Friday, February 21, 2014

Backyard Gardens and Vegetable Production in Belize

Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Dr. Paul McLeod of the University of Arkansas recently traveled to southern Belize to complete a Flex assignment focused on backyard vegetable production and improved insect management. This was a follow-up to previous assignments and he visited numerous communities and made recommendations for improved gardening practices.

Aside from rural communities and small commercial farmers, Dr. McLeod visited two technical high schools and the National 4-H Program. He taught seminars on the use of drip irrigation and the benefits of home gardens, highlighting that vegetables are an essential part of a healthy and nutritious diet and that they can also help with disease prevention. School gardens help reinforce awareness of healthy eating and provide additional fresh produce to students. These gardens are also excellent training grounds for students to learn about composting, soil preparation, transplanting seedlings, and controlling pests and disease. These skills can then potentially benefit students in their own home gardens or any future farming endeavors.
Working in a small garden

Dr. McLeod toured the schools’ gardens and observed good practices including weeding, plant spacing and fertilization. Some tomato plants were diseased so the volunteer recommended that when watering the plants, students avoid getting water on the foliage and reduce splashing the soil that contains the pathogen onto the plant. This is a helpful tip for any U.S. based home gardeners as well! Drip irrigation paired with mulch can also help reduce disease.

Dr. McLeod demonstrated the installation and use of drip irrigation at the high schools and also to several small farmers. This method delivers water directly to the root zone of the plant and water seeps slowly into the soil drip by drip. While drip irrigation requires some planning and initial investment in hoses and nozzles, it has long-term benefits. Less water is lost to runoff and evaporation or wasted on feeding weeds.

Dr. McLeod demonstrating drip irrigation

The staff members of the technical high schools and the 4-H Program are highly motivated in teaching young people and have great desire to see the students achieve. Working with [them] is highly rewarding.” – Paul McLeod

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