Organic Kitchen Gardening and my personal musings

This blog is about my experiments with Organic Kitchen Gardening and sometimes about other personal experiences of my life… Please leave a comment about anything that touched you. Comments help to keep the blogger motivated to keep blogging :)

Feeding the soil February 4, 2010

Filed under: Organic Farming and Kitchen Garden — rajapanda @ 4:16 pm

‘Feed the soil and not the plant’, this seems to be the mantra of organic farming. Site after site, book after book which i have come across advises me to do this.
The theory goes something like this: The most common synthetic/artificial fertilizer NPK (Nitrogen,Phosphorous,potassium), that we provide to soil, is basically combination of salts (macro-nutrients) aimed at fulfilling the macro nutrient requirement of the plant. This kind of amendment gives the plant a flush of food and is often referred to as artificial or straight. Although the plant grows and often produces output this way, the taste factor of the produce probably doesn’t match up to taste factor which the old timers vouch of and the soil gradually loses it’s ability to host living things in the long run.

For healthy development and producing tasty output, a plant needs hosts of other micro-nutrients or trace elements as they are called. I think it’s difficult to pin-point the host of micro-nutrients which might be useful to plants. But one thing is for sure, returning all the organically decomposable stuff that we discard in day to today life, to the soil is perhaps the only way we can even attempt to achieve it.

My journey to fulfil this requirement of my plants started sometime in August last year when i got the compost pit for my garden and today a significant milestone has been acheived as i got my first batch of compost from it.
It’s close to 3 kgs in weight. The host of inputs like vegetable/fruit scraps and peels, lawn grass cuttings, used tea leaf, egg shells, etc… which went into making this compost makes me confident that it will help the micro-nutrient requirement of my plants and they will grow healthily and prouce vegetable both tasty and full of aroma!

The compost produce which we see here is probably the result of at least 10 times pot ful of waste input, which means it has helped me to not send that much of waste going into the landfills. That’s certainly a good step towards sustainable living and i am pretty happy about that πŸ™‚

First batch of compost

I used this home made compost along with vermi-compost which i had got from DoH few days back. I guess my plants are loving this generous dose of feed.

Time to give compost is probably also a good time to aerate the soil and in the process throw the weeds out. This is how i do it.

Compact soil

In the picture you see very compacted soil; soil compaction happens over a period of time and it needs to be losened/aerated once in a while to make the soil more suitable for plants. Apart from the fact that the soil in this patch looks very compact, there are other things which haven’t done very well for me in this patch :(. Plenty went wrong here, like I first planted egg-plant and marigold at the same time hoping the marigold will act as a pest repellant for my egg plants.
But apparently the egg-pants don’t do very well in winter and have taken what seem likes ages to reach this stage. In the meantime marigold is reaching it’s end of life. Also few of the egg-plants died, so you see some ‘california wonder’ capsicum saplings as replacement. Also the lone cauliflower is growing since ages without showing any real signs of growth. I learn from local farmers that cauliflower are very nutrient hungry and require reguar dose of fertilizer and pesticide to grow healthily. So, it will probably take lot’s of learning for me before i try them again. Anyway this post is not about the plants in this patch πŸ™‚ so let’s move on.

Aerated patch


I dig soil around the plants carefully taking care not dig more 2-3 inches and not to hurt the deeper roots of the plants.

compost added to the soil


Then i add a generous dose of compost to the soil.
compost mixed into the soil
Then mix the compost with the soil.

The same process can be followed for the pot plants as well. But unfortunately all my pots are in hiatus now, because since last 4-5 month’s they are not receiving any sunlight. But the good news, is the soil patch is receiving sunlight instead. I figure, the pattern will pan out like this, pots growing season from April to Sep and soil patch growing season from October to March. Such is the life of a gardener in an apartment!

Latest Update as on 5th Feb morning! I have been able to convince one of the maintenance guys in my office to hand me over the used coffee grounds which otherwise used to go to dump. And today I got my first batch of coffee grounds delivered to me, a neat 1 kg of used coffee ground from just one of the coffee vending machines in the office in just one day !! Hmm… that’s a lot of coffee, we use in office!

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21 Responses to “Feeding the soil”

  1. liza Says:

    Cool πŸ™‚ isnt it just wonderful when you get that compost! I have got two batches now and am all enthu abt it!

    • rajapanda Says:

      Hi liza (aka Mowgli ki ammi),

      Thanks for being on my blog. It really is a very wonderful feeling.

      Regards
      Raj

  2. rajapanda Says:

    Hi liza,

    Thanks for visiting my blog. It surely is very exciting to my first batch of compost. Hope, i’ll get a continuous supply from now on.

    Regards
    Raj

  3. Asha Says:

    Way to go! Compost tea is also excellent for ailing plants. You could also consider introducing earthworms (available at DoH) to your composting process.
    I have been composting for two years now and quite satisfied with it. Had done vermicomposting at one point, but stopped it cos I could not spare the time to segregate the worms from the final compost. But otherwise, vermicompost is much better and finer in quality and texture than the regular compost.

    • rajapanda Says:

      Hi Asha,

      Wow !! what a nice garden you have and very beautiful pictures too.
      Thanks for visiting my blog. Recently i got few earthworms from Kudlu compost factory. Hope it will improve my compost.

      Regards
      Raj

  4. Revathi Says:

    Making very good progress!!!! BTW what is compost tea and how is it made?

    • Asha Says:

      Hi Revathi, Compost tea in its most basic form is simply about a handful of compost kept in a bucket of water for about 24 to 48hrs. The water should not be closed and should be kept aerated, which can be done by mixing the water once in a while.
      You could just google for a better, more informed version πŸ™‚

  5. saritha Says:

    hai
    nice to see someday who has same thoughts…i am doing a bit of org gardening…i am trying to do compost ina pot..how much time it took for the compost to be ready/
    sarita

    • rajapanda Says:

      Hi Sritha,

      Welcome to my blog. It to took almost 5 months for me to get the first batch of compost.

      Regards
      Raja

  6. K. Meena Says:

    Hi Raj:

    Great to know about your effort in composting. I too have taken up composting in the Kamba bought from Daily Dump. It is now 3 months old and it is coming up pretty well. Good use of ground coffee that you are making…

    Regards
    Meena K

  7. Asha Says:

    Hey thanks Raj. Actually the photos are more spectacular than the actual garden, because I have a lot of things not-so-great too πŸ™‚
    Good luck with your vermicomposting. I’m looking forward to re-start in June.

    Revathi, the second link that Raj posted is more like what I do. Just add a couple of handfuls to a bucket of water and keep it open on my terrace. Just see that no layer forms on the surface.. so shaking once or twice a day helps. Either way – foliar or at the soil helps, its also supposed to hinder pest growth.

    • Asha Says:

      Wanted to add this too.. adding a bit of jaggery in the water (called ‘bella’ in kannada), about a tsp is supposed to help in forming the micro-organisms better. But again, this is only information picked off the net. I’ve done it both ways.

  8. Revathi Says:

    Hi All

    Thanks so much for all the inputs on compost tea. Both the links throw a lot of info. on its preparation; however, can we just steep the compost in water and use it after 2 days – what I mean is without all the aeration referred to in the articles? will it still be as effective?
    I am learning a lot about gardening from all these interactions and thereby getting motivated to grow veggies now. Though I am crazy about gardening, I have so far had only flowering plants but we did grow some veggies when I was young. In fact the papaya tree loaded with fruits brings back fond memories πŸ™‚
    Thanks Raj for the great blog which made all this possible. Happy adventures in the garden!!

    Revathi

    • rajapanda Says:

      Hi Revathi,

      I got this info from the site: “Don’t try to make compost tea without the aeration equipment. If the tea is not aerated constantly, the organisms in it will quickly use up the oxygen, and the tea will start to stink and become anaerobic. An anaerobic tea can harm your plants.”

      So, i guess it’s better avoided,without the aeration equipment.

      I am glad that you are getting motivated to grow veggies from our interactions here. I am also getting to learn a lot. I started veggie gardening some 10 months back and feel so happy about it. Also, i feel i have become fitter over this period πŸ™‚

      So, Best of Wishes to you!!

      Regards
      Raj

      • Asha Says:

        Hi Raj, sorry to butt in my head here.. I do not use any aeration equipment and it works out fine and I find it very effective. Since my bucket is kept on my terrace, every morning when I go to water my plants, I stir the water – and there is no smell formed. So I do stir once a day and keep the whole thing for a week. The thing is to be careful not to allow a skin to be formed on the surface, which means you are encouraging anaerobic decomposition.
        But at any point if there is a stink, it may be better to avoid putting it on the plants as it can cause harm to the plants – this holds true for both the compost tea making as well as composting within the kambha.

        • rajapanda Says:

          Hi Asha,

          You are most welcome. Like i said earlier i am also getting to learn a lot in the process. Looks like there are multiple theories going around on this. Even the link which meena has posted below says it can be done without aeration equipment.
          I’ll be trying it out in the next few days and confirm one of the theories πŸ™‚

          Regards
          Raj

  9. meenakm Says:

    Hi Raj:

    For compst tea query that Revathy has raises, I refer this article:

    http://www.gardenersnet.com/atoz/composttea.htm

    Just stirring is what is recommended here so as to facilitate aeration , and the duration for keeping mixture is 5 days before use.

    I too have a query. Can we use any manure – I mean what we compost at home, stuff got from LalBagh , vermicompost , neem cake powder, pungam(ia) cake powder etc. ?

    I was lucky to have seen your papayas as well as the cabbage. Congrats!

    Regards
    Meena K

  10. snigdha panda Says:

    Hi,
    Good morning. I am a fesher in gardening. To acquire knowledge about kitchen gardening in containers, just searched trough the net and while searching the oriya names of some terms, come across your blog. Its really a good and informative reading.
    what are these potting soil, peat moss, and perlite (or vermiculite)?

    I want to make my own compost too, without spreading smell.

    And on net it is recomeneded that one should not use garden soil for container garden (due to weed, insect etc. problems). Please suggest me some tips. (we leave in an apartment, no gardening space).

    with regards
    snigdha

    • rajapanda Says:

      Hi Snigdha,

      Nice to hear from you. You can very well use garden soil for pots, weeds and all will be there in form of gardening, just they need to be weeded out.

      Peat moss, perlite etc are light weight substitute for the soil used in container gardening, mainly in balconies where weight load could some times be an issue.
      You can make your compost in containers too. check out my post on compost pit.
      HTH, See you around.
      Regards
      Raja


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