Jadan Ashram organic gardens in August
By the beginning of the month locals were excitedly discussing heavy rains in Haridwar and by the 6th they had reached us. Everything will start to grow like crazy now and just when our regular labour leaves for the annual season or cannot come due to the stoppage of the pick-up vehicle.
So from the 1st week we were able to pick up from where we left off nearly over 1 month ago and the first action was to finish the holes for the kumtiya borders and to get in as many seeds as possible so that they did not miss their season altogether. However the rains became constant as in daily from the 6th with the exception of the 10th and peaked on a divine Monday – the 13th – when we received such heavy rain that the ”Niagara” started in the Talab and over the course of 2 days the level reached 2.5 metres which was miraculous. It did – however – mean that our work got held up until the 19th when again the monsoon weeding recommenced and the last of the kumtiyas were planted in the main garden.
The chandaliya made a huge comeback this month and especially appeared in amongst the new bhindi. We made some of it for Swamiji and all was removed by the roots from this area and that which is on the borders of the beds was only picked from the top. It was occasionally added to the kitcheri which makes a nice change.
Bhindi flowers were just beginning to appear on the plants by the end of the month. There are about 150 plants and they are not as tall and stalky as last year. The old bhindi produced enough for Swamiji when he was here from the 14th to the 21st and we managed to find a few torus and some guar phali for Him. Unfortunately the rains brought with them a massive growth spurt of the weeds and this prevented the toru and lauki vines reaching their full potential in the old summer area. The presence of the annual black and red beetle also added to a loss of produce and these needed to be removed and disposed of daily by hand in order to keep the numbers down. The best time for this is in the evening when they are sleeping – mostly at the tops of the jowar plants on the branches of the khejeri trees. At least 500 beetles were manually removed and disposed of this month. It surely made a huge difference to the output. Fewer beetles were present by the end of the month so the toru area still needs to be well checked every 2 days.
The chakki and lauki beds looked really good by the end of the month and were weeded on the 19th as was the bhindi area and the moringa area. Fortunately a group of ladies – four relatives of Pojaram who returned after the rains on the 18th - stepped in on the 19th and so we are able to start the ”taming of the jungle programme.”
On the 4th the guar phali seeds were finally planted in the prepared area as the weather was finally conducive to more planting. On the 6th some tindora roots were brought from Gujarat by Ruparamji. Swamiji told me on the 18th that these were seasonal vines that produced a kind of cucumber. Its botanical name is Coccinia grandis and in English it is known as ivy gourd. The juice of its leaves and roots are considered to be a useful treatment for diabetes. They were planted in the valolia line opposite the workshop.
From the 20th the ladies began to clear 1 of the 3 toru lines that are completely overtaken by weeds. The vines are in such good condition that it would be a pity to let them go given the efforts that we made from May to cultivate them.
On the 24th the first of the chakki was collected and we had 16kg this month. As with last year’s crop it will probably continue to produce until the end of the year. The leaves are huge and look very healthy as do the lauki which were just becoming visible by the end of the month.
On the 30th we collected 21 kg of toru – about 50% of each type and we can perhaps try to make juice from the smooth type as the locals are not keen on buying it because it is different though deshi.
The guar phali seeds thrown onto the area prepared for chillies – that is they were not even pushed into the soil but thrown on top – came up so well that at the end of the month we cleaned the area for 2 days as there are at least 200 healthy and flowering guar phali plants there now and they are almost ready to go which is more that can be said of the ones planted at the beginning of the month which have been attacked by leaf munchers.
The chandaliya was also looking promising by the end of the month as was the new bhindi which was started to get its flowers.
The miracle labour
After being absent for 3 weeks Pojaram reappeared and offered the services of not only his wife this time but also of his 2 daughters and an older relative and as if this was not miracle enough – because many are running after high paid work this month and in any case our pick-up stopped bringing ladies this month – the ladies are excellent. They have kheti knowledge and follow everything really well. In fact they are some of the best ever to come to the gardens. Having them with us over this season will mean that we are able to keep up with the sabji weeding and the maintenance of our new trees as well as cleaning the Shiv Bagh and harvesting the vegetables and cleaning up the mature trees where the weeds have overstepped the gamlas.
What we planted this month
Thanks to 19 rainy days this month we only needed to irrigate once on the 26th and even this was a waste because rains resumed on the 27th after a few days hiatus. The following seeds went into potting bags or prepared area this month:
- Guar phali
- Lemon balm
- Morning glory – assorted colours
- Tilak tree seeds from Nepal
- Moringa – all around inside of sabji fence area
- Assorted tree seeds like imli, bor and some acacias and 2 pineapples
- Hibiscus sabdariffa
- Bhindi – some replanting on the 31st
A permanent garden opposite workshop
We transplanted a lot of useful ornamental and medicinal plants to the space opposite the workshop from the 23rd and removed all of the long grasses there by hand and made 7 long rows – about 35 metres by 1 metre with mulched pathways in between which - because we made them straight by using string and steel frames – looks attractive and made the whole area simple to plan. Transplants of mother-in-law tongue and agapanthus were transplanted around the edges and 2 long fences were erected that will support some lauki planted in 2 of the rows and some of the Rani vines which have been growing in the area for the past year and some of which now need climbing frames. Another of the lines will be for roquette, the middle one had about 200 basil seedlings shifted there on the 28th and one will be used for baigans and tomatoes and another for mithira seeds and sonamukhi. Sprouted morning glory seeds were planted here and there as well as some hibiscus sabdariffa and the plan is to keep it as simple as possible where irrigation is concerned as there is still no guarantee that we will have enough water in the talab to sustain it throughout the coming year. We will either mulch all the beds with grass cuttings from the lawns or use a sprinkler in the area or both. It has the potential to be colourful, useful and beautiful and very diverse!
The old tree nursery
By the end of the month only about 20 kumtiyas remained from our 2011 tree nursery. The last to go in were on the mountain on the 23rd. On the 21st we planted the last 3 peepul trees according to Swamiji's wishes on the northern and southern sides of our Kailash mountain. The remaining trees can either be planted inside our sabji fence boundary or some karma yogis can put them on the mountain. Some others are visible there from some seeds planted there from 2010.
Our new ladies cleaned up the weeds of the southern end on the 29th in about half a day so with 4 ladies we can turn the work over in less than a week. Haripuri from Germany is more than happy to go through the lawn methodically and remove all the alien weeds and grasses and then he will learn how to use the lawn mower so hopefully the whole area will look a lot less rough by the end of September.
Some of the hibiscus sabdariffa that we planted there in June are already 2 feet high and we still have some rugged ornamentals that can fill in the gaps where many roses have died. Some of the golden hedge which looked completely dead is growing some new leaves at the base.
The summer area update
It is heartening to see that our summer kheti which we began to prepare in January and which gave us such tension over the summer months due to the failure of the cucurbits and the tindi owing to the salty water is now in full production in 5.5 of its original 8 lines. The toru and even a little lauki and chawla and guar phali planted during the hot months is in full production. On the 23rd we had the disc plough move through many grasses and weeds in the areas that are no longer producing and will probably do the same for the bhindi line which we considered cleaning but which now has mostly old and diseased plants in it and heaps of grasses.