The amla orchard
We have two fields which up to now we have called ’the bottom land’ which we think originally were used to grow rice. We have tried to grow a variety of things there in the in the last eight or nine years which has included rice and casuarina. Nothing we have done has been successful mainly because of the increasingly bad flooding which happens here every monsoon. The bunds were broken and let increasing amounts of water through to these fields which got very badly flooded. We decided to plant an amla orchard here. Sometimes known as ’Indian gooseberries’ amla is an indigenous tree that can cope with the climate and produces fruit that is high in vitamins and minerals and much used in Ayurvedic medicine.
We decided that the first job that needed to be done was to mend the bunds and make a system for the monsoon water. We also planned to dig out a large pond with a channel and overflow to a larger pond behind the Buddha Garden fence.
We had quite a few problems in the beginning with both the bobcat and the JCB finding the soil too dry. Eventually, however the soil became wet enough and we were able to dig the pond, bunds on the fields and the holes for the amla trees.
Above the JCB is making bunds on the fields and below the JCB is making a start on the pond.
Amla trees are very delicious to cows and to protect them while they are growing we built a temporary fence which, by the time it falls down, the amlas will have grown sufficiently large that the cows will not be able to destroy them.
We managed to get all the trees planted by the beginning of the monsoon and the first test of our work came on October the 26th (which happened to be Diwali) when we had huge rains that continued for over a week. We found that the pond diverted the water as we had hoped and that despite the pond being very full the bunds did not break.
Unfortunately, however, the pond the other side of the Buddha Garden fence overflowed and there was like a river along the path which ran into the amla orchard from the side.
So despite all our best efforts the amla orchard flooded in this very exceptional rain.
Since then the rain has stopped and we found that, unlike other years, the fields drained relatively quickly. So far it seems that only one amla has died and even that may recover. They are tough plants and we hope that whatever the rest of the monsoon may bring that they will be able to survive.