Gardener’s Worldview

Hi Folks,

This week, I have been mostly digging and tramping up and down the hillside carrying buckets of water.

As all the new members of the team are settling into their new roles and I also do the same, my focus has begun to switch back to working alongside Basilio, directly or otherwise, on the management of our green and pleasant spaces here at the Training Centre. In practice, this means I ‭now do a fair bit of pruning and practical plant management (thanks to the tutelage of ex-BMS mid-term volunteer Sarah MacArthur and more recently, my neighbor Felix, local cacao expert).

So as Basilio and I were going around the site last week, we noticed several areas where there were too many fruit trees growing too close together and I started designating candidates for relocation. Thankfully, the Centre’s next-door neighbour (where I now live) has a large plot of land and an interest in populating it with fruit trees. So this week I began the relocation.

For those of you who don’t know a stoma from a tuber, transplanting a small shrub is not difficult but does require some care. The main thing to avoid is excessive damage to the root system; the main thing that can’t be avoided is watering the new transplant, morning and evening, for at least a couple of days afterwards unless it rains heavily. Ideally you’d wait for a rainy/overcast day to do the transplanting and you give yourself and the shrub the best chance of success. There’s always a high probability, especially when the shrubs are a bit on the large size, say, over 50cm tall, that the act of digging the plant up will do irrevocable damage to the root system, whereby rapid wilting can lead to slow but inevitable death which no amount of tramping up and down the hillside to deliver buckets of water morning and evening can heal. I confess that this was the experience with the first attempted cacao resettlement. I thought I was digging it up ever so delicately until I heard the subterranean *snap* of the tap root and the poor thing wilted within 5 minutes and never recovered. I learned my lesson and the subsequent 4 cacaos and 2 mangos are currently doing fine in their new home – after much digging and hauling water.

If it’s so easy to kill the plant (especially as all our candidates are over 50cm tall) and then you have to do all the aftercare, you may be wondering: why risk it and go through all the bother? Basilio gave me that distinct impression; he was sure the transplants would die and it was best to leave them be. I was sure it was worth the risk because the alternative seemed worse: everything grows, overcrowded, and nothing is very productive due to competition for light, water and nutrients. Is this one of those un-expected culture clashes – the short-term vs. long-term perspective? The priority of productivity over mere existence? Or does it reflect a simple difference in approach to resource management – do we align our practices to the external factors, like the weather, or will we haul water for irrigation if it doesn’t rain? And how much of the latter is also a function of worldview, the level of agro-technology in Loreto or the state of Basilio’s bad back this week? Who knew gardening could be so complicated?

Love Laura x