Garden 23
September 2022 Report

An interesting month, in which we have been preoccupied in my favourite pastime, solving problems!


Some of the vanilla wasn’t growing well, slightly yellow.  Now vanilla goes yellow in excess sunshine, but I felt this wasn’t the reason.  Indeed, when checking the soil pH, it was 6 to 6.5.  It should be 7 to 7.5.  A roadway is being built beside Garden 5 (to my intense annoyance.  Some deluded Australian rented 10 are for ten years, paying 500 juta!  I had been negotiating for four times that land, offering 200 juta for 40 years…  Of course, paying that money caused problems in the family, as countless family members stepped forward with a claim to the money…).  In building the roadway, they topped it with limestone - crushed ancient coral from the Bukit peninsula, which is all crushed coral.  Please note, I mean geological coral, not modern harvested from the sea.  Nothing wrong with using this.

We were able to gather the spoil and unused limestone, which we scattered over the beds.  I believe the beds had become acidic from the compost not being fully matured.  Within the month we are able to see the beneficial effect, and we are now going to invest in a truckload of limestone which we shall scatter over the beds each month, very lightly.  It comes as rocks, so we shall have to crush it slightly, but not too much so the benefit lasts a long time.

We only started composting in Garden 5 about 4 months ago, having tested it first.  Now, the use of just cocopeat was becoming evident, with weak vines.  We needed to up the amount of compost over the beds, and have been searching the area for cow manure.  Not easy…  We’ve had to buy it, to the point where Agung Jaya and I reckon we need two more cows, and are wondering how to get the expense past Paul 😊.  Our first cow is ready to be inseminated, so in 6 months we shall have an extra cow anyway.

The cow manure, already mature, has been mixed with cocopeat, our own compost and limestone before going on the beds of Garden 5 which has had the entire team working on it for ten days, slightly disrupting our schedule, already complex with workers being borrowed to build more lobster ponds.  But done now, and we expect to see more flowers appearing soon, some having already started.

Gardens 1-4 are flowering, not as many as we would like but better than expected after the rainy summer.  Garden 6 a bit slower but getting there.

Garden 20 is enormous, and it is taking time to get it going, more than the usual 3  months.  Soon, we shall be planting the vanilla under the trees.

Garden 21 is almost ready for vanilla.  We shall start the cuttings in the shade by the compost bins.  Check out the video of the garden on this page!

We continue to get very different information about the vanilla market.  Brokers are telling us it is going for as little as $100 a kg, while the transactions we are following go as high as $450.  I suspect that quality is very important to the price, and that brokers are deliberately low balling us.

I don’t think we shall be buying any green vanilla this year.  We would need more shareholder funds, in addition to those we need for expenses, and although we have a number of people interested, we need to increase the rate of investment in us for this project.


The lobsters bought from Bali proved as disastrous as the ones from Java, and I’m convinced the seller was just buying from Java and selling on to us.  So, we are going back to the Java supplier and giving him another chance.  He’s going to rest the lobsters at the half way point, just before the ferry, to reduce stress.

I had hoped that we could buy in half grown lobster and feed them up for a few months to make them organic, but it doesn’t look very viable.  The trouble is, we have about 5000 babies this month, but it will take 8 months for them to reach selling size…  and we have restaurants wanting lobster yesterday.  We cannot possibly risk supplying inferior lobster.

On the plus side, the restaurant which has tested samples is very complimentary.

Another problem which has arisen, is that we are losing a steady trickle of lobster to skin shed failure.  I believe the problem is dietary, and we are adding calcium carbide to the diet, which is given to ducks to strengthen the eggs.  This may fix the problem – it is advised by our marine biologist friend.  In the long term, we are looking to breed snails to feed to the lobsters and also add egg shells, because the calcium carbide isn’t organic.  It is just a temporary fix, an experiment to determine if lack of calcium is the cause.  We’ve also raised the pH of the water by putting limestone in the filter rocks.

The new lobster ponds are almost finished and looking good.  They should hold 2,000 lobsters apiece.  We have four breeding pools, 3 hatching pools and the rest are for growing and fattening the lobsters, another 22 ponds.  This will be insufficient in less than a year, but by that time we shall be working with other fish farmers.


We need to sell another 2,000 shares, which means essentially another 20 shareholders only, as the average purchase is for 100 shares.  Then we shall stop, as this will give us enough money to take us through to vanilla sales in a couple of years.  So, tell any friends that are thinking about it to get a move on!  Sometimes we don’t sell any shares in a month, other times we can sell 1,000.

We are aware of a new initiative by the government to create more cooperatives, including vanilla.  We are making suggestions and making ourselves more of a cooperative.  This is for protection.  Should the political situation in Indonesia reverse (highly unlikely), powerful people would be unable to take over a cooperative.  Of course, we also have the Raja who is highly effective, so this is very much belt and braces.

Rex Sumner
Chairman, PT Royal Spice Gardens

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