Growing Herbs and Vegetables in India

by Sharell शारेल on December 8, 2009

in Daily Life in India, Visiting Australia

Post image for Growing Herbs and Vegetables in India

I’ve been gradually collecting things to take back with me to India, and this time one of them is packets of seeds. I’m going to try growing some of the herbs and vegetables that I often use in cooking but are difficult to find in India — sweet basil, Thai basil, garlic chives, and lettuce.

My mum has a fabulous vegetable garden (shown above) which has totally inspired me. She’s been growing vegetables for as long as I remember. Trouble is, this bountiful and readily available supply of goodness has led me to believe that growing herbs and vegetables is easy. Put the seeds in soil, cover it over, keep it wet, and they’ll grow in to healthy plants, right? Well, not necessarily! Now that I’ve taken an interest in gardening, I’ve leaned that there’s a bit more to it than I originally thought.

The seeds should be planted during the correct phase of the moon for a more bountiful crop. Depending on what type of seeds they are, they need to be planted at various depths in the soil. Certain plants require more sunlight than others. Lettuces in particular like six hours of sun per day, but don’t like to get too hot. Then, all sorts of creatures come along to eat the produce. Snails, slugs, moths (and in Australia, rabbits)!

I’m starting to think that I’ll be lucky if I can grow anything at all. I’m really looking forward to giving it a try though!

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© Copyright 2009 Sharell शारेल, Diary of a White Indian Housewife 2008-2014. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy and reproduce text or images without permission.

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{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

Shaunak Goswami December 8, 2009 at 9:30 am

Dear Sharell ,

There are two things I like the most in Western cuisine
1) Salads
2) Cheese

There are a variety of salads in the western cuisine that I like . The traditional Indian food is somewhat lacking in salads . I like western salads with mayonnaise and mannaise based dressings . Russian salad , coleslaw and German potato salad are my favourite .

There are a variety of Cheeses in the Western cuisine that I like . Cheddar , Gouda , Emmental are just a few of them . Of course there are other breakfast items like ham , bacon, salami , sausages etc. but now I don’t eat them because I have turned a vegetarian .

Sharell , I wish you all the best with your gardening .

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Ramit December 8, 2009 at 10:45 am

Good luck! :D

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motoakijane December 8, 2009 at 11:09 am

Wow shaunuk! your post is so thoughtful and kind! and on topic! and best of luck in the garden- your new house will be perfect for it!

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Sharell December 8, 2009 at 11:22 am

Wow shaunuk! your post is so thoughtful and kind! and on topic!

But he did manage to fit a mention of Russia in there! :-P

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Ramit December 8, 2009 at 11:09 am
motoakijane December 8, 2009 at 11:12 am

and what is the difference between thai basil and sweet basil? I’ve only known basil???

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Sharell December 8, 2009 at 11:17 am

Thai basil is mainly used in Thai cooking and has a slight anise/ licorice flavour.

Rather than cutting and pasting, I’ll refer you to this link: ;-)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thai_basil

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Sharell December 8, 2009 at 11:19 am

Oh, and by the way, these basils are completely different (in taste and smell) to Tulsi holy basil.

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motoakijane December 8, 2009 at 11:23 am

these things take time. we cant expect one to quit cold turkey!

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nadia December 8, 2009 at 11:24 am

Your mother has a lovely garden! All I’ve ever managed to grow was aloe vera, mainly because one only needs to water it twice a week.

Good luck to you! :)

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Sharell December 8, 2009 at 11:50 am

Hi Nadia, I’ve got an aloe vera plant as well. It does seem pretty hardy. Not to mention that it’s really good for sunburn and skin irritation. If you cut the leaf open and rub the juice on your skin, it’s really soothing. 8)

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JustSmile December 8, 2009 at 11:35 am

Hey there,
Excellent that you wanna grow some vegetables and herbs in India. I have also done it but just with local veggies this time coz I was told it might be a problem to bring seeds from abroad (they ask if you bring seeds or plants in the migration form), so I don’t know if it is allowed or not. Anyway if you are able to bring the seeds to India without any problem please tell us! as I wanna bring many too! I started my adventure just a month back and guess what! plants are really growing! I am excited!

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Sharell December 8, 2009 at 11:48 am

Hey JustSmile, glad to hear that you’re growing things too! There’s hope that I’ll be able to do it as well then. :-) I’m also wondering whether I’ll be allowed to bring the seeds in, however I’m hoping that there won’t be a problem because they’re prepackaged. I’ll definitely let you know how I go!

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Shaunak Goswami December 8, 2009 at 11:41 am

Dear Ramitji,

It’s not me . My family lives in New Delhi and I study in Pune . The name and age of the above mentioned person however match mine .

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Ramit December 8, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Thank you Shaunak. You should really start writing a blog.

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Suhani December 8, 2009 at 12:19 pm

Good luck wid ur gardening SHarell!My mum also has a kitchen garden at home,where she grows grafted lemon,karela & also coriander.I never knew der wer so many kinds of basils used in cooking!Bt sadly in my mum’s house,its forbidden to use Tulsi patta or basil ,since v r non-vegetarians, in any form of cooking.

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Anilu December 8, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Sharell,
Just be careful with it. Here in UK there is a TV show called “Nothing to declare” (Border Security) about Australia and it is really addictive. I have learned at least to always declare any food (anything that can be eaten or drunk) and never dream of bringing seeds. But India might be different. I always bring cheese from Mexico to Scotland and they never check it. ;)
Very good luck and see you are already picturing your garden in your new house.

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Sharell December 8, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Hi Anilu, wow, you get that border security show in the UK! My mum loves it. I must say, I find it interesting too. I know, Australia has very strict quarantine rules so I’m always alert for things I can and can’t take into countries. I scoured the Internet for information about seeds being banned from India and couldn’t really find anything, so it should be okay. The interesting thing is that I was looking on the seed packets that I’ve bought, and it actually says they were packed in the UK! So they’ve been imported in to Australia anyway. Go figure! I think Australia’s quarantine rules are more to do with unidentified seeds that people may randomly collect from abroad and grow things from. So I think all will be okay. :-)

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Andrea December 8, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Will you have a large enough garden for growing lettuce in your new place? I think it’s a great idea. I love Indian food, and could eat it almost every day, but I agree with Shaunak that the salads are what I miss – and kochimber, while tasty, just doesn’t do the trick when I’m craving some leafy greens, esp. spinach!

On a related note, one of my Indian friends told me that it’s common to have curry plants in the home where she lives, so they can have fresh curry leaves whenever they want. I thought that sounded like a fabulous idea in the States, where the leaves are harder to find, but I don’t have a green thumb, so it probably wouldn’t work out…

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Sharell December 8, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Hi Andrea, I haven’t made up my mind where to grow the lettuce yet! I could clear some room in the garden (it is quite big underneath the bungalow) but I was also thinking of growing them little by little in large pots. I’ll have to see what works best. I really have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to vegetables. I’m used to growing pretty flowers and things! ;-) I almost bought a curry plant once in India but decided against it because I was worried it might get too big — they’re actually small trees when they’re mature. I think it will depend on where you live in the States as to the success you’ll have with growing Indian plants. Many Indian plants don’t like cold weather apparently. My mum doesn’t have much success with them because we get frosts here. :-(

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Anilú December 8, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Thanks for your prompt reply Sharell. I do love that show especially when they find drug mules. But when they find tea leves or a banana in elderly ppl I always want to scream: leave them be! But then they say: if a disease enter the country it would cost thousands of dollars etc etc. I am so scared of going to Australia and forgetting to declare something. One of my best friends in Aussie and she will go back to Perth next year so I plan to visit eventually.

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Ramit December 8, 2009 at 5:26 pm

The immigration forms that one has to fill out on arrival to India does have a part where you have to declare seeds. I’ve never brought seeds though so never had to fill it up.

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linda December 8, 2009 at 6:27 pm

that’s the one thing I miss so much when I go to India is a big “garbage” salad like you get in the US. Lettuce and every and any vegetable you want to put in it….

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Sharell December 8, 2009 at 7:00 pm

I miss that too, Linda. My mum has been making up these fantastic mixed salads daily (she’s great at throwing everything together) and I’m feeling very bad about not eating so well in India. I often want to make salad in India but it’s so hard to get decently priced lettuce — hence me deciding to try and grow some. Hopefully, it will work out!

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Gori Girl December 8, 2009 at 6:35 pm

My father-in-law always has us take him to a big plant store when he visits us in the US in order to purchase seeds of various flower types that he can’t find in India. He loves his flower gardens, and takes great pride in keeping it healthy and varied. He’s never had any problem bringing in seeds to India from the US – even opened seed packets (when we’ve split the seeds – some for them & some for our house).

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Sharell December 8, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Thanks GG, that’s reassuring to know about the seeds! :-)

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June December 8, 2009 at 7:02 pm

Best of luck with the gardening!
I am growing a chilli plants in a regular flower pot here in Copenhagen. I keep it near the living room window since it is the only place with enough sunshine, well light- we’ve only had 3 hours of sunshine this month :( I currently have 7 red chillies hanging on it!

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Sharell December 8, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Hey, that’s a great effort June! 8) It must be getting REALLY cold over there by now. Hope you’re coping okay. Three hours of sunshine is terribly inadequate.

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Abdullah K. December 8, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Sharell, in case you are not aware, there is a little legal hassle with bringing seeds to India. The packets needs to be company sealed and certified to be free of pests.
 
You can get seeds of lettuce, basil and garlic chives in India if you look around at the seed shops. They’ll be better suited for the Indian climes and soil, as they have been engineered for the purpose.
 
Good luck with gardening by the way, it is one of the best and most rewarding hobbies around.

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D. Jain December 8, 2009 at 8:17 pm

I agree, you should check to make sure you’ll be able to bring the seeds into India. On our last trip there were some things I wanted to bring that I decided against after I researched the customs rules (like avocado, which I love, and my husband says his family has not tried before). I hope you can bring them so you can start enjoying salads again, at least when the weather is cool enough for the tender lettuces!

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AJ December 8, 2009 at 8:31 pm

Hi Sharell,
Nice thought…I hope you succeed in your project grow herbs and vege…
When I moved from India to US, even I got some seeds for Indian flowers and plants but then I learned that no matter they were generic flowers like rose and sunflower, etc but still they didn’t grow in US. Not because I didn’t know the right way to sow them but due to climate and soil. So I hope, you get success in your efforts…good luck

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JoAnna December 8, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Is there any concern with taking seeds back into India? I know a lot of countries won’t let you take agricultural products across the border.

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Amit Kumar December 8, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Gardens remind me of my childhood which I spent in one of the most beautiful valleys of India. :-)

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Sharell December 9, 2009 at 3:27 am

Gardens remind me of my childhood which I spent in one of the most beautiful valleys of India. :-)

Where was that, Amit?

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Ramit December 8, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Someone please arrange for Avocado to be grown and sold in India too! :(

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Amit Kumar December 8, 2009 at 10:55 pm

Someone please arrange for Avocado to be grown and sold in India too!

I have no clue what they are but wikipedia says they are grown in southern parts of India.

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Abdullah K. December 8, 2009 at 10:58 pm

@ Ramit – “Someone please arrange for Avocado to be grown and sold in India too! :(“

It already is, in India’s North Eastern states. But again, a lot of Delhites don’t really count North East as India.

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D. Jain December 9, 2009 at 12:27 am

“I have no clue what they are but wikipedia says they are grown in southern parts of India.”

They are a fruit with a large pit in the middle, and the flesh is a delicious creamy, silky texture with a green color. I usually use them in savory dishes, like guacamole (mashed up with hot chiles, onions, lime juice and spices and eaten with corn chips), in other Mexican dishes, on sandwiches, or just plain with salt and pepper. Yummmm…

Ha, Abdullah. Well, my Delhite in-laws had never heard of avocado or tried it, so you might have a point!

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Sharell December 9, 2009 at 3:25 am

I’m sure I won’t have any problems with the seeds. I checked Australian quarantine (supposedly the toughest in the world) and what’s not permitted is: unidentified seeds, some commercially packaged seeds, and ornaments including seeds. I can’t see India being any tougher than that. My seeds are in sealed packets with pictures on them, and absolutely pest free (they wouldn’t have been allowed into Australia otherwise — they were packed in the UK!). The restrictions on seeds are really only to do with random seeds that people collect, which may be detrimental and have pests. Agricultural products are often not allowed across borders because they can carry pests (in Australia we have fruit fly etc.) too. I bring food and treated wood products into Australia all the time — of course I have to declare it. It’s then inspected and allowed to go through. :-) Anyway, I’ll also check out the seeds in India too. They’re just one of those things that I have no clue where to find though! I can imagine having to go on a massive and exhausting hunt for things as exotic as Thai basi! ;-)

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Sharell December 9, 2009 at 3:30 am

Oh one other thing about the seeds, when I was running the guesthouse in Varkala (Kerala) there were long-term Italian guests staying there — they brought Basil with them from Italy and grew it. They stayed there every year and always did that so they could have fresh Basil for their Italian cooking. 8)

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Ramit December 9, 2009 at 10:31 am

Abdullah, why do you say that most Delhites do not consider North East India to be a part of India? I consider it to be a wonderful part of India. There are places in North East which are great to visit. Sadly, the terrorism makes it unsafe. I’d love to vacation in Sikkim or Shillong.

I want Avocado! ;)

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Sharell December 9, 2009 at 10:58 am

I had avocado for lunch. In fact I’ve had it for lunch with my salad, and crackers and cheese for the past week! :-)

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Abdullah K. December 9, 2009 at 1:35 pm

@ Ramit – “Abdullah, why do you say that most Delhites do not consider North East India to be a part of India?”

Because of the way Delhites treat people from the North Eastern India. I doubt I have to elaborate.
 

@ Ramit – “There are places in North East which are great to visit. Sadly, the terrorism makes it unsafe. I’d love to vacation in Sikkim or Shillong.”

Hardly. Terrorism in North-East greatly exaggerated by the Indian media and authorities. The chances of you being a victim of militant attacks in North East is no more than the chances of getting rammed by a suicide driver of Delhi streets. Don’t let paranoia and fear stop you from exploring the world, or your own country.

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Ramit December 9, 2009 at 7:23 pm

Abdullah, Dad had guys with guns storm into his office one time, on another occasion the cops stopped him in the middle of the road and took his car by force saying that the car has Govt. of India license plates on it which means they can use it anytime they want to! In Shillong, everyone closes their stores by max. 5 PM because they are scared of terrorists or whatever. Almost every other day Dad used to go through some harassment or the other by some government official to give in to the demands of some guy with a gun. I’m not going back! No ways!

Plus, have you ever heard of Delhi people being harassed by North Eastererners? They do that a lot. Try living in Assam for a while and you’ll see.

Not that what happens to anyone outside their state is correct.

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Ramit December 9, 2009 at 7:29 pm

I was never allowed to leave the house or the office without security even to go down the road for a chocolate! It’s that bad!

This is some years ago. Knowing India, I doubt much would have changed in the good sense!

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Abdullah K. December 9, 2009 at 10:22 pm

@ Ramit – “In Shillong, everyone closes their stores by max. 5 PM because they are scared of terrorists or whatever.”

In most North Eastern cities, shops wrap up by 19:00 hrs as night falls earlier than in Central India. The time zone equivalent of that time would be 20:30 in Delhi, by which time the market’s day gets over.
 
I visited Sikkim, Assam and Meghalaya over fifteen times in the last four years and had only enjoyable experiences there. Perhaps as a tourist, my experiences would differ from that of an immigrant. I am not a Delhi guy, by the way.

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Ramit December 9, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Where are you from?

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nicki18229 December 9, 2009 at 11:47 pm

Sharell good luck with your new hobby! Gardening is great thing to do it lets you relax even. I have herb garden that I keep all year here in PA. I grow strawberries in the summer they are my fav along with some other veggies too. I have small yard so I have to use pots sometimes to grow things in. Hope that they work out great for you when you Get back to India. Ramit how is it going? Hope that this finds you well

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Sharell December 10, 2009 at 3:31 am

Thanks Nicki! :-) Mmmm, fresh strawberries are the best. So sweet and yummy! My mum grows them too. I also used to love eating fresh peas when I was a kid. I remember I’d go out and sit in the veggie garden and hog on everything that was growing!

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Abdullah K. December 10, 2009 at 12:13 am

@ Ramit – “Where are you from?”

Goa.

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Ashleigh December 10, 2009 at 4:44 am

What a beautiful garden!

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shalini December 10, 2009 at 11:33 am

What a wonderful and delightful garden !!!

Well considering the climate of Mumbai, i think you ll land up with some flowers, but anyhow good luc and keep trying !!!

We have a kitchen garden too albeit a small one and grow some spinach, corriander, methi, tomatoes…, the gardener comes tends to them as per each plants requirements as you have mentioned !!!

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Sharell December 10, 2009 at 11:56 am

Shalini, that sounds like a lovely kitchen garden. 8) I’m sure the produce must smell and taste delicious! Things like tomatoes are always more flavorsome when they’re home grown.

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Soumo December 11, 2009 at 4:08 am

hey the garden seems good. keep up the good work. really like ur website though! can’t seem to get enough of it.

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Sharell December 11, 2009 at 4:14 am

Thanks Soumo! Glad you’ve been enjoying the website too. :-D

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Amit Kumar December 22, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Where was that, Amit?

Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand. Kite Flying, swimming in the nearby rivers, rocking climbing, cycling are some of the activities I remember having done as a child. Being amidst mother nature is such a different experience all together. Apart from the beauty, it has some of the most renowned private schools in northern India. Doon School and Welham Girls School are amongst the best and oldest boarding schools in the world. The sad news is, it is getting industrialized very rapidly.

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Indian American December 22, 2009 at 9:59 pm

A beautiful place like Dehradun is getting industrialized? There goes the hill station down the hill.

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Amit Kumar December 23, 2009 at 2:16 pm

A beautiful place like Dehradun is getting industrialized? There goes the hill station down the hill.

The problem is not with industrialization though, after all it provides for better jobs and a higher standard of living. The lack of concern for the environment while industrializing is the real issue.

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Indian American December 23, 2009 at 10:19 pm

I am all for industralization but I dont want it to affect the surroundings in a negative manner. A good example of that is Bhopal and we all know what happened there.

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rinea September 3, 2010 at 4:01 pm

am planning on my own balcony garden…the mint is growing fabulously and so is the aloe plant. But I want to plant more and am surfing for info. Picture of your mom’s garden is amazing!

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Sharell September 3, 2010 at 5:39 pm

My poor aloe vera plant has become another casualty of the monsoon here. I’m not sure what happened to it. It was in the garden and now the pot is empty… one of its leaves/branches is lying beside the pot. :-( Good luck with your balcony garden. I hope it flourishes!

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