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Central American Forest Gardens

Traditional forest garden in GuatemalaWith an armload of new permaculture books waiting on my attention, I figured it was high time to finish up my series on traditional Central American farming practices.  The first half of Gene Wilken's Good Farmers has already tempted me to to embark on a huge leaf-raking project.  Where will the second half lead?

To start with, the book noted that Central American farmers have been forest gardening since long before the term was invented.  Large scale farms were usually all annual vegetables, but most farmers had a kitchen garden that modern permaculturalists would approve of.  Coconuts arched over papayas and mangos which in turn shaded cacoa, bananas, peaches, avocados, pomegranates, ad oranges.  Enough light filtered down to the ground to feed maize and beans, and chickens ran free under everything.

Farmers noted that their kitchen gardens required more work than their less diverse fields of vegetables, and that crop quality was often lower in the crowded forest gardens.  On the other hand, the farmers seldom saw weeds or pests, didn't have to worry about erosion, and enjoyed having a diversity of food at their finger tips.  Clearly, forest gardening was worth their while.

This post is part of our Central American Permaculture lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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