‘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 🙂
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.
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 🙂 so let’s move on.
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.
Then i add a generous dose of compost to 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!