SOIL AND COMPOST
Nearly 100% of our food comes from the soil. So looking after the soil and making sure that it remains healthy is one of the most important things that we do. Healthy food is only possible if it is grown in a healthy soil. To do this we:
- Replace soil nutrients with compost every time we grow something.
- Create the right conditions for the growth of good soil bacteria by putting a layer of mulch on the top of the soil. This can be any organic material that stops the soil getting too dry or washed away in the rain.
- Use crop rotation; planting a variety of crops means that different nutrients are taken out of the soil each time and stops the build-up of soil pests. Beans are planted every third crop to bring nitrogen to the soil.
Using these methods we have, over the fifteen years of Buddha Garden’s existence, built up a healthy soil. Over this time we have found that healthy plants in a healthy soil rarely suffer from pests and diseases.
During the Farm Assessment research the soil from the vegetable garden was tested. We were very pleased to hear that it has been transformed into one of the best soils on Auroville farms.
Ever since Buddha Garden started we have made our own compost. We do this in four specially built bins.
The method we use is as follows:
- To make compost we need a variety of brown (dead) and alive (green) organic matter. The brown material comes mainly in the form of leaves from other Auroville communities. They are usually very pleased that it will be used to grow food. Increasingly we obtain more leaves from the forest areas of Buddha Garden. Green material comes from weeds or from glyricidea. This is a nitrogen fixing plant we have growing all over Buddha Garden. It grows without irrigation and the leaves are high in nitrogen making it perfect for compost making.
- We build up the compost heap in one of the bins. Using two thirds of brown material to one third of green. It is important to get the balance correct especially with the green material. Use too much and there is too much of the wrong bacteria and the heap goes slimy and smelly.
- After each green layer is made EM (effective micro-organisms) are watered onto the heap. These bacteria help the heap to break down quickly.
- As the layers are built up the heap is watered. It is important that the heap is wet enough for the bacteria to work properly at breaking the material down into compost.
- Once finished the heap is watered three times a week for the first month and then once a week for the following month. Depending on the season it is usually ready to use in 4 – 6 months after it is made.
- LIQUID FERTILISER
The liquid fertiliser is made in two tanks as follows:
- We have two net bags for each tank. One we fill with leaves and the other with glyricidea leaves.
- We put the filled sacks into the tank and fill the tank with water.
- We then add EM (effective micro-organisms)
- We leave the mixture for 3 – 5 days to ferment.
- We then water the mixture onto the beds. We have a pipe system that brings the liquid close to an outlet near each of our beds. This mixture is particularly good for leafy vegetables.