Saturday, September 28, 2013

Corporate Social Responsibility

The idea of growing food in poor periurban areas is not quite new, but making a commitment to a long termeffort is. Too many well intentioned gardens, efforts on the part of community members without sponsorship and proper strategy, management and supervision, fall apart before too long. That is why certain companies intent on making a charitable difference to people's lives choose to do so in a more orderly and businesslike fashion than you might have thought. Positive Cycle's philosophy is to respect the willingness to give that can be found in every human spirit by caring for and being responsible for the correct and therefore not wasteful management and application of donations of time, energy and money. We believe it is a tragedy to plants seeds than will never be harvested and that's why the follow through and the goal of sustainability are so important on all of the food growing schemes where we have had the privilege of teaching people what we know about growing plants for food and profit. By 'counting the beans' so to speak we make absolutely certain that every single cent donated to the schools and creches where we are helping people to grow crops makes the most difference it possibly can. We actually have spreadsheet already prepared that need only specifics of land area and available water and labour to be able to cost micro farm start ups and project their ultimate profitability.

Friday, September 27, 2013

So many plants... the value of diversity

 If you can imagine what might happen to a whole field of cabbages, growing as far as you can see all around you, should a pathogen to which that particular type of cabbage is particularly vulnerable happen to strike, then you will quickly be able to realise the value of a diverse field. When the cabbage has, say, origanum and spring onions as neighbours and the next large plant in the planting plan is a brinjal, rather than another cabbage, then there is a barrier between our first sick cabbage and all the others of its kind in the planting plan. This means that although a pathogen might find its way onto one of your cabbages, that is not to say that your entire cabbage crop will be affected. In fact it is quite possible that some of the companion plants around these hypothetical cabbages vulnerable to infection may destroy the pathogen. Certainly other aspects of the bio dynamic system will be destroying pathogens and reducing the likelihood of infections. Not only is bio dynamic soil full of the most diverse array of micro organisms possible but the earthworms and associated microbes at work throughout the soil will be progressively removing or destroying pathogens as healthy germs are added to the soil. This diverse approach, addressing both microbes and macrobes is what creates the rock solid stable agricultural system that is bio dynamics. Building soil rather than depleting soil.should be the goal and diversity is what makes it possible. A diverse garden orfield, to put it simply, is worth far far more than the sum of itsparts.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Using mulch

When used properly mulch is one of the best natural ways to foster the growth of soil organisms and limit damage to plants from extremes of temperature in the soil as well as control weeds and break down into additional organic 'food' for the soil organisms kept so healthy by the stable temperature and slow moisture loss provided by the mulch. Mulch is really practically any organic matter laid on top of soil as a top layer. Usually at least a couple of inches thick. One problem with mulching can be the difficulty some experience in obtaining sufficient mulch. Mulch is of course for sale at co ops and nurseries but if you need to avoid spending money (as many of the community projects where Positive Cycle provide material assistance and training do) then organic material available on the land will need to be used. It may seem impossible to find enough mulch to create a blanket several inches thick covering your entire growing area but take a closer look and where organic material is in short supply Positive Cycle will place a substantial wager that there is someone nearby who burns organic material. In a misguided attempt to 'clean up' a great deal of extremely valuable organic material is wasted. (It is worth noting that ash from fires is also a valued soil additive but that is for another blog post.)
Maintaining the disciplines of vermiculture, anaerobic fermentation and also simple aerobic composting will assist you to create rich soil with more than ample supplies of dried leaves and other plant matter to use as mulch. Particularly as a barrier against moisture loss in this one of the water poor countries, mulch is a valuable lesson worth applying, whether you are a market gardener in a hot and dusty township or a hobbyist in the well watered greenery of northern Johannesburg.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Saving seeds

If you have ever joined in with the rising chorus of voices accusing monsanto and the global agricultural community of exploitation and negligence then you will have to either been saving seeds for a long time or you have arrived on this blog page in an attempt to find out how to do so. Saving seeds is one major weapon we have in the fight to retain control of our own food supply. When crop strains are genetically modified, a legal precedent has been set for these strains to be patented and declared the property of the company responsible for the genetic corruption. I know, ridiculous isn't it. They destroy a plant and then tell us that they own our plants when their damaged DNA pollinates our own safe crops.
By harvesting seeds from your organically grown food plants you can ensure your own future health as well as making a contribution to worldwide efforts to maintain the integrity of the food supply.
How to Save Seeds

First set aside the healthiest and most productive plant of your crop. You are selecting the best quality genes to plant next year. Sometimes plants in less than perfect condition may have damaged genetic material which could cause their seeds to fail to germinate. Different plant's seeds should be harvested at different times. It doesn't do to harvest seeds too early or too late. For most plants you will find that when the seeds are dry and easily removed, that is the appropriate time to harvest seeds. Lettuce seeds for example should be allowed to dry two to three weeks after flowering before harvesting the seeds. Practical experience is a winner when it comes to knowing how and when to save seeds, which is why this information is covered in educational and fun workshops run by Positive Cycle in Johannesburg, South Africa.