Care of Tulasi-devi, Part 2

BY: HAREKRSNA.COM


May 17, CANADA (SUN) — Part four of a seven-part series on worshipping and caring for Srimati Tulasi devi.


IV. Water and Feeding

Proper watering has to be adjusted according to weather, climate, size, soil and the particular nature of the individual Tulasi. (There is no mechanical arrangement, as She is a person). She would rather be just a little bit dry than too wet, but don't let Her soil become hard with a crust and have Her become limp. It is best to water in the morning-- around 8 or 9 o' clock-- as She uses the water for photosynthesis all day long. Her leaves should also be picked at this time as will be especially explained later.

Get a small tea pot, kettle, or anything clean with a spout, and use to water Her as it is easier to control the flow and also easier to maneuver. City water is full of chemicals, but if drawn in a bucket and let sit over night, the chemicals will evaporate out-- be sure the bucket is not a corrosive metal (no aluminum vessel should be used) as that would permeate the water. After the bucket has sat over night, aerate it by pouring it from one bucket to another, allowing it to free fall through the air for a distance. This process gets more of the chlorine out and also allows air into the water. If you can water her with filtered water, this is best.

By using the teapot method you can avoid the danger of over watering, exposing Her roots by washing soil away, and knocking branches trying to water Her. As was said earlier, the watering of Srimati Tulasi-devi is not a mechanical process and will come with practice. Feel the soil by pushing your finger in Her pot. Is She dried out? Then pour slowly, seeing how much She will absorb in just a few seconds. Never leave a puddle of water still above the soil, this means that She is saturated and can not accept more. Balance it so She is just dry on top by the next morning, not still soggy or so dry that She has drooped. If the sun is out, and it is going to be a hot day, She will need more water, and the converse is, if it is a cloudy day She will not need much. Afternoon sun is very intense and taxing, so always check Her again around 2-3 p.m. Every afternoon, spray Her off as explained in the "Diseases" section. At least once a week, water Her until the water drains out the bottom.

Over-watering causes diseases in the soil, mold, faded and curled leaves, rots the soil, and causes root diseases. A sign or over watering is when She turns a pale green and apparently perfectly healthy leaves drop. She will go limp, if under-watered.

She breathes through the soil and over the process of time the soil tends to become packed. This causes uneven water absorption and poor ventilation. The cure is to break up the soil with a fork or a spoon handle. Dig down about 1/2 inch, breaking up and turning over the soil in small clods. This can be done as needed in accordance with the rate it becomes packed. Be cautious of Her roots.

Feeding

There is really no need for artificial feedings. In fact, some foods (certain mixtures of 20-20-20) will actually build up toxins in Her soil and cause great damage. Stick with a little cow manure every 3 or 4 weeks, and once a month a feeding of iron. This, combined with the perpetual replanting in fresh soil, are enough to keep Her in fine health. Try a powdered iron solution:

    1 teaspoon to 2 gallons water
    1/4 cup every 2 weeks

Stay away from chemical fertilizers, as they build up toxins in the soil and slowly deplete it of certain elements. Use cow manure, and a good brand of organic compost is essential. The compost should be cultivated into the soil every few weeks, along with a little manure. Watch out for ground-up bone material in the compost though, which should always be avoided.

V. Manjaris, Flowers and Seeds

Srimati Tulasi-devi belongs to a rare plant family which has what is known as a perfect flower, that is to say, the flower contains both the male and female developments which allows Her to fertilize Herself. In other words, there is no such thing as a male Tulasi.

Tulasi's flowering stalks and clusters are the full blown expression of Her love for Krishna. They are white on Rama Tulasis and purple on the Krishna Tulasis. After the flowers have all bloomed and gone, the pods (each shaped like a little temple) nurture four small round seeds which turn a dark brown when fully matured. Manjaris are very intricate, and because of these fine and fragile features, they require much energy to develop. If your Tulasi is very young or sick, or recently received or repotted, She should not be allowed to develop manjaris-- only a few manjaris in proportion to Her health, size, and age. Better to let Her catch Her breath to bloom for another season, then to let Her attempt to maintain too many manjaris and be weakened and susceptible to diseases.

To gather Them, follow the same procedure as cited below in pruning, only in the case of manjari the buds immediately preceding the actual flowering top are almost always another pair of manjaris which, if left to develop, are a great drain on Her system. Clip below the second manjari buds, 1/16th" above the next developing set of buds. Not all of Her flowers will develop at once, so choose a time when the flowers are about half way up the stalk as that is when there are the most flowers.

Sunlight, and the correct amount of it to be exact, determines whether plants will flower or not. If your Tulasi isn't flowering, try to make some adjustment for more light. (She will flower under 14-16 hours of Gro-lux indoor lights.)



Seeds

Because of the variance factors of climate, age, and other conditions it is impossible to predict the times of Tulasi's flowering periods. We can identify the symptoms and results, however. Some Tulasi plants will produce seed pods one season that are shaped like a small temple, containing four little seeds; another season She produces smaller pods or fruits that also look like a temple, but contain no seeds. As will be explained later, it is not advisable to let Her go to seed unless She is several years old, and in the best of health. Even then, let only a few of the manjaris go to seed.

The process is to let the stalks stay on past the flower-seed pod stage. Watch as the pods drop the flowers and become firm and darker golden. When you look inside the pod and see that the four little seeds are a dark brown, then you know that it is time to pick the seeds. If you observe how She grows, you will see that at every intersection between a leaf and the main stem, there is a small bud developing. Follow the seed stalk down until the next pair of developing buds. The first set of leaves below the seed stalk and the buds sprouting from there are most always going to develop into another pair of manjaris, so rather than drain Her energy it is best to skip down one more joint to the next set of leaves and buds. Nip here, saying the mantra for picking leaves, chanting Hare Krishna, and using sharp surgical scissors. It is best to pick the flowers when they bloom, because letting them go to seed does very much weaken the plant.

Once the seeds are gathered, let them dry a short week or so. Be very careful when handling the seed pods, even when they are on the mother plant, as they are arranged in such a way as to spring out of the pods when shaken. From that point, the seeds may be used to start new seedlings.

Seasonal seeding seems not to occur. Rather, Tulasi flowers constantly, perpetually -- all year round, and more intensely when there's lots of sunshine.

If you are letting Tulasi go to seed, be sure She is in fine health. Seeds may be obtained at the temple so the need is filled; but if you are still desirous of your own seeds, simply let the stalks stay on after the flowering stage. The pods will become firm and brown. Look up into the pod and when the four little seeds have turned dark brown, the seeds are ready. Simply nip the stalk as mentioned in the section above, being careful not to shake or jar the pod stalk, as that will send the seeds flying in every direction. Let the stalk dry out a little if the seeds are still a little bit green (better to wait and let them mature on the mother plant). For planting, follow the instructions under said section, being very sure to remove the seeds from the pod before planting as They will have trouble sprouting otherwise.

She has two or three flowering seasons (depending on weather and if She is in a greenhouse), the one which produces the best seeds is during the summer months of June, July and August. The other times, She develops shorter stalks with smaller flowers. These may or may not produce seeds; generally they make like a small fruit which dries up and produces no seeds. (Manjaris have a blissful aroma and if the flowering stalks are put into Krishna's water or some cooling drink, it gives it a most transcendental f1avor.)


VI. Pruning

In the matter of plucking Her tops, this should be done as a regular procedure-- not all at once, but gradually as She develops. The situation is, that as She grows She has a tendency to become top heavy, that is to say, a long stem that cannot support the leaf growth on top. The result is that She droops and bends. The remedy is to simply pluck the topmost developing bud, every time it has grown about 3 or 4 joints. If you observe carefully, you will see that whenever you nip the top bud, the next lower set of buds develops. The result is that Her upward surge is slowed down, and the energy used for growing up is re-channeled to developing the lower buds and strengthening Her stem. In this way She grows fuller and bushier. The procedure is simple: Take the scissors and see if you can nip the center of the very topmost bud cluster. Most of the time this little bud will snap right off, if done in the correct manner. If you have ever snapped wire-- the way to do it is bend the wire one way, and then bend it back the exact opposite way You don' t twist it or turn it. But bend all the way one way and then all the way back; the other way. Observe Her structure and try to understand how She is growing and which development follows which before you start to prune or nip Her. If you look closely you will see that the little buds are little leaves that haven't unfolded yet, like hands held together with palms touching as if in prayer. As they open, a new bud of unfolded leaves is revealed. If you trace down the unopened central bud you will see where the bud is connected to a little stem and where that little stem joins the next pair of buds. Nip right there; low enough to net the whole bud (if you only get part it causes pain and mutation and high enough to not mar the up and coming buds.

Always try the plucking method first as it is easiest and safest. Let the bud develop enough so that you can clearly: distinguish the various parts. Don't be in a hurry for doing it right is the important part. If you can't distinguish and time is of the essence as with a diseased Tulasi, go down to the first easily distinguishable intersection and nip Her there. Please try to avoid it for the more you cut off the greater the shock to Her system.

Beyond that, pruning is not to be done except in the most exceptional circumstances. Cutting a leaf or a flower stalk is usually not considered pruning, but is rather a necessary thing for gathering to offer to the Krsna. To pick off a manjari, seed pod,mosaic leaf or infected leaves is one thing, but one should be most hesitant to cut off branches, unless the need is dire. Pruning simply for aesthetics is out of the question.

The only times which necessitate cutting Her graceful limbs are for picking manjaris to keep Her from becoming too top heavy, and removing those parts too diseased to be saved. Please be gentle, never cut Her without serious contemplation and if at all possible, approach a devotee who has had some gardening experience with developed knowledge and sensitivity.

If you carefully observe Her Transcendental Form, you will see that where each leaf joins the main stem there is a bud developing. Look down Her stalk from where you desire to prune, checking at each leaf-- stem intersection for two healthy buds, one on each side of the stem. Cut about 1/8" to 1/16" above the joint, using a small pair of needle-nose scissors (small for maneuverability). Always be sure the scissors are sharp so that they disturb Her as little as possible. Keep them just like pujari paraphernalia-- only for Srimati Tulasi-devi's use.

On the last visit Srila Prabhupada made to New Nabadwip, the Tulasi plants on either side of the temple gateway had grown overly large -- about 7 feet tall and 4 or 5 feet in diameter. They had bushed out into the walkway, thus closing the entranceway except for about a foot and a half. The devotees had repeatedly tied them back, but still They closed in again so that a person had to turn sideways and move between them. As Prabhupada walked between Them, with only enough space for Him to pass, he was asked what could be done. He smiled and said, "You cannot cut them. Don't live, don't die." He laughed. He later send a letter from India saying that in this case, They could be trimmed back. Only then did the devotees do so, with reluctance.



Homepage


The Sun News Editorials Features Sun Blogs Classifieds Events Recipes PodCasts

About Submit an Article Contact Us Advertise HareKrsna.com

Copyright 2005, HareKrsna.com. All rights reserved.