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Jadan organic garden reports - for the late winter and spring 2013

Vegetable news for the late winter period



Vegetable  news

 a beautiful shade hut is constructed for meditation a field of elephant grass beautiful tender potato flower

The winner for the month was mooli in weighed in at 350kg giving us a sum total of 736kg for the season. As the month drew towards Makar Sankranti which falls each year on the 14th there was this foreboding feeling which pretty much amounted to – “Whatever are we going to do with so much radish!”  However our neighbor advised us on the 12th with about 2 hours notice to pull out the bulk so that they could be sold at the Sojat Mandi on the morning of the 13th which is when – he said – most people would be buying their festive mooli because the pooja would be early on the 14th. Unfortunately the rate was pretty poor for the 150kg that we sent there and we only received just under 500Rs for that amount which was a shame as the rate was 15Rs per kg in Pali on the 14th but at least we shifted it and the rest we managed to sell the following week.

The lettuces are happy and this is clear from the centres that are compl etely developed and so we started to harvest them whole from the beginning of the year rather than cutting or picking the outer leaves. By the end of the month some of the leaves were browning on the edges due to the cold and in between some leaves became slimy due to crowding and lack of air flow. We also found some worms and smaller insects living inside the hearts but on the whole they were of the best possible quality and taste. We harvested 56kg this month and emptied 2 of the 4 beds of butter lettuce. That leaves us enough for the next 2 months and we also have endive lettuces near the workshop and more than half a bed of curly lettuces.

The tomato beds were dug over with our new copper hoe on the 7th and weak and sickly plants were removed and replaced with healthy seedlings of which we still have plenty. Some plants were transplanted to our first seedling bed near the fence opposite the workshop and the papayas there were shifted to the anjeer line near the winter garden.

We continued to transplant tomatoes into different areas in the winter section throughout the month and kept the beds dug over and sprinkled with neem powder and ash.

On the 3rd the tarramira or roquette was removed from opposite the workshop and given to the cows. The leaves were getting diseased. The ladies dug over the line and put some gobar down and the pushkarmool flower plants from the stock in the Shiv Bagh were planted there. If flowers come it will look beautiful.

The mustard – both lye and the yellow sarso were removed during the last week of the month due to the appearance of mola which was already visible on the mooli leaves during the first week of January. We also started to remove the phool gobhi and the broccoli this month which were also affected and these were all completed cleared by the 2nd of February. Unfortunately the broccoli seed that we used did not function in our soil because though the leaves grew well, the hearts did not develop.

The beets were almost finished by the end of the month – we just had 4kg left to harvest – and we began to pull up carrots first for salad and from the last week of the month for sabji – twice per week. The roots are very sweet this year and have developed very well. As soon as the heat starts we will start to juice them.

17kg of dill was harvested from the area this month and most of this was dried on the eating verandah roof and packed into 21 x 25g bags to be sold at a rate of 200RS per bag in the organic store. We still have a lot of the plants for seed. In addition to these vegetables we had another six sabjis this month which gave us a broad selection for our kitchen and ensured that we could send to Swamiji a good choice when the opportunity arose.
The market value of the sabji this month was 15,320Rs and the labour cost for all works was 17,250Rs and we have also sold this month around 40,000Rs worth of organic goods at the Kumbh and sold around 2500RS worth of mooli, palak and green onions.

Taking care of the gundas

Cordia myxa after the annual leave stripping Etbin-ji our master of permaculture techniques ladies prepared a flower mala for Puspas 49th

Our Cordia Myxa trees behind the sant kutiya in the 2012 summer kheti were deleafed between the 7th and the 10th this year because luckily we received some willing help from the new member of our team – Etbin – from Slovenia. The trees had been soaked on the 5th so that the ladies could make new gamlas which they made throughout the month and when these were completed then each tree received one tigari each of powdered gobar slurry and got a further and last watering on February 4th. We will not water them again until the flowers appear.
 Puspa did some underpruning of all the trees to facilitate digging and also to remove some overlong branches, broken branches and deadwood as well as suckers. We hope to harvest some vegetables from these this year.

The elephant grass project

At the beginning of the month we ploughed and leveled the area next to our potato line in preparation for the planting of 100 seedlings of Napier grass. These were collected from KVK on the 16th and on the next day we had a good storm during the night and so if though we had presoaked the area the climate was ideal for planting the grass which is said to be the favourite food of elephants! It was quite difficult to separate the clumps and the ladies used the loppers for this work. We planted about 120 pieces and so 2 beds were left in the line for some tomatoes.

Pennisetum purpureum is a hardy grass and is sometimes known as Ugandan grass - a perennial tropical grass native to the African continent. It is able to thrive on poor soils and is tolerant to high temperatures and salty water. Countries such as Bangladesh have had excellent results with Napier grass and have increased their milk yield and quality through its use. This grass also improves soil fertility and helps to prevent arid land from soil erosion. It grows in bamboo-like clumps up to 15 feet high and may be harvested 4-6 times per year. We postioned the line to the west of our summer vegetable field so that it will act as a wind-block as did the jowar last season

Visit from the Horticultural expects from KVK-CAZRI in Pali

oats - a first in Jadan preparing daycon radish for the market on 12th Jan preparing the foundation of a permaculture-style raised bed

Deeraj Singh-ji and his team were visiting some farmers in farmers on the 4th and so they visited our gardens and fields and I am so happy to say that they were really impressed especially by our winter vegetable field and the cultivation of our lemon trees. I asked them about grass seed alternatives for the Shiv Bagh and they were adamant that the Bermuda grass that we have planted there is the most suitable for this area and that even in its present degraded state it can be resurrected with “timely watering and timely weeding”. When Vinod Garg rejoined our team this month on the 27th, his first job was to remove all the cheel and other large weeds on the lawn which made the appearance a little better.

The team also suggested a horizontal frame for our very successful passionfruit vines over near the main tube well and so Etbin constructed one from bamboo and wooden logs during his first week here and this will eventually create a shady room for once the oats which are presently growing beneath it are harvested.

Shiv Bagh – hardly any time for this ornamental garden

separating the Napier grass seedlings the last harvest before Makar Sankranti the winter garden at its peak

It is hoped that we shall succeed in maintaining this garden area for the coming spring and summer seasons with Vinod’s help and with our mastering of the irrigation system which at the end of the month we finally began to understand better. The whole area was flooded on the 28th by which time it had become much warmer and it was clear that we had to give a heavier watering. It took us from 10am to 5pm with a wasted and frustrating hour in between but the ladies managed and now we are more confident manage without our plumber’s help which doesn’t amount to much anyway. During the month some more Puskarmool flowers were planted from the east side all the way to the guardhouse and so the whole area is full now. The west side along the fence will hopefully get some Ganganagar roses from KVK in March when the cuttings have developed properly Additional  to this irrigation we watered 8 times in Januarly we the sprinklers.

Etbin our Hero!

Pushkarmool - a medicinal and ornamental plant

On th 4th a permaculture enthusiast from Slovenia arrived with the aim of doing some seva in the ashram in the form of sustainable projects aimed at improving our soil fertility via the construction of raised beds and some composting systems. Etbin-ji initially made a few constructions used some logs and bamboo from our wood stock and also created a beautiful shade hut which he hopes we will use for meditation and which also give us a shady retreat during the hot summer months. He has a lot of ideas and is full of positive energy and good will and so we are lucky that he has put aside two months from his grueling 14-hour-a-day schedule at his business back home to donate his time and expertise. Welcome brother!

The raised bed involved an initial pit to be dug out with the help of the JCB – about 2x 20m  - which was then filled with layers of dried grass and gobar. Fresh would have been better but we had just brought 8 month old gobar from the new gosala the day before so we used that and in any case our fresh gobar is used every second day for the gobar gas. Then dried branches were put on top of the layers and flooded. Then some neem powder was added to the pit as a preventative against termites and some large tree roots were placed inside by which time the bed was beginning to rise above the ground level. On to this was added the poor clay loam which had been excavated by the JCB, then more dried grass and then some neem tree bark which had been lying in the kitchen underground since 2009 and then finally the rest of the soil was added and more dried grass laid on top. There was more watering with our 1 inch pipe and then all we have to do is to wait for the full moon in February and the spring weather before we plant the pumpkin seeds inside.

The idea is that we only water the bed twice per month and that the roots struggle and go deep down into the pit so that they become strong. Over the next 7 years the large and dry wooden roots will rot down and create excellent quality compost. The locals are skeptical about using wood near to plants due to the commonality of termites or white ants in this agricultural zone but Puspa is trying to keep an open mind in spite of Swamiji’s warnings over the years about using wood near gardens and growing areas. If it functions it will save us thousands of litres of precious water and maybe we will finally succeed in growing pumpkins.
It was hoped too that we could make some vermicompost in this pit but Swamiji is still not keen on using earthworms to make manure as He says that is it cruel towards them when the compost get shifted. However

Etbin and also Deeraj Singhji at the KVK claim that the earthworms live deep inside the cow dung trenches where the compost is produced and so if one only removes the upper layers then no worms will get hurt. Etbin added that if one uses a fork to move the compost then there can be no cutting of the worms.
Next month our dear Etbin will teach us some interesting ways of recycling our food scraps from the kitchen using a system called.

Harvesting the Oats

Avena sativa is a species of cereal grain grown for its seed and one of its most common uses is as a livestock feed. Swamiji requested that we plant this year and on the 31st we did the first cut primarily for our horses and the 3 cows living here also got some. It can be cut 4-6 times in one season. Some farmers will only cut once when the seeds is formed and some twice. Prakash – our horse carer – was pretty keen to cut as soon as the 2nd cut of Lucerne grass was completed on the 30th. So we have some cheap horse fodder for this season and this has been further supplemented by beetroot and carrot leaves from our vegetable garden. Oats are a phosphorous and nitrogen-hungry crop and so unlike some varieties of grain they do not replenish the soil with nutrients but rather they suck them out.

Preparing the summer kheti

We have planned since June to sow our summer vegetables in the 2nd half of the old rose plantation which was last winter’s vegetable area. In July we put gobar there and again this month when we bought 3 truckloads and 4 trolleyfuls of 8 month old gobar from the new gosala, 2 trolleyloads were added to the area and 1 was dumped there at the beginning of the month being the very last gobar from the upali gosala. Therefore all there was to be done was to scatter the marigold seeds on the area, smooth out the gobar with the spreader thingy that the locals call karali and plough. We again ploughed in early February and then leveled the soil with the concrete pillar and made the channels with the disc plough. The area was ready for hoe-repairing by the 3rd of February.
Etbin-Ji constructed a 35 metre wooden fence between winter and monsoon areas this month using logs and bamboo and this will be a support for our karela and toru vines. The area below will be improved by addition of udon mitti from our pile over by the main tube well and some gobar.

The visit to KVK on the 16th

On the 16th we went to collect the Napier grass clumps which the KVK team had kindly put aside for us and it cost us 5Rs per piece though in the we paid 500RS and actually got a around 25 pieces extra. We also revisited the massive shade houses that they have constructed there and saw the progress of the Taiwan Red hybrid papaya trees and the banana trees which after 10 months of vermicompost and drip irrigation are bearing fruit. There was so much fruit on the papaya trees that one had collapsed under the weight and we purchased a few kg of these for a delicious and organic green papaya sabji. The KVK also has a ber – Chinese date – orchard and a contractor harvests around 400kg of fruit annually from these trees. The team have promised to give us some cuttings that we can graft onto the deshi bor of which we have many in our ashram. They also showed us some very nice tomato variety in their shade house and give us a few seedlings for free. It is a variety that climbs and so we transplanted this two our mirchi-passionfruit bed which has one fence running along it on the rainy day that followed our visit. There were also some highly recommended seeds of bhindi and kheera kakri available but they are hybrid and we decided not to purchase them for that reason. It is always an inspiration to visit this branch of CAZRI which is just 5km from Pali and to see what miraculous projects can be achieved through the use of vermicompost.

Our small trees

During the last week of the month the ladies did some welcome action on our kumtiya lines to the north and west of our fenced area and gave all the trees some gobar and made new gamlas. All of the dried grass that was around them from the monsoon time was sent to the New Gosala. We will gradually clean all of the dried grass in the area before the summer months as it would most probable be a hiding places for snakes and fortunately the grass that was in the area was almost entirely utilized for the raised bed.The beauty of permaculture methods is that all locally available resources are used to their full value and extent. It is cheap and sustainable as well as visually attractive.

January clean ups

There were a few cleaning programmes this month such as the strip the other side of the Shiv Bagh fence from the Bhakti sagar to the Swastika. The ladies did an excellent job at the end of the month digging out grass roots and making new gamlas for the trees there which were then manured and flooded. The salty grass was then removed and and the sweepers removed the rubbish and finally the school principle agreed to instruct the children not to throw their rubbish in that area.

The strip from the central office to the wood workshop was also raked free of tree litter and the salty grass removed and good deep gamlas were dug for the bouganvilleas there that have struggled so hard in that hard soil to survive. We manured them one day whilst emptying a tray of slurry from the gobar gas. The area behind the white house still remains to be done and we have many many more gamlas to prepare for our amlas and gundas for the coming hot season not to mention the creation of a 2000-3000 sapling plant nursery. Busy times lie ahead!


Puspa Devi