At last the rains are beginning to return after a scorching dry season, and the landscape is beginning to turn green again. For gardeners, the start of “winter” in Costa Rica also means the beginning of a new gardening season. I hope you’ll join the gardening party this year. It can be so rewarding in many ways.
For me, there’s such a wonderful feeling that comes from preparing the soil, planting the seeds and tending the plants as they grow, and of course, preparing food that comes right from the garden.
Those fresh garden greens, tomatoes, corn, beans and squash seem to taste so much better than store-bought produce. Perhaps it’s just in my mind; however, organic home-grown food has been shown to contain more mineral salts, which contribute better taste and nutritional value.
Another reason for a home garden stems from the fact that Costa Rican farmers have a notorious fame for overuse of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. The residues of these chemicals in the food are now linked to a higher risk of health problems.
Then there are the benefits of getting some good exercise while working in the garden, which can keep you in shape. Health seekers have also discovered the benefits of “grounding.” Walking barefoot in the grass or getting your hands in the soil eliminates a buildup of excess electrons and return the natural flow of electro-magnetic energy in our body.
I hope this little pitch for gardening will inspire readers to join in on the fun of gardening this year.
So, where to start? Well, from the ground up. Healthy soils are the key to healthy plants and people. Preparing your soil with compost fertilizer is the best way to ensure you will have good crops. Fortunately, leading nurseries around the country now offer different types of organic compost fertilizers. Adding this black gold to your garden beds and ornamentals will boost your yields.
You can also begin to make your own compost at home. Each year during the dry season the sky turns gray with smog from farmers and homeowners burning organic matter, instead of returning it to the soil again. So bury it, don’t burn it. Dried leaves, grass clippings and food scraps can all be used to create fertile soil. You’ll find loads of tutorial videos online that can help you succeed in making your own black gold.
Next, find a place to start your seeds in flats. A table located on the sunny side of the house under the eve of the roof is a great place. Most garden greens, tomatoes, peppers and herbs get a better start in flats which can then be transplanted to the garden when they are hardy. You’ll also find that nurseries and farmer’s markets sell seedling vegetables all ready to transplant into the garden.
If you are just beginning, start small with one or two garden beds. If you have limited space you can also try growing a Mediterranean potted kitchen garden on a patio or balcony. Most vegetables take about three months before you begin to harvest, and if you plant a new flat of seeds each month, you’ll have a continual harvest all year.
Since Arbor Day just passed on April 29, make a special effort to plant a tree this year to help restore our critically damaged environment. Nurseries have a wide variety of fruit and ornamental trees you can select for your home. The coastal regions and mid-elevations are perfect for planting mangos, avocados, coconut palms, citrus and many more exotic fruit trees. Highland regions are ideal for the Haas avocado, apples, apricots, and the delicious annona.
Here’s my Arbor Day prose for this year: The pied piper of today masquerades as artificial intelligence luring our children with high tech marvels toward to the precipice of environment collapse and Death. Listen to the flute of Pan awakening all to the ancient wisdom of natural intelligence. Turn around, children, and tend the Tree of Life, which gives us health and peace.
By Ed Bernhardt in 16 – To read more of Ed Bernhardt’s monthly Home Gardening columns here.