Teaser 221: Planting Our Garden

We had a furrow attachment for the little tractor but the blades could be set at a variety of intervals and we dug the furrows on the north end first, where the taller plants would be planted, other than the garlic reserved around the perimeter along much of the west and east and all of the south. Garlic shoots, at least the varieties we grew, have almost no shading concerns so we could grow even the shortest plants next to them. We left a large area between the garlic and the next crop for servicing ease.

The first crop we planted was asparagus. We needed no furrow for our permanent bed in the northeast corner and when the asparagus crowns arrived, everyone planted. It was easy to do and the entire bed, a square of three hundred meters, was planted and watered by the end of the day. It wasn't cheap, but if our expected conditions prevailed, we would never have to plant asparagus for fifteen to thirty years. Since it's not a crop grown often in Africa, we could only cross our fingers.

The swiss chard, kale, brussels sprouts and sugar beets were all planted by seed in the north end of the crop land, each having a very large section. Plant spacing was important for these crops so we designed a system. For a sizable discount we purchased cases of tape measures, 100 feet in length using inches, in sturdy round cases, and unrolled many to set marks. We marked some at four inch intervals, some at six inch and some at eight inch. We then marked on the case 4”, 6” and 8”. Those unmarked were used for spacing between 10 inches and fourteen inches, which we would set at 12 inches consistently. If we had a need for eighteen inches, we could mark some tape measures for that but none of the winter crops would be planted at those spaces. Swiss chard and kale can be set farther apart but we went with eight inches. The person planting took one 8” tape measure run down the irrigation furrow between two planting rows and would plant seed down one row, set a marker, plant the other row in the opposite direction, and move the tape measure, with the ring in a small stake shoved in the ground. The planter needed only to set the seed in the ground near each mark. We weren't expecting perfection. Close was good enough. Speed was of greater value and the Gossi members, whose helping numbers kept growing weekly, were really good at planting and at the right depth, too. Depth was easy. Nothing would be planted in the cropland at less than a half-inch so all I ever had to show the planters was the length of my index finger to the first knuckle, half for a half inch, full for an inch, between first and second knuckle for inch and a half, second knuckle for two inches. The swiss chard and kale beds ran east to west length-wise a half mile each but most of the planters finished four rows each day. We had a lot of rows. Brussels sprouts were planted in the last section of the north, up to and below the asparagus, and sugar beets covered the entire section south of the swiss chard, kale and brussels sprouts. Beets are good for you and you can even process sugar from sugar beets, plus they're easy to can for longer storage. We had every intention of doing so, and they had a good value in local and regional markets.

We had winter squash in the east, north and west of the garlic, mustard and arugula on the west, north and east of the garlic. These three crops took a small amount of cropland measured north to south. What we planted immediately south, with a special attachment to the small tractor, was common winter wheat, which would extend into the summer for harvesting, the best wheat for bread. The stalks would be low, the summer crops around it would be unaffected nor affect the wheat stalks, and watering concerns were minimal. The wheat crop used the most cropland including the garlic, yet we knew it wouldn't be enough for our total bread and dough needs; we would devise a strategy for the wheat shortfall later. South of the wheat between the garlic we planted rutabaga and turnips, then cucumbers, and in the last section we planted cabbage. There were areas throughout the cropland which were never planted for winter crops. We would see how each did and change things as necessary but we also had planting variances for expected summer crops and those spaces were reserved. They would be planted while we were still harvesting winter crops. Garlic, taking up the second largest part of the cropland annually, would not be planted until October, still weeks away, and most from seed. We anticipated tens of thousands of garlic plants. Garlic would prove to be the single most productive cash crop Jardin de la Paix ever grew. It still is. Peace Garden garlic has a world-wide reputation. It should. It's the largest patch of the most potent organic garlic grown anywhere in the world, with absolutely no pesticides or herbicides used. Ever! We command exorbitant prices and we get it, too.

In the greenhouses—and we kept building them when time permitted due to our phenomenal success in what we grew inside them—we grew a large variety of vegetables, mostly vegetables which would grow less desirably in a crop setting or would require more cultivation in that environment. We grew ginger, cilantro, basil, stevia, a natural sweetener, and other herbs, generally in planters placed on the interior row. Besides tomatoes in the barrels, we also planted beans and peas and rigged up stakes and string for support. We had romaine lettuce and spinach for your “roughage,” onions, carrots and radishes for a wealth of vegetable dishes—planted in greenhouses because the seed depth is so short, which is the same for celery and peppers of several varieties, which we also grew—and topped off with broccoli and cauliflower. All thrived under the “greenhouse effect.” The best thing about every vegetable we planted is we knew the exact process to follow to collect the seeds from each for the next planting. Our plans were to never buy seed for anything we planted which turned out to be successful. We were going strictly heritage planting, our hope being to reach it one hundred percent after year one. Climb the highest mountain, because everything else is a step down...

Food scraps, from research which advised what the animals could eat, went to the animals, careful to separate any meat by-product including grease from fat. Meat by-product was kept in a separate place as it had fertilizing capability, especially if mixed with animal excrement, manure if you prefer. All the rest was added to our growing compost site on the eastern edge near the greenhouses, though we separated the egg shells, crushing them as they serve, scattered around plants, as a natural pesticide. We had other natural pesticide and herbicide measures and were gathering them as we moved along. Only as a last resort to save a crop would we use commercial chemicals for pesticides or herbicides. Again, we had our fingers crossed with all of this. Swiss chard, kale, rutabaga, turnip, asparagus, brussels sprouts and cucumbers, all of these, to some extent, are crops rarely grown in Africa and to the greatest extent never grown in our area of the continent. We had only a limited idea of what to expect because we were blazing a trail few had ever traveled. I recorded this statement for the record with Jeremy. It had a certain sting all over the world when people heard and saw me say those words on their viewing screens, yet no one at the time knew where I was or even if I was alive.

- Just Desserts, Segment Twenty-SevenLost on the Dark Continent” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

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