John Grams/ Avantika Jalan
Planting Organic Assam Tea
Updated: Aug 20, 2020
Last week we shared how we made MP 9 ready for planting tea. Now let’s see how we plant the bushes themselves.
We started planting MP 9 on February 10, 2017. We have already planted 57,000 bushes. We still have about 10,000 bushes to finish.
Planting a subsection of tea comprises three steps.
First, a pair of workers measure out the rows with special chain. The ensure that the rows have the proper space by precisely staking the ends of the planting chain. They then drop a bit of dolomite at the meeting of each chain link to mark the planting locations. The links of the chain are precisely measured to guarantee that these marks properly line up with the correct planting location.
We plant 13,400 plants per hectare, 2 feet x 3 feet from each other. This spacing ensures healthy growth of the plants, and that a continuous table forms once the bushes mature.
Then a tractor mounted auger machine bores the pits. Each pit is 1.5 feet deep, and 8 inches wide. This depth ensures the root system establishes well, and the plants are firmly planted.
Then a pair of women prepare each pit, by mixing the excavated soil with amendments. Since MP 9 is an organic tea section, we add only organic material to the pit - compost, rock phosphate and wood ash.
Compost and soil amendments for planting
The women then gently set each sapling into their pits while gently burying the roots with the mix of topsoil and compost. The women then dance around each sapling to make sure that the soil is well compacted. Then they mulch and water each plant. Mulching helps keep the soil around the plant moist, as well as inhibiting weed growth.
Once we have completed the planting of MP 9, our focus will shift managing its watering and weeding.
An innovation we have made in planting MP 9 is the installation of water pumps. Due to climate change, rain in Assam is becoming more erratic during the cold season. While mature tea sections can handle these extended dry periods, young tea cannot. Therefore, we have added these pumps to guarantee that our young tea gets enough water.
While it will take four years for MP 9 to reach maturity and start providing tea for our Mana Organics Tea Bags and Loose Leaf, we will continue to check in on the section’s growth so you can watch it grow.