The Rains: Planting Begins!

After many rainless months the clouds have rolled in and (in hopeful theory) the rainy season has begun!  All the life here, from humans to plants, is finally getting what is needed.  We’re so excited about the progress we’ve made this year.  Tons of work has gone in to preparing plant beds, small seedlings, collections of seeds, and wheelbarrow loads of tierra de encino (composted oak leaves).  All the work that volunteers and residents have been doing for the last three months is coming to fruition now that the rains have arrived.

duraznos_peaches_garden

It is a bit earlier than the last two years, which is wonderful.  Last year the rains did not arrive until the first week of June, and also went on hiatus for three weeks in July and August - which are normally the rainiest months.  The rain pattern last year hurt a lot.  We’re hoping this year the rain will be plentiful and the plants will be so happy!

Since we were expecting the rains to arrive in June, we find ourselves in a mad planting rush, getting seeds into gardens and small plants into the ground.  We’ll be planting until the beginning of July, when we’ll change our focus to tending the gardens and also building cob structures while we have the excess water from the rain to work with.

One of the philosophies we have is a to limit human irrigation.  Agriculture using irrigation is the source of much human conflict.  We rely on the rains to water the plants from the end of May until late September - then, the plants are on their own.  With the exception of very valuable plants that we really have a strong interest in keeping alive (though ideally we would like all our plants to stay alive), we do not water our plants and gardens in the dry season.  Instead we focus most of our energy towards selecting plants that can live in this climate - nopales, magueys, succulents, and fruit trees - without relying on water to irrigate plants which are not suited for a climate with an extended dry season.

This philosophy leads to the main criticism we receive of our permaculture project.  Many of our extremely knowledgeable volunteers and visitors just do not comprehend how we can neglect the food gardens and focus more on our food forest: planting for years down the road rather than planting for the next few months.  We’ve found that people want to see a year-round produce heavy garden providing vegetables, even when we’re in the midst of an extremely dry period of the year.  While this is a lovely idea, we can only make this idea happen when we expand the rain catchment systems and build more extremely expensive cisterns to provide the water for a large produce garden.  We have over 100,000 liters of cistern space right now, but even with this amount we do not have water to spare to keep a garden alive to provide year-round produce to our visitors.

Of course, we will plant food this year in selected gardens in order to have our own supply of fresh garden veggies during the time of year when we have excess water to feed the plants.  And we do intend to have a year-round tomato and greens patch.  But what we’re really excited about is developing the forest to have a collection of food plants scattered about: avocados under the shade of some pines, walnut trees along the trails, nopales ready to pick nearly everywhere, and magueys to harvest for agave nectar.  We’re planting plums, peaches, loquat, figs…  and vine plants like chayote and passion fruit that do so well here and can cover fences and grow up trees. We are also planting “near natives” collected from microclimates nearby.  We do this in hopes of speeding recovery if damaging rapid climate change occurs.

planting_gardens

For their asethic value, and the nectar they provide birds and bees, we’ve put in hundreds of jacaranda trees, cactuses, red hot pokers, and other beautiful flowers, succulents, and vines that do great in this climate.  We’re restoring the native orchids, ephaphitic cactusus, ferns and bromiliads that were in the forest before it was clear-cut some 60 years ago.

After today’s planting we will turn our efforts towards reproducing more plants for next year’s rainy season.

June is our busiest month!  Some volunteers cancelled due to fears about the Swine flu.  We have positions available for volunteers and WWOOFers who are interested in visiting Mexico and the Bosque, and working hard to help us create an ecological and social paradise.  See our website for more information.

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