Flower Power. Rated PG

Hindi cinema of the 70s secretly taught us the concept of pollination! As kids, we used to wonder why the flowers brushed against each other every time the actors went for a kiss? Now we know that the pollen from the ‘stamen’ was being transferred to the ‘pistil’. Well, you get the picture. Kids in the western world were told about the ‘Birds and the Bees’. Now we know how the birds and the bees help in pollination.

Just like every other living being, plants also need to propagate. They need to make and spread seeds for the  survival of their species. Flowers on a plant contain male and female parts. Flowers invite bees and insects to help transfer the pollen to the pistil (egg).

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Stigma catches the pollen to fertilize the eggs

Flowers with both male and female parts:

These have the stamen and the pistil in the same flower. It is also known as the perfect flower. Bees / insects and wind can help transfer the pollen to the stigma (the sticky part of the pistil).

Plants with only female or male parts:

These are plants with a gender. If you happen to plant only males (or females), forget seeing (and eating) any babies. Few varieties of Papaya plants have gender.

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Next time you go to a nursery and ask for a Papaya, the mali would tell you, ” Jode lene padenge (you need to buy a ‘pair’, male and female)”.

Plants with separate male and female flowers:

Your Karela (Bitter Melon) / Lauki (Bottle Gourd) and other cucurbits fall in this category.

bitter-melon-16.jpg DSC_0105 GOURD FLOWER

It is easy to identify Female and Male Karela flowers.

Bees and insets will help transfer the pollen. The fruit behind the female flowers will then grow to a fruit. Otherwise, it will dry out. Now you know why Bees are so important! Its quite common for these plants not to produce fruit in an urban area where there is no help from bees or insects.

You can help these plants make out :-). Take the male flower and brush it gently against the female as you remember Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz. This kiss of love will bear fruit.

-HF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get..Set..Clay Ball!

My wife calls me a ‘Crackpot’! I never listen, i always challenge the ‘Default’ and try to do things my own way.  There is more authority in saying ‘I have tried this, it works‘ than ‘Hmm.. i guess..not sure..‘.

While researching (ok Googling ) about Organic farming, I came across this Japanese farmer / philosopher named Fukuoka . He re-invented and introduced this ancient technique of propagating seeds using clay balls! Pretty fascinating, i thought. Something i could also try ..  I started researching (ok, YouTube-ing) ‘how to make seed balls’.

You can roll clay balls of any type of seeds but i picked Rice. Imagine if this works? We can simply broadcast clay rice pellets on fields, and watch them sprout and grow! No nursery, no transplanting needed. Hell, i could even win a award if this is successful! Tee hee he.

Get ready to clay… 

Gather the stuff.

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Mist Spray bottle, seeds, Sieve and and potters clay, a wooden board

You can also soak the seeds into water first or spray lightly using the mist. Mist is a must, you cannot put water with your hands, the clay will just clump together and will become doughy. So, phuss phuss lightly and then sprinkle the fine clay onto the seeds.

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Sprinkle the clay powder

Coarse clay wont work. I got the clay broken and powdered by the potter who sold it to me. Cost me Rs50 for 2Kgs. Fine clay will stick to wet seeds. Another phuss phuss and a little bit of clay. Now slowly start rolling with your hands. Pyar se.. haule haule..

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Roll the seeds. Straight and circular motion

Once a seed is coated with clay, it will start gathering more as you roll. Pellets and balls will start to form. Keep a fine balance of water spray and clay powder. Excess water will make the clay chikni (don’t be discouraged, you can use it as a face pack later). If you roll well, you will end up with this..

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Balls and Pellets

Put them to dry under the sun. Never make balls if there is no sun! This clay needs to dry in 1-2 hours.

What next? Keep a small portion of your field to experiment. Just throw these around in the field when the rainy season starts. Rice plants should sprout and take root.

I will keep you informed of the progress / success or failure of this in the next few months.

09-Jul-2017

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Seed balls on the ground. Waiting for rain

15-Jul-2017

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Sprouted and rooted 🙂

28-Jul-2017

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Rain fed and growing

Romancing the Rice

Rice was never a crop of choice for Punjab farmers. It was introduced in the state sometimes in the 1970s (later part of the Green Revolution). The land was fertile, with almost 95% guaranteed irrigation. Farmers were forced to abandon their native crops of Maize, Bajra, Pulses & Oilseeds.

Rice is not native to this region, it’s predominantly a rain fed water intensive crop. Here lies the problem! Introducing rice to a region with insufficient rainfall meant most of the irrigation would be done using ground water. Since 1970s, the water table of Punjab has declined drastically. This slogan was coined way back in 2005 to make the farmers aware of the crisis.

“Chonne hetho rakba katao. Pani bachao, Punjab bachao”. Reduce area under rice. Save water, save Punjab.

Water crisis was made worse by the farmers using age old resource intensive methods of cultivation.  Where other states have moved onto more resource and environment friendly methods, Punjab farmers.

 

  1. Prepare nursery and sprout seedlings
  2. Wait for 15th June to turn the tube wells on. Idea is to make your fields look like a small lake! (few cheeky farmers start before 15th)
  3. Get the tractor ready. As in, make sure the DJ Boom Box is working.
  4. Put on the latest Punjabi songs at full volume and start ploughing like crazy! Go round and round around the field with a Suhaga (leveler) doing ‘Kaddu’
  5. Frantically start looking for ‘Bhaiye’. Labor from UP. (This is the only time Bhayie are in demand like the new Rs2000 notes after demonetization).
  6. Send your trusted men to nearest railway stations to poach and hijack labor.
  7. Keep your labor happy. Murga by the day and Paua by the night.
  8. Finally sow in puddled fields and keep them puddled for the next 110 days.

It is time for desperate measures. A comprehensive policy decision has to be taken and implemented. In the meantime, we must adopt new methods of cultivation and make new knowledge available to farmers. I am using SRI method of cultivation myself. It uses 1/4th the water and seeds per acre!

Punjab’s forced romance with rice continues. This is one marriage which should not last for long!

-HF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mulch Magic

mulch
“material (such as decaying leaves, bark, or compost) spread around or over a plant to enrich or insulate the soil”

Mulching or ढकावन is a technique every farmer should know and apply. Given a chance, nature would cover every single patch of naked soil with vegetation. This is nature’s way to protect, preserve and sustain the environment under that green cover.
Today’s farmers leave their fields under the sun, waiting for the next crop sowing. Go to a field which is covered with crop, feel the soil, smell it. It will be moist, dark in color, with lots of insect (some you can see, others you cannot) activity. This is the micro-climate this cover has created! Bacteria, fungi, earthworms are having a party! They are feeding nutrients to your soil for FREE! And because the soil is not exposed to the Sun, it retains water for a longer duration. It will also take care of the number one ‘enemy’ of the farmer, ‘Weeds’. Or as we Organic nerds like to call them, ‘Competing plants’ 🙂
Mulching can be easily done using any crop residue. Jantar, Prali, Sarson or dry leaves. In the image below (left), i have sown haldi and have mulched it with a thick layer of Prali. I have only watered it twice so far just enough to keep the moisture in the soil. And, i do not have weeds. My entire crop cycle will take HALF the normal water requirements for this crop.
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Image in the right shows how dhaincha (Jantar) can be used as mulch as well as green manure. At a nominal seed cost, i can cover my empty field with dhaincha in between crops and get free nitrogen and the magic of mulch. I am happy 🙂

🌱Honest Farmer🌱

My story:

For 18 years, I worked for top IT companies of this world. For 18 years, I worked day and night, following orders.

Did I make a meaningful change in someone’s life? Did I contribute anything to the society? NO! Did I ever wake up in the morning thinking, “yesterday was a satisfying day”? NO!

Now I am your farmer 🙂

My promise:

I grow food for you using natural and organic practices. I build nutrients into the soil which in turn will feed the plants you eat.

I will never put poison on your plate!

-HF