Keeping the pests away

Compost methods

Keeping the pests away

The importance of a well-balanced diet can’t be emphasised enough but it’s not just humans who need it — even that little potted plant in your balcony requires nourishment. You can’t expect it to not wilt if you’re feeding it nothing but junk (read chemicals). It might seem like a task, keeping yourself and your plants healthy, but there are some easy recipes that act as wonderful (and organic) pesticides and manure, and will make your garden shine.  

Vani Murthy, a well-known name in the field of organic gardening, says that when growing organic food, it’s important to watch how the plant grows on its own, without chemical enhancements. She gives her garden nutritious supplements to make sure its immunity is strong. “There are different ways to strengthen the immunity of plants and also to keep pests away (and from spreading). I make jeevamruta, compost tea, neem spray, neem astra and use a chilli garlic spray to control pests,” she says.

Compost tea is an organic liquid fertilizer that requires two cups of compost, a small piece of jaggery, a bucket, some water, a fish tank aerator and socks. “Fill the socks with compost and tie it up. Then, fill the bucket three-fourth the way with water, add the jaggery and hang the socks in it. Plug the fish tank aerator in the water and turn on the air bubbler. Let it seep for 24 hours and spray this tea on the plants. A good tea is ideally teeming with micro-organisms that strengthen your plants and help ward off diseases and pests,” explains Vani. Rashmi Aradhya, a gardening enthusiast, believes that her plants should be treated well. “I make compost at home from organic kitchen waste, using the Bokashi method. Also, to avoid pests I make an organic repellent by mixing garlic and onion paste with water, and spray that on the affected plants,” she says. Bokashi tea takes the liquid residue from compost and acts as a health supplement.

A microbiologist-turned-homemaker, Nagashree Rao uses her knowledge of microbes to keep her garden healthy. She has different ways of producing compost and making repellents, one of which is the khamba method. “I use a khamba — three mud pots stacked on top of each other — to turn my wet kitchen waste into manure. Since my house has many trees, I have easy access to dry leaves as well, which I add into the khamba or make into dry waste compost in a separate pit.” And when her plants have an acid attack, she uses a dilute paste made from ginger, garlic and green chilli. 

Composting can be divided into two categories — aerobic and anaerobic — says expert Vishwanath Narayan. Anaerobic is easier but both of them require keen attention. Wet waste composting, Bokashi tea, dry waste composting and vermi-composting are some of the sub-categories. When it comes to earthworms, you can’t just throw them into a pit and expect them to survive, he adds. “Earthworms can’t eat raw foods so it has to be broken down a bit. Only after the wet waste has decomposed a bit, you can add the worms.”

Shrikrishna Herlekar mentions that neem is also an excellent repellent. “You can use neem leaves, pulp and oil to make sprays to control insects.” And cow dung and urine are essential ingredients in most composting methods. “I add a little dung slurry to the dry leaves to help it compost. I also water the plants with diluted dung slurry,” says Nagashree. Another method she uses is, “I take the peels of big bananas, boil them in water, let them cool down and dilute the liquid. When used on plants, it controls pests and keeps the plants stable.” 

Jeevamrutha is another mixture made from cow dung and urine — it activates the soil and encourages microbial activity in the soil. Just like panchagavya (which uses five cow products), sanjivak (dung, urine, jaggery and water), amrut jal (dung, honey and ghee) and amrut mitti, it uses direct and indirect products derived from a cow — dung, urine, milk, butter and ghee. Vani explains, “To make jeevamrutha, you need one kilogram of cow dung, one litre of cow urine, 200 grams of jaggery, 200 grams of chickpea flour, one handful of soil and 20 litres water. You have to mix them and keep that mixture covered in shade. Stir it once a day and after three to four days, it is ready to be used as a conditioner.”

But one can’t use the dung of any cow. Merlin Gladys Menezes makes sure she gets fresh and organic cow products when she’s making panchagavya at her farm in Balehonnur. This is a problem Nagashree faces — she isn’t 100 per cent sure whether the dung she gets is organic as she lives in the City. “There is a specific process to make products like panchagavya, jeevamrutha and amrut jal, and not everyone can do it, especially if they are in a city. But people can buy it from farmers,” says Vishwanath.

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