March 2011

Planting the garden

Constructing your own (semi)natural system

Arnold Brower
Director Programa Huertos

A small garden with relatively small beds with a great variety of crops

Once beds and pathways are in place it is forbidden to walk on the beds. As we have mentioned before, your plants need air in the soil besides water and nutrients.

Your planting plan is set up by taking into account the different crop categories (root, leaf, fruit and leguminous) and the growing seasons. Take care not to plant too much of the same crop at once. It is better to put in lettuce four consecutive Saturdays then all at once, since vegetables are best when eaten fresh.

All crops require different spacing between plants and rows. As a rule of thumb, seeds need to be sown at a depth of 3 to 5 times the size of the seed. It is also better to put two seeds in every hole to avoid empty spaces at a later stage.

Some plants you can be sewn directly into the garden while others do better working with a seedling bed first. With direct planting the crops will have their entire growing cycle in the same spot while indirect planting requires the presence of a seedling bed or container. Once the plants have three or four leaves (not counting the first two which come up after germination) you take the crops from the seedling bed to their final destination in the garden.

The advantage of a seedling box is that you can give seed good growing conditions. It is necessary to work with a very good soil (without coarse material because you do not want to damage the roots in transplanting), and you need to place the seedling box in the best position with regard to sunlight. It is easier to protect the box against pests and it is easier to irrigate. Besides these advantages you can also save time, because at the same time you can sow radish in the garden and tomato in the seedling box. By the time you harvest, the radish the tomato plants will have a good size for transplanting, rotating from root to fruit crop.

In order to avoid pests and diseases garden beds need to be well prepared with sufficient organic material. It is also better to have a great variety of crops so your garden as a whole is less prone to pests. It is worthwhile to put in aromatic herbs since their strong smell reduces the attraction to insects. Basil and tomato for example grow well together. Another way to avoid pests is to attract beneficial insects (they prey on insects that damage crops) by putting in bright colored flowers.

What is a Qowa?

Having arrived from a country where witch markets barely exist, I was intrigued by what purpose they actually served in Bolivia and as a result, wanted to find out more, but in particular I wanted to find out more about a ritual called Qowa which all Bolivians seem to talk about.

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