Socially responsible

Gardening with Kapil: Let the roots breathe!

Learn about the right potting mix and allow your plants to breathe freely!

Learn about the right potting mix and allow your plants to breathe freely!

By Kapil Mandawewala

morguefile.in1-lsLast week, I discussed the importance of moisture in your soil. I’ve found that almost everyone who’s kept a plant knows that they need to water it. What’s lesser known is that the roots need aeration just as much. It’s a common sight to see hard compacted soil in people’s “gamlas” or pots. Roots struggle to breathe in such a dense medium. Do you find it fun riding on a crowded, tightly-packed metro? You can neither breathe, nor move—that’s exactly how your plants feel!

morguefile.inGET TO THE ROOT

Our well-intentioned “maalis” or gardeners try to ‘fix’ this problem by doing “gudaee”, gently loosening the top layer of soil with a “khurpee”. While “gudaee” is useful in the short-term, I don’t recommend it because it disturbs the subsoil microbes and your baby plant’s roots. “Gudaee” doesn’t get to the root of the problem, which is soil structure. Your soil needs to be crumbly and granular, soft to the touch, and easily penetrable. It needs to be a comfortable place for roots to do their work. Now imagine a “gamla” full of bread crumbs—that’s the texture your soil needs to attain!


How do you make your soil fluffy and aerated? I can go into a lot of detail about this, but for now the easiest way to make great a potting mix is to use the ratio: 1/3 soil | 1/3 coco peat | 1/3 khaad (manure). And throw in a handful of sand for good measure. There you have it—your roots can finally breathe freely!

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(Sajeev Fresh, founded by Kapil Mandawewala, is an environmentally-friendly, socially responsible business that creates farms and products for the earth and its people. Its services include planning, design, implementation and management of organic/biodynamic farms, gardens, compost programs and edible landscapes. For more, visit



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