2021 started with the hope that the pandemic had passed and life would get back to normal. But the virus had other plans. By March, much of the country was under lockdown and everyone’s ‘this year is going to be different’ plans hit a wall. We would all have to step back and redefine every single task we took for granted.
Stuck at home in Mumbai, I tried to make the best with minimal resources. Limited soil, no problem, let’s make some compost. Not enough pots, lets recycle delivery bags, boxes and coffee cups. The problem was becoming the solution. Over 4 months, I’d not only created compost, but also had a thriving window garden with over 150 saplings for a variety of plants from passion fruit to almonds, dates, spices, lettuce and more. All in a 2 x 15 Mumbai apartment window grill.
A few months later, I had bigger challenges at the farm – how to make productive, a patch of land dominated by laterite rocks and barely any soil. There were no quick fix solutions, but something had to be set into motion without breaking the bank.
The two options were to either drill holes, a faster but more expensive option or the more time consuming planting of native species which would add to the diversity and break through rocks while spreading their roots deep and wide. Eventually it was a balance between the two. We drilled large holes in parts of the land that were entirely dominated by laterite, while planting a diverse mix of perennials where there was some soil. These would bear fruit, loosen soil, provide mulch also act as windbreakers over the long run.
The drilled holes needed soil, if we were to grow something. Sourcing it externally came at a premium, wasn’t completely reliable but couldn’t be avoided. There was scope to reduce how much we would source and how we could enrich it. We set up compost pits with natural green and brown matter from across the orchard in most and filled the rest with dry matter, burnt to create ash, rich in micronutrients and calcium. Collectively, these would form a great mix to the external soil added over the next few months. With a variety of diverse perennials sourced from local Krushi Seva Kendra and home nurtured saplings, we hope to bring new life to a hardy barren piece of land.