Today was a very exciting and productive day out at the greenhouse! We started transplanting many crops and herbs to prepare for the switch from the colder season to the warmer season; the last frost is usually at the end of March in Mexico. Transplanting is a good way to utilize the old plants and the nutrients they have given the soil and make way for new plants that will benefit from them. Permaculture focuses on this technique and many others in order to sustainably grow food and plants. Rotating crops helps to avoid the build-up of pathogens in the soil. In the greenhouse and garden, we plant crops in a rotation of feeders and doners. Feeders, which are mostly crops that produce fruit, eat up nutrients and therefore supply their fruits with high levels of nutrients. Doners plants, such as legumes, provide nutrients to the soil for the feeder plants that will come after. Luke, put it very simply:
“You can’t have hungry people without a cook, just like you can’t have feeder plants without doner plants”
Another way of planting is with associations, like the three sisters: corn, beans and squash. You can plant crops together that complement each others needs. The three sisters are a perfect association because the corn provides a ladder for the beans to climb, the beans provide nitrogen to the soil for the corn and squash to feed off of and the squash provides shade to the soil to prevent weeds. The best way to plant would be “rotations of associations”. For example, you could plant three heat-tolerant association plants and rotate them with three cold-tolerant association plants to best utilize the soil.
Today, we focused on pulling out the parsley, cilantro and a few other cold-tolerant plants and transplanting romaine lettuce, jericho, cressida and a few different types of basil which are all heat-tolerant plants. When harvesting the parsley, we cut the sides of the plant down leaving the heart remaining to transplant outside. What was cut was saved and sent to Via Organica to sell in the store.
Once only the hearts of the parsley were remaining, we dug them out and brought them outside where they were bunched together in an irrigated spot in order to “stress them out a little” so they would propagate. We will then be able to not only get their seeds, but still have perfectly good parsley to harvest later.
Once this task was completed, we then moved back into the greenhouse where we began moving the chervil, which is an annual herb similar to parsley, from one bed to another bed which was just harvested. In the bed where the chervil was, we planted cressida which is an herb that tastes similar to watercress and belongs to that family. It has a strong, spicy taste and is really good in sandwiches!
We transplanted chervil and cressida using the no-till method. No-till farming does not disturb the soil structure and allows organic matter to remain in the soil, furthering carbon sequestering and decreasing the environmental impact of farming. In Mexico, utilizing the no-till method is especially useful because in the desert, there is hardly any organic matter in the soil because of the dry climate. The soil in Mexico mainly consists of minerals and with the no-till method, old roots and decomposing plant parts are left in the soil and naturally fertilize new plants that are put into the soil.
While I was transplanting chervil and cressida, Manuel was planting a few different types of basil. We did this in order to see which variety of basil would grow the best in the climate of Mexico. One of the goals at the greenhouse is to test different varieties of plants in order to share the information with small, local farmers who experience the pressure to compete with industrial American farming. If we can supply them with the information of what grows best, they have a better chance of utilizing their time to grow the best food instead of having to experiment with different types of plants. Here’s a variety of basil that we transplanted:
After transplanting, I planted carrot seeds in a bed alongside lettuce. While I was planting the seeds, I noticed that there were many pinecones in the bed. I asked Luke, “Where did these pinecones come from in San Miguel and why are they in the soil?” He responded that the pinecones add acidity to the soil. The pH level of the soil is the most important thing to consider when growing plants. If the soil acidity is too high or too low, it wouldn’t matter how many nutrients were in the soil, the plants still would not fair well. Soil pH determines the structure of the soil and the biological and chemical compounds of the soil. Certain plants can tolerate certain levels of pH. In the high desert of Mexico like in San Miguel, there is a very high soil pH level because it is so dry (about an 8 or a 9; very alkaline). By adding the pinecones, we are adding acidity into the soil and lowering the pH. In tropical Mexico however the soil has a very high acidity with a pH of about a 4 or a 5. Most of the time, the soil pH should be between a 6 or a 7 (similar to what a human pH level should be).
Carrots are not only a very hearty, nutritious crop but when harvesting them, they also provide the soil with oxygen because of how they are pulled up. It’s like tilling without completely disturbing the soil!
Once the carrot seeds were planted, Luke and I moved outside where we planted beans in a bed with peas and stinging nettles. We planted the beans really close to the nettles so that they could receive the nitrogen the beans would be putting into the soil. Upon doing this, I was stung a bunch by the nettles but it was totally okay because being stung provided me with formic acid! Stinging nettles have many medicinal properties. I usually injest them in the form of tea or a tincture for pain and discomfort. Nettles are also used to treat arthritis, anemia, hay fever and kidney problems.
Anyways, thats it for today! Go organic gardening! Yay!!!!