By Helena Myers, U.S. Garden Coordinator for Border Partners
Well, it’s happening! Juana’s greenhouse made of papercrete is finished, and plants are sprouting in Palomas.
Our Palomas garden coordinator Juana Lozoya Ortega and her husband Fernando, along with Peter Edmunds and his crew built a papercrete greenhouse to support our Palomas home-gardening efforts. Now buckets and large pots hold plants sprouting in the greenhouse’s warm, sunny environment.
Juana recently took a flat of seedlings the greenhouse has already yielded to a beginning gardening family (see photo atop post). Now those seedlings are all nestled in a new family plot that’s surrounded by cement blocks and covered with plastic.
Our gardening program now counts 16 serious, active gardeners who have plastic-protected beds of at least 4×4’ dimension. They’re already harvesting greens and radishes.
Juana supports the Palomas gardeners with materials: seeds, compost, wire and plastic. And she continually searches out new gardeners, finding two more in the past two weeks. The enthusiastic gardeners are so proud of the plants they’ve grown from seeds sown in December that they hesitate to cut them. We encourage them to harvest them for salads because, if they leave an inch or more, the plant will grow back.
Palomas residents are familiar with tomatoes, chilies or vegetables that thrive in summer heat. But we plan to gather all the gardeners at Juana’s and make a big leafy green salad to demonstrate how to use winter greens because they are not familiar with fresh uncooked winter vegetable usage. Our plan is to keep gardens producing all year, so eventually people can eat nutritious food without going to the store, where they can only find wilted vegetables.
Last month an expert gardener from Columbus brought soil samples to demonstrate soil improvement methods to our Palomas gardeners. She explained the process of mixing biochar with manure to prepare it to serve as a soil amendment. Fernando is presently now watering and weekly turning a large compost pile, using manure from the stock yards mixed with biochar.
Our future plans are to attempt to propagate fig tree cuttings for all the gardeners and to begin to establish peach tree cuttings. We’re also looking forward to implementing the grey water systems that will result from the new environmental grant Border Partners received. Two gardeners already use water from their washing machines to trees in their yards, so this will extend the water conservation efforts we’ve already begun.
It is an exciting time of new growth in the gardening sector of Palomas!