Showcasing the Production of Healthy Organic Nutrient Dense Food for the Community
Part of the design for the demonstration site we are setting up in Malaysia is a vegetable garden that can showcase what is possible to produce in the equatorial tropics. The garden is positioned on a gentle slope facing south east and is 0.25 Hectare in size down from a Durian fruit orchard which in the future will turn into a food forest majoring in Durian.
This will be an open to public garden where visitors can come in harvest, learn and enjoy, and that’s why it is positioned also near a farmer’s market where every week the farmers from the around the city come and sell their produce.
The market garden is designed on contour to control water run-off and soil erosion. High shade in the form of Bananas, Papayas, alongside several nitrogen fixing trees, such as Gliricidia, Pigeon Pea and Leuceana will be planted.
Our general recommendation was to start small, and expand eventually to cover the whole area over time to accommodate familiarization and stabilization. This approach also allows for the production of the necessary compost and its application since at the moment there is not enough topsoil to allow healthy abundant production. The sequenced installation of the garden also allows for the successive installation of the irrigation systems.
Design Considerations :
The high rainfalls in the wet tropics call for the installation of a “hill bed system” or raised beds as in the image below. This allows for an ideal drainage and prevents water logging. Water exists should be defined and implemented accurately to keep erosion to a minimum.
The tropical on the other hand needs to be shaded with a variety of high productive shade such as papaya, example below. Nitrogen fixing trees and shrubs will also be integrated to add fertility and continuous growth of biomass through regular pollarding. Leucaena, Pigeon Pea and Gliricidia are going to be major components of the system.
Another design consideration is the addition of Banana Circles on the sides of the raised beds and in the middle, these mulch filled pits will act as a flooding buffer and at the same time decompose all the weeds and organic matter waste that comes out of the gardens and infiltrating the fertility in the soil.
In the design, a diversity of fruiting trees is also considered to add to the visitor’s experience and the productivity of the garden. Surrounding the garden will be a fence to stop the wild boar from entering, and along the fence a diverse collection of fruit trees and bushes, mixed with nitrogen fixing support species will be planted.
Access to the garden is from two different points, one for the public right across from the farmer’s market area. The other access for the employees and the tractor is from the back and a tractor tack will also be surrounding the garden to allow the tractor to access all parts of the garden to deliver mulch and compost when needed.
Planted with bananas, they will provide shade at specific spots of the garden creating new micro climates which potentially adds to the diversity of the yields from the garden.
Ducks are potentially integrated in the system for the use of their manure and weeding and pest control abilities. Unlike chickens, ducks will not scratch and move the soil, minimizing the labor needed to reform and shape the beds every cycle that the ducks go through sections of the garden. Additional harvest in the form of eggs and meat is stacked within the same space and overtime the manure from the ducks will sustainably add fertility and build soil.
Ducks should be moved around the market in cycles of 1-2 weeks in each section while fenced in an electric fence with a portable solar charger.
Implementation of the design has already started, firstly the priority was to fence the area against wild board. After the area was secured, half of the garden beds are now already shaped and positioned. Trees have been planted on the parameter of the garden inside the fence, these include Moringa, Leucaena, and Gliricidia. Beds have been planted with different nitrogen fixing cover crops and productive ground cover species such as sweet potato and melon. Wood chip has been used as mulch for the foot paths and bananas put in the banana circles. No vegetables will be planted due to the low fertility of the soil and the lack of consistent labor. Soil life will need to be built over the next year or so before the vegetables are planted and staff are trained to maintain and run the system.
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