Saturday, February 15, 2014

The world of plants @ Home

Our tryst with container gardening started with the huge balcony that came with our new house. We already had a few pots which happily fitted into their new home. This balcony has most of the features that plants will look forward to- west facing with ample sunlight till 6 pm in the evening, protection from too much rain, adjacent to a lovely home and good caretakersJ.

I am carefully avoiding the word “our” plants – one of the realizations from the Organic gardening workshop at Bhoomi college this Saturday. Conducted by Rajesh, who has been farming on his land since the past 5 years, the workshop introduced the idea of natural farming to us. Rather than follow a conventional approach with a set of activities and Q&A sessions, Rajesh shared his approach through his personal story and learnings.

Some of his teachings were a complete surprise - things that we would have never done if not for the workshop. Here's a few:
Existence of an eco-system below the soil: You have a pot and you want to replant. What do you do first? Loosen the soil – rake it up, add compost till the soil is soaked with nutrition and carefully plant your seedling. Inadvertently you might be killing some earthworms and microbes that could have helped the plant absorb nutrients by breaking them into the form accessible by the seedling. This microcosm under the soil is enabled by some important activity from your side – a policy of non-interference.

You take some and leave some: This is the law of nature. Nature always gives and her bounty is shared by all organisms. Except Men are not happy to share the fruits and veggies with other animals/insects – so in the pretext of “protecting” them you spray anything that will make “your” vegetables healthy and big. But what we dint realize is that there are thousands of organisms dependent on that plant for food and living. It is their home too. Few vegetables left to their consumption, is not a bad thing. These might be pollinators like bees, butterflies and bugs that help in keeping your garden fertilized and great going. Most of them shy away from strong “organic” pesticides such as tobacco, garlic and neem.

Mulching: A simple idea that never struck us before - Cover the soil with dried leaves so as to prevent evaporation of moisture from the pot. This helps in nurturing the “under the soil” ecosystem, keeps the microbes happy by not bothering them with harsh sun and they in turn feed the plants.

Not everything organic is Natural and harmless –Is Tobacco organic? Yes. Is it harmful to humans? No. Does it deplete the soil like chemical fertilizers? No. Is it harmful to the plant ecosystem? Yes.
Eventhough termed organic, by using such components we not only keep away the pests but their predators too. Again it impedes the natural ecosystem from assuming its peak and inturn the plant sustenance.

Rajesh’s constant mantra was “Creating the pot as a forest eco-system”. He gave many examples of how an inter-dependent web evolves in a forest – undisturbed, uncared and under no pressure from Humans.

The constant food supply was healthy and enjoyable – with all the vegetables grown in the campus they were free from pesticides.  The lunch was in a cafeteria constructed out of mud bricks, apparently made in 2 days by participants of a previous workshop. Bhoomi college and the Prakriya school are into alternative concepts of living and spreading the meaning of green living.

Overall it was a good learning on gardening for relaxation with no pressure on the plant or you to perform.
Some snaps of the farm and the composting done at Bhoomi.

View of the farm

Composting at Bhoomi

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