| General Conference
|| Skill Level 2
Year of Introduction: 2001
This Honor is a component of the Farming Master Award.
1. Participate in the preparation of a food garden nine meters square. Cover the following points.
| Note: The editors of this answer book feel that there is an error in the official version of this requirement.
Technically, nine meters square is a square that is nine meters long and nine meters wide. This would be equivalent to 81 square meters. However, nine is kind of a strange number to give for this requirement, and that makes us wonder if there is a mistake in this requirement. Further, the shape of the garden is not important, but the size is. Did they intend to write "nine square meters" instead to express the required minimum size? If so, this would be an area equal to a square which is three meters long and three meters wide (or an area of about 10 feet by 10 feet, or 100 square feet in the English system). Nine meters square is a large garden, but not unreasonably large. Nine square meters is a small garden, but not unreasonably small. We leave the interpretation up to the instructor.
a. Choosing the site
The garden site should be:
- well drained
- have access to water
- be close enough to your home that you can manage it regularly
- not belong to someone else or, if it does, you get permission to use the site
b. Clearing the bush
This is pretty self explanatory. Remove all the brush, non-fruit bearing trees and other obstructions from your garden.
c. Cleaning the area
Getting rid of the brush, any garbage, and all the weeds so you have good soil to till is important. You want a clean slate for planting.
d. Preparation of the soil for planting
The soil should be at least 30 cm deep. Once the site is selected, it needs to be plowed and tilled. Plowing can be done with a plow for large (and medium-sized) plots, or with a spade for very small plots (this is heavy labor though). Plowing loosens the soil so that the plants will have easy access to the soil to a depth of 30 cm. Tilling can be accomplished with a disc for large plots or with a garden tiller for smaller plots. The purpose of tilling is to break the soil into a fine aggregate. The ideal time to till is when a dirt clod can be picked up and easily crumbled in the hand - it should not be done immediately following a rain.
It's generally a good idea to test the soil before fertilizing it so that you know what type of fertilizer to apply. Soil testing kits are available in garden centers. Once you have tested the soil and have selected an appropriate fertilizer, it can be spread over the garden with a broadcast seeder. You can do this before tilling or after.
Planting includes plant selection and placement. In general, taller plants should be planted on the side of the garden furthest from the Earth's equator. (In the Northern Hemisphere plant them on the north side. In the Southern Hemisphere plant them on the south side.) This is so they do not shade the smaller plants. Seed packets will contain data on them telling you how deep, how far apart from one another, and when to plant them in your geographic area. Seedlings can be bought from a nursery or grown from seeds indoors before the outdoor growing season begins.
For planted seeds, start by making a furrow with a hoe. The depth of the furrow should equal the desired depth of the seed. Then walk along and drop seeds in the furrow, burying them as you go. Be sure to space them as per the instructions on the seed packet. Do not pack the soil tightly over the furrow as you bury the seeds. A common practice is to place the seeds in the furrows in pairs so that if one does not come up, there's a chance the other will. If both come up, one of them must be thinned, even if they both look healthy.
2. Through a practical demonstration show how you will make and use compost in your garden.
Compost is decomposed organic matter. It is rich in nutrients and will enrich the soil in your garden. There are many ways to create a compost pile, but they all involve piling on organic matter and allowing it to breath and rot. Than pull the finished compost from the bottom (or start another pile occasionally and spread out the fully composed pile when ready).
Organic kitchen and garden waste, and leaves (in moderation) all make good compost. Egg shells add calcium. A side benefit of composting is that less garbage goes into the solid waste stream for collection, which saves landfill space and may save you money.
Once the compost looks like rich dirt, spread the compost in your growing areas, working it into the soil with your how or mechanically.
3. List the crops from the following plant families you will plant in your garden and the time of year that you can do this.
Here you need to choose what to plant, taking into consideration what you like to eat, what there is market demand for (assuming you plan to sell some of your crops) and what will grow well in your region. The answers to the question about when to plant is going to be fairly locality specific. If you do not know when to plant consult a garden supply store or local experienced gardeners.
The requirement seems to suggest you choose at least one crop from each of the five categories.
a. Root crops—e.g. cassava, sweet potatoes, carrots
b. Grass—e.g. corn, sugar cane
c. Legumes—e.g. beans, peanuts
d. Leafy vegetables—e.g. cabbage varieties, aibika
e. Fruit—e.g. Bananas, pawpaw, tomatoes, egg plant, pumpkins, cucumber
4. Show by practical demonstration and by diagram how you will divide your garden to plant your crops.
It is a great idea to sketch out your garden so you know where you planted what. It helps you not plant over top of something else that has not come up yet, and records of what was planted where each year help in proper crop location.
Layout can be whatever you want, keeping in mind that tall plants like corn should not overshadow short plants that require a lot of sun. Also try to make areas that will need to be reached for weeding and harvesting accessible from a path or that the rows are far enough apart to walk between that you do not need to trample the plants to reach other plants.
5. What crops will best grow where you have burnt out stumps and logs?
Crops that do not need tilled soil, and ones that have vines. Squash for example will grow up and over obstructions.
Burned wood and organic material is excellent for fertilizing and enriching the soil.
6. Show and demonstrate how you will keep your garden free from weeds and garden pests.
Weeds choke out crops, so reducing weeds is a good idea. You can pull the weeds, hoe them out, or spray them with weed killer. You can also lay a ground cloth once your crops come up. A ground cloth lets moisture through but makes it difficult for new plants (weeds) to grow as it blocks out light. You can also mulch around larger plants to discourage weed growth.
When chemical pesticides were first introduced, they were used to the exclusion of all other types of pest control. This had the unfortunate effect of poisoning the environment. In the 1970's this situation was recognized, and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques were introduced. Pesticides are still used, but they are a last resort.
When most people think of pests, they think of insects. In vegetable cultivation, this term should be expanded to include weeds, microorganisms, and mites. Pest control depends on the early and correct identification of the pest. The grower can use cultural mechanical, biological, or chemical controls to reduce the effect of pests. These methods all rely on constant vigilance by the grower.
Cultural Controls include the selection of disease and pest-resistant cultivars. Crop rotation is another important cultural control, as certain pests feed exclusively on one type of plant. Eliminating the plant from the environment for a year or two will disrupt that cycle. Another important control mechanism is to mulch, water, prune, and fertilize the plants correctly. A healthy plant is better able to defend itself from pests.
Mechanical Controls include covering the plants with netting or setting traps for expected (or observed) pests. Pests can also be removed with vacuums or by hand. Hoeing and cultivating around the plants will help control weeds. It is also important to remove infected plants from the crop as soon as possible so that the disease does not spread.
Many insects prefer to feed on the underside of leaves where they will be more difficult for a predator to find. These pests can be discouraged by laying aluminum foil on the ground, shiny-side-up to reflect additional sunlight to the underside of the leaves. This confuses the insects and encourages them to feed elsewhere.
Biological Controls include the introduction of natural predators. For instance, ladybug beetles feast on aphids, and poultry feed on a number of insect pests. Be careful when introducing predators though, that you do not introduce a non-native species which has no natural enemies of its own. This can - and has caused its own form of environmental damage. You can also use commercially available pheromones to disrupt the mating cycle of many insects.
Chemical Controls can be used when all else fails. Selection of a pesticide and a fungicide will depend on the particular pest being combated (which his why proper identification is so important). Sprays are generally more effective than dusts, as nearly all pesticides rely on contact with the pest for their effectiveness. Read the instructions on the chemical containers carefully before using, especially noting whether the chemical is safe to use on food plants. Many times a pesticide will warn against its use for a period of time before harvesting.
7. Demonstrate how you will plant your crops to have a continual supply.
This requirement presumes you live in a tropical climate where growing food for continual harvest is possible. Where climate conditions do not permit year-round harvesting, traditionally people turned to food preservation techniques to meet their needs through the winter. Preserving food at home is less popular now that global food distribution brings fresh produce to the local supermarket from areas in the South/North where the seasons are reversed.
Even in temperate climates there are techniques to extend the harvest period including:
1. Planting the same variety of seed early, middle and late in the planting season to allow plants to reach maturity at different times
2. Planting different varieties of the same plant that mature at different times. Blueberries, for example, come in varieties that allow a farmer to harvest over about a 3 month period.
3. Choosing plants that provide a continual harvest. Chives, for example, regrow when cut and therefore can be harvested again and again. Potatoes can be harvested over time, a few plants at a time.
4. Choose a range of different plants that are ready for harvest at different times.
8. Show how to harvest crops for family use and commercial sale.
When preparing vegetables and other crops for market, consider the following attributes:
- Choose vegetables that are at their optimum ripeness.
- Bright colors are more attractive to buyers than dull colors.
- Consumers do not like vegetables that are too small or too large.
- Look for vegetables that have a "regular" shape.
- Choose vegetables that are free from injury.
- Wash and trim them before taking them to market.
Crops that do not meet market standards but are perfectly edible should be taken home to eat. Commercial processors use off size and odd shaped food to make processed (canned, dried, pureed etc) food and so can you.
9. Show how you will rotate your crops.
Different crops pull and add (through the decay of unharvested parts) different nutrients from the soil. Where practical it is a good plan to rotate or vary the crops grown in each spot in the garden from year to year. Of course this does not work for fruit trees and herbs beds that provide a continual harvest, but it is applicable to vegetables and other plants that grow from seeds each year.
10. Outline what you would do with your garden area after several seasons of cropping.
In some areas it is traditional to let the soil rest, going to weeds or back to the forest. This is sometimes called slash and burn agriculture. This gives the soil a chance to replenish nutrients. In other areas especially with richer soil, this is not practical. Instead you might consider adding compost, commercial fertilizer, or natural fertilizer (dung) and giving the whole garden a good dig or plow.
While this Honor was developed with the tropical islands of the South Pacific in mind, subsistence farming is an activity practiced nearly everywhere in the world either commonly or historically. With very little adaption you should be able to earn this Honor nearly anywhere that food can be grown.
If tackling this Honor consider doing the related Gardening, Fruit Growing, and Small Fruit Growing Honors at the same time as there is considerable overlap in the requirements. If you earn these four Honors you are more than half way to the Seven (7) Outdoor Industries Honors needed to earn the Farming Master Award, so go get growing!