In this blog, Malama (photography, social media and student tutor), interviews Iwell (gardening, managing labour, children’s tutor, waste management and physical fitness tutor to students and children). Iwell had the idea that, with the land we have at Our Moon, we could plant many vegetables, in different varieties, to be self-sustaining and provide more nutritious meals for everyone on site.
Malama: How long have you been working on the gardens with your team?
Iwell: The preparations of ‘Our Moon’s greenhouse garden’ started off in May and planting was done from the 16th to 19th of May 2022. We have situated the garden in our small forest. The trees allow sunlight to get in, without scorching the plants and drying out the land too quickly. The crops that we planted included beetroot, carrots, red onions, white onions, bell peppers, eggplant, impwa, pumpkins, kidney beans, cabbage, lettuce, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, kale, tomatoes, parsley, rosemary and basil. We had our first harvest of lettuce during the first week of June. It’s been just over four months now that we have been working on the gardens.
Malama: Seeing that this helps with Our Moon’s sustainability, how do you improve as time goes?
Iwell: The vision is that we will not have to buy seeds or seedlings but will be able to plant and grow vegetables from our own seeds and seedlings. In addition, we want to provide our own manure and compost for the gardens. So far, our students have learnt composting techniques and have made four compost piles which will be ready for use beginning 1st November. Other than the pigeons we currently have, we are targeting to venture into livestock and increase the amount of animal droppings that will always be collected and used in our gardens. We have also taken a keen interest in studying agricultural books to better our skills and understanding of growing crops successfully. Our gardening philosophy is based and focused on two books: “FARMING GOD’S WAY” and “PRACTICAL GARDENING FOR AMATEURS”.
Malama: Are there any challenges you have been facing and what are you doing about it?
Iwell: Our aim is to grow our vegetables purely organically to ensure good healthy food for everyone. Being in the forest, we have a lot of insects inhabiting the trees and mulch. These eat up vegetable leaves and cause diseases in the crops, for example, we lost all our tomatoes at the fruiting stage due to the red spider. This pest attacks the leaves of tomatoes causing the leaves to dry and the fruits to rot. Since we do not want to use chemicals on our crops, we have been trying to introduce plants such as rosemary and onions to help repel the pests. We also hope to plant more varieties with the hope that we can create a natural habitat in the gardens where pests will feed on each other and cause less damage to our crops. Also, manure is not readily available so we occasionally have to buy it in, which is difficult and costly to transport to our land.
Malama: Is there any gardening technique you have learnt and prefer – how is that being helpful?
Iwell: We have learnt the application of the “God’s blanket” technique which has reduced the weeds in our gardens and also keeps moisture in the soil. We have learnt that fracturing the soil in root vegetables retards their growth and that we need to thin out carrots so they have a chance to grow. We have taught ourselves how to prune vegetables in order to prolong their life span and the quality of fruits they produce and we have successfully trialled the planting of Iris potatoes from spores. There is much more we have learnt and much more still to learn. I love to try things out and watch to see how things develop. In particular, we have seen how pruning is good for the vegetables because it allows the plants to have stable and firm stems, enables ventilation and reduces the hosting of pests.
Malama: Thank you so much Iwell, for sharing your experiences and talents with us. We are all excited for the next stages. I personally enjoy cooking with and eating the fresh ingredients – it is great to have so much variety.