Cultivating new space: The Hope Garden

Our 2-hectare garden is constantly changing. This year, we look back on the days of the heavy rains that created an enchanted forest with pumpkins hanging from trees and maracuyá creeping faster than it could be harvested. But after a couple winters with less rain than expected, Rio Muchacho is a bit thirsty.

That’s not to say, however, that we can’t cultivate crops that can survive without the occasional torrential downpour. Though May through December is blanketed with clouds that give only mist, the weather is still as humid as ever, which allows for a wide range of leguminous crops, such as flowering bean plants with vines that wrap around whatever they can get their tendrils on and tall-standing okra that alone could feed us daily. A big part of cultivating land is learning about what the land prefers. In our unique climate of both wet and dry tropical forest, banana trees, papaya, coffee and other tropical crops thrive with little attention, as do root crops such as yucca, ginger and turmeric.

But where the weeds grow untamed, dropping their seeds when pulled and popping up faster than the carrot sprouts we sow with love, baby tomatoes and lettuce that we love so much won’t survive like strong banana stalks. So, to give our more intensive crops a chance, we are working daily to renovate an area that, until now, we call the “hache” as it corresponds with the easternmost plot of our 2 hectares, the “H” section on our map.

The Hope garden, as it is now called, is Rio Muchacho’s newest garden experiment. There we have been implementing rows of bamboo beds in which we planted tomato, eggplant, pepper, basil, lettuce and other greens. In between we have rows of pineapple, which in less than a year will be producing more fruit than we have mouths to feed.

The most important members of our new garden, however, are seven happy ducks. Our ducks, along with a few chickens, help keep weeds under control and, hopefully, have been working on keeping the snail population at bay. To make sure the ducks don’t accidentally step on baby lettuce or tomato, we fenced the cultivated area with recycled materials so they can walk around a corridor like guards, catching any snail en route to munch on plant leaves and stems.

With the help of our workers, volunteers and interns, the Hope garden is a project to revive the soil with the droppings of our feathered friends, nutrient-rich compost and crop rotation. We visit daily with jugs of water and our best intentions for a healthy earth.

Check back soon for updates about our ongoing projects!

Celine, our sustainability intern, cradles one of our ducks on a cloudy afternoon in the garden. At the time this photo was taken, the garden only had 3 vegetable beds. Today, we have seven beds and are working on adding three more!