GROWING PLANTS FROM SEEDS PROJECT
In the spring of 2017, Poco a Poco was very fortunate to have the support and assistance of Laura Ortiz Calderon from the Garden Center in Riberas when we started the project. She taught the Brigadistas all aspects of seed planting, plant care, etc. She also had inexpensive ideas for growing seeds in egg cartons, making small greenhouses from cake containers (plastic ones), and using plastic bottles for growing plants.
During subsequent visits Laura gave other useful advise on separating and transplanting the seedlings. Other volunteers also provided valuable help and guidance (thank you Stephen!).
The project initially started with growing tomatoes, watermelon, zucchini, tomatias, peppers, spinach, herbs, etc., as well as lots of sunflowers. We later expanded to include moringa and papaya.
We are most grateful to have the assistance and expertise of Francisco Gonzalez Nava. He teaches gardening and is described by friends as, Garden Guru, teacher, and friend of nature. We love that he is helping us in San Pedro!
Initially we used a rooftop location at the Brigada office for the seed planting, but chicken wire had to be added to stop the chickens from eating all the seeds (as they did when the kids tried to grow things last time)! (Some of the kids didn't realize that chickens fly....). Later the plants were moved to a more protected area, with shade and protection during the high rainy season winds!
Poco a Poco used donated money to buy potting soil and fertilizer, and basic garden tools. They started with using used egg cartons and small pots as well as recycled cake boxes (plastic ones), chicken containers, as small greenhouses. As the plants grew we also bought larger pots and more soil.
A wish list of items for the growing program is below. As the program grows, we will have to buy more basic supplies and tools, larger pots, more chicken wire, fencing, shading material as well as the supports for shading, etc.
We were also grateful to have Dr Todd Stong join us at the first Growing Seed project meeting. We very much value his knowledge of the area (because of his various water projects). But we also value his sage and practical advise on growing plants. And later, he is willing to help us with hydroponic gardening projects, which he also has significant experience.
Some of the volunteers with Laura at the April visit
It may seem strange to you that children who are brought up in the country, don't actually know how to grow plants from
seeds. But they don't. Local farmers only grow chayote, and further away, corn. When they plant chayote or corn,
in this area you they don't start it as a seedling. They just put the seed in the ground and it grows as long as you have
water. But locally you can grow plants all year long, if you have water.
With this small project, which Poco a Poco will support in any way we can, we want more families involved, and
hopefully they will be able to augment their diet with fresh vegetables, other than chayote.
Throughout the summer and rest of 2017, the plants did well and were eaten on a regular basis by adults and children at the brigada office. Kale and spinach did especially well and proved easy to grow.
Poco a Poco volunteers showed the brigada leaders how kale or spinach, mixed with fruit, could be used to make tasty, nutritious smoothies! After some reluctance on the children to try them, they were voted a great success!
In the late summer, some of the brigada families expressed an interest to also grow plants in their own yards. This expansion of the growing plants from seeds project was very generously funded by the Foundation of Lake Chapala Charities in October 2017 for 4 properties (see the link to this here). First soil testing on 8 properties was carried out. Then an analysis by our expert, Francisco, regarding what could be grown successfully on each plot of land, given easy access and initially, easy checking on progress.
The cool weather in November and December 2017, slowed the growing progress somewhat, but seeds were planted in October and extra germination soil was purchased. The plants are being grown ready for transplanting to their new locations.
In November, 2017 Lau'ana Lei, (Moringa expert), returned to San Pedro to give the brigadistas a lesson on growing Moringa, and also showed them how to harvest the leaves and prepare them for sale.