sustainable planting

{ Anna Marsh Diary }

Working for Canteiros is amazing because I am constantly learning new agricultural techniques and sustainable systems that I’m excited to apply here in Brasil as well as upon return to the US. Here begins a record of some of the strategies I am learning, so as to share and preserve my newfound knowledge.

Planting in recycled objects. There is no need to purchase planters, vases, or pots when you can re-purpose objects that you would probably otherwise throw away!

  • Milk cartons are great for small seedlings that are beginning to establish their roots. Once they have grown and the soil has solidified, you can cut the milk carton open at the sides and transplant the seedling and all its roots to a more permanent location.
  • 2 liter soda bottles can be a great home for small plants. They not only look very cool (especially with a little bit of spray paint), but can also be hung from walls to create a vertical garden!
  • Old sinks, refrigerators, toilet bowls… lots of old appliances can serve as the basin for your garden! Be creative J

*important note: cut small holes in the bottom of any of these objects to make sure that water is not captured and doesn’t drench the plants… but you also don’t want to prevent water from escaping to quickly, so throwing a few rocks at the bottom can slow the filtration.

Watering plants. H2O is our most precious commodity and finding ways to efficiently water plants is always valuable.

  • Give your plants a drink in the morning or evening when the sun isn’t as strong. This will prevent the water from evaporating as quickly so the plants’ roots can absorb it!
  • Covering the soil with dried carbon-based material can also prevent it from drying out too quickly.
  • Take a plastic water bottle, cut a hole in the bottom, stick a tube through the hole, dangle a bit of cloth from the other end of the tube… and dig a hole for this new mechanism, cloth-end down, next to your plant(s) so that about half the bottle is in the air and half in the ground. After filling the bottle with water and sealing it with the cap, the water will slowly drip and hydrate the plants more gradually and over a longer period of time.

Restoring soil. Terra can be an expensive part of maintaining your garden… but if there is a nearby park or forest where you can dig up some dirt, resurrecting what might seem like not so fertile soil is often times doable! Here’s what we did:

  • We found a spot in Cabula that used to be a large vegetable garden but has since been replaced by a soccer field. With shovels, we dug up some unused soil along the periphery of the field and put it in five large plastic sacks that were purchased at a construction store.
  • Upon return to the nursery, we dumped the soil on the group and took out all of the rocks and small pieces of trash.
  • Then we used a shovel to smooth the soil and break up the clumps of dirt.
  • Then we mixed in sand that was found at a construction site to increase the aeration of the soil.
  • Finally, we added compost and worm-castings from our “minhocário” (worm composting bin) for a more fertile soil!
  • Ta-daaaa!! Soil transformed!!! What was light-brown, rock-filled, grainy dirt has become smooth, dark-brown, nutrient-rich soil! Happy plants, happy wallet.
    Planting in old plastic bottles in Gantois :)

    Planting in old plastic bottles in Gantois 🙂

    Grape tomato growing in old milk cartons... they have since been planted elsewhere to accommodate their amaaaazing growth

    Grape tomato growing in old milk cartons… they have since been planted elsewhere to accommodate their amaaaazing growth