The most important and fundamental principle of Tulasi care is regular and perpetual care. She is a pure devotee, and Her requirements are few and simple. She simply requires Her own quarters with direct sunlight, where She can grow without disturbances and interruptions. She should be watered at approximately the same time and Her leaves should also be collected at a regular time.
Mornings between 7:30 and 9:00 are the best for both purposes. The most essential ingredient is one individual devotee to take the responsibility of tending Her. This means that this devotee is conscious of Tulasi throughout the day– checking that Her door is shut, that She has sufficient water, that Her fan is on, that Her leaves are being offered regularly and fresh. In this way She is nursed through the day and night. It is not so much time consuming– but rather 1/2 hour to 40 minutes (depending on the number of Tulasis) in the morning and then utilizing the few spare moments throughout the day. If this is done regularly and an orderly fashion She will bloom and flourish.
I. Housing, Light, Temperature and Humidity
If you are building a greenhouse, or something for shelves, plaster grating, which is a thick wire mesh, If supported with several wood braces, is first class. As you work, you wil1 see that wood shelves will warp and are hard to keep clean, while open spaced mesh allows the dirt and water to fall right through.
If Tulasi is housed in a greenhouse or enclosed protection, and you find it getting too hot inside, try a whitewash of lime and water on the roof. This inexpensive treatment will filter out much of the heat but leave the necessary rays. Be sure to rotate Her if She is in a window, so that She will grow symmetrically.
It has been found that She pines for sun– Tulasi grown indoors after 8 or 10 months do not fair as well as those given real sunlight. (Krishna says, “I am the light of the sun and the moon.”) Greenhouse are not all that expensive to build. $60 (Keep in mind this was written in 1970) can build a really first-class house that can accommodate up to 60 2-foot Tulasis, and adaptations can always be made as to weather, climate, building materials on hand, and the number of Tulasi’s involved. Porches, arbors, fire escapes, and roof tops can al1 be modified to fit the need.
If indoor lighting is unavoidable (actually some arrangement can always be made), then fluorescent tubes and fixtures (each holding at least 2 bulbs) can be suspended over and around Her. The lights must be special indoor full spectrum plant tubes, not your ordinary white fluorescent tube. The plant lights are effective only within a 6″ radius, after which they drop to a potency of 0. Because of this, Tulasis that are grown indoors become “leggy”, with long stems, thin stalks, only a few leaves, and a clump of leaves at the top, near the light. Because the lights have such a short range of feet, the leaves receive no real juice, and therefore fade and fall off. The result is a weak and top heavy Tulasi. To alleviate the situation, place one set of fixtures over Her (as close as possible as She will not be burnt unless actually touching for a period of time), and then bank two more fixtures, one on each side, giving you a total of 3 fixtures, totaling at least 6 tubes.
If done in this way, there will be a complete aura of light around Her. Foil can then be used to provide a hood, catching all the reflected light and focusing it on Her. Set the lights on some sort of pulley or adjustable chain affair, and in this way the lights can be raised as She grows. Please, no sun lamps.
We learn in Krishna Book that at the time of death, the temperature in the body rises and then falls; the falling causes the total devastation of the life symptoms. Similarly, in the colder regions there is a large variance factor of temperature between night and day. Too much variation in this field will cause color disfigurations. Sometimes one whole branch will just wilt up and go limp while the remainder of Her transcendental form will remain fresh and green. This is caused by that one branch being too close to an outer wall of the house and thereby exposed to the cold, or being too close to the heater, or a pot that was watered late in the afternoon and the water in the soil froze, or not enough water and She dried out. There are so many options, so always be aware of changes in weather and try to retain a balance of water, light and heat.
Keep a thermometer in Her room, having it in the shade at the average level of the Tulasis on Their shelves. When She is first moved into a room or house, station several thermometers at different levels and angles, as heat will not be evenly distributed. (Some corners catch more sun, heat rises, air doesn’t circulate regularly, there are so many variables– so seek them out and rectify.
Humidity refers to the amount of moisture in the air, and this will change with the weather. The process for maintaining a balance will depend on the number of Tulasis you have the benediction of tending. In Hawaii, where a greenhouse with gravel for a floor was used, all that was necessary was to run the hose on the rocks for a few minutes every morning and the problem is solved. In St. Louis, a strong table with 8″ sides on it all the way around was lined with plastic and filled it with perlite. This is a very inexpensive sponge rock which absorbs and holds water. From the level of the rocks to the top or sides on the table was around 2″ and across this were placed thick slats, placed 1″ apart. On the slats, the Tulasi pots were set. Water was poured into the enclosed sponge rocks whenever necessary as the weather evaporated the water. This arrangement of having the Tulasis with air circulation under Their pots is first class for growth and allows the water to evaporate around Them for equal distribution. if you have only a few Tulasis, then simply take a large tub or pan, fill it with perlite rocks, place slats over the top, and place Her Divine Grace on the slats. Water pots simply left around the room or on top of a heater or radiator are ineffectual. If She is not getting enough moisture, the symptoms are that She wi11 become a little limp, and brown spots and smudges wi1l appear at the tip and along Her center veins in the leaves. One cure is to apply the above method and if that is already in practice, try this. Make a frame of coat hanger or other thick wire over Her pot and Blissful Self. Cover the frame with a tinted plastic bag. (No extra endeavor needed for tinting, simply purchase a brown or tan trash 1iner bag at the store. The reason for the tint is to filter out some of the harsh sun rays (if you don’t, the enclosed heat will probably kill Her. Then place moist sponges inside the covered frame on the ground level and also at the top. The moisture will evaporate and add to the humidity. Leave Her in shaded light or only morning sun.
II. Soil and Drainage
The best soil is homemade, that is to say not some combination purchased in a store, but mixed by hand from local ingredients. The symptoms of good soil are a dark color and rich smell. (I am the original fragrance of the earth). The soil should hold its shape somewhat if pressed into a clod in the fist. Earth worms are another good sign. Obtain some cow manure and allow it to set for 2 weeks, so the nitrogen content can dissipate. Otherwise, it is so strong that it would burn the tender roots. Spread the manure out and water it thoroughly. Every few days turn it over so that the manure underneath the pile is exposed to the sun. (Krishna is like the sun, pure and antiseptic.) Better to buy already composted cow manure than to chance a bad root burn– unless one is experienced at composting, etc. Earth worms can be purchased also, but worms are for gardens. When put in pots, they may damage roots. For your basic humus or plain old soil, find a garden that is producing profuse flowers and ask to borrow a
quantity of soil. Add a little sand to improve the soil’s draining. Never use salty sand, as salt kills plants. If using beach sand, wash it thoroughly before using. Also add a small quantity of vermiculite or perlite.
III. Potting and Transplanting
The following is a most successful and easy way for propagating seeds and transplanting seedlings:
1. Buy a “Jiffy Grower Seed Starter Kit” 98¢ (or similar brand) at a garden store. This kit consists of small peat-moss seed cups arranged like an egg-carton, with seedbed soil pre-mixed and sifted. (Make sure they contain no bone material.) Simply fill the cups with soil mix and moisten (according to package directions) and press the Tulasi seeds into the soil about 1/16″ deep, about 6 seeds per cup. Keep in warm sunny room, avoiding temperature changes, out of strong drafts, and away from gas fumes. The alternative to buying this kit is to mix and sift 1 part compost, 1 part loam, and 2 parts clean river sand (unsalted): sift into seed flat or peat moss pots and water from beneath– don’t sprinkle them (washes seeds). This is actually more expensive, time-consuming, and not as successful as the Seed Starter Kit, however.
2. The first Tulasi sprouts should appear in 6 or 7 days, and will continue appearing for several weeks. Keep the plastic seed-germination bag from pressing down on the seedlings – prop it up inside with sticks if necessary. When the seedlings are 1/2” tall, the seed cups can be separated and each transferred to a bigger pot. (It is expected that some of the cups will have sprouts sooner than others. Just take out the sprouted cups and leave the unsprouted cups undisturbed in the plastic tray and bag. Each week or so, add a little tepid water to the bottom of the plastic seed pan if necessary, in order to keep the remaining unsprouted cups moist.)
3. Buy a dozen 4″ or 6″ deep peat moss pots and some good planter soil-mix. (If you mix your own planter soil, use 2 parts sifted loam, 1 part clean river sand (unsalted) and 1 part sifted peat moss or leaf mold. Generally It should be slightly fertile, light with good drainage. There is no objection to mixing your own– it’s cheaper; but these peat moss pots are very nice as they give good ventilation, and simplify the eventual transplanting job. (1/16 part aged manure).
4.In late afternoon, in a wind protected spot (preferably just in the vicinity of the seed-kit so there’ll be no temperature changes) sit down equipped with knife, a few handfuls of rocks, water bottle, lots of tepid water, peat moss pots and soil mix. The idea is to simply put the sprouted seed cups into deeper pots, for more root-growing room; plant the whole cup; just remove the bottom of the cup. Begin by lining the bottom of the 4″ peat pots with rocks for drainage; wet the soil mix thoroughly and fill the peat pots, leaving a depression for the seed cup to enter. With knife, carefully remove bottom of peat moss seed cup. Set the whole seed cup down into the moist depression, pressing down firmly on all sides to eliminate air gaps, and water thoroughly making a moat around the planted cup, but avoid direct watering into the seedling cup. (Direct watering may disturb seeds that are still germinating on the surface of the seed cup. Use a gentle squirt bottle and tepid (not cold or hot) water. Never hit
tetiny seedlings directly with the water stream. (If by accident you do, pick them up and try to prop Her up with soil, very gently. A thoroughly rinsed dish detergent bottle (plastic) with a punctured top makes a good watering bottle, having a gentle stream. When finished, leave the pots in same vicinity as seed kit. Place the pots 2 or 3 inches apart on “oven racks” or the like, so that they get good air circulation and drainage from beneath, and sides. Allow light but no direct sun exposure.
5. In a few days, gradually introduce them to filtered sunlight (or only a few morning hours, 8:30-11:30), say under a tree outdoors, or under a lath-screen. (This is assuming the weather is nice and nights aren’t severely cold. Arrange the pots as above, on an oven rack, or on an old bed-spring, with one pot in each wire spiral (this also gives good insect protection). Shield them from sun and wind. Protection from wind may be afforded by attaching paraffin cloth, burlap, muslin, or plywood, to stakes, building a 4-sided box. Then fiberglass or aluminum window-screen can be tacked to the box edge, giving protection from sparrows, birds, and flying insects. (Flies are especially bad– they lay eggs in the leaves. Protect with screen.)
6. Water the Tulasi seedlings thoroughly each morning before prasadam, using tepid water bottle. Keep a large pot of tepid water nearby for refilling the water bottle, as they should be kept nicely moist. If the seedlings start turning purplish or grayish, then they’re getting too much sun and not enough water. If this happens keep them in shade for a few days till they recover, else they may wither and disappear.
7.Care for the seedlings regularly in the above manner, offering obeisances and circumambulating twice daily and in a few weeks they will develop 2 or more sets of leaves. Then, if you have pots bearing more than one seedling (and you probably will), you have to plan on separating them by transplanting each into a separate peat moss pot (4″ to 6 deep). This separation transplanting is difficult but it is necessary. So prepare the required number of peat moss pots as described in paragraphs #3 and # 4, and in late afternoon equip yourself with peat pots, a knife, spade, rocks, soil mix, water bottle and lots of tepid water. Important: The seedlings must be put one to a pot as soon as possible after they have 2 sets of leaves. Before hand be sure to water the pots to be transplanted thoroughly. This makes the soil stick more to the roots, protecting them while transplanting, the idea is to avoid breaking and losing the seedling’s roots, to transplant as quickly as possible because even momentary root exposure to air and wind is damaging, and to keep as much moist soil as possible around the roots. After thorough watering, begin by cutting an inch or so deep into the peat pot, dividing it into two or more sections, depending on the number of seedlings. Start sections by cutting, then carefully pull the sections apart, trying to avoid root breakage and exposure as far as possible. Immediately plant the sections in the newly prepared peat pots, pressing down firmly and filling more with moist soil as needed, and water thoroughly several times. (Two devotees working together can do this part more quickly. Press soil around the plants firmly to eliminate drying air pockets, and water thoroughly several times. Full shade and increased watering should continue for 3 days, and longer if they wilt. If you do it quickly and carefully, there will be little or no wilting or drying up.
8. Cover the screened bed with cloth to provide shade. After 3 days of shade and double watering, gradually introduce them to filtered sunlight and continue caring for them as in paragraphs 4 and 5. Continue this program for 2 or 3 weeks, until they have 3 or 4 sets of leaves. When more leaves have appeared, you may check periodically to see if any tiny white rootlets are coming through the bottoms of the pots. (One of the advantages of peat moss pots, aside from easy transplant, is that the roots never become cramped, thus dwarfing the plant. When the pot becomes too small, the roots start growing right through it. When you begin to see the roots coming through the bottom, it’s time to put the Tulasi plants in their permanent location, either in the garden or in a large pot.
9. Transplanting into Pots: It is advisable to put a few plants in pots for the winter, especially if you’re located in a cold climate. Large 10-12″ deep cement pots or redwood planters are porous and very sturdy; clay pots are porous but break easily; plastic pots are non-porous and not very good. Indoors in cold season with use of a grow-lamp you should be able to continue growing Tulasi plants year-round, so use durable and large pots. Cement and redwood pots usually have little “legs” beneath, for drainage and air circulation, which is very important. Soil Mix: Give Srimati Tulasi-devi a very nice planter soil-mix and She’ll grow and flourish nicely. You can either buy a ready-mixed packaged planter soil, or mix your own. A good planter mix is 2 parts garden loam (more or less depending on whether soil is light or heavy in texture), 1 part compost, 1 part coarse sand (clean and unsalted), 1 part peat moss or leaf mold, and 1 part well-rotted dehydrated cow manure. (Cow manure must be dehydrated; fresh cowmanure will burn roots, so buy dehydrated manure in garden store, or carefully age it before using.) Drainage: Be sure the pot drains freely. Place a curved piece of crockery (broken clay pot) over the drainage hole, then line bottom of pot with 1 or 2 inches of coarse gravel, so that dirt will neither sift through holes nor clog them.
Potting procedure: In late afternoon, prepare cement or redwood pot as above, and fill it with moist soil mix, leaving depression in center of pot. water Tulasi to be potted. Then with knife, carefully remove bottom of Tulasi ‘s peat moss pot, and set peat pot and Tulasi (together) down into the depression, pressing firmly so there will not by any air pockets. Leave about 1 inch of pot rim above dirt surf ace, for ease in watering water thoroughly by soaking pot in basin from below. Care of Tulasi in Pots: The safest thing is to water thoroughly when necessary and allow plant to take up the moisture, or, water lightly each morning. This is dependent on climate, etc. Try not to over-water or under-water. Light: Tulasi likes full sun so give Her a sunny window. Or, if there’s no sunshine, buy a plant lamp and grow Her year-round beneath it. But don’t suddenly take Tulasi outside on a sunny day. The shock from the contrast would be very great and could have a damaging effect. Cleansing Her Leaves: House dust is another factor in indoor cultivation. Leaves covered with a film of dust cannot carry on transpiration in the normal manner. To keep them dust free, clean the leaves– top and bottom– with a damp cloth or sponge, twice a month. Do this very very gently especially in the beginning when plants are very delicate ~ Leaves should always be cleansed after the muddy job of transplanting. Never use soap or oil of any kind on the leaves, except as directed under “Diseases” section, and rinse off when you do.
10. To Prepare a bed for Tulasi outdoors, locate it in full sun, and construct a wind protection box and screen for keeping out unwanted birds and flying insects. Tulasi likes light, fertile, well-drained soil, slightly alkaline, and deeply cultivated. Find out what kind of soil you have, and add the required soil amendments. For example, if soil is too heavy, and clay-like, add leaf mold, compost, sand and sawdust. In any case, mix in good quantities of dehydrated cow manure, compost and leaf mold or peat moss, then cultivate thoroughly. Transplanting into the ground: In late afternoon, equipped with knife, spade, water, measuring stick, dig 4-6″ holes (the size of the peat pots ) spacing them 12″ apart in rows 15-18″ apart. Fill the holes with water and let drain somewhat. Then, one by one, carefully remove the peat pot’s bottom, and set the whole pot and Tulasi down into the hole, pressing firmly and watering again and again. There should be no problem in this setting out, since you don’t have to disturb the roots in any way. Keep Her in partial shade several days and gradually expose to full sun. Cultivate ground every week or so, keeping free from weeds. Water regularly each morning, and She’ll grow like anything. Haribol!
Note: These peat pots are very advantageous for growing plants more quickly, with less transplant set-back, but great care must be taken in handling them as they break and tear very easily. If you always pick them up with both hands, there’ll be little problem. If the bottom does fall out of one, however, do this: get a new peat pot and line the bottom with gravel fill it 2″ or so with soil mix, and set the bottomless pot down into it, pressing firmly but carefully.
By transplanting Her there is always the danger of exposing Her roots to the air. This causes them to dry and wilt. The answer is to always keep sufficient dirt around the roots. They will form what is known as a root ball. Also there is one root, called the tap root which descends straight down from the stalk and is the longest and most important. If this root is broken there is a good chance the Tulasi will depart, so always be sure to dig down far enough. (That will usually be the same distance as the height of the tree from the soil.) It is best to transplant in the afternoon, after 4 p.m. or on a cloudy day that is not very hot. Never transplant in heat of day.
As She grows, Her roots will fill the pot, and at that point She will have to be transplanted again. This will be a perpetual duty, and as She grows you will have the blissful opportunity to move Her. The new pots should be 2 to 2 1\2 times the size of the root ball (cluster of roots). Take the chance to straighten Her if She is growing crooked, but be careful not to plant Her lower or higher than She was situated early as this will cause disease. Too high will mold Her stem, lower will cause Her to be unstable and to expose Her roots to rot and mold. No matter how careful you are, there’s always some shock and transplant setback. Thus, why transplant repeatedly?? If you put the tiny 6″ or 7″ plant in a giant pot full of good soil, it may look funny for awhile, but
She’ll appreciate the leg room and grow much more rapidly and be a healthier plant than if you repeatedly disturb her root systems by numerous periodic transplants. If you put Tulasi in too large a pot, Her roots will slow down their growth and root disease may set in. It is best to transplant gradually.
When plants are a little taller, for wind protection and to give them stability, drive a thin stake into the ground 1″ or so beside stalk base, and loosely tie stalk to it with a to thin strip of soft cotton cloth (a strip at least 1″ wide). Tie it loosely and in a place where it won’t obstruct growth of new leaves. This gives the slender delicate stalk good support, even in wind, and makes for more rapid growth. In a few months, the stalk is no more soft and purple, but becomes hard and woody, like a little tree. Still if the area is windy, best to leave the support stake in permanently.
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.
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.)
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.)
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.
Generally speaking, if She is receiving correct water and sufficient sunlight, in a pot of the correct size and with a suitable type of dirt, Tulasi will flourish. The only necessity is to be sure to protect Her from wandering insects. Flies are a botheration and must be avoided as they are very dirty. Best to use screens and always be sure to shut doors. A fan also helps to get rid of them if it has an outside sucking vent which will draw them out. Good air circulation also helps Tulasi to grow.
Always keep Her in an area that is screened and continually check the underside of Her leaves for insects. The primary concern in the United States is the ever-present spider mites, so that will be the main concern. Specifically, her most lethal attacker is red spider mites. These rascals live on the underside of Her leaves and lay their eggs in the dust next to the ribbing or veins of Her leaves. When the eggs hatch, the young mites suck Her juice. The beginning symptoms are pale and limp leaves with brown tips. The leaves become specked with small pale green dots and begin to curl in.
As She becomes weaker and weaker, whole branches will just turn yellow, curl up and drop all their leaves. The stems become pinched and brown. If you observe very carefully, you will see small spiders, no bigger than the head of a pin, scurrying around on the underside of Her leaves and in the topmost clusters of branches and leaves. Hold Her at different angles in the light, and you will see fine spider webs crisscrossing the various branches. Finally, you will see small white eggs on the underside of Her leaves and the whole of Tulasi will be yellow and limp.
Fortunately, Tulasi can be saved from spider mites. There is a very simple process which, if used on a regular basis, will keep the spiders at a very minimal level. This will allow Srimati Tulasi to flourish and bloom. First, never use any sort of poison. Tulasi is meant for offering to Krishna, and how can She be offered if She is covered with some spray!. She is also contaminated by the use of systemic sprays, as they work their way through Her system and ultimately deposit their poison in Her leaves. Ladybugs are often offered as a solution, but they may be of little help.
The real cure for spider mites is the bathing process. Actually, the eggs of the spiders are stuck on by some sort of natural adhesive and will not be washed off. They hatch at their will, so regular bathing and periodic sprays with fresh water help keep the spiders and mites at bay. The needed paraphernalia for bathing is:
one large plastic bucket with a mouth 2 ft. across
1 bar of soap (Spiritual Sky herbal or non-scented is the best (be sure to use a very mild soap). Use a vegetable soap rather than one containing animal products
a hose with fresh water
Bathing is best done in the morning or on a cloudy day, as it is a taxing endeavor and the sun is an added strain. Water first, as this will help to keep the soil in the pot. First, dip the Tulasi in the soapy water, swish Her around carefully, then rinse off with fresh water. The soapy water coats the leaves and smothers the spiders. The clean rinse washes the soap off, along with the spiders and their webs. If done regularly twice a month, your Tulasis will survive nicely.
The water should be drawn the day before and handled just as written in the “Water and Feeding” section. This way it is not too cold for Her. Rub the bar of soap in the water until it turns a shadowy white, not solid white like milk, but more of a translucent white. If the soap is too concentrated it can do some damage. Add a 1/4 cup of honey to 6 gallons water as that will also help coat the leaves.
Cut pieces of cardboard to fit inside the various sizes of pots, to keep the dirt from sliding out into the water (or your whole Tulasi from falling out). Work in an area where there can be water spilled in large quantities, but work where you are protected from the wind, dogs, and other alien factors. Be sure that it is done in a reasonably warm place so She won’t catch cold.
Get an assistant to help you hold Her pot, and using the cardboard to hold Her soil, tip Her up and submerge Her in the solution. Don’t be timid, but do be gentle. It is either this, or the slow death by the spiders. Swish Her around softly, cautiously agitating the water by raising and lowering her in the bucket, like a pump swirl against Her. The whole time spent in the water, once submerged, should be no more than 5 seconds.
One danger point is when She is removed from the water. Just like after you wash something that absorbs water, Tulasi will have a greater weight due to the added water that has been suspended on Her leaves and branches. If you just pull Her right out, the added water will cause Her to droop over and be unable to support Herself. If you grab Her right out there is every possibility of breaking roots and also tearing branches. As you pull Her out, simultaneously grab hold of a strong part of Her stem towards the base, several inches above the ground. By holding on to the stem in this way, it gives added support to Her and also you can very gently shake off the excess water (Like the Boar incarnation, shaking off the water after saving the world from the filthy place.)
The next step is to hose Her off with fresh water. Wash the old soap off Her leaves and also finish off those spiders who were shaken loose by the bath but were not completely removed. By placing a finger over the nozzle you can make a jet-spray– there must be force enough to knock the spiders off but not enough to tear or rip Her leaves. Be sure to get the underside of the leaves, as that is where the spiders hide out. The main concern here is the possibility of flooding Her pot with the excess water, so turn Her pot on one edge, tilted to one side, and in that way you have a clean shot at the underside, and the excess water just travels right on by. Also, you could cover her root ball and the earth at the top of the pot with a sphere of plastic or something like plastic wrap. Now very carefully shake off the water, and unfold Her leaves. Remove any of the old yellow leaves that may be caught in Her branches. Have a sacred throw away to take care of the unoffered leaves. You may have to prop up a branch or two for a day or so– use a stick, being sure not to crush any buds or leaves. She maybe a bit limp (be very careful when you do this, have an assistant and think it out thoroughly before acting), but you will see Her perk up by morning. Over time, the water soaking into Her stems helps to generate healthy fibers for carrying fluid. During the summer months, spray Her with water twice a day, once in the morning around 10:00 and again the afternoon about 2:30. She loves it, as manifested by Her green effulgence.
If the plants are kept healthy and are regularly bathed, there should never be a need for insecticides. While sulfar is an organic control, and can be washed off before leaves are offered, you have to have very hot sunshine in order to activate its working. It is better to rely on bi-weekly baths with soap (every 14 days) and spraying Her off every other day.
In the event that Tulasi already has a serious spider mite infestation when you begin caring for her, a different plan may be needed. If the finely meshed webbing can be readily seen throughout her branches, you may have to remove the sick limb. In worst cases, it is better to remove the worst places and let Her concentrate on that which has potential to be saved. Once the leaves are yellow with browning tips and covered with the webs, there is little hope. Best to remove by following the tip down the stem to where She still remains healthy. Cut above a pair of healthy buds ( see section on collecting seeds). Contemplate the move first, and cut off as little as possible while still doing the job. It is better to just cut Her once than to do many small cuts. This may seem harsh, but having done the initial cutting (better to cut once than to let Her go the slow way with a blanket of spiders) the regular bathing and spraying keep Her in the peak of health. (Note: ‘It is a great offense to cut Her lotus branches’, replied Srila Prabhupada to Radhaballabha in a letter. He also spoke just prior to His leaving about this subject, saying:generally plants are pruned before winter but Tulasi-devi is not ordinary. Sachidevi.) Tulasis that have been tended in this way have made a comeback and are now serving their Lord nicely, so one must follow their heart, judge by the results, and take all circumstances into consideration.
If Tulasi’s leaves become speckled with a brownish pattern it is called mosaic or tobacco worm. Sometimes it is caused by a fungus and the best method is to bathe Her and remove the contaminated leaves with sharp scissors. Another of the same type is called a mosaic worm, which tunnels in between Her two layers of skin in the leaf cells. They look just like they sound– that is to say, the first sign is a white or tan line across the leaf which looks like someone dug a small tunnel. Just like a gopher, this little worm will weave all over Her leaf until it looks like a mosaic. They live on the inside of Her leaves, but one can’t use insecticide to kill them. The easy and effective control is to simply nip the leaf containing the worm and be sure to remove it from the area. These worms do not spread at a rapid rate, so removing a few leaves should be all that is required(by Krsna’s Grace). As a general rule, always separate the healthy from the sick, and keep it that way until the danger has sufficiently passed away.
Small white insects which look like tiny, white flies or moths, come when the air is stuffy and moist. Too much incense in an enclosed area which is damp will bring them. They are of no real danger, and will leave as soon as there is fresh air. Leaving Tulasi out at night, if steps are taken to protect Her, is first class, especially on moonlight nights. Always be sure She is protected by screens as summer brings out the bugs, and they are especially fond of Her.
Many abnormalities which appear to be symptoms of diseases may actually be caused by changes in Her natural conditions: too much water, too much sunlight, not enough fresh air, too much cold, etc. All these can cause discoloring and mutations.
Symptoms and Cures
Too much nitrogen in the soil will cause all of Tulasi’s sap to leave Her leaves and stems, and concentrate in the roots. The result is that She will go limp and die. It is a gradual process occurring throughout the entire plant. (This will distinguish it from a virus which can hit just one branch and leave the rest of Her in tact.
Cure: Decrease watering, but don’t starve Her. This will keep more of the nitrogen from being absorbed at such a rapid rate. When She appears stronger, then carefully transplant Her in to fresh (nitrogenless) soil. Cow manure is good to use – in fact, it is the safest of all possible plant foods. Is there any doubt as to why the cow is so worshipable?
Fungus come from tiny seeds (spores) in the air which grow on Her leaves or in the soil. Once inside Her system, they work like a cancer and spread throughout Her system. A whole branch can just wi1t up and be gone while the rest of Her stays in tact. Apparently healthy leaves drop off in large quantity or branches wilt and die.
Cure: Separate infected Tulasis immediately. Keep in dry place. Water as little as possible. Spray with the fungicide spray Benlate immediately. Do not offer the leaves for four weeks thereafter. She should be segregated as fungus will travel to the other Tulasis by contact. Be sure to keep all your utensils clean and wash your hands after touching the infected ones. The doctors say to give Her sunlight, and this is confirmed in Bhagavad-Gita, “The sun-god can be worshipped for improved health.”
Nitrogen Burn: Too much nitrogen in the soil can also cause the tips of Her leaves to turn brown. Yellow will creep in from the side rims, and the whole leaf will fade.
Cure: Follow the same procedures as for too much nitrogen.