One of my sunflower beds, yes I am aware they’re probably too close.

Reading this week:

  • Baltasar and Blimunda by José Saramago

Besides fish farming, I have also taken up gardening. The only real reason for me to garden is to get some street cred. Everyone farms so if you don’t farm it is kinda weird. When I say everybody I mean everybody. You bike through Mbala and people got maize growing in their front yards, and in Lusaka I see it growing in the median in the roads downtown. Everybody farms.

My project started with a permagarden by the side of my house. Permagardens are designed to be high-output and to retain water well. This lets you keep a small, easy to maintain garden next to your house to ensure both food security and a variety of foods to ensure good nutrition. The above picture is with the garden finished but before I planted. The beds are dug extra deep and have a good amount of manure (as fertilizer), ash (for minerals and to balance pH), and charcoal dust (to help the soil retain moisture).

This is the garden a few weeks after I finally planted it. Its contents are a pretty random assortment of whatever seeds I happened to have. In the lower right is velvet bean, and in the lower left I tried to grow peppers, thusfar with no success. The middle has watermelon and then onions & carrots (apparently these are better as companion plantings). The upper left has pigeon pea and the upper right has green ram. The garden is in desperate need of weeding, but I am writing blog posts to procrastinate doing that.

My farm.

The next project was to plant some sunflowers. Sunflowers are good for fish farming because after you press the seeds for oil, you can use the oilcake for fish feed. I had what I thought was a small amount of sunflower seeds, but man a small amount goes a long way. My house is on a little plot of land my host family used the previous year for maize. I started digging sunflower beds and then wouldn’t stop until I was finished with all my seeds. For every two beds of sunflowers, I planted one bed of either green gram or velvet bean to put nitrogen in the soil. This was a lot of work and I insisted on doing it all myself.

I finished the sunflower seeds with a bit of room to spare, so I made six ridges and planted those with orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. After the workshop we planted the roots we received and my host dad did some rapid vine multiplication so we had plenty of vines. I am pretty amazed when seeds work, so this whole vegetative multiplication thing I was wary of. It seems, however, to be working. My only regret now is that I don’t have more room; I managed to get some seeds for orange maize and that would have been cool to have.