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Monday, June 25, 2012

From the Garden to the Table

One of H.E.R.O.’s goals is to create a residence for orphans that is as self-sustainable as possible.  To reach this goal we seek to engage in activities that promote sustainability including rainwater collection, the use of solar power, and agricultural production.  In a small, but important, step towards this goal, yesterday we enjoyed the fruits of our labor, fresh lettuce from the H.E.R.O. garden.

Our work started in the month of February.  We started our seedlings in starter cups using soil that we had composted for over six months.  Using a ditch compost system we were able to dispose of all of our fruits and vegetables in an ecologically sensitive manner.  Our first batch of seedlings consisted of two types of lettuce, yellow squash, and broccoli.  During this time, our children were also heavily involved in the process.  Every week a child was selected to take care of the seedlings, which included taking them out every morning into the sun, watering them appropriately, and replacing them into a covered shelter in the evening. 

During this time Rob, a H.E.R.O. volunteer, generously blocked off a large section of our yard that would eventually become the raised garden bed.  He worked feverishly in the scorching sun to build a beautiful, rectangle shaped bed made out of cinder blocks.  After Rob left and right before the seedlings were ready to be transplanted, the children and I dug out the rest of the composted soil and placed it into the raised garden bed.  The result was a large raised garden bed filled with healthy, vitamin-enriched soil that was ready for planting.

One month ago we transplanted the seedlings into the raised garden bed.  What I failed to mention thus far, is that not all of the seedlings made it.  At the end of the day, we successfully transplanted 10 lettuce plants, 1 squash plant, one broccoli plant, and 2 pineapples (last minute addition to the garden).  Additionally we have some wild pumpkin that has also started to grow in the garden, but we have to keep an eye on it so that it does not take over the entire space.  We learned a valuable lesson from this first round of gardening.  Our seedlings should have been started during the months of October/November, and then transplanted into the garden during February.  We started our seedlings too late this year, which resulted in them suffering from too much heat.  Furthermore, by the time we planted them in the garden the rainy season had stopped, meaning that instead of being able to use rainwater to help our plants grow, we were forced to use water that had been brought to us via a water truck.  We are ready now for our second season to start in October, with the hopes of having more success.

It was with great joy that at the beginning of this week our lettuce plants were sufficiently developed to pluck our first leaves of fresh lettuce.  After being washed thoroughly and paired with some tomatoes our children were able to enjoy H.E.R.O.’s very first harvest!  I look forward to the day when our children are able to successfully grow their very own garden, a skill that is truly important in Haiti.  We are one step closer to self-sustainability!

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