Sunday, 19 July 2009

salad bowl

The area of our farm where most of the edible greens are gathered is called the salad bowl: it sits at the bottom of two gentle slopes with a wall of cycads to one side and a passion flower arbor to the other. The slopes are covered with black pepper plants and fruit trees, pejabaye palms line the edge and form borders throughout as we harvested the heart of palm the same time we planted the salad bowl. The fallen palm trunks have gradually rotted down and are in various states of decay depending on their age when harvested. They have provided us with great mulch and help form mini microclimates, especially at the beginning when we covered the ground with chopped palm fronds and bark. At the moment they are brightly decorated with several mushroom species: pycnoporus sanguineus (good for teas), schizophyllum commune (the world's most common mushroom), and even a fine though small oyster strain, pleurotus ostreatus, and home to numerous colonies of ants and beetles.

We decided to plant the salad bowl in the most natural, least invasive of styles, simply clearing a small patch of mulch, digging a small hole and planting on top of a mix of compost and bat guano harvested from a nearby tree. We then mulched heavily and watered, and on to the next. The plants are not in rows but rather spaced in groups which we think would allow them the most sunlight. We ran tomatoes by an old bean trellis and planted leguminous living stakes (madera negra) by everything we added to the area.

What we have discovered thus far is that Malabar and Okinawa spinach do better in the shade, cranberry hibiscus does not like a lot of rain, cherry tomatoes (local strain) do not like to reseed themselves and everyone enjoys eating camote (sweet potato) leaves.

The salad bowl is an interesting experiment. It's a small area and in total there are probably less than 30 plants, enough to harvest salad greens for ourselves and to sell a few bags at the farmers market, but not nearly enough for any real commercial venture. Our intention was to see what worked and then expand into something we could harvest and sell to local restaurants each week.

We are at the point where we are ready to expand.

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thanks for sharing!