KOCHI: Kerala is slowly but steadily moving towards organic farming, as the demand for organically grown food is increasing. However, the future of organic farming is vested with individuals and households. Only by growing veggies at every household can the state finally become truly organic.
However, farming is not easy. One of the major problems faced by a person who wants to set up a vegetable garden of their own is the continuous supply of water. This problem has been the topic of many research works and scientists have come up with many methods.
The Water Resources Department a few years back had come up with a method called wick farming. ‘Thirinana’ or wick farming has today become popular all over Kerala since it is cheap and requires less effort. Even part-time gardeners can satisfy their hobby with the help of this method.
What is wick irrigation?
In this method, a wick is used to water the plants and keep the soil in the grow bag moist. The wick is made of glass wool and nylon net. It is 30 cm long. A hole is made on the underside of the grow bag and a wick is pushed through it. The other end of the wick is then placed inside a plastic bottle or a PVC pipe of 3 to 4 inches.
A two-litre bottle of water or soft drinks is usually used in this method. “Through wick irrigation water gets directed to the root of the plants, enabling it to absorb as much as it needs. The technique used is similar to that in the kerosene lamps. The whole concept of wick farming is based on the capillary action of the wick. It also gives helps solve the waste problem posed by the empty pet jars,” said Dr Babu Mathew, senior principal scientist, Centre for Water Resources Development and Management.
Another advantage of wick irrigation is that neither does the soil get displaced nor the fertilisers leached from the grow bag. The terrace or any surface where the cultivation is being done will be clean and free of moisture. Apart from these positive points, the method is more convenient for use in terraces and high rise buildings.
Nowadays plants can be watered using plastic bottles with the help of ‘wick irrigation’ method. “If a family is travelling, the wick will keep the plants watered for a couple of days. If its summer, the water may last for lesser time than usual. Climatic conditions are major factors that have to be taken into consideration during wick farming,” said Satheesh Kumar, one of the pioneer practitioners of wick farming.
“Plants like curry leaves and coriander which normally come doused with chemical fertilizers at the markets can be easily grown at home. Given that they are key ingredients in Kerala cuisine, its high time we came up with ways to cultivate them,” added Satheesh
Wick farming is spreading across Ernakulam. Success stories have prompted this change. Selling wicks is also a profitable new business. Each wick costs around Rs 15 to Rs 20 and are made in households mostly by women. They earn up to Rs 10,000 a month.