Biodynamic Gardening in the Tropics - Part 1
Mary Lynn Perry
Biodynamic is a relatively new label for a natural system of gardening techniques, some of which are quite ancient farming traditions. Many of these traditions are still reflected in campesino customs amongst the Ticos, in other cultures in Central and South America, and in the rest of the world. This inheritance is most obvious in the importance of following moon phases for planting, propagating with cuttings, cutting posts for fences, cutting trees for lumber, pruning fruit trees, etc.
Biodynamic is a technique of organic gardening with great emphasis on soil enrichment. In the tropics, soil enrichment is extremely important for increased produce yield and happier ornamentals because the soil's nutrients are leeched away annually during rainy season. It is best to apply general enrichment treatments twice annually - at the beginnings of dry season and rainy season.
Soil enrichment involves 3 basic elements - manure, compost, and mulch. Charcoal, wood ash, earthworm castings, used coffee grounds, manure from chickens, crushed eggshells, and rusty cans and nails are just some examples of other soil additives that provide concentrated nourishment to veggies, fruits, and flowering plants.
Eggshells lower the soil's acidity, coffee grounds encourage flowering plants to produce more flowers, earthworm castings and chicken manure are extremely high in nitrogen. Due to the high clay content in many local soils, soil-lightening can also be an essential facet of soil-enrichment, especially for plants such as succulents (agaves, cactus, aloe vera, etc.), lilies, and pineapples (actually a type of bromeliad.)
To lighten your soil, river sand can be mixed with the topsoil. Also add compost, manure, and crushed mulch to improve drainage and encourage fast growth of roots.
When planting, the hole should always be dug much deeper and wider than the actual root-ball of the plant or tree. The extra space below and around the plant is filled with manure and/or a mix suitable to the specific needs of the plant. This encourages faster root development and early flowering/fruiting. The larger you make this hole, the faster and larger the plant will grow. For trees, a hole a meter wide and deep is great. Keep the soil as fluffy and soft in the hole as possible, so the roots can easily spread through it.
Raised beds, using heirloom species instead of hybrids, using natural insecticides (madero negro leaves, hot chili spray, etc.) are a few more of the many facets of Biodynamic gardening.
The benefits of Biodynamic techniques are truly amazing!!! Our first mango tree began fruiting one and a half years after it sprouted from a seed. This is an extreme contrast to the usual five to seven years required for a mango tree to fruit when planted in a "normal" manner. Even more amazing, it continues to fruit at least twice, sometimes thrice yearly!
Obviously, gardens located near the ocean are not handicapped by heavy clay soil. The challenges encountered in beachfront gardens are different, and perhaps more severe (salt-burn for example). Yet all the different challenges have simple common-sense remedies using biodynamic solutions.
Anyone interested in learning more about biodynamic gardening techniques is welcome to contact us or come by Rainsong. We are located 300 meters before the entrance to Cabo Blanco Reserve in Cabuya, and are open to visitors all day Saturday and Sunday.
We specialize in Butterfly Gardens, and Reforestation. Nursery open to public. Check our website for a list of rare and endangered tree species that we sell for only 500 colones! We also have many species that attract animals and birds to your land.
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