Organic Farming in the Caribbean with Organic Fertilizers
Yesterday I watched a short video about a family in California who have turned their city garden into a modern-day Eden which sustains up to 90% of their food needs on just 1/5 acre! They replaced their lawn with edible flowers and using organic fertilizers the whole garden burst forth with fruits and vegetables to feed the family. It further inspired me to keep planting in my own garden and do my part to combat the constant news of rising food prices and shortages.
Food growing really is a quiet revolution that I want to be a part of!
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Of course being a person who always aims to be in tune with nature, our garden is 100% organic. Organic farming or gardening is a practice which has numerous benefits for producers, consumers and the Earth. The chemicals in artificial fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides ultimately leach into the soil and our water and whatever we do to the Earth we do to ourselves. I know that I’d rather eat some food that has a few bug bites on it than consume produce that is saturated and laden with toxic formula.
A key philosophy and practice of the organic approach is to gradually build up the natural fertility of the soil so that it comprises the right nutrients to yield healthy produce and is resistant to disease and pest attacks. One great way to enrich the soil is to create compost and I’m pleased to report that with thanks to the constant weekend work of my partner, our 3 bin system is now up and running! Now I’m being tutored on other ways to achieve the goal of naturally enhancing the plants directly with a number of liquid botanical fertilizing agents.
To start with, our first compost pile has been set up with a pipe at the bottom to collect the liquid that leaches as the material breaks down. The dark coloured liquid that emerges is often referred to as ‘tea manure’ or, to emphasize its incredible value, ‘liquid gold’. This liquid is one of the best things you can apply to your plants for a quick boost as the nutrients are readily available in the water and are quickly taken up by the plants. The tea should be diluted to a 25/75 ratio for use as a foliage spray or 50/50 for directly on the soil. Apparently most root crops will be spoiled by the application of the tea so use it only for your veggies sprouting above ground. To capture the tea from the compost pile it is a good idea to set it above the ground on a structure with a drainage system so that the tea can drip into a storage container. Setting the compost pile directly on the ground will allow the liquid from the pile to seep directly in the soil and if you are able to move the pile after each compost batch is completed, the patch it was once on will be highly fertile.
Other liquid fertilizers can be easily made by soaking and fermenting plants in a large barrel with a lid for about a month and diluting when ready for application. The leaves from Gliricidia sepium, a tree commonly found in the Caribbean, produces a good fertilizer liquid and its major advantage over other tree fertilizers is that it grows back year after year despite severe pruning.
Comfrey is also very popular as the plant has deep roots that can tap into vital nutrients and trace elements that are below the range of plants with shallower roots systems. When planting a patch of comfrey do not that they can be quite invasive so do not put them in your best vegetable patch! Once the leaves have grown they can be cut and fermented in the water with the same process as above.
Seaweed, invasive plant species, leguminous plants and many more can also be used in this way to create liquid fertilizer. Be warned though, these liquids can give off a foul smell so make sure that they are placed far away from the house and are well covered. A good covering also prevents them from becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes. When handling all of the liquids use gloves as many can be harsh on the hands
Another natural liquid fertilizer that I have been told about is fermented urine! Yes that’s right, you have to save your pee in a container, leave it for week and dilute with twenty parts water. (Undiluted urine can be used directly on a compost heap as an accelerator) It is reported to be an amazing source of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium and some trace elements. I am working on producing some so I’ll let you know! Of course it is not advised to spray any of these liquids directly onto edible leaves and best not to give the plants any tea at least 2 weeks before harvesting.
The liquid manures are a great boost to plants at particular points in their growth cycle. We are currently doing research and experimentation on the best times to supplement each plant and it’s important not too go too crazy with tea and let mother nature keep her natural balance.
So as for our garden, the lettuce we planted out at the beginning of the month will be ready in about a week and the new seedlings we planted out last week are already growing strong. It is a real blessing to be eating what we have grown. I invite you to share and circulate your best tips and techniques for Caribbean Organic gardening so both we and the planet can be healthy and happy.
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