Compost is black gold, Bangalore, India

Compost is black gold, Bangalore, India
As a child growing up in India, there was always a pit into which all the garden and kitchen waste was thrown. One corner of the garden had this pit, into which all the rubbish was carelessly thrown in by the servants. However I remember it was my father who called the by product ‘leaf mould’ probably referring to the leaves which had been swept up in the garden and which had mulched over time.

We grew up used to repotting plants in soil dug out from the pit and all the plants seemed happy and lush with whatever was in it. We did not think much of it when we had our own home too.We just helped ourselves to sacks of the stuff from Dad’s garden, as our home was too small for a pit.

Infact it was Dad who insisted we carried old gunny sacks of the stuff, all the way to Hoskote when we first began our farm there. “ Every mango tree or chickoo has to be planted in leaf mould,” he intoned.” That will give it a fighting chance and a headstart and help it to grow quickly.” And ofcourse we obeyed and ofcourse we have an orchard today, only because we knew his infinite wisdom was always sound.

Compost is a more modern term and usually refers to cleaned and sieved soil made from a combination of green waste. I have bought dozens of sacks of the stuff from Home Depot in the US, or little nurseries in the UK, for my sons gardens. I could have sworn Dads stuff looked and smelled, far better and more fresh.

Therefore I have begun compost pits in both homes. Initially there was resistance, mainly from the wives who never knew any better. It’s the educated who resist or the people who are not gardeners. So, I used a bit of chicanery. I just dug holes around the plants and fed them all the waste from the house including chicken skins, then I left for home and waited!

“ Ma! My peonies look like they are on steroids. And my Azaleas have never looked like this ever and look at the Clematis says my doctor son running around the garden on Face Time showing me his garden, bursting with flowers and fruit! I laugh wickedly, calmly ensconced on my bed in Bangalore! I know what I have done and by that I have converts for life.

The next trip I don’t have to try any sort of convincing! A pit has been dug into which I fill the months wet waste while I am there, topping it up everyday. There is even a wet waste bowl kept in the kitchen for the mother! Ofcourse I am not stupid, I cover the pit with heavy bricks each time a new bowl of stuff goes in, to prevent any rodent or racoon or maybe a Cayote ( who knows!) coming in for a midnight snack!

This trip I fed the figs and the peach trees. I filled the pots with the compost, before the veggies were planted. The Blackberries were overfed as they went crazy and everyone including the neighbours came in and picked their stash I was told, with glee! There was so much fruit.

I have stood and made the maali pull out six wheel barrow loads over a week, of the black, sweet smelling gold and fed all the plants in the garden, now I am home in India. He lazily left it for four months while I was away and that was good, because it has rotted well and turned perfect to feed the starving garden. My Mums scented gingers, Dads riotously coloured crab claw flowers, my jasmine, the sand- paper vine, the gem coloured bougainvilleas, everything is being fed and slowly but surely the garden will perk up.

Plus compost is a wonderful absorber of water and keeps the soil moist and like a sponge holds the rain. Today was the first sharp rain of the monsoon over Bangalore and I am glad the compost has been put for the plants, as the rain will percolate into the soil feeding the plants the goodness of the home made compost .












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