Orange Clay, Black Topsoil and Reforestation

orange clay dirtGardening is challenging here. The bugs are relentless, the sun is strong and drying, the wind can blow fiercely and torrential downpours happen. But nothing stands a chance at growing if the soil isn’t in good condition. The area I am gardening in is flat because the previous owner carved out the hillside and dumped the dirt and topsoil down the slope leading to the river. I am grateful for the large flat areas we have around the homes and I am grateful someone else did this to the land. I don’t think I could have watched the destruction it caused. Anyway, what is left for dirt is orange clay and rock.

Mario created several raised garden beds for us, using the clay and amending it with organic compost fertilizer called bocashi. I read that even though clay soil requires a lot of organic matter to be added that after several years of amending the soil should be great. One of the ingredients of bocashi is topsoil. Because there isn’t any in the areas we are gardening, we used the clay soil. Last year when we recovered the fallen wood on the property across the river, we discovered that the soil there is excellent, black, crumbly dirt. The crew brought back several bags of the dirt and I used it to start vegetable and tree seedlings. Soon though, the good dirt ran out.

pile of black topsoilRecently, the crew spent part of a few days bagging up more of this incredible dirt, loading it into our truck and then delivering to the vivero. The whole they dug the dirt from was about a meter deep and several meters wide. The deeper they dug down, the finer the dirt was. We are so fortunate to have this resource on our property. Now that the dirt pile has been replenished I have been busy mixing it with some left over bocashi and filling plastic bags to start seeds. I am hoping the various seeds will germinate and grow enough to plant in May, the beginning of the rainy season.

tree seedlings growing in bagsI think I have caught the reforestation bug, which I have seen other land owners here catch. I can’t take a walk through the property without looking for new seeds. Today I took a long walk, high up on the property, and while there are several pastures filled with grass, there are more areas where a second generation of forest is returning. This in part is due to the reforestation efforts the previous owner did and the fact that the cattle are now gone. The dirt under those grassy pastures is black gold. We could grow just about anything there, if we wanted to. For now, I am envisioning more big trees, trees I might not be able to enjoy in this lifetime, but they will be there for the future generations.