Vegetables have a short lifespan compared to fruit crops. By making use of modern technologies and inputs, their lifespan can perhaps be extended to say about a year.
But if there is a simple method of growing vegetables throughout the year, without any costly gadgets, modern technologies, or costly inputs, it is definitely worth a try for the farmers.
Commonly called the ‘Bread sandwich method,’ once the soil is made ready and the suggested practices followed, one need not work on the soil for the second time. They can go on sowing and reaping, all through the year, according to Dr. G. Nammalvar, organic scientist.
But why call it the sandwich method? “We are used to eating sandwich in which vegetable or egg is inserted between two layers of bread. The same method is applied in gardening for a better yield.”
“Here, the top soil and sub soil are kept separated by inserting compost between the two layers of soil. Charcoal can also be inserted for better performance,” explained Dr. Nammalvar.
According to him, soil health forms the basis for the production of nutritious food from our garden.
“By feeding the micro (soil) organisms and maintaining soil moisture we can harvest maximum solar energy through photosynthesis. For the application of this principle we adopt sandwiching of soil.” The top soil is loose and contains more micro and macro organisms than the sub soil. The roots of plants, whether it is wheat or radish go up to a depth of more than 60 cm into the soil.
So it is important that the soil is healthy and the micro organisms live till a depth of about 60 centimetres. At the same time farmers must ensure that the top soil is not buried deep.
“To achieve this result, as a first step, we remove the top soil and keep it separate. Then we split the sub soil. In the third stage, a thick layer of well digested compost is added over the split sub soil. Finally, the top soil is replaced over the compost, said Dr. Nammalvar.
“This is called as soil sandwiching. Radish and greens can be sown on the edges. Vegetables with wider canopy such as tomato, brinjal, lady’s finger and chilli have to be allowed wider spacing.
“It is wise to avoid mono culture. Because plants of the same family compete with each other for light, water and nutrition.” While sowing the seeds, it is advisable for farmers to do relay cropping. Relay cropping means sowing or planting a seed or a plant before the withering of the previous one.
At the end of the harvest cut the vegetative parts and put back over the soil. In order to get better quality and more quantity let apply organic inputs.
By experience one can understand better combinations. One thumb rule is to see that one legume crop (e.g., cowpea) is sown adjacent to every non-legume (non-pulse) group plants.
The bed can be of any length. But it is advisable to keep the width to about 120cm. A bed size of about 1.2mX7.5m will fulfil the vegetables need of a single person (that is 200 gm of vegetables every day).
“The plants should be watered using sprinkler or rose cane or a hose with shower to create a rain effect. Wastewater used for washing the floors and utensils can also be used. It is better to water the plants during evening,” said Nammalvar.
By adopting this practice a family of five persons can grow vegetables all through the year in 25 cents, or quarter of an acre of land, to ensure a certain minimum income throughout. At present there are about 2,500 farmers all over India who are practising it.
For information on training, readers can contact Dr. G. Nammalwar at email: firstname.lastname@example.org or mobile: 9442531699.