Tales From the Gardens: The Green Wonder

by Bhakta Jeff Long ( from March 16, 1975 issue of the Brijabasi Spirit )
Fifteen hundred three-inch high marigolds stand in rows, arms upraised, glorifying Krsna. Each morning as one enters the greenhouses he is astounded by the mercy of the Lord.
Vegetables and flowers are sprouting and thriving everywhere. They seem to be growing noticeably even as we watch. Our most precious resident now is a tulip most anxious to serve the Lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha VrndavanaChandra. This auspicious birth should have produced a nectarean flower for Their Lordships by the time you read this issue of the ‘Spirit’
The other day as we planted cherry tomatoes we talked about how wonderful it would be if we had some worms to aerate and nourish the greenhouse soil bins. Ramakrsna dasa said we could dig some outside, but the next day Krsna showered us with His mercy as we discovered what we hope will be a constant supply of these precious fellows who can help us so much in our efforts to produce nice flowers and vegetables for Krsna.
Earthworms, called “the intestines of the soil” by Aristotle, produce their weight in castings (bodily excrements) every 24 hours. By burrowing into the soil, they aerate it nicely, make holes for moisture, and after taking it in through their systems, they return the soil much richer, in addition to mixing it very nicely.
Tapapunja dasa, who is in charge of the greenhouse and gardens explained the goal of both programs, noting that we want to grow enough to serve our daily needs for the Deities’ offerings, devotee prasadam and for festivals, and also enough produce for cold storage and drying to get us through the winter. To achieve these purposes, the greenhouse crew is presently doing early plantings,, to be followed later by another planting. (For example, the men are planting 1,000 early cabbage and 1500 late cabbage.) “It’s not like we’re trying to make a solution to the woes of the economy, but all our endeavors are to serve Radha VrndavanaCandra,” Tapapunja said., “It’s Prabhupada’s desire that we will make an economic solution, but that’s not our impetus. Our impetus is to serve the spiritual master. And because Prabhupada desires it, we will become self-sufficient. When we secure a stable food source, it’ll minimize our dependency on motor vehicles ( traveling to Pittsburgh ) and we’ll practically demonstrate to the karmis that we’re serious. The land will produce it. It’s just our desire—how badly we want to do it.”
Janakisa recently completed a more than welcome addition to the greenhouse—a new sturdy front door. The new wooden door replaces the blankets hung across the entrance, after the early demise of the karmi-produced aluminum door. “They have all these big factories, but all they’re turning out is garbage made to fall apart.” Janakisa noted.
A minor problem now is the amount of moisture in the greenhouse. “A certain amount is needed, but we have too much now, so when the heat comes on it has to heat all the moisture in here (all the condensation on the plastic walls and roof would have to be heated to 70 degrees to get a temperature of 70 degrees),” Janakisa said.
Due to exhorbitant heating costs, the temperature inside has been reduced from 70 degrees to 60 degrees. The three sources of moisture which reflect directly on the heating bill are:
(1) soil drying process
(2) watering of beds and flats
(3) water seeping into the greenhouse from the hills
Although the greenhouse is presently equipped with relative humidity controls, we are still awaiting delivery of a small fan to be installed at the top rear of the greenhouse which will remove any excess moisture. With warmer weather just around the corner (Krsna) the cooling system must be completed soon if the present plants are to continue to thrive. The basic mechanics of the cooling system are as follows:
When the temperature inside reaches a preset level, the fans come on, sucking the air out of the greenhouses. The doors to the cooling towers open due to the vacuum created and the hot air outside the greenhouse is drawn in through the towers (rectangular metal bins filled with wet padding made of wood shavings) and cooled. A time clock situated near the towers (at the rear of the greenhouse) will be set to click on the pumps at the hottest time of day. The pumps spray water from the bottom of the towers on to the paddings. Before the cooling system can begin to function we still need running water from the outhouse supply (one line directly to the cooling towers and one with a tap for watering bins and flats; more padding; wire mesh grid to hold the padding in place and flues that support both the screening and padding).
Although built into the side of a hill, great care was taken to allow for proper greenhouse drainage. Both interior and exterior drainage systems are presently operative, but exterior drainage (to keep water flowing down the hill from entering the greenhouse) is presently not functioning properly. The exterior system, a small ditch between the hill and greenhouses was bottomed out with a culvert made of corrugated roofing material left over from the new barn construction. But over the winter the bank eroded and partially filled in the ditch. We plan to smooth off the hill and sow rye alongside and in the ditch this summer. This will control erosion and maintain proper drainage flow.
Interior drainage, consisting of sloped gravel beds under the main planting bins, drains all water to the front of the greenhouse and out via another ditch.
This summer the men will fill the gravel beds beneath the present bins with rotted manure from Nandagram. Thus we will double our growing capacity with the added benefit of minerals seeping from the top bin nourishing soil in the bottom one. Last week a lot of soil was mixed and sterilized so that we can maintain our rigid planting schedule. Soil mixture is as follows: cow manure, peat, lime-sand and New Vrindaban clay soil at a ratio of: l; l; 1/2; 1/2, respectively. The soil is mixed and chopped up as fine as possible,, then taken to the temple greenhouse for sterilization in the hemisphere, where it is cooked for an hour to kill weed seeds. “It’d be nice if we didn’t have to cook it,” Janakisa said. “It’s got more living organisms in it before cooking, but the alternative is hand weeding.” The bins we planted earlier with unsterilized soil were loaded with weeds. After cooking the soil is returned to the greenhouse for drying, screening and finally crushing with stones until it is very fine and nice for Krsna’s seeds.
Another major project in the works Is a cold frame being constructed by Janakisa, The frame, l6′ x 6’, is built of boards from the new barn. Built on an angle (so the plants can get sunlight all day), the frame will be set on blocks and the inside dug out. The dirt removed will be banked around the sides for insulation so it will be warm enough until suitable transplant conditions develop. The frame will have two lids on hinges and will be covered by plastic. Plants that like colder temperatures will be put outside in the frame to undergo a hardening off process by which they will become acclimated to the harsher environment outside.
Already planted, in the greenhouse to date are 17 varieties of flowers, Including tulips daffodils and zinnias, a full bin of radishes (which broke the surface in 2 days); one half bin of cherry tomatoes, lettuce spinach and swiss chard. Last week the following flats were planted for future transplanting outside: broccoli(3), celery(2), cabbage(6), cauliflower(3), tomatoes(7), eggplants(2). This week the following flats will be planted: cabbage(6), cauliflower(3), celery(2), peppers (5), tomatoes(7), eggplant(2).
When Tapapunja talks about the greenhouse, his face lights up in ecstacy, “A frultive worker, because he’s attached to enjoying the fruits of his labor, has to work very hard. We also work very hard, but a devotee understands that real wealth is renunciation”

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