On the edge of Chota Tingrai Tea Estate, at the meeting of the river and forest, our workers are busily planting our newest organic tea section, Manohar Pukur 9 (MP-9). Eventually, these 5 hectares will produce tons of our organic Assam black tea annually.
And I say eventually, because founding a new tea section takes many years. It comprises of four main stages- Land Preparation, Planting, Young Tea, and Mature tea.
Over the coming months we will check in regularly with MP-9 so you can watch the tea grow with us. On this blog, we want to share with you how we prepare the land for tea planting.
Step 1 - Uprooting
First, we uprooted (removed) the old tea. While uprooting tea always makes us sad, these bushes had long, productive lives (over 80 years) and have become quite frail. Over half of the bushes in MP 9 had passed away from natural causes.
Watch the excavator rip out the old bushes
Step 2 - Land Rejuvenation
After we uprooted the old tea, we left MP-9 fallow for a few months. Starting in March 2016, we planted green manure plants like mimosa and crotoleria. These green manure plants fix nitrogen and other nutrients in the soil. Additionally, we periodically harvested the green manure plants for making compost.
This process for land rejuvenation ensures that the soil will provide a healthy environment is ready to support the new tea plants and provide a healthy soil environment for the next 60-80 years.
Step 3 - Land Preparation
Tea cultivation in Assam requires very specific land preparation. Unlike other tea regions, Assam is relatively flat. Since heavy rains are common, we go to great pains to ensure that the land drains properly.
First, we harrowed MP 9. Then we leveled it using the ‘leveler’. The leveler is a tractor mounted equipment that sweeps over the harrowed land, to make the surface smooth and level.
Leveled land ready for planting tea
Once we completed leveling, the local hydrologist conducted a survey to mark the drains. We then carved out the drains with our excavator, and tractor mounted digging machines. Per tea practice, we cut the main drains 6 feet deep, 5 feet wide; feeder drains 2 feet wide and 3 feet deep, and some smaller channel drains 1 foot wide and 1 foot deep.
After we completed the drains, we leveled off the blocks of land between each drain to spread any extra earth excavated.
Fresh cut drain
Finally, we fenced of the area with “goat proof” fencing to keep the livestock out! And we were ready for planting.
Check out next week’s blog to see how we actually plant the tea bushes.