I’m big on checklists as they help people organize their project and gather resources. When I worked in Uganda, the Karamajong people had never heard of a checklist and they could recite them from memory. They thought it was a brilliant concept! Home and community gardens work best with:
- A solid animal and poultry proof fence. This can be made with local resources from sticks to earth bricks. If there is no fence, something’s going to eat the garden.
- A water source is needed nearby. If it’s too far, the women may not have the energy to water the plants. Sometimes I help them build a garden at the bore-pump to make use of the wastewater.
- Its important to obtain non-hybrid open pollinated vegetable seed. Hybrid seeds are weak and require chemicals. Non-hybrid seeds, especially if indigenous to the area, are more resilient to pests and local conditions. Using hybrid commercial seed from conventional agriculture stores will in all probability cause the project to fail miserably. I’m speaking from experience.
- Dig flat topped raised beds as wide as two arms length. This allows the gardener to reach the centre of the bed without having to step on the bed and compact the soil.
- Mulch all soils. The harsh sun damages open soils. Mulch turns into nutrients in the soil. Mulched soils are more productive and plants in those soils are more pest resistant. Mulched soils are protected from erosion in heavy downpours. Mulch conserves moisture in the soil in the dry periods.
- Use local animal manures to make compost and liquid fertilizers. Fertilize gardens weekly.
- Mulch crops can be grown nearby to cut and refurbish the gardens mulch.
- Grow food everywhere. Every microclimate is an opportunity for food production. A fence is an opportunity to grow a climbing vine. Shade tolerant plants can grow under tree canopies. Wastewater can irrigate a pumpkin patch, etc…
- Train people (most often women in developing countries) in integrated pest management (IPM). Ask the elders how they managed pests before chemicals were introduced.
- Train people how to keep their gardens supplying food all year long in all conditions.
- Create emergency food crops like sweet potato, cassava, sago palm, etc… These crops are used in times of drought, famine or pestilence.
- Include local medicinal plants in the gardens, especially medicinals used in combating stomach problems and dysentery.
- Include tree crops and vines in the system.
That’s it! Happy growing.