(pic by Pari)
This patch of land that we’ve found in our new house in Goa has kept us enagaged. Actually, ‘engaged’ is not the right word. We’re hooked to it. For, every free moment of the day that we find goes into preparing the soil, laying the beds, sowing the seeds, keeping them safe from the rain beating down like a zealot. The Goan monsoons – don’t get me started on that. This place looks like another world, another planet – if there’s anything like this out there. Well, yeah -the monsoons deserve a dedicated article. So, what do I talk about in this blog post that’s due for the longest time now….
It has to be about my organic kitchen garden that’s in progress. Besides all the garden-related activities that I do out there, this outdoor space has become a spa for my soul. The churning and nurturing that goes on deep within my core, when my hands are buried in the soil, my feet feeling the earth - I can’t really begin to express in words. And yet…I might try…
So, here are some thoughts, tips and lessons learned from the backyard (and frontyard) with pictures – as usual.
Like Soul is; Soil is the Foundation of Life
NOTE: read every line in the paragraph below with underlying meaning. Soil and Soul – I really think the two are inter-change-able! I could say working on the soil is like working on my soul and vice-versa. Terms like soil-conservation sound as though I’m reminding myself to conserve my soul; save it from erosion.)
So, okay – soil IS the basis of life. The very foundation. This is the key lesson I’m learning on my way to becoming/ being a kitchen gardener. When I first sowed some seeds, I did so without having a good look at the soil. The soil in my yard had been damaged – due to rain and sun.
The first and foremost thing for us to work on – to start building our kitchen garden – was to work on the soil. And, then – to conserve it. The soil here is so rife with red stones that the roots would never be able to find their way for nutrition underneath. And, to make it worse, the stones tend to get hot in the afternoon sun and burn the roots.
So, we brought heaps and heaps of coco soil (shredded coconut husk) and compost. (The compost we make at home is not enough for the whole garden. ) The soil that we finally prepared looked beautful – in colour, texture and aroma. The coco soil and compost lended the lovely crumbly texture to it – perfect for the seeds to germinate.
In between trying all this and making errors, we decided to attend a workshop on “growing vegetables all through the year”. The simple principles we learned here was an awakening of sorts.
Conserving the Soil
The one thing that really stood out to me was to protect/conserve the soil from the scorching sun and the rains. If the soil does not have a cover, the intensity of the sun can cause the live microorganisms to die making the soil sterile – as bad as the desert sand. And, the rains beating down in a frenzy will wash away the top soil – exactly the soil that your plants need.
So, it’s crucial to protect your soil by covering it. And, how do you cover?
With dry leaves/straw/grass clippigs etc. Mulching is the term. Not only does it save the soil from sun and rain, a thick cover of dry leaves – when they start decomposing – will release nitrogen into the soil enriching it along the way.
This was our key lesson learned from the workshop conducted by Karan Manral and Yogita Mehra – avid organic gardeners and owners of the Yogi farm here in Goa.
I’m sharing this because if you’re already gardening or if you intend to – this is the most important aspect, I believe, that you should know – to keep your soil intact and healthy.
Read some more on soil conservation – this one’s a great piece.
Here’s another one with pictures.
Our seeds have germinated well. The saplings are growing fine and some of the gourds and greens are creeping their way up along the sticks. The ridge gourds might start blooming in couple of weeks.
The Top Soil – What About It?
The Top Purpose of Our Souls. What About It?
While I admire the fruits of my effort in the garden, I must stay focused on the top soil. The rains have paused for a few days but they’re going to come back in their most glorious (often scary) form. I mentioned top soil because there isn’t enough top soil left on earth to grow all the food that our population needs.
What will happen if all the top soil on our planet runs out…? From this Times article: “a rough calculation of current rates of soil degradation suggests we have about 60 years of topsoil left. 70% of the topsoil, the layer allowing plants to grow, is gone.
What will happen if our souls run out – run out of their purpose that is. We do need to remind ourselves of our soul’s mission and then work on it…
My Kind of Meditation
Hence, am cultivating the soil of my soul and the soul of my soil. Every time I step into the garden and pick up a rake or the watering can or a bunch of seeds to sow, the internal chatter within me switches off without any effort. I can spend hours without a noisy or a negative thought crossing my mind. By 9 PM I could drop on the bed and sleep within seconds. This is pretty new to me. It’s never been easy putting myself to sleep!
I think growing vegetables is just the right kind of meditation for me.
Do you meditate? Do you garden?
“… for only rarely have we stood back and celebrated our soils as something beautiful, and perhaps even mysterious. For what other natural body, worldwide in its distribution, has so many interesting secrets to reveal to the patient observer? ” — Les Molloy, Soils in the New Zealand Landscape: the Living Mantle, 1988