November 2010

Setting up an urban vegetable garden

The first step on the way to creating a successful vegetable garden.

Arnold Brower
Director Programa
Huertos Educativos

The challenge of these gardens in urban areas, which are originally not designed for gardening, is finding the best location by making use of unconventional spaces like a rooftop, containers on your balcony, or even a vertical garden on a sunny fence.

Before you start placing containers on the roof there are a few elements to keep in mind :

- Plants will grow best with around six daily hours of sunlight (preferably morning sun).
- Make gardening easy by using an easily accessible location near the house.
- Install a tap or other water resource nearby the garden for irrigation purposes.
- Protect your garden against intruders (pets and human beings).
- Whether you decide to garden directly in soil or in containers, we can improve the soil because of the relatively small size.

We take into account soil fertility (nutrient level) and soil structure (made up out of solid particles, dead and alive organic matter, air and water)

The soil structure is influenced heavily by the proportions of sand, loam and clay. A very sandy soil can hardly hold water whereas a very heavy clay soil closes up and will not let the water run through. The best gardening soil is made up out of even proportions of sand, loam and clay.

In general a dark soil contains sufficient nutrients to start gardening and the fertility of a soil, which has not been used for agricultural purposes for at least a year, will have restored to a certain degree.

Organic matter is a keyword when it comes to soil improvement. We can use animal manure to increase the nutrient content of the soil and we can improve the soil structure by adding plant material - like the soil underneath the molle tree, peat moss, or compost. Composting is a key activity in a successful organic garden and will therefore be discussed in an upcoming article.

Once you pick the spot where you want to install the garden it is necessary to turn the first 20 cm of the soil (the area a plant’s roots need for development). Keep in mind that a good soil for gardening is a loose soil with high air content. In container gardening we try to use similar depths, although you can experiment with all kind of sizes using smaller containers for certain crops and larger ones for others.

The best gardening soil is made up out of even proportions of sand, loam and clay.

To be continued in the next Cochabanner: Managing an urban vegetable garden (3-10)

The city we left behind

It’s a city full of trees (chillijchis, willows, and molles), surrounded by the countryside and rivers. Due to the many springs that this city has its climate is humid, some of the puddles and lakes are qhochis, Cuellar, Alalay, Coña Coña. Cochabamba has a great agricultural history; not only because of the land itself, but because it comes from thousands of years of traditions. The land is organized by the fields and the fields are part of the land.

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