The Kalu Yala Blog

Growing a Garden

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March 2, 2013

by Morgan Wickstrom
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One of the Community Outreach team’s main projects this semester is starting a thriving Permaculture garden in San Miguel. ┬áLately my days have been spent researching this project, putting that knowledge into action, and dealing the speed bumps along the way. The Kalu Yala team was recently gifted with a visit from expert permaculturist Seven Brooks. Steven founded his own eco village in Costa Rica, and his successful permaculture development serves as a beacon for what Kalu Yala hopes to someday accomplish.

This past week the interns, directors, and CEO Jimmy gathered around the board room table in the city as Steven shared with us inspirational messages about permaculture philosophy, as well as practical knowledge we could apply to the valley farm and the San Miguel garden. The great thing about permaculture is its nothing mind blowing or complicated, its uses basic knowledge and awareness to create a system that works together, to sustaining itself and thrive. To learn about permaculture is to become aware of the different factors involved and to avoid the creation of a monoculture. Nature has the power to help us along in many of our endeavors, certain plants work together to help each other grow, other plants have magical healing properties that could compete with any over the counter drug. All of these benefits are available to us if we become aware that they exist and allow the systems to thrive.

I found Steven’s perspective uplifting and inspiring, and I began to understand the endless potential within the plot of land surrounding our San Miguel house. We already have some good-looking soil thanks to compost piles that have been brewing for almost a year, our garden is already producing some yucca, plantains and peppers; But there is still so much open space. One of our biggest, tallest, speed bumps so far is the Pine tree planted along the edge of our garden plot. Although it gives us some nice shade from the Panamanian sun it turns the soil acidic which is not good for crops. I’m not one for cutting down trees but this one has got to go. Thankfully its a hard wood tree that we can mill for some awesome lumber to be used in future construction projects.

Interestingly enough we are learning that the local Panamanian campesinos have their own understanding of permaculture. The farmer with the most successful production out in the valley described his plot as a system of plants that works together to thrive! The community outreach venue is a great team to be starting a garden within, because we are finding you often have to reach out to others to see what works and what doesn’t. In many cases the community around us can be our greatest resource for getting a productive garden started. The perfect permaculture garden will not be finished in 2 months, but that what makes me so excited to begin. There is so much to learn that it seems ridiculous to not get started right away and put time to good use. As of now we have a huge bag of close to 40 different types of seeds, some planters to get these seeds sprouting, and an empty garden bed ready for our seedlings (once the acidic pine tree is out of the way).

I spent the beginning of the week in the valley, checking out their construction of a brand new greenhouse, and seeing the various crops they’ve got started in their farm. As of now we also have a whole lot to learn – but when it comes to growing your own food and supporting yourself in a productive, sustainable, non destructive way, theres no greater knowledge I could possibly hope to attain!

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