The Naked Truth – Island Gardening


island gardeningThe earth, like your mother, should never lie naked. Such is the mantra of organic growers. The glazed over look of confirmed organic disciples is a give away to others who reach for the chemical big guns. The gardens of bio, eco or organic farmers are the envy of others.

The earth is a living organism – a world where everything should be in balance. The minerals, nutrients and microbes need to live in harmony. So how does one achieve this utopia? The first step is to keep the ground covered either with a crop, a cloth, or best of all, leaves, mulch or any decomposable material. I am not a big fan of a lot of digging. In the tropics where microbes (free labor) do a very efficient job of breaking down matter, it is very simple to “snip and drop” rather than “rake and burn”.

Feed the soil not the plant. Layer on liquid feed. Mulch does not have to be composted. All those leaves that trees drop, the mango, rain tree, Christmas tree, rake them over to your plants. The grass clippings – same deal. The beneficial organisms will reduce the accumulated 30cm of mulch to 3cm of top soil in one year. The microbes will enjoy a liquid feed of Bokashi tea or Bio Gold fish fertilizer on a weekly basis. Occasionally I do use a chemical fertilizer. This is like having an occasional bag of potato chips. The salty buzz is nice but one does not live on a complete diet of fast food. The use of 12;12;17 (fast release fertilizer also available from Vanuatu Agricultural Supplies) is always with moderation and in conjunction with eco farming practices.

What about the bugs that live in the soil? I have seen a huge amount of organophosphates poured on the soil to rid an area of taro beetle and cut worm. Not only do they rid the area of these critters but they also remove earth worms, michorrizal bacteria and other beneficial microbes. It is wrong, dangerous and it not only kills the soil for a very long time but also destroys our chances of promoting Vanuatu as a clean, organic environment. The alternative is to plant cassava or manioc, as the natural exudates from their skin deter pests. You can also use bok choi or mustard as a natural fumigant and a good crop to grow as a break-cycle crop.

To be registered as totally organic requires lots of compliance paper work. Some growers feel that this is not worth the extra work. Growing your own vegetables organically, one will realize there is enough to do and learn. Buying organic, one needs to trust the label and the organization that monitors the growers.

Bhutan has declared itself organic and only those that use chemicals need to be registered. 90% of their farming is organic/eco-based and they have a healthy export to Europe. So let’s slip on some cover for our soils, slop on some liquid feed, and slap on a label of environmental friendly gardening practices.

By Cornelia Wyllie. Cornelia is the caretaker of Rainbow botanic gardens, entrepreneur and founder of Vanuatu Direct / Fine Foods processing. She is  passionate about the nutraceutical values of  foods and believes that food is our medicine. Flowers and  food are found at discerning stores in Port Vila with distributors overseas. Buying direct is possible and full support and certification for Biosecurity is available on selected lines if these items are sent or taken overseas. Contact [email protected]