This week has seen more preparation of the vegetable beds by the landscape team.

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We have also been planting up more seeds into beds and trays. The upside of planting into trays is being able to monitor and control them from the more negative impact of the flooding water irrigation regime, which can be quite harsh on emergent seedlings. The downside is that they need watering twice a day but this isn’t unusual for smaller containers in any climate and has been easy enough to achieve so far. I am wondering about seeing if there are any residential children who may be interested in a spot of light Sunday / weekend seedling watering for when I am not here. The seedlings will be potted on or transplanted soon enough.

It was school planting and gardening afternoon on Saturday towards the gardening competition, which was boisterous and productive. I prepared an A4 sheet of very simple garden criteria for each classroom to have. Karma walked me around the classrooms and I distributed a few little plants and seeds as well as talked about the children’s plans for their gardens. I look forward to watching the gardens develop but it will be Stuart who will judge them later on in the year.

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Basset from JAINS also arrived on Saturday for an initial analysis of remaining works to the irrigation system. Mathura, Tsetan and I walked around the site with him assessing the installation and we also discussed the pump installation with Angdus. Basset did not seem to think there were any great hurdles and estimated a fully operational system within a month.

See what can be done in one year below.

The Plant Nursery Spring 2013, first fruit trees               

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The Plant Nursery Spring 2014, fruit trees blossoming         

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The tree stock in the nursery is coming into leaf and following a few light rainy periods everything is looking a little cleaner and less dusty than usual.

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The week has been focused on beginning to purchase seeds and flower and vegetable seedlings and plant them into the nursery or distribute them to the house mothers and classrooms around the school. We have tried to buy alfalfa three times now from the agricultural department in Leh but have had the misfortune to arrive at just the wrong time to get the right chap to give us the ticket to take away some of this precious commodity.

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I met with Angdus to discuss remedial and new construction works for the play area. We looked at a variety of different tyre-based features that should be easy enough to build. This structure will be somewhat dependant on how many tyres we can source in the meantime.

I arranged for a children’s planting day in the classroom gardens for the garden competition.

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Tsetan and Ritzen collected the willow for the spine on Monday morning and set about planting it for the rest of the week.

Wednesday was a residents gardening afternoon and there was a whirlwind few hours when the children and house mothers set about digging the soil in the Spine and planting it with (French) marigold seed around the grasses.

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Watering seems to be under control but it is time consuming and requires some thought to get it all done especially as we begin to plant up more and more bays in the nursery and it gets warmer and warmer. I have been planting more seeds with a view to increasing flower and seed stock and have been experimenting with a mix of planting in containers in the office and in the outdoor soil bays. I am also experimenting with creating some permeable shade (and dog proofing) in the outdoor bays using the dead  poplar and willow stems and buckthorn. It’s much warmer now and the second polythene roof of the polytunnel has been taken down.


The poplar and willow replant has continued.

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The majority of the vegetable beds in front of the plant nursery have been dug over with manure and reshaped into bays in preparation of planting them up, below left. I have planted some more flower seedlings and some of the previously planted seedlings are beginning to come through, which is jolly exciting. There’s sunflower, English marigold and a few as yet un-identified species.

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Many of the residences are preparing their flower beds in advance of the garden competition. It is great to see that many are looking really very neat.

This week has mostly been about planting poplar to replace the dead stock. We have re-planted in the plant nursery, at the top of the residential spine, at the visitor centre and the long strip adjacent to Rancho's cafe as planned.


I am working on a watering rota to discuss with Tsetan as there is now a fair amount to manage ahead of JAINS arrival to get the drip irrigation system tested and commissioned. A few gaps in the plant nursery fence have been fixed to try to prevent dog incursion. If this works it will avoid needing a whole new fence. The knock-on effect is that the kitchen green waste isn’t getting eaten by the dogs but it is getting a bit smelly so we will need to think about that. We have got some great shelves in the landscape office and the skeleton of a small table I pulled out of the scrap heap has had a new top put on to it. Everybody wants to use the Landscape Office now.



The Poplar cuttings arrived for planned planting next week. We have put them in the water storage basin ahead of planting. They were almost immediately a prop for lots of birds, which was lovely to see and hear.


Tsetan and I went to Nimo nursery on Wednesday to collect some more apricot trees, We managed to get 120 trees. This brings our fruit trees total to about 200.
Apricot trees

The plan was to take three days to plant these trees into the nursery and to mulch them and clear up. We got 100 in by the end of Friday, which is pretty good work, especially as it is hard work and although the soil in the nursery has been worked previously there are lots of rocks, some very big, to dig out, and there are other watering duties to do.


I arrived on Saturday morning to discover that the polythene cover to the large polytunnel had blown off in the high winds the previous night and knocked a bunch of pots off with it. It looked like quite a big job to fix but all of a sudden a load of children and their house-mother appeared and made very light work of it in about 5 minutes.

I arrived into Leh safely and with all my luggage and limbs intact. We were taken to the Botho Guesthouse in Shey and rested up on Friday.


Over the week I have met with most of the construction team and school staff and everybody has been really very friendly.

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Sadly there is a large loss of trees that were planted last season.

Tsetan showed me around the nursery which is clean and tidy and we had a good walk around site when he showed me areas that he thought needed attention – such as some willow to pollard and reposition and a few soil level changes and plant losses. He talked with me about the planting season for trees, flowers and food and we talked about the season ahead.

Other tasks completed this week include seed collection across site so now we have a healthy supply of ornamental seed.

We have cleared the front nursery beds in preparation (I hope) of planting more fruit tree stock. Lots of spinach was harvested and sold to the kitchen.


Wednesday, 04 September 2013 09:45

Dragon Garden Inauguration

His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa was invited by His Eminence Thuksey Rinpoche, Chairperson of the Druk Padma Karpo School, to inaugurate the "Dragon Garden", and to watch a series of performances by the school children and a presentation by the landscape architects from UK.

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The nursery greenhouse painted and prepared for the visit of His Holiness

The imminent arrival of His Holiness and the ADC event at the end of the week brought about a renewed energy and enthusiasm on site this week.

Positive work has continued in the nursery. We have painted the gates and both greenhouses. We have also buried all unnecessary surface irrigation pipework. The store room, shelves and pathways have been cleared and tidied. Signs were made for the compost bays and I also labelled the vegetables and fruit trees.

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Compost bays covered and labelled for ADC event

The Blessing and Inauguration of the Dragon Garden went ahead incredibly well. I had organised for His Holiness to plant an Apple tree in the plant nursery with two of the children to mark the event. His Holiness was very very interested in what had been achieved in the Plant Nursery and what the plans were for the future.

Both His Eminence and His Holiness also delivered speeches which were fully supportive of the work which is happening towards the establishment of the Dragon Garden and implementation of the Masterplan. The evening was rounded off with a very well prepared dinner in the dining hall.

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Figure 1: Clearing works in the classroom area and backfilling of irrigation trenches

Arlene and I finished off the painting of the inside of the walls in the playground area. I have had several conversations with Mohua (the art teacher) about painting dragon murals on these walls. We have agreed that we will do this with the children in September after the ADC.

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Figure 2: Red cabbage in the plant nursery

Tsetan and Dorje continue to look after the plants and vegetables very well and the whole place looks incredibly good for its first planted season.

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Figure 3: More evidence of healthy vegetable production in the plant nursery.

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Work in the adventure playground with St Christopher School

This week we have had the benefit of several pupils from St Christopher school in Hertfordshire who helped in the playground for two days. St Christopher School children assisted Arlene, Tsetan and Paddy with the task of backfilling the irrigation trenches in this area. We were also able to start to paint the internal walls with whitewash.

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Upper level of treehouse completed

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Arlene Decker (landscape volunteer) inspecting an irrigation system manhole

Construction this week has simply involved 'mending' with a small amount of construction in the form of building the manholes for the valves for the irrigation system. I was very pleased about the manholes given the exposed nature of the valves to children and to the sand/soil gradually falling into the trenches and covering the mechanism. We have not lost anymore plants this week. The trees and plants that have 'taken' continue to develop and flourish in the harsh climate and the housemothers are watering which is helping hugely. We are looking for local plants to cultivate on site.

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Wild Aquilegia photographed at Chilling

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