Jungle Botanical Gardens – Cola
Khaama Kethna is blessed with beautiful forested gardens which cover the retreat centre grounds. Panta the custodian is truly passionate about plants, gardening and watching them blossom and grow. He has spent many years carefully cultivating and collecting a plethora of tropical flowers and ornamental plants and the centre gardens are filled with a variety of fruit and flowering trees, vegetables, herbs and medicinal plants.
Around 12km down the road in the wild and uninhabited jungle valleys of Cola is the other sister botanical food forest dedicated full time to growing organic produce for the centres onsite restaurant ‘Khaana Khao’. This other garden is spread over 12 acres of lush, fertile and s untamed jungle and is referred to as a Jungle Botanical Gardens or food forest. This is a core feature of the centre as it ensures that at least some of the food served and consumed is fresh, organic and harvested by the growers caring and loving hands.
PHILOSOPHY OF THE JUNGLE GARDENS:
“What is good and what is right is to be natural”– as we come from the nature that is provided from the earth.
The key philosophy behind the farm stems from being drawn and compelled to live a natural life by eating natural produce and living as close as possible to the earth from which we come from. We are ultimately just a walking talking piece of earth and ultimately what we do to all of life we do to our own life and vice versa. Therefore taking responsibility for what we do to the environment through our daily living practices and by working in harmony and balance with our natural environment is what is good and right for the whole of life. The idea is to create a sanctuary or micro bio-diverse sustainable eco system where all forms of life can coexist and live in harmony offering a possibility to preserve the indigenous species, in their natural habitat while still providing us with adequate produce.
The native lush jungle environment of the wild valleys of Cola provided by Mother Nature is the source, foundation and inspiration behind the concept and creation of the growing and gardening projects at Khaama Kethna. The concept is to work in tune and harmony with the natural landscape and ecosystem to create a food forest, where there is a balanced and versatile array of plants and growing methods employed. It is developing the art of free flowing agriculture by attempting to connect and harmonize the agriculture with the native land and ecology so that both fit in and symbiotically compliment and support one another. We manage, maintain and conserve the land by endeavouring to consciously implement and replicate the local forest systems and synergistically integrate the farming practices and planting into that structure.
LANDSCAPE FEATURES & BASIC PRACTICES:
The 12 acres of land is dense subtropical woodland located in a deep natural valley and as a result the soil is extremely rich and fertile. Interspersed with the undisturbed native trees are a surplus of tall coconut trees, fruit and nut trees and a plethora of tropical flowers. On the flatter areas sitting in the bottom of the valley are several planting beds for a majority of the vegetables and some herbs, salads and leafy veg. Some of the beds are provided with sun shades and netted coverings for protection from the ever impending co-inhabitants. Complete with a fresh spring water stream and spring filled reservoir it has its own self sufficient and mineral rich water supply.
A variety of different practices are used to simultaneously to conserve and creatively use the diminishing land and its resources that the earth can now provide. To produce food consistently and continuously in order to have adequate provisions both seasonal and annual crop planting is implemented. We compliment and utilize the invaluable traditional tribal knowledge and planting methods of our local workers along with modern farming principles such as permaculture to plant indigenous species and grow a wide variety of local produce. Native plants are the most practical to grow as these are suitably adapted to the natural environment and conditions.
Soil is a living organism and maintaining and feeding the soil correctly is essential for growing nourishing produce by feeding the plants all its essential requirements. The nutrients are taken from the soil by the plant in order to form the final edible product and those nutrients need to be replenished again in order to preserve and give the correct care to the earth you are utilizing. Therefore a large focus is placed on giving back the nutrients that are taken during the growing process through planting fertilizing crops known as ‘green manure’ and following practices and principles that benefit the soil and environment including composting using the recycled agriculture and forest waste from the property. Protecting and serving the soil also significantly increases crop yields and the nutritional value of the final product.
Gardening in a hot and sunny climate the priority is to keep the soil and the living micro organisms cool and protected from the harmful extreme heat. Keeping the soil covered through ‘mulching’ which is simply using old leaves collected from the property in layers to adequately cover to top soil in order to keep the base soil temperatures low. This helps keep the plants at a comfortable temperature and ensures all the important and necessary micro-organisms that live in the soil are protected and can do their very effective job of converting the necessary essential nutrients into plant food and retaining moisture. Such organisms play an essential role in the food chain, by providing the plants all their requirements to produce healthy and well balanced and nourishing produce. Judicious and minimal use of water is practiced so that the plants get the best benefit and there is good retention and no leaching of the essential soil nutrients.
ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS & PRODUCTIVITY:
As we do our best to be self-sustainable, which is becoming more and more of a challenge as we have to deal with sharing more and more with the wildlife such as monkeys, rodents, peacocks, wild pigs and a variety of birds due to their food chain and resources getting limited as humanity encroaches more and more on the limited natural forested land available. We have to now give back to the earth and its creatures from which we have exploited and have surrender to the unavoidable fact that a major portion of the harvest has to be shared with the jungles wildlife. Unless one wants to implement destructive methods and which then cause another chain of damaging effects to the delicate ecosystem as it is time to start to give more back to the Earth rather than only taking and exploiting limited resources.
Some of the produce that is being grown at the gardens include:
Fruits: Coconuts, mangoes, kokum berries, wild cherries, cocao beans, hog apples, cashew fruits and nuts, jackfruit, papaya, bananas, chickos, pineapples.
Herbs: Lemongrass, tulsi, coriander, basil, mints, peppermint wild coriander, chillies, brami.
Spices: turmeric, ginger, pepper, cinnamon, all spice, clove, nutmeg.
Green Leafy Vegetables: A variety of salad leaves including lettuce, Amaranth (spinach) red & green, moringa and many other local native ‘jungle’ greens.
Other Vegetables: Beans including runner & yard long, Variety of Tubers, potatoes, pumpkins, gourds, eggplant, corn and cluster beans.