By Baha Alzain We arrived to the place that will be our home for the next five months, Silver Creek, a village in Toledo, the southern most district in Belize. As part of our duties as development instructors. We were encouraging the families we were working with to have organic backyard gardens for economic and nutritional reasons. In order to be able to advocate such an idea. We had to prove that it is indeed possible to start an organic garden from scratch. And that was exactly what we did. We started by choosing a small area that would house our small garden. We made sure to find a flat ground that would get enough sunlight during the day. And that it would have enough space to contain two large beds as well. As providing enough space for possible future expansions.
Then we decided to make a compost pile. This contain an organic decompose material that is add to the beds as fertilizer and soil enhancer. Next was the digging of the beds. In fact, we dug two large beds then decided to connect them together for aesthetic reasons. Then the first challenge arises. It rains really heavily in Belize. One particular night the sky wasn't holding back any rain, so the bed was washed away. Solution: add some wooden boards around the borders of the bed to make what is called a raised bed. P roblem solved. Next was the tedious process of "chicken-proofing" the garden. It's worth mentioning at this point that we were living in a place where chickens and turkeys were roaming free. This can potentially be devastating to the garden. To overcome this challenge, we use bamboo sticks and cohune leaves.
Cohune leaves are large leaves that come from the cohune palm tree, the leaves are use around Belize for roofing "thatched houses" which are symbolic of the indigenous Mayan people of Belize. After several trials and failures of the arrangement of the cohune leaves, we found a way that will keep the poultry away and protect our garden. Now we have food on our bed. For that end we planted a planting tray with a variety of vegetables which included tomatoes, cabbage, bok choy, cucumber and many others.
All these plants will be transplanted to a bed that is call companion planting. This is an organic gardening method where different plants are planted on the same bed to benefit from each other in many ways. Like repelling pests or sharing nutrients. To maintain our garden, It was vital to visit it everyday, even for a short while. It was also vital to restore the soil as it is the single component that would be the difference between a failed and a successful garden.
So we made sure to mulch the bed, which means covering the soil with leaves in order to minimize weeding as well providing the soil with nutrients that will be released into the soil with the decomposition of the leaves. Also, we made sure to add compost around the plants once a week. Also we resorted to using some organic fertilizers such as moringa fertilizer. As well as constantly looking out for pests that may attack the plants. Starting an organic garden is a very rewarding activity. One that holds many benefits for both the people and the environment. This Chinese proverb describes perfectly what I learn: "the best fertilizer for your garden is the footsteps of the gardener".
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