2011 Plantings

We had a very productive planting season at Finca Bona Fide. We planted over 5,000 trees, shrubs, grasses and tubers since the beginning of June. These continued to fill out emerging systems and began developing new ones. The plantings filled in the understory and empty spaces between trees in our establishing orchards, began developing 1) an animal forage system, 2) a native nut orchard connecting two patches of remnant forest, 3) a small citrus orchard, 4) a native fruit tree orchard, 5) ashow and tellbanana plantation that will transition into a native fruit orchard, as well as starting a greens business, planting windbreaks, and scattering hundreds of nitrogen-fixing trees to continue building fertility on site.

Overall, the numbers are:

  • 350 coffee shrubs (Coffea Arabica)
  • 150 chocolate trees (Theobroma cacao)
  • 145 coconut palms (Cocos nucifera)
  • 125 native fruit trees (Pouteria campechiana, Chrysophyllum cainito, Pouteria hypoglauca, Annona reticulata, Pouteria sapota, and Spondias purpurea)
  • 300 ojoche/Mayan breadnut trees (Brosimum alicastrum)
  • 250 Okra tree/Moringa (Moringa oleifera)
  • 1100 nitrogen-fixing trees (Delonix regia, Senna siamea, Leaucaena leucocephala, and Acacia mangium)
  • 800 bananas and plantains (Musa sp.)
  • Hundreds of pigeon pea/gondul (Cajanus cajan)
  • 400 pounds of taro (Colocasia esculenta)
  • 200 katuk shrubs (Citrus sp.)
  • 100 jackfruit trees (Artocarpus heterophyllus)
  • over 100 Surinam Cherry/Pitanga shrubs (Eugenia uniflora)
  • 600-700 plugs of Vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides)
  • hundreds of clumps of Taiwan grass (Pennisetum purpureum)
  • 20 plus Ackee trees (Blighia sapida)
  • 150 Neem trees (Azadirachta indica)
  • 15 plus Guava trees (Psidium sp. (4) species)

Filling in our Food Forests

As many of the orchards planted in past years at the Finca begin to mature, we start to see spaces between the crowns of trees that let sunlight in. We went through these spaces and planted understory trees and shrubs that are either need or tolerate shade, and coconut palms that will eventually rise above the crown of our fruit trees. In the understory spaces we planted 350 coffee shrubs, 150 chocolate/cacao trees, and a handful of kandis/gamboge trees (Garcinia xanthochymus) and salak palms (Salacca zalacca), matching the available light and space with the characteristics of each species. In the very narrow spaces between emerging crowns, we planted 145 coconut palms, as their narrow trunk and relatively narrow crown creates little light competition with the fruit trees as the palms mature.

On paths throughout the Finca we planted hundreds of Surinam Cherry/Pitanga shrubs (Eugenia uniflora), taking advantage of the sunlight and edges created by the paths. This delicious snack fruit produces fruit multiple times a year, so planting them on paths ensures that we know when they are fruiting.

Throughout all of our orchards, bananas and pigeon pea/gondul were planted. They were often planted as part of an establishment guild near 1st year fruit and nut trees to provide shade, mulch, wind protection and a yield of bananas and gondul’s edible pea. Gondul is an excellent plant in an establishment guild: it fixes nitrogen, rapidly provides shade to protect tender 1st year fruit and nut trees, produces edible peas in about 8-9 months, and is extremely drought tolerant. While gondul shrubs/trees can live for many years, at the Finca they are generally blown over by wind after one or two years.

Finally, nitrogen-fixing trees were scattered in open spaces throughout the farm. Nitrogen-fixing trees are the essential to maintaining productivity and fertility on the farmthey fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil, making it available to other plants, and, after 2-7 years, can be routinely pruned to supply biomass and nitrogen-rich mulch. They also cast a layer of shade, which preserves soil moisture, extending the growing season of plants and lessening the effects of our 5 month dry season.

Native Nut Orchard

On the western edge of the property below coconut alley, patches of forest have been left alone to regenerate themselves and are now beginning to develop. To connect these two forest patches, over the past 3 years we have been planting an orchard of ojoche/Mayan breadnut (Brosimium alicastrum). This orchard will create a habitat for wild animals, forage for domestic animals, and a low-maintenance zone 3/4 tree-crop orchard of the highly nutritious ojoche nut.

To protect and aid these young trees in their development, we planted hundreds of nitrogen-fixing trees around them as an establishment guild to provide nitrogen-rich mulch, biomass, shade, and wind protection. Chris has noticed in over the past few years that even 7 year old ojoche trees were susceptible to falling over as the intense December trade winds pound the farm from the northeast. To mitigate this, we planted a multi-species windbreak that protects the developing ojoches. Directly north-east of the orchard, there is a line of fast-growing Taiwan grass as a short term windbreak and animal forage bank, followed by a row of wind-resistant native fruit trees, a densely planted line of the incredibly resilient neem tree (Azadirachta indica), whose leaves and fruits make an organic pesticide (and spermicide!) and will eventually provide quality timber, finally followed by a line of jackfruit until our annual grain fields begin.

Rotational Grazing System

Near the bottom of the property, below our annual fields, there is an area that had been left to regenerate itself for the past 10 years. However, there has not been much regrowth taking place, and the forest is struggling to reclaim the area. As this past year has seen the birth of integrating animals into the Finca, we decided to turn this space into a rotational grazing system.

Rotational grazing here is difficult: for the final three months of the dry season, the ground is patched and all groundcovers have died. So in our system, we planted alternating lines of ojoche, moringa trees (Moringa oleifera) and melinche/flame of the forest (Delonix regia), creating pasture alleys between the lines. All three species have evergreen, high protein leaves that make great livestock fodder, and moringa leaves have been shown to boost animal milk production. As the system evolves, they will be pollarded above cow and sheep browsing height, and will serve as our animal fodder bank for the end of the dry season.

We currently have a electric fence rigged up to a battery and mini solar panel. Two and a half peliguey the female is pregnant live in this area and are rotated weekly by volunteers. Future plans may involve cows. At the edges between the pasture field and the forest, we have planted lines of native fruit trees canistel (Pouteria campechiana), nispero (Manilkara zapota) and caimito (Chrysophyllum cainito).

Taro: Underground Food Storage

After years of experimenting with taro (Colocasia esculenta), a shade-tolerant understory tuber, we are serious about using this crop for its ability to store more or less infinitely underground. This year we planted 400 pounds of the starchy tuber, which will multiply itself underground to over 1,000 pounds. Much of it will be left in th ground as asurvival bank emergency food in the case of natural (or man-made) disaster, and will also be used in our kitchen to replace potatoes. Taro, plantains and cassava will now provide all of the starch for the volunteer kitchen from on site.

Taro reproduces many new baby plants from its corm and is very easy to propagate. We plan on covering much of the understory layer of the farm with taro to supply tremendous amounts of food, fill in the understory of our orchards, and use taro’s large leaves to act as a living mulch, protecting soil and retaining moisture.

“Show and Tell” Transitional Plantain Orchard

Near the bottom of property, very close to the road where many villagers pass daily, we planted ashow and telldemonstration orchard. Over 800 plantains were planted in a field, resembling a normal plantain monoculture, but with a variety of native fruit trees as well. The idea is to model how to transition from a plantain monoculture to a diverse plantain-fruit tree polyculture over time. As the fruit trees mature, the bananas will be thinned and mulched until, over a decade, the system transitions fully into an orchard.

Small Citrus Orchard

Every year we plant a small orchard of about 25 citrus trees (Citrus sp.) to test new varieties and seedlings. These are organized in small blocks of 20-25 trees in order to isolate and mitigate pest and bird issues. In this way, we are hoping to develop more resilient varieties of citrus for Ometepe.

The Other Land

Finca Bona Fide’s property is broken up into two plots our main 26 acre property, and then an 19 acre property to the east, with our neighbors Ben and Sarah in between. Because the other land has no water access and is a bit far to carry buckets of water, we are experimenting with resilient and drought tolerant varieties of trees. This year we planted a range of native fruit trees canistel(Pouteria campechiana), caimito (Chrysophyllum cainito), cinnamon apple (Pouteria hypoglauca), custard apple (Annona reticulata), sapote rojo (Pouteria sapota), and jocote (Spondias purpurea), jackfruit, ackee and moringa trees to test their drought tolerance. We also cut a handful of neem trees and used the timber in our construction projects, which has opened sunlight for many young trees to grow and thrive.

Other various plantings:

  • We planted a triple line of jackfruit below and east of coconut alley to serve as a windbreak to protect and emerging nut orchard. Jackfruit is an excellent windbreak tree, and because it bears fruit on its stems, fruit production is not strongly affected by winds. The jackfruit also provides and animal forage, pig food, long-term timber, and potentially an orange dye that can be used in a sewing co-operative that is developing at Mano Amiga.
  • Over a thousand nitrogen-fixing trees (Delonix regia, Senna siamea, Leaucaena leucocephala, and Acacia mangium) have been planted to build edges with fast growing species, create shade edges as a rain stretching technique, and fill in open areas in our agro-forests as the overstory matures which will provide nitrogen and biomass for mulch in years 2-7.
  • A line of ojoche was planted on the banks of our cebrada, or seasonal stream, to build a riparian buffer strip and reduce erosion, while extending a wild-life corrider as well.
  • Hundreds of cutting of Taiwan grass were planted as both windbreaks and dry season animal fodder, and over 500 plugs of vetiver grass were planted in areas we noticed water runoff and soil erosion taking place. Vetiver, an amazing grass, has an incredibly dense and deep root system which can limit runoff and erosion by more than 70 percent.

We had a great planting season and achieved all of our main goals. Now, as the dry season comes on, we are turning our attention to watering, gardening, and harvesting.

Copyright © Project Bona Fide 2015