Stepping Stones Edible Garden

As I mentioned in a previous post, Stepping Stones is a great organization in Botswana that has an after school program for youth in a village outside of town. Most of the kids who attend are orphans and vulnerable children. Stepping Stones offers tutoring, drama, and business development, among other activities. They put on a kickin Hip Hop show at Maitisong, the theater at Maru a Pula, a few weeks back.These kids can dance!

March is the month to get the organic garden back in action, and so far so good. There is a small patch out back with shade netting where seeds have been planted. A fenced patch of land was donated by the Catholic church next door.  Here is a photo of it after the grass was cleared:

Before: Stepping Stones Garden, March 1st, 2010

Three weeks into the garden project and we’ve planted 200 seedlings of green vegetables and herbs: spinach (swiss chard), cauliflower, rape, chomolia, parsley, rocket (argula), marigolds, and sunflowers.  The kids are so enthusiastic, hard working, and quite proud of what they do.  So far it’s been such an enjoyable experience for me.  They work, dance, and make jokes.  Even though my Setswana is less than acceptable for the amount of time I’ve been here, people carry vibes, and happiness exists in abundance when they are in the garden.

Preparing beds for the mandala garden.

We’ve created a mandala design, a circle of circles, planted with a mix of vegetables, herbs, and flowers.  I’ve ordered two avocado trees and one mango tree which we will plant in the garden to give shade and provide fruit.  The circles are different than the traditional rows in fields and gardens- this lends the space a feeling of tranquility.  Hopefully people will want to spend time in the garden because it is peaceful, rather than experiencing it only as a place of work.   The circular shapes of the beds also use space wisely, allowing us to grow food in abundance.

A circle of circles anchored by a circle.

This past week I gave a lesson on organic gardening.  The kids speak English, but Thato translates into Setswana to make sure everyone understands.  Many of them study agriculture in school and at SSI we can reinforce the material with experiential learning.  I spoke to them about the importance of soil fertility which we create by adding compost and animal manure to Botswana’s sandy soil.  Other topics covered: pest management, the main elements of NPK, soil types, and companion planting.  I got a few laughs when I mentioned that it’s ok to pee on the plants.

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