Gardening, Composting in the Tropics

I didn’t expect to start any type of vegetable gardening until the beginning of the next rainy season in May. One of our workers is a skilled gardener and when he first started working for us he quizzed me about what I wanted to plant on the property. Little did I know he was taking my suggestions and turning them into his work “to do” list. I’m glad he is here and willing to teach me the Costa Rican ways of gardening. I have temporarily let go of my ideas of how I want to garden and instead want to learn the way the locals do things.

Mario dug three raised vegetable garden beds for me. The sun and rain are so intense here that for some vegetables the beds must be covered with a special plastic fabric that lets in only partial sunlight and water. The perimeter of the garden is fenced in with chicken wire. Soon I will buy vegetable starts along with seeds and see what happens. As Mario comes across garden pests he points them out to me and tells me how to control them. He is helping to solve the great “composting in the tropics” mystery for me. His method is to put the organic matter on concrete and layer it with rice husks, dirt, compost and molasses. The piles are covered with black plastic and tended to every few days. He says the compost will be ready in two months.

The other day we visited Mario and his family at his house. He showed me the compost he makes using chicken and cow manure. He’s proud of his product and seems happy to show me how to make it myself. His mother-in-law lives at the family compound and has a chicken coop with more than 100 hens. I have never seen such a calm, orderly hen house. We walked into the hen house and all of the chickens seemed, in unison, to be saying “hola”. It was incredibly strange. After a tour of the hen house and surrounding gardens we chatted with Mario, his wife and other family members around his newly constructed rancho. I enjoy these authentic Costa Rican experiences.

One of our friends told us that in Costa Rica plastic and concrete are your friends. We held out for several weeks before agreeing it was time to lay concrete under the new outdoor cabina addition. I’m glad we did, it makes the space much more usable. The carpenter built shelves next to the cabina for me to keep potted herbs. John has taken several walks to view the property boundaries. I enjoy listening to his experiences and can’t wait for things to calm down so I am able to also go exploring. I have been cooking more than I ever have. I make dog cookies for Roxy and the worker’s dogs, lemonade for the workers and nice meals for us to enjoy. Cooking, washing dishes and learning about gardening are filling my days.

The first picture is of a bird seen on the property. The second is a shot of the compost piles and in the back ground the raised garden beds. The dog in the picture is “Puppy”, one of the worker’s dogs. The last picture is of the newly concreted in patio area and the herb shelves.