Soil is the most important element in making our food. Working in the soil is the most meaningful thing mankind could do to nourish and make their body strong.

So let’s simple break it down. Most of our food comes from some form of plants. So what makes it grow?
– Sun light
– Water
– Energies
– Soil

Sunlight is free of cost. Available in abundance. Just need to position your plants to make the best of it. Just respect the seasons and grow crops that can accept the harshness or mellowness during the year.

Water. Mineral rich water provided on a limited basis based on the crop. Just like you feed babies, more intervals in the beginning and then less often as they grow. Some need a nice rainforest environment to thrive and some need just some moisture after they fruit.

Energies. You can’t just plant a seed in soil, attach a machine to water and feed it and walk away and expect it to thrive. They need some TLC (tender love and care) too. Good energies. Your energies. Animal energies. Energies of the overall biodiversity and environment around them. And watch them thrive! No it’s not fufu logic here. It works. Trust me.

And finally Soil.
Not dirt. Not dead. Not nothing.
Means it’s everything 🙂

Soil is not just NPK + copper when needed + silica when needed + magnesium maybe. Only 5% of the microbes that exist in soil have been possibly discovered so far. Nourish the soil with some good compost that consists of – nitrogen, carbon, phosphorus, alkaline elements, and some good beneficial herbs and preps. When animal manure makes the nitrogen element, you are adding a lot more beneficial microbes into the compost. Basically creating an environment to make the compost become a tasty recipe for the plants. It’s not the inputs, but it’s the final result that comes out that smells like earth that’s been freshly rained on.
Can be addictive trust me!
You can also add a lot of beneficial liquid manures or inoculants that improve soil quality. Choose what works best for you.
Improving soil quality is a must in organic farming. It’s not rocket science, just needs some perseverance and consistency.

We are so blessed to be in India with the beautiful variance in soils, lots of plant diversity, biodiversity, innumerable climates to grow and larger variety of crops and a large number of farmers who live in the rural setup. But the system is flawed. Sad but true. Centralization and industrialization along with economics messed up the whole equation. We want everything quick and accessible at our fingertips now. Including our fresh produce. Demand creates supply.
That’s where the urban artificial farms came into play. They are expensive technologies to setup, so they will aggressively market their produce. Only the ones who are privileged can make this setup in an urban environment, not an average farmer. That’s why they treat it a like a business. We know what happens when food and agriculture becomes a hard core business. Enough said on that.

Okay so now let’s go back to the elements that make plants –
*Sunlight – replaced with artificial lighting. It’s like asking me to get vitamin d sitting under a light.
*Water – mind you clean water, or water with fish excretions, which is not bad, but not sure how beneficial that alone can be.
*Energies – ahem! You saw the pictures. You see any biological activity there? You see pollination happening there? You see any happy lady bugs or animals there? Clean people with gloves and sanitization at its optimism. Wohooo! No pests or bacteria! Problem solved! Who wants to deal that?
*Soil – last and important one.
Here’s a description online – Hydroponics is the method and process of growing plants without using any soil. … As long as a plant receives an adequate amount of the required mineral nutrients that it needs in order to grow and thrive, then soil is not needed or necessary for gardening.” Some systems may use a soil mix with compost, peat and some minerals. Some use only fish excretions, and other aquaculture outputs. Some use rock wool in seedling trays.

Whenever nutrients are given in a water form, it’s unnatural to start with, because the plants don’t learn how to absorb nutrients from soil anymore.

Okay now take a person and give them lots of artificial food that requires them to survive. Give them a dose of pure protein, some pure carbs, add some essential multivitamins, all with water. Give them some rock wool blankets and artificial light for their short life span. They will grow and look like humans in a lab to some extent. That’s all they need, and it’s a successful project. Work done!  You know what I mean now? Plants are also living elements, have feelings and have a purpose in life. Cherish them, nurture them, give them an opportunity to make some good for humankind in the way nature intends.

About the marketing terminologies they use for non soil based gardening, let’s try and understand them better –
~ Less adverse environmental impacts – Please! What about the carbon footprint they are creating by pumping in water and electricity into the units that need to run 24/7. And they call themselves eco friendly and organic, maybe because there’s no methane 😂
~ Reduced consumption of resources – What resources are these now? Cause I only see additional byproducts being made to support this industry.
~ Faster plant growth – sure, cause everyone’s in a hurry to buy what you are selling.
~ Higher Yelids – but ofcourse, your mission is to save this world and feed it, not protect Mother Earth.
~ Clean food – That’s grown sanitized with gloves and masks – without the beneficial soil microbes? Well good luck with your gut health and overall immunity

To conclude, this is not complete food with the correct nutrition profile, please get the produce tested if you have the resources and prove us otherwise. I have had clients who tasted such produce and said it doesn’t taste as dense and their stomach didn’t agree. “There’s  something missing” is what I constantly hear, now that’s your gut and human intelligence talking. Go figure!

Having animals on the farm, growing their fodder and your food, and making compost from everything available within the farm are the key elements that define regenerative, biodynamic, organic and sustainable farming.


1. Air Layer – branches, twigs – 5%
2. Carbon Layer – dried leaves, plants, grasses (brown matter) – 35%
3. Animal Manure – cow/chicken/goat/horse manure from animals on the farm. Fresh or semi decomposed – 30%
4. Green Nitrogen Layer – fresh grasses, plant matter, medicinal leaves that have elements of pest and fungus control, banana stems and leaves, uncooked kitchen waste, etc. – 30%
5. Phosphorus- Wood Ash / Rock Dust / Borewell Dust – 1kg
6. Lime Powder – Stone/Shell – 1kg
Note: Dry matter can be collected over a period of time on the farm, but fresh matter such as greens should be collected right before making the compost.

Part 2 – Making the Layers

Find a nice shady spot where water can be supplied to the compost pile if required. – Determine the length and width of your compost pile. No strict rules but you can bring it to a height of 5-6 ft, width of 4-5ft, and 10-15ft in length.

1. Start with the Air Layer with the branches and twigs so you can avoid water and rain water sitting at the bottom of the compost pile or washing away the elements
2. Add the carbon layer
3. Sprinkle wood ash/ rock rust / borewell dust on the carbon layer – to bring the phosphorus elements in.
4. Add the manure layer. Add water to this layer if you live in a dry belt or it’s summer. If your manure is moist enough and it’s the monsoons you can skip the watering.
5. Add the green layers – bring in a nice mix of nitrogen fixing greens, medicinal, food, and resilient plants like jatropa, casuarina, pongemia, lantana, etc.
6. Sprinkle lime above the greens so sufficient amount of heat is generated during the compost making.
7. Repeat steps 2-6 at least 3 times or more until you reach a height you can access and work with.
8. Plaster wet compost on the last layer and cover it well with dry banana or coconut fronds so you protect it from excess dryness or rain.
(Refer to images for quantity needed, application style, etc)


There are no set rules to making compost. Biodynamic composts are typically made the aerobic way, which uses oxygen and bacteria and replicates natural decomposition. At the end of making the compost pile we typically add CPP water and biodynamic preps to bring in all the energy elements to the compost piles. – You can do your own version by adding panchagavya, jeevamrut, local soil, seaweed, bloodmeal, casuarina tea to control fungal issues on your farm, etc. Basically whatever elements you want to add to your farm. – This pile needs to be turned at least twice after 1-2 months depending on the speed of breakdown. The compost typically is ready for use after 3 months. It colder areas it can take up to 6 months. So just keep checking it every 15 days and make sure it doesn’t dry out. When ready, it should be completely soft and smell like fresh earth or petrichor.

We get many messages and questions about how do we control pests and disease when growing organic crops. That seems to be the main reason why people don’t want to grow crops organically – dealing with pests and crop loss!

The answer is simple: Nothing.

Actually it’s not so simple, if you know everything else we do to discourage a pest and disease situation on our farm in the first place. That doesn’t mean we are totally pest or disease free, it only means have done everything to make sure that issue does not take over your garden. So compare it to the human body, just because we eat well, exercise, and take multivitamins, that doesn’t mean we never get a cold or infection. But yes it can be tackled easily with good rest and some care if your overall immunity has been taken care of. We can easily take painkillers or antibiotics, but that does not stop the issue from occurring again. In fact it makes our system weaker and more susceptible to problems.

The same logic applies to plants as well – give them the right environment to grow in, have healthy companions, good nutrition, some TLC, and lots of sunshine!

Ok, lets talk energies for a bit. Don’t expect your garden to flourish if you are in a bad mood and work in the garden. Plants sense feelings, emotions, and stress. The moon cycles and surrounding energy fields affect them as well. So watch them grow, see if they are struggling, keep the plants clean, and notice small changes. Talk to them, sing a song and breathe some good air in the garden to improve your mood. And watch them thrive!

If you go about researching what natural pest control you can use on your plants, it’s a never-ending list. It’s like searching the Internet about what teas to take to suppress a cough. There is so much information to absorb, and a lot of contradictory information out there. Yes, there are some sure shot solutions that work well. However, anything that’s strong and will affect insects will also stress out the plants. Anything that can kill a pest, can kill a beneficiary bug as well. Those yellow sticky pads out there kill a lot of the beneficial insects, pollinators, and bees. So exercise caution before you decide to use the natural anti pest solution.

Most caterpillar populations can be tacked in a small garden by finding and destroying the eggs under the leaves. Birds can do this for you too. Most aphids can be tackled if you spray some water on them, or they immediately go away with a heavy rain. If you maintain biodiversity in your garden, a lot of beneficial insects and microorganisms will do the work. Good compost and simple liquid manures can resolve most issues.

It is so important to a step back and look at the bigger picture. Sometimes you just have to trust the process when you do everything else. Here’s a list of questions you can ask yourself before addressing an issue with your plants:

1. Bad Germination and Young Seedlings are Dying

  • Is there enough light for germination and for seedlings to grow?
  • Are you overwatering or not letting the water drain out?
  • Seedlings got root shock because they were not transplanted with care? Did you give some compost and enough water for them to recover and grow?
  • Too cold at nights? Too hot and dry during the day?


2. Stunted Growth, Pest attacks, Abnormal Fruits/Roots

  • Have you sowed the crop in the right season?
  • Have you taken care of soil nutrition?
  • Have you checked what are good companion plants for your crop?
  • Have you planted or transplanted your crop during a stress period such as a node or new moon


3. Leaves Droop Down or Turn Yellow, Fruits are Rotting and Falling.

  • Have you give enough water or possibly overwatered the plants?
  • Too much mulch or water-logging in the soil?


4. Holes or Eaten up Greens, Black Spots on the Greens

  • Have you checked if they are flying bugs or caterpillars?
  • Are the greens sown too close to each other and lacking soil nutrition?


5. Plants are Growing Tall/Stringy, Flowering but not Producing

  • Is there enough light for them to grow?
  • Are you allowing pollinators near the plants?
  • Too much rain?


6. The Whole Plant Dies

  • Did you give too much lime or fresh manure to the plants?
  • Have you removed the plant entirely and checked the stems and roots? Maybe it’s a root nematode issue? Or a stem borer?
  • Do you see animals or bird footprints or feces around the plants?
  • Have you given them TLC every so often?

Remove all situations that can cause stress to plants and improve their overall growing conditions. Easier than removing stress from our own lives, trust me!

So when you want to ask us how to help you resolve plant pest issues, we simply say “make it work” and “trust your intuition”. It’s your duty and responsibility to make sure your plants grow well. And only you can make it happen.

We have written a whole section of Soil Nutrition, which covers the important elements that go into growing healthy plants in your garden. Please go through it so that you understand what entails maintaining healthy soil, plants and crops. It’s really not a lot of work, just a lot of common sense and as a result, immense joy from growing your own food!


Done hate pests. Instead of focusing on killing the pest or disease, focus on strengthening the plant. Instead of treating a symptom, correct the cause.

There are books that have been written and can be written on this subject. What we are trying to do here is simplifying the topic and giving you some basics, so you can kick start the process of bringing your soil to optimum to grow food.

Soil in its natural state is never meant to grow intense vegetables. No forests or wild places grow edible plants in such close proximity with each other. What humanity created centuries ago was a form of agriculture, which pretty much controlled and tamed the soil to grow what they want to get the ideal possible output they need. No, I’m not talking about the so-called “conventional” agricultural practices (which only started in the 1950s) that are taught in agricultural universities and well backed up by sponsored scientists. Thankfully we at Yarroway Farm did not learn how to do conventional agriculture, so there is no unlearning for us to go through. I am talking about growing plants like nature intends them to, but with increased intensity, therefore more intense soil nutrition is needed for these plants to grow in such an environment. You can call it, natural, organic, biodynamic, vedic, holistic, clean, whatever – the basic idea of growing food is the same.

So when some asks us how much yield we get per acre, basically they are calculating our profits for us, or sizing up how worthy our land is. If we like this person we smile and shrug our shoulders, and if we don’t like the person we imagine whacking them with a milk bucket. Not their business to ask. Period.

We take what the land gives us, and do everything that is possible to grow the crop. I use what I can for home, and the rest is sold, donated, given to cows, composted, whatever. Now that’s my business to worry about.

The real point is, there are so many elements controlling how your crop grows – nature of soil, time of the year, elevation or altitude, soil nutrition, temperature, air quality, water quality, rain fall, sun, moon, stars, etc. But there is one important element out of all of these that you can control, and that is soil nutrition.

Now if you want to get into hydroponics, aquaponics, vertical farming, or other non-soil based growing systems, please don’t waste your time on this page and don’t write to us about it!

Listed below are 12 things you can do to improve your soil nutrition and grow a healthy garden.


The most important requisite of soil nutrition is COMPOST. You can buy compost from a gardening store or online, but please make sure you check the source that it is organic or natural. Never let your gardener convince you to put lumps of dry manure or funny smelling compost in your garden. I have seen pets dying when they accidentally eat this stuff, so imagine what that does to your plants. So you know what I mean by clean compost!

So here’s how you can make your own!!!


  • 40% CARBON – DRY MATTER (dry sticks, leaves, grass, paper)
  • 60% NITROGEN – GREEN MATTER (fresh cow/goat/chicken manure, green plant parts – leaves/flowers/fruits, NO COOKED STUFF)
  • Bonus Materials – Hydrated Lime, Calcium (Eggshell, Bone meal), Seaweed, Rock Rust, Wood Ash, Medicinal Herbs and Flowers, Hair & Toenails (ok I’m kidding about the last one)


  • Find a cool shaded spot to make your compost. Do not make compost under the ground. You need an aerated compost pile placed in a shaded clean area that can be watered if drying out.
  • Layer the elements in the following order from bottom –
    1. STICKS (for an air layer at the bottom)
    2. DRY MATTER (add some rock dust or wood ash on top)
    3. FRESH MANURE (slightly moist)
    4. GREEN MATTER (add some hydrated lime on top)
  • Repeat steps b-d at least 2-3 times.
  • Turn the pile once a month. In India, given the right conditions, the compost will be ready in 3-4 months.
  • You know its ready when the fully broken down matter smells like fresh earth or petrichor. Will stay this way for a long time if you keep giving it light moisture. Never use half decomposed matter for your plants.
  • If you have a kitchen garden, make it in clay pots with holes in them. Basically layer or mix the proportions of compost elements mentioned above and do it every 3-4 weeks in additional pots. If you have a farm but no animals, make it from plant matter. If you have a farm and animals, we love you, please make sure you grow your own fodder for the animals so your manure is the purest. You have everything going for you!
  • In biodynamic farming, we make such compost piles and add all our relevant preps into the compost pile to get all the energies and nutrient profile covered. We have a journal about Biodynamic Compost Making you can refer to if you want to learn more.


Now how often do you give compost and how much? Quintessential question.

It’s good to have a layer of compost blended in with the topsoil right before you do your planting. If you don’t have that much compost, then add some before you plant your seed or into the place where you are transplanting the seedling. So you need compost to kick start the plant growing and then once a month in small installments as long as the plant is growing and producing. If you get a heavy rainfall and the soil has lost some top layer, then add compost to bring some life back to the soil. Never add compost to the top of the plant. Always blend it into the soil near the plant roots. How much you ask? A handful for each plant is sufficient. Some are heavy feeders and some don’t need much compost. Refer to our Growing Guides for detailed composting instructions by crop.


There are several types of plant and animal based liquid manures and teas that can be made. Liquid manures and Teas can be made with a large range of crops, weeds, flowers, herbs, etc. that benefit the soil and plants with their nutritive values and characteristics. Below are a few ingredient examples:

Nitrogen – Foliage from Gliricidia, Sesbania, Sunhemp, Alfalfa; Fish Meal; Neem, Castor & Pongemia cake.

Phosphorus – Chicken/Cow dung

Micro-nutrients – Sea Weed

Insect Control  – Marigold , Neem, Calitropis, Datura, Jatropa, Neem, Lantana

Fungus Control – Casurina

Trace Elements – Locally available weeds, Yarrow

Instructions: For Liquid Manure, seep the plants/material in water for 15-30 days and keep mixing it regularly after a week. Or boil in water to make a quick tea for immediate insect and fungus control. These can be mixed 1:10 with water in liquid form and sprayed on plants as intermittent nutrients in addition to compost.


This is a practice where a leguminous or nitrogen rich crop is grown on the soil and after it grows to a good size, and before it starts flowering and fruiting, you turn the plants back into the soil by hand tools or with the help of a tractor. This brings the fresh nitrogen matter back into the soil and as it dries out, the carbon element is also addressed. The plant matter slowly decomposes in the soil over a period of 1-2 months and gives nutrition to the plot, before you plant your next crop. Good examples of green manure crops are beans, pulses, buckwheat, sunhemp, etc. It works for larger farms where there is not enough compost to cover all the land.


Don’t grow the same crop in the same location season after season. Follow heavy feeders such as carrots, potatoes, etc, with lighter crops such as beans, eggplant, etc. and vice versa. Except for tomatoes, most plants don’t do well in the same spot crop after crop. You need to rotate their spaces so that you don’t let the diseases and problems in the soil persist. Sometimes you need to let the soil rest before you put another crop in. Soil is a living thing and everything needs a change for a fresh perspective.


Grow by season so that your plants are less stressed and grow in the right conditions – refer to our Seasonal Sowing Calendar for the detailed planting timelines by crop.

The moon has a huge influence on how crops grow. To take advantage of the lunar cycles, avoid stress periods, and understand patterns, refer to our Biodynamic Planting Calendar with all the basic instructions listed there.


Biodiversity is what brings balance to any healthy garden. You need diversity in the soil microorganisms and the plants that grow in the garden. We all know the disadvantages of mono cropping – grow just one crop and the pests and disease will take over and you can lose a whole crop. If you cover your garden and crops with nets and cloth to protect it from pests, then some of your crops wont pollinate. Grow many varieties of vegetables, herbs, flowers, medicinal plants, etc. – Annuals and Perennials. Leave a part of your garden as a wild zone that grows all kinds of flowers, and wild species. Make a small water body for birds and bees. This invites all kinds of species including birds, bugs, and other micro species through compost. If you have lots of perennial flowers in your garden, then install a bee box with the help of an expert and collect some super honey. When you grow lots of species in your garden, the predatory insects take care of the plant-damaging insects. Birds take care of most of the caterpillar issues. Yes please keep the dogs, cats, monkeys, big birds, chickens, rabbits, rats and snakes OUT of your veggie garden for your sanity sake. They do more damage compared to pests and disease.


Our crops are just like us. They don’t like growing with everyone. Some plants are good companions that help crops to thrive and stay healthy, and others that cause negative effects. Choosing the right companions for your plants will help to deter pests, and can even enhance the flavor of certain crops. There are plants that repel certain pests, and some that attract predators. Green manure crops also protect the crops from weeds and pests, and crops such as buckwheat and sunhemp attract pollinators. There are plants that grow well next to each other and encourage good space efficiency like the three sisters (corn, pole beans and pumpkin/squash). You can also make better use of space by growing quick crops with slow growing crops such as pak choi & carrot, spinach/arugula & brassicas, etc. For more details on good and bad companions for your plants, please refer to our Growing Guides for detailed instructions by crop.


Please refer to our detailed exclusive write up on Pest and Disease Management.


Water the plants roots well when you sow/transplant and when they are growing once or twice a day. Too much watering has a deterrent effect on plants. Once they establish, some plants need daily watering to sustain and some need minimum water, else they will rot. Too much water causes leaves to go yellow and affects their overall growth patterns. If there is not enough water, the plant leaves start drooping down, so that’s a good enough sign for you to act. You can use gentle spraying hose, pot, drip or sprinkle irrigation. Please refer to our Growing Guides for detailed irrigation requirements by crop.


Needless to say, keep your growing patch weed free. Weeds are not our enemies; in fact they are a good sign of soil health and indicators of soil deficiencies. But if you want your plants to thrive and not be overtaken by weeds, then pull the weeds out by root and take out the competition. Approximately 50% of organic farm expenses go into weeding work. So yes it is a necessity and a tough skill to address on farms. Tractors and tools help with overturning weeds on a larger scale, but that needs to be well planned with the rain and weed growing cycles.

Mulching helps!


You want the soil to stay weed free, moist and not dry out quickly? Find some good dry matter like leaves, grasses and twigs and place them around the plant roots or all over the bed. Coconut Coir can also be used but in a limited manner. This keeps the soil moist and suppresses the weeds as well, but don’t overdo it. Some warm weather plants like peppers and tomatoes don’t like moist mulch at their roots. Too much mulching and moisture is sometimes an invitation for critters and disease. Maintain a balance and keep an eye out for how the plants are doing. There are options such as plastic mulch, cardboard mulch etc. but your plant roots need sufficient light and air too. So think about what works with your values and ground realities, or test and see how things go.


Take advantage of what types of soil you have when you grow your crops.

Soil contains clay, sand, and rocks and their relative proportions effect how well it drains water and retains nutrients. The ideal soil had a balance of clay and sand, which is called loamy soil – drains steadily and gives plants time to absorb water and nutrients. Too much sand and rocks will drain well, but not retain moisture and nutrients. Too much clay will waterlog the soil and plants/fruits tend to rot. Some crops like carrots and potatoes like sandy soil because they need room for the roots to grow. But you have to make sure there is enough nutrition for them to grow. So pay attention to what grows well in your soil. In large farms, to avoid leaching away of soil in hilly and slope terrains, build bunds and rainwater harvesting pits to keep the moisture and topsoil with nutrients within your land. If you are dealing with a land that has already lost a lot of topsoil, fill it will good silt and clay mix from lakebeds or fertile belts. Fruit trees and perennials do well on rocky terrains because their roots go deep. So plan your plot or land well according to the nature of the soil. No need to run and get soil tests done. Soil is not just about N+P+K. There is so much more down there that a lot of it is not yet discovered. Your footsteps, attention, intuition and common sense are what make the difference.

Having a small nursery area allocated to start off your seeds is very important to make best use of your organic seeds, get more of a germination rate, and provide the required environment for them to kick start into becoming healthy plants.

1. The Right Space: Seeds need light, air, water and some soil based food to grow. Humidity they love! The space you pick should be covered but semi open to light but not direct sunlight. It should be well protected from rain, wind, flying insects, birds, squirrels, and pets. A simple bench in a roofed and protected balcony or patio corner should work well.
2. Organic Seeds: We’ve got that covered for you! Not all seeds require transplanting. Refer to the back of our seed packets and planting calendars on our website to understand which types of crops need direct sowing vs. transplanting and when is the best time to sow them. If you buy seeds from outside, make sure they are not coated with poison. You’ll know by the packaging label and when they are in a different color like pink, red or silver.
3. Seedling Trays: You can buy them from any gardening center, organic markets, or agriculture related shops. There are a lot of eco friendly options in organic markets to choose from. Or get simple re-usable plastic flat trays or hole trays depending on the size of your garden and number of varieties you’d like to grow. It should be easy for you to manage. Make sure the trays have enough drainage at the bottom to push out extra water. Alternatively, you can make soil blocks (ref to image) if you have access to soil blockers. For larger plants and seeds, use packets.

4. Compost Mix: The ideal compost mixture should be soft and fibrous with minimal stones and particles. At our farm, we mix half portions each of coconut coir pith and sieved compost into our seedling trays. (Do not use fresh manure, partially decomposed manure, or totally dried dead manure). Your compost should have some moisture in it and smell like fresh earth with lots of microbial activity inside it. It should feel alive and vibrant! If you make compost from kitchen waste, make sure it is fully decomposed and it smells like fresh earth. Fully broken down leaf compost is also very good for seedlings. However if it’s too powdery it will slip down from the draining holes in the tray. So make sure you have the right consistency and moisture before filling the seedling trays with the compost mix.
5. Gentle Spraying Watering Can: The little seedlings cannot take too much pressure, so make sure you spray them gently and evenly with water. Lots of small handy water spraying cans are available for sale in the market and online.
6. Your Daily Dose of Love: Baby seedlings do really well with a little TLC. Check on them at least twice a day, talk to them, and encourage them to grow.

– Fix a good date to sow your seeds. Refer to our biodynamic calendar on the website for a suitable day close to your plans.
– First fill the trays 3/4th with the compost mix. Start sowing your seeds and space them so they have enough room to grow. Then fill the rest of the top 1/4th space lightly with the compost mix. Do not tap down or press. Too many seeds can cause crowding and dieback in seedlings. Sow just enough to suit your garden space.
– Seeds need sufficient light but also can’t be too exposed to the sun; else they will dry out and not germinate. Moisture needs to be retained through the day.
– Water the seedlings twice a day with a gentle spray. First thing in the morning and around 5pm. Follow your instincts to understand that there should be enough moisture/dampness and not too much that the whole tray stays soggy.
– Some seeds come out in a few days and some take weeks depending on the variety and weather conditions. So be patient and enjoy watching the babies growing!
– Once the seedlings come to sturdy true leaf stage (where the seedling goes beyond the baby 2 leaf stage to the 3-4 leaf stage where more characteristics can be seen), between 20-30 days after their growth started, its time to transplant them directly in the ground.
– Find a designated permanent spot with cleared up healthy soil and give enough spacing so plants have enough room to grow. Spacing requirements are mentioned on all the seed packets and on the product pages on the website.

Transplanting: Make sure the seedlings are not soggy wet before you transplant. Stop water for a day and give them more light if need be so there is less shock during transplanting. Find a good day on the biodynamic calendar to transplant. Pull the plant out carefully from the seedling tray. Make a small pit to plant your seedling in a designated spot. Don’t expose the seedling roots to open air, make sure there is always some compost around the roots before carefully placing it in the pit and tapping down the soil with both hands. Add a little more compost if you want to give the plants a healthy boost. Be very gentle and immediately give it some gentle water so it adapts quickly to the new place. Keep a watchful eye for the next few days and keep watering the seedling twice a day (especially in the morning) till it looks like it found its place. There will be some loss of seedlings, especially if you get heavy rains after the transplanting, so don’t worry too much. Overwatering is a common danger for seedlings and plants. So just make sure you maintain a balance. The soil should never be too soggy without drainage. Just trust the process with your instincts, and reap the benefits.

Author: Kabir Cariappa
This content was published by “The Hindu” newspaper on January 10, 2020.

Growing up, I’ve raised many babies from the wild. One of the first was a coucal (crow pheasant) that had fallen out of its nest. Then, a desert cat that used to purr so loud, we named him Motorola! I had a civet for a while and an owlet with a broken wing. I used to catch frogs and mice for her to eat. There were also the ones that I couldn’t help, like a myna that died after ingesting poison (from a farmer spraying his crops).

For one to live in harmony with nature requires a level of compromise, and a different value system, which is absent today. The human psyche is not to adjust to the environment, but to mould it based on our needs. With this series, I aim to share my understanding of the issues we as humans, and particularly as farmers, face. And what we can do, on a micro level, as individuals, and on a macro level, as a society, to ease this coexistence with nature.

What’s it to us?

Plenty has been said about elephants and tigers, and how we are encroaching on their habitat. But what about the important species in the food chain like the minor cats, insects, birds, rodents and snakes — that provide natural pest control (fly-catchers eat bugs) and population control. They are becoming extinct, or are changing their patterns of living to co-exist with humans.

Then there are the tree groves that are home to rare animals such as civets and slow lorises. The trees play an important role in maintaining reserves of subsoil water, harbouring mycelium (the vegetative part of a fungus) in their roots and wildlife in their branches. The smaller birds and animals, or ‘little people’ as I like to call them, are also important to preserve a healthy ecosystem. For example, if certain birds do not feed on the berries of a Singapore Cherry tree, it will develop fungal issues. But these groves are under threat today as they don’t have any monetary value.

Eye in the Yarroway sky

Sparrows are a great place to start. At our farm, very few places were without them once. Today, there are far less. Radiation from cell towers is supposed to be the culprit, as are chemicals used for pest control, but I feel no food in our cities and towns is also a big reason that these friendly birds are missing.

We have close to 50 sparrows living in and around our home. Initially, we put out a small plate of rice for them; what started off as a pair on the porch became a whole colony living in the roof of the house and the surrounding trees. Now they enjoy all the leftover seeds and grains after harvest, all year round. We’ve also planted bird-friendly trees like the Singapore Cherry and Indian Ber, which give them food throughout the year. Besides the sparrows, we have the grey hornbill, many varieties of bee-eaters, sunbirds, pigeons, blue jays, bulbuls and mynas, among others. In addition, the crows arrive when the peanuts are ready for harvest, and the parakeets come when the corn and sunflower are ready.

More food, please

Growing up in rural India, I’ve witnessed a change in cropping patterns — going up from 50% dry land being cropped with cotton and other cash crops to close to 90%, cutting out even the legumes that were used as intercrops. In areas where we used to grow two crops, one cotton (kharif) and one food (rabi), our farmers are only growing one, and that too a cash crop. This leaves not only the farmers and their families hungry (and dependent on markets for food), but the wild animals too (since we take over their natural habitat to grow our crops, so they are dependent on our lands). The reasons behind this shift are many and for another discussion.

In this current situation, when organic farmers like us grow food crops such as sunflower, jowar or bajra, the bird population swoops down and flatten the crop. Parrots dig out the sunflower kernels with their hooked beaks and rip up the corn ears, rats fill their burrows with grain, and rabbits make homes around the farm, to eat young shoots. Chillies and tomatoes are destroyed by hordes of peacocks, not leaving much for the farmer. All the small animal population in an area become concentrated in a small area that chooses to grow diversified crops. This is why sustainable agriculture practitioners struggle to grow crops in such an environmental crisis.

So, what can be done to minimise these effects? Farmers need to plant more food crops (even as intercrops for cash crops) that can act as food banks. This will spread crop losses because of other members of the environment across many farms and not be magnified in the few who choose to grow food crops.

These changes are not easy to make for the society as a whole, but if a few people care and take time to observe patterns, differences can be made. Feed sparrows, plant fruiting trees. Listen to the bulbul and the cuckoo, and know that because of what you’ve created there are no silent mornings.

Written by Anjali Rudraraju, Kabir Cariappa

For Agriculture World Magazine, India. Published: September 2019


 The idea of Biodynamic Agriculture began in the 1920’s and was modelled around the agricultural lectures given by Austrian born scientist and philosopher Rudolph Steiner. He is also the father of Anthroposophy and the Waldorf education system. Today biodynamic agriculture is practiced on farms around the world, on various scales, and in variety of climates and cultures. Most biodynamic farms are located in Europe, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Peter Proctor, a biodynamic farmer from New Zealand introduced biodynamic farming across major farms in India in the early 1990s.

In 1924, Steiner delivered a series of eight lectures on organic agriculture practices to a group of farmers from Germany and Poland. The farmers approached Steiner because they were worried about the future of agriculture, and requested him to help with their issue of degraded soil conditions and deterioration in the health and quality of crops and livestock resulting from the use of chemical fertilizers. Steiner’s lecture series included an ecological and sustainable approach to agriculture that increased soil fertility and overall well being of a farm and its beings. The lectures were formally published in November 1924 and the first English translation appeared in 1928 as The Agriculture Course.

Biodynamic Agriculture, for the most part, is striving to find a sustainable balance between the energies and the physical world for the microcosm that is a farm. Although it is considered as the system of agriculture formed and laid down by Rudolf Steiner, the basis of biodynamic practice is that you are continually looking to improve intelligence, yours, your soils, and your animals.

A biodynamic farm grows its own food, a wide array of seasonal crops, a diverse mix of fodder for animals; and produces its own composts out of animal manure and other farm resources. Plant or animal disease is seen as a symptom of problems in the whole organism, and energies play a vital role in the overall well being of the farm. Maintaining a balance of beings, animals, plants, soil microbes, and overall ecosystem is very important.

From a design perspective, the farmer has the responsibility of planning and developing the farm and landscape, keeping the land conditions and taking the social environment and ecological elements into consideration. This kind of responsibility looks beyond economic goals and textbook principles of agriculture and ecology. A farmer’s presence and positive energies make a huge impact on the health and overall wellbeing of the farm and its beings.

The theory goes that since through photosynthetic activity, plants absorb most of their nutrition from the atmosphere, and the sun, the intelligence to absorb and assimilate these elements must come from the soil. The soil in order to gather this intelligence, must be a healthy macrocosmin which all kinds of bacteria and mycelium thrive. In addition to good humus content in our soil, we use inoculants to increase the beneficial bacteria in minute homoeopathic doses. These are introduced through specially made composts consisting of time-tested doses of plants, minerals and animal manure to improve soil life.

As Steiner and the biodynamic thinkers who came after him would say, at this point, we are looking too much into the soil and what’s below us, and forgetting the importance of the air and the effects of the cosmic forceson the things we do on the soil. Human tendency, and especially the tendency of people who are put though our compartmentalized system of education, is thus. Therefore we must see ourselves and our farms from beyond us, as a whole, and learn to farm the air. Now hold on a minute before you roll your eyes at our eccentricities. The moon cycles effects on our environment are well known. In addition to this, effects of the moon and sun passing through the various constellations from a earth centric point of view are documented.

Constellations are categorized into four groups, that correspond to the four elements, and likewise, plant functions are also divided into four categories. Fire signs cover seed/fruit functions, water signs are leaf/plant body related, earth signs are root connected, and air signs are connected to the part of the plant that gives to the air, flowers.

In addition to these effects, a balance that must be observed is the equation between the two governing forces of form in our world, silica, and calcium. Too much silica forces, and form becomes hard, brittle, and shrunk, and too much calcium forces make things too soft, bulky, damp and rank and susceptible to diseases. So we find times of the month where balances of these forces can be observed.

As far as practices are concerned, the biodynamic approachis to work with the soil to produce sustainably the best the land can give without depleting itself. Turning the soil is combined with green manuring to increase the thickness of the topsoil and free minerals from the subsoil. Liquid manures fermented with locally identified plants having desirable properties are also applied. Traditional preparations such as panchagavya are also integrated into practices as per their locale, vermiwash is used as a growth promoter, and wood-ash drippings for potash rich supplements. Crop diversity and perennials are encouraged, as are safe tillage activities. A good portion of farm acreage is set aside as a biodiversity preserve to conserve woodlands, as non-disturbed soils with trees growing are our mycelium banks where mycelial networks are harboured.

But what is central to the whole operation is having cattle on the farm. Please note we use the gender-neutral term. Recent cow politics have been leaving out the male of the species, who have a huge role to play on our farms.

It can be said that the bovine digestive system is the most wholesome in the world. Everything about naturally raised cattle is aimed at digesting what it eats in the best possible way. Similarly, when we use dung and urine and milk from well-raised animals on our farms, we are providing the soil with the inoculants needed to complete the digestion of cellulose, plant matter, into rich, usable humus. Lactating cow dung and urine is preferred in some preparations, because certain growth hormones are present that are beneficial in fertility cycles. Obviously, we want to optimize on female fertile energies. A farm without animals is merely a piece of land with some rocks and plants and trees.

Disease and insect control are addressed through prevention rather than cure, with diversity of botanical species and preservation of predator habitat, balanced crop nutrition, and attention to light penetration and airflow being key points. Weed control methods, including timing of planting, mulching, and identifying and avoiding the spread of invasive weed species are utilized.

Another very important element of the farm is seeds. Seeds are the key to a successful operation, and maintaining own lines of seeds, year after year is the road to seed security.Biodynamic practices recommend that seeds are collected on certain days when desirable cosmic influence are present and weather conditions are favorable for seed collection. During seed selection, traits such as resilience to disease, drought and water logging are given precedence over yield alone.

Finally, a functional biodynamic farm should be able to feed the people living on it. Growing annual vegetables, perennials, crops, and fruits to steadily feed the families depending on the farm is given top priority.

One key point in Steiner’s talks was that as humans, we have , thanks to our gift of speech and more complicated thought processes, risen above the animal and plant kingdoms and set ourselves apart from the rest of the earth. Now this is considered as a great responsibility by biodynamic farmers, although this power of higher thought process is abused by a large part of the human race. We strive to protect and maintain our corners of the earth with the least negative impact on our environment. If anything, adding a few inches of topsoil while having lived and eaten off a piece of land is a life achievement.


Compost Making is a key activity in any organic farm. Biodynamic composts are made in aerated non-compacted piles to allow flow of air and energies. Permaculture practitioners and other organic farmers are also following this methodology in their food forests and farms across India.

A typical biodynamic compost pile has the following broad elements:

  • AIR layer (branches, twigs etc. to allow excess water to flow out)
  • BROWN Carbon layer (dried leaves, plants and grasses)
  • GREEN Nitrogen layer (fresh grasses, plant matter, medicinal leaves that have elements of pest and fungus control, uncooked kitchen waste, etc.)
  • MANURE layer (cow and bull manure – fresh or semi-decomposed)
  • Lime Powder (from limestone/shell to help generate heat quickly)
  • Wood Ash/Rock Dust (Minerals)
  • Farm Soil (familiarizing the farm bacteria)
  • Biodynamic Preparations (see table)

In addition there are several simple compost preparations such as Liquid Manures, simple cow pat pit (CPP) compost, Tree Pastes and other recipes that can be learnt in detail at a biodynamic training course.


Fermented Cow Manure Stimulates soil life, calcium and nitrogen relationships to foster abundant, balanced life in the soil. Increases microbial activity and encourages root growth.
Silica Made from ground quartz crystals. Enhances light metabolism (photosynthesis) in the leaves and encourage healthy growth and optimal fruiting. Increases uptake of nutrients, improves flavor, and protects plants from diseases.
Yarrow Connects with light energies and improves uptake of trace elements. High in sulphur, which stimulates and detoxes the soil elements, opening it up and allowing it to interact with other substances.
Chamomile Works with digestion and nutrient update. Reduces ammonia in the soil, breaks down organic matter to stabilize nitrogen and increases calcium to create rich stable humus that enhances soil health.
Stinging Nettle (Himalayan) Resolves issues in soils that have an imbalance of iron, magnesium and sulphur. Loosens compacted soils and aids in proper decomposition, allowing the nutrients to release, disperse and be absorbed by plants.
Oak Bark (Himalayan) Influences the calcium and carbon forces to promote good form and harmony to plant growth. Helps regulate undisciplined growth that occurs due to excessive rains and overall moisture, which can bring imbalances and fungal diseases.
Dandelion Stimulates relationship between silica and potassium. Enables plant and soil life to access Silica and allows its influence to be utilized in compost production. Great for fruit setting.
Valerian Improve phosphorus processes and as a result photosynthesis in plants. Stimulates warmth and flowering, and protects blossoms from frost.
Casuarina Tea Balances the water and moisture element to limit and control fungal growth, mould, and mildew issues.






Lots of media articles out there talking about the harmful effects of methane (CH4) on our environment- specifically produced by cows and other cattle that releases their gases into the environment. These gases are categorized as “enteric fermentation”. It’s easy to be carried away by such publicized articles because they sound so sensational. Often there is an agenda attached to such news because some element or idea needs to be promoted.

Let’s look at some simple statistics that show you the overall picture.
Image 1 – Global green house emissions – percentage of methane is 16%. Fossil fuels and industrial processes contribute 65%. (How many governments are encouraging production and sales of hybrid/energy friendly cars at subsidized rates to the common people? How many big industries have been penalized for pollution on this planet in this growth driven era? )

Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions


Image 2 – Within the 16% methane emissions enteric fermentation contributes to 17%. Interestingly a lot of other factors contribute more to it beyond the agricultural realm.

Global Methane Gas Emissions


Image 3 – Take this one with a pinch of salt, but numbers speak here. Some sources say enteric fermentation contributes up to 30% – maybe that’s the latest number or it varies by country. Which still equates to only about 4.8% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions!

About Enteric Fermentation


To look at the more common sense picture, animal and fossil gasses are more easily absorbed into nature than most carbon emissions created by man made fossil fuel and industrial processes. So why focus on the poor animal farts and what to do about it when it contributes to only 3-5% in the overall picture! It’s time media, politicians, and government focus on more important topics for our well being. And as a human, we shall do what’s best for the environment in our realm and take such news with a pinch of salt so that we don’t indirectly support agendas that don’t work for us on the long run. Planet Earth is our responsibility. Love your animals, grow them responsibly, and be peaceful!

We feel like it’s so important to break the farmer stereotype in India. Why can’t a farmer be well to do and live a comfortable life because they work hard, invested their money or inherited their land, well travelled, can be educated – need not have interest in the share market but can talk about the world and economy in general. Also have a social life, friends and parties.

We have been criticized several times for not having the farm open for visitors, having so many number of acres, not answering their 100 questions, not being on google maps, not accepting bargaining, and not making time to talk to them. Just because we have a website and page up, doesn’t mean I have opened my home, farm, and time for public consumption. We work, and our time and efforts are as important as any skilled person. We share information on our farming practices, products that are available and other elements of farm life online. We don’t owe anyone our time and advice unless we have an interest in meeting someone because we share common or business interests. People ask us for free seed material, free advice, sources, samples, contacts and most of the time we happily share them when we have them in abundance and we have nothing to lose by helping someone. But we always have those souls who give us the “why don’t you” advice in return, disappear after they get what they need, and do whatever they want or nothing eventually. We always think “How come anything given for free is never valued? Why did we waste so much time and energy on this person?”

I thought this list was interesting.

A lot of cricketers and politicians out there also love farming. We hope people have a more broader perspective on the lives of people who like to farm. You don’t have to retire or give up on what you are doing to follow a passion of farming. Respect a farmers space and work life like you would respect any other profession.

(A paper written by us for the IFOAM Organic World Congress 2017)

How we can unravel the situation of unsustainable marketing of sustainable produce?

Authors: Anjali Rudraraju, Kabir Cariappa


An overview of the current market situation that handles organic products, the role sustainable farmers play, how involved the consumer needs to be, and the challenges that need to be addressed to ensure a sustainable marketing environment.


Strolling through an high-end organic store in the city, as sustainable farmers we are impressed with the influx of varieties, packaging based on international standards, some things which we can grow locally and process, and some very exotic products that we cant envision to grow. And we fantasize about how sustainable our farm could be if we were paid such prices. India seems to have got a good hold of this market matching with international standards pretty well. There is demand, so the stores cater to the type of consumers who enter this store as well – educated, well aware and socially conscious.

The truth is, these stores more often have an answer about where the produce comes from, which is great! Consumers often ask why the price is higher, to which they get an answer explaining how hard it is to grow and procure organic food in today’s environment.  In addition, the cost of setting up a store, managing employees, maintaining quality standards, high rental prices, fuel prices, free door delivery services – everything adds up to the product price. Can’t entirely blame them for the situation because they are only trying to please the consumers and also make a fair share of profit. Who ends up paying for all these overheads? The consumer on one end, and the farmer on the other end, to ensure that the price stays within limits.

In this process, does the consumer know if the grower/farmer has been paid fairly? What percentages of overheads are added to the product? How far did the farmer have to travel to deliver the product? What percentage of the farmers costs and risks have been covered? Is the farmer encouraged to grow his/her next crop based on this situation and dealing with nature’s gambles? Is there a long term trust built?In most cases the farmer gets probably 50% of that amount into the pocket, sometimes much less, depending on how aware they are about the market trends and prices. The enthusiasm dies when someone is not fairy rewarded for his or her work.

Main Chapter

No we are not trying to push a “poor farmer” or “government not doing enough” type of speech here. It’s not about politics or middlemen domination…the wheel has been churned way too many times. Let’s simplify this….

It’s about asking if the market is organized enough to make sure that the farmer, supplier, and consumer are getting a fair and reasonable deal in the entire transaction and how transparent this process is. The truth is, its really not!

This is despite quality checks, organic certification inspections, and all due diligence as an additional burden in the process for the farmer. Someone told us last year that it’s only fair because farmers get so many benefits such as loans and subsidies…but how many organic farmers actually get loans or insurance on their crops? Oh that depends on their caste though, which is a whole different issue to deal with. Its not just about promoting desi cows and supplying the farmers cheaper ‘natural’ inputs and subsidies for building and maintaining vermi compost pits built with cement. We really don’t need them since we can manage to make our own inputs in a much simpler manner. Substituting with natural inputs and making compost with animal manure is not what defines sustainable farming, that’s just a theoretical part of it to some extent. The scenario begs for a wider understanding of sustainable farming, regenerative elements, animals, and environment in general. Is it too much to ask for a comparative amount of schemes to promote sustainable/organic farming? Equal rights for doing things the right way please!

How many sustainable farmers have a viable agreement with a consumer where they have a guaranteed pickup of the produce they grow and a stable price that will ensure that their costs are met and they make a living through these transactions? It remains a gamble, just like the conventional market.

Simply stating – A sustainable farmer would any day choose getting a guaranteed fair price for the produce and a consumer who he/she can trust and maintain in this market. And have the convenience of selling locally.

Okay, since the above may be tough to achieve because there are so many elements and departments that need to sync up and get their fair share, what if farmers take matter into their own hands and direct sell individually or in a group? Oh, but then customer is king! You have to door deliver, and give them the best price compared to the market out there most times. Then the farmer needs to set up a marketing and delivery department to take care of this, which eats away the time from actually running a farm. Same applies to the weekly/monthly bazaars. We have had days of standing there for hours, a good rewarding experience to build consumer relationships, but how long can you be away from the farm if demand grows? What is more important – managing the farm or making sure the produce sells? Reaching that balance is key.

Core Message and Conclusions:

Here’s how we propose a solution.

To the end of the day, the change needs to initiate from the conscious consumer. Whether it is an individual or a business. Relationships need to evolve, trust needs to be maintained, despite market swings and nature’s moods. That extra step needs to be taken forward in both directions. The consumer needs to understand the process of how their food is grown and have a direct relationship with the farmer. Not a business relationship, but a personal one that is trust-based. Who doesn’t have a communication device these days anyway?

Given the fact that every sustainable farmer understands the need for biodiversity and maintaining balance in the farm environment – he or she can grow a varied amount of crops individually or in a group, based on their holding size. They need to tie up with a group of reasonably local consumers (example:50-100 consumers) based on their farm size. And strike out a fair deal of custom growing local crops for them – pulses, grains, vegetables, oils, spices, dairy, etc. Give the consumers the liberty to visit the farms, meet the people who grow their food and experience the environment. This gives the farmers time to dedicate to the farm and environment while meeting consumer needs in parallel.

The cost of the farm product should be set by the farmer keeping in mind the cost of growing the crop that season, harvesting and processing expenses, packaging and storing expenses, delivery expenses if applicable, a percentage of the farms capital expenses, and a fair margin for the farmers time and efforts so that he is profitable in the end. In addition to this, any damages and losses caused by nature have to be factored in, because where else will this cost be covered? The final price should be set by the farmer each season – irrespective of market trends and surplus/deficit issues, since there is a guaranteed fair price that is agreed upon.

The consumer in turn needs to budget their weekly/monthly grocery expenses, and set aside the agreed amount for the local farmer. Agree upon the prices, timeframe and delivery/pick-up mechanism so it doesn’t become a burden on either side. This should not be too complicated since there are only two parties involved in the transaction and transparency is key here. Have an understanding on how to handle shortages and quality checks. Finding the right long-term match is what really matters here for sustainability.

Given the quick depletion of next generation farming families, small holders and farmers groups who work directly with consumer groups hold the key to fulfill the sustainability needs of families on both ends. No solution is easy to implement. They need to evolve into a sustainable structure that make business sense. And that extra step needs to be taken on both sides for this to become a reality.