Monsoon miracle on Jadan Ashram organic gardens in September
By the 8th it looked as though the 2012 monsoon had cut out but on the 11th and 12th we experienced incredibly heavy storms during Holy Guruji's birthday and the talab started to fill up in a serious way. By the 14th the talab was half full – 5 metres which topped the expectations of most of us. So it was a wonderfully joyful period from the 3rd when the first rains came this month until the 15th and then there was even a brief afternoon storm on the 26th and this officially was the last rain of monsoon 2012 but not necessary of this year.
The first rain for this month came torrentially on the 3rd at 3pm and immediately water started to flow into the talab. It was perfect timing as we had just run the disc plough through the summer bhindi line and even though heavy rain had come on the 30th August the hot sun over the ensuing 4 days had begun to wilt the plants and dry out the topsoil.
The sabji totaled at 417.5kg this month which was more than enough to provide us for the month. Ridge gourd was the winner at 220kg and there was 58kg of the smooth toru – both from the summer area. 53Kg of chakki came and 56 of lauki - at least half from the summer kheti from seeds planted as far back as May. The bhindi is excellent quality and produced 20kg this month – by the end of the month the plants were providing us with about 1kg per day. The ladies spent some time at the beginning of the month weeded the toru plantation but after the heavy rains and the huge regrowth of weeds in the area we decided to let them go given that some of the gourds were becoming bitter and seedy even when small – a sign that they are slowly going out of season. Toru rarely survives in our ashram beyond Diwali. In the future we will definitely only have toru trained up fences as they are free of worms this way and they grow much longer. We harvested some beauties from the chakki and lauki beds this season.
The monsoon beds – namely baigan, bhindi, mirchi, lauki and chakki as well as the mint and the moringa trees all received 2 good weeding programmes this month. Some of the leaves were attached by the hoppers and the central section of the chakki died completely. However underneath the lauki and chakki the passion fruit is doing well and some flowers are even appearing. A few mirchi plants from the original planting also appeared.
Prakash sprayed the plants 3 times this month and the red and black beetles were manually removed as in August. They just had not gone away and thrived with all the rains and humidity. The guar phali from the summer kheti produced 2.kg and was weeded at the end of the month and watered. The new batch also started to produce at the end of the month and the ones that came up from seeds broadcast in June turned out to be the wild variety which some of the locals like but which Janakibhai said is quite fibrous and not so good.
On the 9th 200 baigan seedlings arrived and 130 chilli babies. We had only requested 50 eggplant babies and 200 chilli bushes but Prakash the horse boy forgot to count them. Junjharsinghji organised them via Prakash's family kheti. We planted 130 in a prepared long bed between the lauki and the chakki and 70 opposite the workshop. The chillies went in to the west of the guar phali as an extension of that bed. Prakash supervised and helped to plant the chillies and baigans and Puspa put in the baigans opposite the workshop. The timing was perfect as it was just 2 days before the heavy rains came.
The kheera kakris seeds that were broadcast in the same area along with some other old curcurbit seeds grown well which tells us that they are a good salad vegetable for the monsoon period. We harvested a couple of kgs and though mostly they were bitter, the sweet ones were delicious.
We solved the overload of toru by turning to our old Champion juicer machine and from the 4th each day at about 11am our karma yogis have access to fresh toru juice which is both alkalising and diuretic. It means that we were able to use up all the extra produce that the kitchen could not use and sometimes we added chakki to it. It takes about 1.5 hours daily to prepare 2 litres including washing the gourds, distribution and the cleaning and disinfecting of the machine afterwards. Let us hope that we have started a long tradition of daily organic juice intake in ashram.
Return to the discipline of irrigation
In order to use less of our precious resource of rain water in our dam we should definitely use our sprinklers more than our big pipes for channel irrigation. If we can purchase more of the longer type of sprinklers that clip in between the pipes then we could potentially utilize these for our monsoon and winter areas.
The sprinkler channels were jammed up with soil and grass roots and during the cleaning of one of them a cobra appeared and brushed against Pojaram's hand and so it has now become an issue to clean these so Papoo suggested that we maintain them one a month and clear the grass one foot around each one.
Most of the month was spent transplanting seedlings and harvesting and weeding as well as weeding around the newly planted trees cleaning and pruning the Shiv Bagh and cutting back some of the long grasses around the lemon trees. However as things started to dry out and the temperature rocketed back up to the high 30s we had to start soaking the monsoon sabji and the toru and lauki again from the 19th and the Shiv Bagh was flood irrigated on the 26th and 27th. Thereafter we have been using sprinklers opposite the workshop in our new and blooming sustainable garden and almost in the Shiv Bagh. Flooding has been going on in the monsoon area and old summer area and the small trees have been getting soaked by watering can. On the last day of the month we ran 4 sprinklers opposite the workshop – in order that the pipe does not burst we must open at least 3 sprinklers on the other side at the same time.
The first of the water to be pumped out of the talab – for our 5 drums in the Shiv Bagh – was on the 25th. It takes an hour to water our monsoon area with the pipe and we turn off the water between the shifting of the pipe to different beds. Pojaram and his daughter Sairi have mastered the watering and Puspa usually stands on the other side and runs back and forth to the control room which makes the whole exercise quicker and less stressful on both sides.
Completion of the Shiv bagh make over
Colonel Sahib managed to find 160 golden hedge seedlings in his local government nursery in Udaipur and so we planted these on the 24th and they have been getting regular sprinklings and hand waterings. The surviving hedge was nicely pruning by Pojaram and the cuttings were added to our mulch lines opposite the workshop. The channels were cleaned free of monsoon grasses at the beginning of the month and then all was irrigated by pipes. Next month the rose pruning and fertilisation with goat manure is due. Colonel Sahib is keen to buy some new plants as he says that 75% of the original plantation has died during the last 5 years and we have included about 50 deshi gulabs on the list though unfortunately these are not so easy to come by and we may need to take that long-awaited trip to the Shiv Ganj private nursery in Sumerpur. We have at last learned which varieties are able to survive drought and salty conditions and this knowledge will help us to make wise choices in the future.
The Bermuda grass lawn had a lot of love this month as Haripuri from Germany removed large sections of weeds from the east side and cut the lawn with the machine several times. However as well as the lal dudhi weed we now have an even more insidious one to deal with which has spread over a worrying percentage of the lawn and it will be very costly to have this all removed by our workers and the heat after the monsoon made it difficult for Haripuri to work during the latter part of the month.
Sadly we have only 2 remaining papaya trees from our 2010 seedlings though 20 have come up from the ones that we sowing into bags in August and this will live opposite the workshop in a protected and tropically synthesised micro-climate and environment.
On the 10th we put in about 200 of the Australian custard apple seedlings into an empty section of the eastern side of the Shiv Bagh. We did not have enough of the tiny plastic potting pots – only 50 - and so we will try them here and transplant them to bigger pots bags when they are less stalky and weak.
The sustainable garden is becoming a paradise
Thanks to the rains and the heat this month all of our plants opposite the workshop experienced a huge growth spurt and only the sonamukhi that was planted on the 2nd has not yet made an appearance. The dividing fence that runs from Mangilalji's gate to the old water tank was fortified with bali wood so that the horses could graze on the other side and the drums in the area were filled with talab water so that the plants could be watered but we eventually opted for sprinklers which saves heaps of time and which covers the area perfectly. The Rani vines are doing so well that Puspa is wondering whether we can train them over some constructed roof during the hot time to help shade the plants and then we would create perfect growing conditions for papayas and bananas.
On the 10th we sowed some bhindi seeds – the good NSC ones – in 2.5 of the rows. These grew very quickly thanks to the rains that came the following day and during the ensuing week and it is hoped that we will get some extra bhindi to boost the limited amount – 100 plants – that were sown in the monsoon area in July.
Pojaram and his 4 ladies attended respectively 25 and 23 days of this month and are continuing to work well and cooperation well. We are reaching a comfortable zone which I hope will last but that hope is very tenuous in these parts and in this culture so the rope of hope should not be too long or tied!
So – again – tenuously – I am looking forward to sharing the winter jobs and the sowing and maintenance of the winter vegetables with Pojaram and family. We will see!
Umra and Gatori who have both worked in the gardens before would be ideal as permanent workers for the Shiv Bagh and nearby gardens so we will see if they are interested in returning at least for the winter season.
The tavi – disc plough – went through the old bhindi area on the just a day before heavy rains came. We picked the last 500g from the area on the same day. The seeds that had been sown and then subsequentally sown 5 times throughout the summer season were from various sources and none of them were as good as the ones that came from Udaipur via NSC seeds but they provided kg for a 5 month period.
The culti went through our projected winter area which is half of the old rose area and last year's chilli plantation area twice this month and this ploughing was preceded by the disc plough on the 18th which drove all of the 2 inch grasshoppers onto our monsoon sabji area and in particular onto some millet stalks and the jungli guar phali. We cut the millet for the cows the day after and then they destroyed all of the basil leaves and the moringa leaves. Luckily the basil opposite the workshop is now in full swing and so at the end of the month we pruned the moringa basil right back and used the branches to mulch the area in front of the bed which is prone to getting Bermuda grass which is hard to weed out. Mohan lal then also spent some days weeding there but it would need 20 people for one month to get the job done and even then the roots would remain to some degree so it would be a huge waste of time and expenditure.
General cleaning of weeds and pruning deadwood etc
After the monsoon season and indeed during the September rains when irrigation is still unnecessary and it is beautiful cool and cloudy the work of cleaning boundaries around cultivated areas begins. In this way we make it harder for cobras and other local snakes such as vipers and kraits to make their nests and we also make established trees more visible and remove monsoon wild vines that sometimes almost suffocate them as well removing deadwood and pruning branches that have grown too long and might tear off from strong winds.
The boundary between the summer and monsoon sabji khetis was cleaned this month and all along the north end of the fence line. The grass was mostly used to mulch our 70 or so kumtiya trees and also the aloe vera and Sansevieria trifasciata line which is the boundary which runs between the monsoon area and the projected winter area.
On the 8th Puspa with the help of some of the hostel boys pruning back the neem and 2 khejeris in the school yard where the swings and slide is and where the water tank is. The wood filled a big trolley.
On the 9th it was considered too wet to weed the toru vines and so the ladies started to clear the weeds around our lemon plantation near the gobar gas plant and made thick circles of the grasses that they pulled out around the trees. On the 11th the area of trees directly behind the sant kutiya was pruned and also the bouganvilleas to the west of the tin shed.
The bouganvilleas running from the parking area to the main gate were also pruned as well as the trees which run from the talab gate to Mataji's samadhi (14th) The area around Swami Jasraj-ji's room was also pruned and cleaned – especially the deshi mehendi which Puspa did not realise was quite. The pile of thorns that were previously around the bunny palace were also shifted. Only a few trees remain in this area as it is prone to white ants. These include the kerunda, a lemon tree and an anar which is not in a good condition. The gulmore however is healthy as are the neems. The smaller trees in the area were fertilised with gobar powder on the 29th.
On the 20th Puspa pruned the pathway that runs from the parking area to the hospital as many of the neem branches were knocking against the heads of passing cyclists!
Pojaram cleared the weeds around the hopelessly stunted trees behind the white house after the heavy rains and made new gamlas and then watered them on the 23rd and from now on he will soak them each Saturday. We also did some pruning near the septic tanks and it is hoped that the horses will eat down most of the grasses there in October.
The ladies spent some half days doing the lemons near the Om canteen towards the end of the month which was humid and tough work but they succeeded and – due to the fact that there were so many ikar plants in the area and a lot of other vines not useful for fodder we ran the disc plough through and then the culti which will make October irrigation of the area much easier.
On the 22nd Pojaram weeded the kharibidams from the gobar gas to the talab gate sand repaired the gamlas.
On the 25th the ladies cleared the grass and jowar from the west side of the summer kheti and this was all sent to the new gosala although some grass was used to mulch the west line of kumtiyas and moringas.
Tree maintenance for the remaining year
During a Skype pravacan with Swamiji this month the subject of tree care was raised and at present we have no man for this job. There are again termites attacking some trees behind the mountain and many many will need pruning and some dead ones removing and it is hoping that we vegetable wallahs can cover some of this work between now and Holi after we have completed the new gamlas for our deshi gundas which are in 4 different fields and after we have prepared our winter kheti and sown the seeds and prepared the tomato plantation and and and much more to do :).