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Central American raised beds

Camellones ae Central American raised bedsAnother familiar concept --- the raised bed --- is very widespread in Central American farming.  Unlike the fancy raised beds many Americans make with walls of wood or stone, Central American raised beds look an awful lot like our low cost garden beds.  The beds are simply mounds of earth of varying heights and sizes and with various purposes.

The most familiar to me are camellones (like the ones shown above), which average about 5 feet wide and a foot high by many feet long.  Camellones provide loose earth for easy planting and root development, improve drainage and lift plants above flood or irrigation water, retain moisture on slopes, and make it easy to control weeds and mix in soil amendments.  This type of raised bed is typically used for maize and other vegetable crops, although taller mounds are often created for planting mango trees in flooded areas.

Even more widespread are mules, a type of raised bed created by hilling up soil around young maize plants.  The process is reported to be very labor intensive and reminds me of hilling potatoes.  The mules are important in windy areas, where they keep the maize plants from blowing over, and mules everywhere seem to improve drainage and aeration, decrease evaporation, and control weeds.  Oddly, modern farmers don't think that mules are worth the effort, but some continue to hill up mounds of earth around the perimeters of their fields to serve as a sort of windbreak.

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

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