Monday, March 17, 2014

New Garden as on March 2nd 2k14

The New Garden as it looks on March 2nd. Looks awesome. It rained a little bit before the video, and the garden looked as if it just took a nice gulp of cool oxygenated water after a thirsty time.

This garden went through a lot of changes. Initially, it was set up with beds similar to what we have in the above video..

New Garden set up back in june 2k13.

Then, the idea was to make veggie beds and it worked great.. with some cocopeat, some compost, some vermi compost, it produced quite well. But then, right around the monsoon, we got into other work, namely Kritagnata Mahotsavam, the 75th birthday celebrations of our Master Ekkirala Bharadwaja, and this garden was left for itself. We used to 'forage' from this place rather than garden it. It was producing quite a bit, but as nature wills it, appropriately, it jumped into rampancy and there was a strong growth of what is called 'weeds'. 
Here is are a few photos of how it looked before the so called 'weeds' started to take over : 

Most people consider weeds a nuisance, a menace, an enemy to fight. But understand what is happening in nature, and what weeds do, and to learn to work with nature than against it, as is the permaculture maxim, they appear to be indicators, friends, allies and most definitely as a resource.

Here is how the garden looked as the weeds were taking over. These photos themselves are a beautiful education if we look into them and observe the weed response. The grasses, other 'weeds' and where they are occuring etc. Nature is amazing.  More about that in future. The following photos are from september 2k13. You can see that production of veggies was happening quite well, even with all those weeds all around, or should we more appropriately say, in the lovely company of the so called 'weeds'. The last photo is a quick shot of a very quick 'forage' session. :)

In october, I uploaded this vid to you tube, and it shows what was happening and how it all looked. And there was a snake in the garden too, thanks to the rampancy of Nature that life finds refuge in the garden! 

After a while, an excellent PDC happened, where your truly taught a mammoth 26 day PDC to the entire Nagole bunch. Feeling pumped up, they all decided to make it a Nagole community garden. And thus the work happened fast, every body got hands on experience, the women, the young men, the kids, every one got together. During the PDC we made berkely compost, two piles both of which became black gold in just 20 days (one pile took a week longer)! This is the compost getting created by the PDC students. Look at the color of it. Awesome!

And the beds were sheet mulched (some of them) and the garden started to look
like a garden again by the middle of december 2k13.

But by the time december 2k13 rolled around, a lot of things were rolling on the permaculture front. I gave an introduction to permaculture talk, and another event, the first ever 'Gather to Garden' happened (which was a brain wave of our beloved uppu upendra), and it was a crazy good time! 

That is me giving an intro to permaculture class. Good day. And these are the photos of the first ever 'Gather to Garden' event : 
The morning session on Upendra's rooftop

The Afternoon Slideshow and QnA session

And visit to sai's rooftop garden in the early evening.

The event was a grand success and it was even in the papers :

However, it was just the beginning. I was feeling a bit cranky and went off to ongole in late december. For rest I said. But I just could not shut up. I conducted a 'Gather2Garden' event in ongole where I spoke for sometime and then make a compost pile with the participants. Here are some photos of the ongole g2g : 

In the meanwhile, the Nagole bunch kept up with the compost and the new garden. And by early January, the garden started to look awesome. In early Jan it looked THIS good! 

And then in Late January, this is how it looked : 

And then in february 2k14 : 

That is the history of the New Garden and what happened since last june. There are several experiments going on in the garden, always, and great produce. Lots of it. 


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

PDC in Hyderabad

Jai Sai Master!!



 2013 was a perma-year for us and 2014 is also starting with a PDC in Hyderabad! There is a Permaculture design certificate course held from 18th Jan 2014 to 2nd Feb 2014 in Nagole Hyderabad. The course fees are 15000 INR which includes food and accommodation. So guys hurry up to register!! For more details and to register please call +91 9603896361 or +91 9951452345

Monday, December 9, 2013

Great news!!!

Jai Sai Master!

Hey there...

It has been so long since we have posted something. But now I have great news to share. There were a lot of changes in the gardens about which we were talking till now. They have been made into organic food forests. There is a magazine released named 'Gardens of Abundance'. And there is also a website click here to go and facebook page click here to go. We a group of 20 people here have attended PDC (Permaculture design certificate course) under Dwarakanath Jnaneswar (known here as DJ). Basically Permaculture works on three simple ethics : 1. Earth Care    2. People Care    3. Fair share
It is a designing a system which is self-sustaining, resilient and self-sufficient. "Creatively use and respond to change" is a Permaculture principle which inspired me to think of the upcoming world crisis and find a solution for me and my family. I seriously didn't want PESTICIDES as my food and so started to work on it. We have been doing terrace (rooftop) gardening for years, and then people were asking for workshops on rooftop garden setup and maintenance. Then under the banner of 'Gardens of Abundance' there was a program started called 'gather2garden' which is a freindly participatory educational and fun experience about how to establish rooftop gardens in urban areas. The first workshop was held in Nagole, Hyderabad on 8th December 2013. It has been a big hit and we are looking forward for more events all over the country. Around 55 people attended the event and everyone were very happy and delighted. Some of the photos and comments of some of the participants were as follows :

"It was an awesome experience for all of us. You guys are doing a great job not just to yourself but great contribution to the country. Would like to participate in your activities every week hereafter. would like to thank you all by name and name once again for your host."
                                                                                                               -J. Paratpar Rao

"Wonderful experience that cannot be described in words. The patience with which you and your team answered all questions is amazing. Truly, plants teach to be patient."
                                                                                                               -Vanisree Karumuri

                                    Morning session on the rooftop expling about the potting mix

                                                       Post lunch question-answer session
                                                       Established rooftop garden tour
Food forests tour

"We don't have time" says Dwarakanath(known as DJ locally). Not enough if only one person changes, but that each of us has to take ownership and change our neighborhood, our city. It gave me goosebumps when he said : "Give me the city design and I will bring down temp by 6-7 degree and cut the pollution by 30%. Not just for us, and the generations to come". At urban rooftop edible garden workshop by Gardens of Abundance"
                                                                                                               - Bhavana Nissima
"One of the most meaningful interactions I've had in ages...each of you radiated so much positivity and, thank you" 
                                                                                                                -Rama Regula 

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Tree of Life!

Jai Sai Master!

I promised earlier to post photos. We took photos. But we found that there was nothing much to show. A lot of little plants growing, and thats all. Now, they are all grown up. And here are a few photos.

The first one I wanted to show is that of a tree.
Here is a tree that looks like its just came out of a calypso reggae band.

Everytime I look at it, it brings a smile to me. It is one of those 'gulmohar' type trees. We know that its leaves are great mulch, and its branches are good for trellises. But best of all, that tree coppices well. Now, what is 'coppice'? Yes, google search will give you more info, but in short, you cut that tree, it puts out new branches and new growth. In many places in the world, certain trees are 'coppiced'. That is, when they are grown to a certain size, they are cut off, and new growth shoots up from where you cut off.

In permaculture, this is one of the ways you 'mulch' your fruit trees. Trees that provide good material for such coppicing are used as 'support trees'. They provide necessary shade and wind protection for the young fruit tree saplings, they shed a lot of leaves improving the fertility of the top soil, and they are usually those species which provide good underground fertilizing, and are usually leguminous, that is nitrogen fixing, varieties.

I am not sure if this one is a legume, or a mimosa. But I am quite sure it is good for the soil. This one, we planted outside our garden door. It provided ample shade and it is fast growing. But it has grown up and was touching the power lines and I was sure that the municipality people will cut it down.

At the same time, I wanted to try my hand at coppicing and gain some practical knowledge. A bit of reading around showed me that it is good to do coppicing (for many trees) just at the start of the wet and cool seasons. So after the first few rains, I chopped it off right at the stem. And lo! In a week, new growth appeared, and now it looks just awesome.

Although chopping off seems a bit too cruel, and it is, it is going to extend the tree's life. In nature itself, heavy rains, winds, animals, etc., do keep breaking trees off. Nature helped trees evolve to survive such situations. We are just using such phenomenon to set things up for a greener system. Looking at the tree bouncing back from even chopping, just shows how strong really the Tree of Life is.

The cut off branches were left to dry and the leaves were used partly in compost and partly as direct mulch. We did the same thing with the neem tree (which is very good for coppicing) which was 2 yrs old and right smack in the way in our garden. It is regrowing. We used the neem leaves for mulch, as it protects trees and plants from certain diseases and pests.

More of that, and more photos of our gardens, and more write ups are coming soon!

For now, enjoy the above photo. And a few of these.

This is called 'side thota' or 'side garden' :

This is our fence of this 'side garden' with beera (ridge gourd) and kakara (bittergourd) climbers all over it. There is snake gourd (potlakaya) on the far side too :

Here is an example of companion planting.. You think it is crowded? Donno. Its yielding like heaven's bounty though. It is okra, corn and dolichoes (a kind of beans). (you can see a banana growing amidst those too) The beans give nitrogen and the other  take it up! See if you can spot the dolichos. You can see okra around the growing well corn.


By the way, today is the birthday of our Gurupatni Ekkirala Alivelu Mangamma, The Wife of our Guru, Sri Ekkirala Bharadwaja. Best wishes for everyone, and prayers for the well-being of all! As the ancients said, "Sarve Janaassukhino Bhavantu" "Lokaassamastaaha sukhino bhavantu!!"


Monday, July 16, 2012

Schweeeet photos coming up!

Jai Sai Master!

Hello people!

Lack of posts since may 28th is aweful, especially when we have so much to share and to learn.

A lot is happening here, regarding our gardens. Firstly, we cleaned the whole place up (lots and lots of invasive weeds), thrown in a cover crop of mixture of seeds (cowpea, chickpea, groundnut, mustard, marigold), then started planting veggies again for the season, started a new compost heap AND...

Lots of seedlings!

Yes! Finally, I got off my lazy backside, sat down one day, and planted lots of seeds in small trays. Our compost did the magic, weather turned up cool and great, and lots and lots of them came up! Photos of them will be up tomorrow.. and its well worth the wait. Isnt it great to see lots of little seedlings, fresh, green, healthy and raring to grow?

Now, for the bad news. We have, right now, a massive attack of caterpillars (as every year it happens) in our gardens. We live on the very edge of the city, and there is lots of 'wild' area near our place. Insects from there find our gardens really appetizing (and so do monkeys occasionally). The come in swarms, literally thousands.. and eat everything they see (almost)!

Our beautiful eggplants are mere skeletons, mustard covercrop is non existent. So far, thats all, but THATS ALL! They have not touched fruit trees yet, but by tomorrow they should be on them. Somehow, they left bitter gourd plants alone till now, and only very few of them touched our chilli peppers so far... but I think in two more days there will be nothing else for them to eat and I suspect they will  eat everything up.

Luckily, I kept the seedlings in the second floor and so far, insects have not found them. So, I am kinda waiting for  the insects to go away (which they will do in 10 or so days) to plant.

Tomorrow, I shall post a video, photos, etc., of our gardens in their most miserable state so that people dont get fooled by the photos of abundance. Some times you win and sometimes you dont, but the idea is to keep going till you learn to win all the time, right?

Fancy blog and all, we are but very very amateur gardeners. Till two years ago, I did not know what a tomato plant looked like. So.

Today, Sasidhar (our beloved watch-and-learn-before-you-do brother in law and motivational speaker) ordered seeds from annadana seed bank. Heard that they are closing down. Too bad. BUT, we are going to have those seeds and hopefully we will be able to save them! Lets hope for the best.

We have lots of seedlings to plant, elephant foot yams, a couple more bananas, a bunch of fruit trees (most of which will be planted some place where they can be planted.. right now, our gardens are full to the brink as far as trees go), and all of those updates, coming soon!

Thank you for reading, happy gardening! 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ash, Wax, Fuzzy, Winter !

What do all these have in common?

Confused ????

Well they are all synonyms for the the same plant - which we commonly called Ash Gourd in India (Benincasa hispida) !!

As a part of redesigning one of our gardens ( everything needs a redesign these days !), we erected some supports so that we could utilize vertical space as well. Utilizing vertical space is the key to increasing the productivity. According to general land laws, you also get the vertical space above the land for free, when you purchase a piece of land! So just like you have shelves in your room so that you can use the space available vertically, you use the same principle while cultivation.

Although quite a few creepers were planted, only a few survived our sporadic watering. You reap what you sow, only if you water :D

You can see below how we have erected the supports, and created a net so that all the creepers virtually form a 'roof' to the garden. Some aerial shots.

A few pictures from ground level

Some people grow ash gourd on ground. However, we decided to take the aerial root, since otherwise navigating on land to harvest other crops would become difficult.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

And then there were Pomegranates !

Howdy folks !

One day we all thought about growing something .. something which is epic  - like something the ancients grew and talked about. So we got onto planting a few pomegranates !! Seriously, pomegranate finds mention in 'The Book of Exodus' and the 'Holy Quran'

An about to be ripe Pomegranate !
We have a couple of pomegranates. And this season they seem to be in bloom. Around five to six feet in height, this time around they are loaded! We did have a few when they were young, but those were very small (less than tennis ball size), nevertheless sweet.

Pomegranate symbolizes prosperity and fertility. Not just that, each part of the plant finds medicinal use in Ayurveda. Wow!

Find below a few pictures of pomegranate plant swinging to the light breeze and its flowers!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Cleaning up !

An essential aspect of Gardening which no one usually likes is weeding ! Despite the fact that weeds are the plants most suited for your land, no one really intends to have them !!

However in our case, we have been truly blessed. If not for weeds, we would have not come across 'Kashikaya' / solanum nigrum, 'Gangavayalu'/ portulaca oleracea and 'Doggali Koora' / amaranthus polygamus.

Along with tomatoes, brinjals, lady finger etc, we have our very own 'weeds' which form a major constituent of our diet. No we are not complaining at all! But being lazy as we are, we usually find these 'weeds' alongwith some other nasty ones (which do not form a part of our diet) literally making our garden look like jungle.
These 'weeds' have a tendency to outgrow what we have sown and they give our veggies and small fruit trees a  run for their money! So on May 24th, we decided to clean up the area a bit. Here a few photos which will give you a idea of what we did.
Foliage! Before we started "weeding"
Cleaning up is much more of a task than planting. So we decided to work in patches. Also we have planted lots of Bananas and Casuarina, which are a bit difficult to make out within the sort of jungle of that we have. We cleaned up a patch carefully, put our very own 'homemade' compost near the young fruit trees and proceeded to the next area.
A view from the top, on the left we have patches where we cleared the 'weeds'. Right side is untouched
Left side of the garden
Right Side of the garden
Close view. This is how we ended up clearing. 
Little did we know that due to false information, we ended up clearing our 'ground cover' just before the hottest time of the summer ! So for now we have put a stop to this chop and drop. In order to salvage our lost pride, we are contemplating on cover the ground with either coco peat or straw. Be tuned for further updates !