type, if dibbling is done, spacing of 25cm between rows and 15cm between plants is recommended with two seeds per hole. If broadcasting is adopted, the seeds can be sown over the field thoroughly ploughed. For bush type spacing of 30cm between rows and 15 cm between plants may be given.
Trailing type
For cultural practices and other details please see my post “COWPEA-a leafy vegetable?” of March 2012.

Bushy type Cowpea planted in pits

Tuesday, 26 June 2012



The scientific name of Indian Gooseberry is Phyllanthus emblica. In Kerala (INDIA) it is known as Nelli. Its fruits are rich source of Vitamin –C and calcium. It can be grown in homestead garden with little care. It prefers warm dry climate and soil except very sandy type.

The high yielding varieties of gooseberry are Chambakad Large, Banarasi, Krishna, and Kanchan.
Indian Gooseberry plant
Indian gooseberry is usually propagated by seeds and wedge grafting. Seeds can be extracted by drying the ripe fruits in the sun for 3-4 days till they split open releasing the seeds. The seeds can be directly sown. Root suckers can also be used for planting. One year old plants are planted in pits of 90 cubic centimeters in size during rainy season.
If the soil is poor in organic matters, some cattle manure or compost may be added while filling the pit with top soil for planting.
No serious pests or diseases are seen in this crop.
Indian Gooseberry plants start bearing about 10 years after planting.

Monday, 25 June 2012


The scientific name of Colocasia is Colocasia esculenta. In Kerala Colocasia is known as Chembu. Colocasia is a tubular vegetable that can be grown with little care. Its tuber as well as stem and leaves are used as vegetable. Its tuber contains 21.1% carbohydrate, 3% protein and 1.7% minerals. Its stem and leaves give Vitamin- A, C, iron and calcium.
Colacasia is grown well in warm humid climate and rich soil. It can be grown as rainfed and irrigated crop. The season of irrigated crop in Kerala is May-June
The improved varieties of Colocasia in India are Sree Rashmi, Sree Pallavi, Sreekiran and Thamarakannan.
Tubers of Coocasia
Side tubers are used for planting. Select side tubers weighing 25-35 grams for planting. Make ridges 60cm apart. Plant the side corms at a spacing of 45cm on ridges. Cattle manure or compost may be used as basal manure while planting. It can be applied in holes on ridges before planting. Soon after planting the ridges may be covered with dry leaves or other mulching materials. It prevents loss of moisture and growth of weeds.
Weeding and earthing up is necessary for Colocasia at 30-45 days and 60-75 days after planting. Some vermin compost or other organic manure can be used at the time of first earthing up for better yield. The leafy parts may be smothered about one month before harvest so as to enhance tuber development.

No major pests or diseases for Colocasia.

Colocasia becomes ready for harvest five to six months after planting. Side tubers are separated from mother corms and used. 


Saturday, 2 June 2012

PINEAPPLE - A popular fruit plant that can be grown easily in homestead garden

Scientifically, Pineapple is known as Ananas comosus and belongs to the family of Bromeliaceae. Pineapple is a popular fruit plant to be grown very easily in homestead garden. A corner area of homestead is enough for growing one or two plants. It’s juicy and fleshy fruit is commonly used for fruit and cooking purpose. Fruits are rich source of Antioxidants, vitamin-C and Vitamin-A. It also contains a proteolytic enzyme bromelain that digests food by breaking down protein.

The promising varieties of Pineapple available in Kerala(India) are Kew, Mauritius and Amrutha.
Plant suckers are used for propagation. The best season for planting is May-June, in the beginning of monsoon. Select healthy suckers of size weighing 700-1000gm.Suckers can be planted in raked soil. About 3kg organic manure may be added with soil.
During summer, Pineapple should be irrigated where ever possible. Do mulching with dry leaves to keep soil moisture.
Pineapple plants
No major pests or diseases are noticed in Pineapple.



Wednesday, 30 May 2012

ELEPHANT FOOT YAM - A tuberous vegetable

Elephant foot yam is a tuber crop that can be grown easily in homestead garden.Its tuber looks like an Elephant`s foot, that is why this is called Elephant Foot Yam. It is one of the nutritious vegetables. It is a rich source of potassium, phosphorous, calcium and iron. Its tuber, stem and leaves are used for cooking. The scientific name of Elephant foot yam is Amorphophallus paeoniifolius. It is also known as Elephant foot and Elephant yam. In Kerala (India) it is known as Chena. It grows well in hot and humid climate.
Two major varieties of Elephant Foot Yam are 'Gajendra' and 'Santhragachi'.
Corm pieces are used for propagation of Elephant foot yam. The best season for planting is February-March, before onset of monsoon. Corm pieces can be planted in pits of 60x60x45 cm size filled with top soil and 2-4 kg cow dung or compost. Corm pieces weighing about 1kg is ideal for planting. Before planting, corms pieces may be dip in cow dung slurry and dried under shade.
A one month old Plant
After planting, the pits may be covered with dried leaves. The planting material will normally germinate within one month after planting.
Thickly grown  EFY plants
Weeding and next manuring may be given about 45 days after planting. Vermi compost or any other organic manure can be applied. Plant base may be kept cool and weed free for better yield. It doesn’t need irrigation.
The crop will be ready for harvest 8-9 months after planting.

Monday, 28 May 2012

CURRY LEAF (Murraya koenigii)- a small tree with aromatic leaves

Curry leaf is commonly used for giving flavor for curries. It is an unavoidable item in many dishes in India and Asian countries. It is also used as an herb in Ayurvedic medicines. It is much valued as anti-diabetic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory etc.
It is fast growing and can be grown very easily in homestead.

Curry leaf is propagated by seeds and root suckers. As root suckers are fast growing, these are usually used for planting. It requires sunny and drained place.  Planting is done in May-June. One or two plants are enough for a family. Root suckers can be planted in 60x60x60cm pits filled with compost and topsoil at a spacing of 4x4 m.
Kitchen waste can be used as manure for Curry leaf. It does need regular irrigation during summer.
As the plants grow fast, trim them regularly to ensure the growth of fresh leaves for harvest.

Friday, 25 May 2012

SAPOTA – An evergreen fruit tree

The scientific name of Sapota is Manilkara zapota. It is an evergreen fruit- bearing tree that can be grown in all types of soil .It requires temperature range of 15-35 degree Celsius. Sapota fruit is a rich source of digestible sugar, protein, fiber and minerals like phosphorus, calcium and iron. In season we get plenty of fruits which can be had as it is.  
The promising varieties available are Cricket ball, Oval, Co-1, Co-2, Badami, Baramasi, Calcutta round etc.
A bearing Sapota plant
Sapota is propagated through layers and grafts. Khirni (Manilkara hexandra) plant is commonly used as root stock for grafting. The best time for planting is May-June. Grafts or layers are planted in pits of 60x60x60cm size at a spacing of 8x8m. 10 kg organic manure can be applied at the time planting. Gradually increase the quantity in later years. 1kg Urea, 1.5 kg Super phosphate, 1.5kg Murate of Potash can be applied for a full-grown plant, if the soil is not rich in organic matter.
No irrigation is required except during early stage and dry summer.
A Sapota tree starts bearing
Sapota begins bearing 3rd year of planting. It flowers throughout the year. But productive flowering is in October –November and February –March. Fruits mature about four months after flowering. Mature fruits, dull brown in color, are harvested.


Thursday, 24 May 2012

NUTMEG – A homestead spices tree

Nutmeg is a spices plant to be grown easily in homestead. Dried nutmeg and its mace (red feathery aril) are directly used as spice and also for making their derivatives. Nutmeg grows well in hot, humid climate. It prefers half shady area. The soil should be rich in organic matter.
Nutmeg is dioecious plant which is propagated by sexually and asexually. Sexual propagation by seedlings produces 50% male plants which are unproductive. As there is no method to determine male and female plants till flowering, propagation by grafting is better. Grafts can be planted in pits of 90x90x90cm size. For planting, the pits should be filled with top soil and compost. The best time for planting is May-June. If seeds are used for propagation, it can be sown in polythene bags. It germinates within 50-80 days after sowing. When the seedlings are 20-30cm high, they can be planted. One plant is enough for a family.
Apply 10 kg cow dung or compost during first year. Gradually increase the quantity of organic manure in later years. Fertilizers @ 100gm Ammonium sulphate, 100 gm Rock phosphate and 100gm Murate of Potash may be applied during first year for better growth.
Regular weeding, manuring and watering during summer are essential for growing Nutmeg.
No major pests are seen in case of Nutmeg. The important diseases of nutmeg are Leaf spot and shot hole, fruit rot and Leaf blight. To control these diseases 1% Bordeaux mixture is effective.
Harvest: When fruits are fully ripe, the nuts split open. These are either plucked or allowed to drop. The two major products are nutmeg and mace. After de-rinding the nutmeg fruit, mace is separated from pericarp and dried in the sun for 3-5 days. The nuts are dried in the sun for 6-8 days till they rattle in their shell.