Sunday, July 15, 2012

Gardening Woes

I haven't written much about the garden lately - and there's a reason for that. It hasn't been doing all that well. I've been disappointed at the small quantity of food being produced, in spite of lots of hard work invested.

Recently our good friends, Brad and Trish Ward, visited us here in Gracias. Brad is an agricultural missionary, and so he gave me some tips. Basically, it boils down to a need to significantly nourish the garden soil. Our soil is mostly composted cow manure, and that's just not doing the job. Brad suggested that I plant a certain type of bean plant - frijole abono (Russell tells me that the word "abono" basically means fertilizer) - and then once those plants have grown for a couple of months, to till them down into the soil, mulch heavily, and then let the soil sit for another couple of months. THEN I should have better results from my plantings.

One of the young men working on our new house construction has said that he would bring me some frijole abono seeds on Monday, so hopefully I'll be able to get those into the ground and growing right away. July and August are fairly good growing months here, as there is slightly less rain than the beginning and end of rainy season (when it's sort of a deluge around here). I'm hoping to grow the bean plants now, have them under mulch during September and October, and be ready to plant when the cooler temperatures and gentler rains start arriving in November.

I hope it works out. Enthusiasm has waned for this whole gardening project, since the rewards have been so minimal, and we really need a major success here!

Although this progress report has been a bit of a bummer, I'm happy to report that Gus has continued to improve the infrastructure of the garden. He, along with Ben and Josiah, have improved the pathways between the raised beds by adding gravel. This has significantly reduced the amount of work needed in just keeping the pathways clear - and really, there's plenty to do in the garden without having to worry about the pathways!


Kris Thede said...

Mix in some charcoal dust in your garden. Helps to hold the nutrients. My hubby goes to the local market after market and collects free dust from the charcoal area and mixes it in the dirt we use for potting soil or gardens. Fauche.

mcm said...

Good luck! I feel your pain -- gardening in the tropics is tough: pests that never die, torrential rain to leach nutrients from the soil, and generally porous soil. I have the utmost respect for those who succeed. I think the inherent problems in tropical gardening explain why the slash/burn/fallow system is so entrenched, even though it is ''wasteful'' of land.

Trish said...

Thanks Kris - that's a helpful suggestion! I'll look into it.

MCM - I appreciate the empathy! I'm so inexperienced with gardening that it would be an uphill battle for me anywhere. It seems a bit much that tropical gardening should be especially hard! LOL

Rebecca said...

Along with the advice of the agricultural missionary, which is obviously very good advice, there's something else that you could try to help keep the soil nourished: Find native groundcover-type plants, and allow them to grow between your plantings. They help aerate the soil, provide nourishment as their own leaves die off, and provide a safe area for beneficial insects and worms. They also reduce erosion.

And don't give up! Most people don't get as far as you have. Look at it as an exciting challenge. Every problem you've had has increased your knowledge, and given you necessary tools to succeed in the future. You can do this! :-)

Missus Wookie said...

Glad you've got good local advice too - anything that expands the humus in the soil will irmpove structure and add nutrients. Have you thought of doing worm farming for the food as well as the compost for bedding etc.? That worm 'tea' (waste products that come out) helps our tomatoes on really bad soil.