Posts tagged ‘corn’

Staple Crops

The Beach flats, garden is a garden of sustenance, and our staple crops are corn, beans, and squash.  There are as many ways to plant these crops as there are gardeners, but many jardineros de la playa choose to intercrop their corn and beans.  This is an ancient practice that involves planting the corn and beans together, staggered in both time and space so that each plant gets what it needs from the other (with the help of their loving gardener).  The beans are a prolific vine that will climb anything they can get their tendrils on; while the corn is a towering giant that needs humans to survive.  The beans climb up the corn in their quest for the sun, providing vital nutrients to the soil that benefits both plants.  In some cases, gardeners plant squash at the base to provide shade which minimizes weed growth, and evaporation.  Corn beans and squash are known as the three sisters; between the three sisters there exists a symbiotic relationship that requires the guidance of loving caretaker.  To intercrop your corn and beans you must plant the corn 1 to 2 months ahead of the beans.  This gives the corn a head start that it needs to avoid strangulation by the overzealous beans.  When your corn is knee high, plant the beans between the corn, in the same row.  Some of the gardeners just use the corn for support; planting the corn and beans at the same time will give you a good harvest of beans, but not corn.  This is a good way to provide support for your beans without building a structure.


May 2, 2012 at 6:00 am 3 comments

Las Milpitas

The little corn sprouts are growing eagerly.  The light rain on Sunday night was a blessing to the plants; giving them a much needed drink after several hot days.

April 24, 2012 at 2:57 pm Leave a comment

Direct Seeding

Direct seeding is a method for planting seeds that involves sowing them directly in the ground.  Some crops are well suited to direct seeding while others are not.  Factors that affect a plant’s ability to germinate include air and soil temperature, day length, moisture, soil content, microbial growth, etc.  Some seeds may come with an organic or non organic coating designed to combat pests that may damage your seeds before they sprout.  Various plants prefer different planting depths, so consult seed packets, or other sources if you are unsure.  Also different methods for planting and watering can affect the depth you should plant.

An important part of direct seeding is the process of thinning; or removing the weaker sprouts.  When you sow your seeds you should place more than you need because some won’t sprout, and others will be weak.  The process of thinning varies from plant to plant but with row crops you usually use the following method:

Sow seeds in row at 1/2 to 1/4 of the desired spacing.  For example: If your desired spacing is 3 feet, plant your seeds 1- 1.5 feet apart.  Once the seeds sprout, use your hand or a garden tool to remove the weaker sprouts, making sure each plant has the appropriate final spacing.  This will ensure that only the strongest sprouts are using up the precious soil and water in your parcel.

Here are some plants that are good for direct seeding: squash, cilantro, carrots, beans, sunflowers, marigolds.

Plants that are recommended for transplanting: chilis, tomatoes, gourds, melons, basil, oregano, thyme.

April 22, 2012 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Heirloom Seeds

This year we planted corno di toro heirloom Italian peppers.  Since the peppers are heirloom seeds, it is possible to save the seeds each year for planting.  Many of the plants in our garden are heirloom varieties; Domingo has black corn from Oaxaca, Don Emilio has red corn from Durango, and other gardeners have yellow and white corn from their homelands.  The preservation of heirloom seed varieties is important to the future of sustainable growing.  Encoded in the genes of truly heirloom seeds are genetics for many kinds of resistance and adaptability.

The alternative to heirloom is hybrid or “F1”.  This Indicates that it is Filial 1 or first generation of the variety indicated.   A good example of an F1 hybrid in animals is a mule; which is the first generation offspring of a horse and a donkey.  The mule has the  endurence of a donkey and the strength of a horse, but is unable to reproduce in most cases.  There is nothing wrong with planting hybrids, and in fact many hybrids have been made to increase certain kinds of disease resistance in common crops.  The biggest disadvantage of planting hybrid seeds is this: if you save the seeds and plant them the next year;  you aren’t guaranteed to have the same variety.  They may not even be viable seeds because of the basic mechanics of genetic inheritance.

Many people say that heirlooms taste better because they were bred for flavor, while most hybrids are bred for productivity, and tolerance to factory farming methods.  Factory farming has led to a loss of genetic diversity in our food crops.  The tendency to plant to vast areas with a single genetically identical crop is called monocropping; and the introduction of genetically modified seed varieties makes this practice even more damaging.  Heirloom seeds have preserved their genetics through constant evolution and a mutually beneficial agreement with their human companions.  The plant, in this case a pepper, produces tasty nutritious food and in turn the human protects the plant and sows it’s seeds the next year at the time and place preferred by the plant.  You can participate in the vital task of preserving the genetic diversity of our food crops by growing heirloom seeds.  It is important to have diversity in the genetics of plants because this makes them more resistant to pests, and disease in the long term.

Heirloom Seeds Resources

April 21, 2012 at 8:30 am 1 comment

Sun and Rain

Alternating days of rain and sun for the past few weeks have been a blessing for the plants.  Many of our earthbound green friends have been actively photosynthesizing and have grown significantly.  The pigeons enjoyed a snack of rice, given by Don Domingo.  Lining the walkways of the garden are narcissus flowers blooming, and gladiolas preparing to bloom.  Today Carlie harvested oregano, mint, tarragon and cilantro from the garden.  These herbs have survived the winter and are entering their productive phase again with the lengthening of the days.  The blueberry plants have sensed the arrival of spring, and have their first small fruits.  The Nopal cactus, taking a cue from the blueberries about the arrival of spring, have awakened and are sending out tasty shoots that will soon be grilled, salted, covered with lime and wrapped in a corn tortilla.

April 11, 2012 at 5:05 pm Leave a comment

Human Power!

In El jardín, we use our very own human power to farm. Human powered farming generates positivity, healthy living, and beauty in our neighborhood. In today’s post-industrial, digital world, your food most likely comes from a farm that uses tractors, trucks, and other mechanized farming technology. All of our farming is done with out the use of petroleum. We use shovels, rakes, saws, machetes, various other hand tools, our bodies, and our souls when we garden.

In the Spring time, this means we use our own bodies and tools to till our land. In this way we enliven Mother Earth for the coming seedlings and plant starts. Various plots already have corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, gladiolas, peppers, onions, carrots, etc. In our plot, we continue to break down fava beans and turn them into the land to build soil. Last week the fava beans fell. This week we use shovels to till the favas into Mother Earth.

One thing is true – tilling the soil exhausts one’s body! Yet, in this exhaustion, one’s body stays strong. When you farm, you will need no gym membership because you work out as you plant food. I mention this because our American culture confronts obesity as an epidemic. This epdemic affects all Americans. The presence of El jardín both nourishes and educates our community about healthful lifestyles. Community gardens contribute to the healing of our cultures epidemic of obesity.

Human powered farming ensures a space for health and a space for beauty in our neighborhood. Over the spring, summer, and fall various flowers, fruits, birds and humans will beautify our community space. Right now lavender, lemon trees, peach blossoms, abutilons, daisies, grandfather sage, blueberries, roses, various birds and humans make our daily life aesthetically beautiful.

Sometimes we do not have enough time to finish all of our garden dreams. For example, we tilled only two-thirds of our plot of land so far. When undertaking human powered farming, one should remember that ones best laid plans can be foiled or completed. The most important thing is that you do work when you can and know that all your work (fruitful or not) propagates, positivity, beauty, and health. In the meantime, the earth awaits the return of her humans, while the humans await their return to the earth.

The benefits of human powered farming never end. As we use our bodies to till the soil we create a community space dedicated to health and beauty in our neighborhood. Yes, our work pushes our physical capabilities. Yet, we know that this physical “pain” and strength creates health, food, and a beautiful space for our friends and family. Human powered farming ensures a space for health and a space for art in our own neighborhood. !Que viva El jardín!

April 3, 2012 at 5:48 pm Leave a comment

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