Our 2.5 acre Global Organic Gardens is located in Davie, Florida. It is a food forest of fun with towering black bamboo and a bubbling brook.
The Global Organic Gardens property started as out as a blank canvas. The land was flat and featureless, the soil had been scraped away and sold as fill and there were very few trees on the property. Over the last four years we have transformed the property into a diverse and productive ecological system. We now have a healthy layer of rich topsoil, over one hundred fruit trees of all types and varieties and recirculating wetland filtration/water collection system. We have an abundance of local wildlife on our property including threatened and endangered species such as osprey, soft shell turtles and box tortoises. The farm has become an oasis of life in a fast growing concrete jungle.
Moving forward, a major focus for Global Organic Gardens and indeed our most important goal will be to provide education to the community on sustainable and ethical farming and gardening practices. In the near future we will be opening up learning opportunities at the farm. Interactive classes and workshops will be geared towards all ages covering topics from planting seeds to building raised beds, as well as more advanced topics like soil science and aquaponics.
In the meantime we will be keeping you updated on our progress with the many projects at Global Organic Gardens. Keep an eye out for pictures as well as regular blog posts which will elaborate more on specific topics regarding sustainable horticultural practices in south Florida.
Sustainable agriculture is a continually evolving concept. The term itself encompasses many different and sometimes conflicting ideas. One thing that most “sustainable agriculturalists” seem to agree on is that the farming practices that have dominated the industry for the last 80 years (monocultures heavily dependent upon herbicides and pesticides) have had a large impact on the environment. The depletion of topsoil, excess nutrient runoff, and water contamination are just a few of the problems that we face. A monoculture is the practice of growing only one crop in a given farming system. Monoculture systems, by definition, have low biodiversity. Biodiversity is the term used to describe all the life within a given habitat or environment. This includes plants, animals, and fungi all the way down to the tiniest bacteria. All of these organisms play an important role in the ecosystem. The removal of just one or more of these organisms can affects the environment, sometimes in profound ways. Farmers of monoculture systems face many problems associated with this decrease in biodiversity. Populations of damaging insects and aggressive weeds flourish and farmers must use chemical pesticides and herbicides to combat these issues. The toxins lower biodiversity even further and create a cycle that is heavily dependent on these chemicals.
At Global Organic Gardens our sustainable practices center around creating an ecosystem with a high level of biodiversity. Growing food is a major goal of ours and many of the plants that grow here have edible and/or medicinal value. We have also planted many ornamental plants both native and exotic and we allow many of the “weeds” (wildflowers) to grow. We have focused heavily on creating habitat for native animals to thrive as well. We have a ¼ acre recirculating aquatic system that attracts several species of birds, fish and turtles. Log piles placed around the farm create cover for lizards, snakes, rabbits and other rodents. Many of these attract birds of prey and we have at least one nesting pair of osprey that live nearby. Animals are a major part of our farm just as they would be in any natural habitat. Creating a balanced natural environment keeps many of the “pest” species in check and allows us to eliminate the use of expensive and toxic chemicals.
There are many interesting flora and fauna that make their home here at Global Organic Gardens and are such an important part of our sustainable agricultural system.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is an edible and medicinal, perennial plant in the ginger family. The fresh root is eaten as a spice either fresh or ground into a powder. Powdered turmeric is a major ingredient in many curry spice mixes. Turmeric is native to India and thrives in the moist subtropical weather there. This makes them well suited for cultivation in south Florida. The leafy tops of the plant appear from the planted rhizomes in the spring as the days begin to get longer. It grows through the summer and the roots are harvest during the winter months. The roots in the picture above were harvested in the middle of January. Most of the roots are consumed but some remaining pieces are saved and planted to sprout again in the spring. Turmeric has a long history of medicinal use. It is recommended in both Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine as an anti-inflammatory. There are many studies that have been done on the purported uses of turmeric, many with promising results. It seems that the active ingredient of turmeric, curcumin, may be difficult for the body to absorb. It is often recommended that people consume turmeric with black pepper to increase absorption of the active ingredients.
Turmeric is easy to grow at home if you live in a warm climate such as south Florida. Fresh turmeric roots can be purchased at many grocery stores and local markets. Prepare a planter or outdoor bed with rich, well-drained soil. Lay the turmeric roots flat about two inches below the surface of the soil. Keep the soil moist but not wet and wait for your turmeric shoots to appear. After the first shoots appear mulch around plants to help retain moisture and build fertility. Harvest when the plants begin to die back or when the rhizomes (fleshy roots) begin to push above the ground.
Moringa (Moringa oleifera) is a fast growing tropical tree native to northern India. Most parts of the moringa tree are edible. The roots have a similar taste to horseradish and the young seed pods can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable. The mature seeds can be pressed to produce ben oil. The leaves are the most nutritious part of the plant, containing considerable amounts of protein, calcium, B vitamins, vitamin A, and vitamin K. The full nutrient profile from the USDA can be found here. Moringa grows very fast and will tolerate a wide variety of different soil conditions. It prefers well drained sandy soils and is particularly tolerant of drought conditions. This means that it requires very little input to produce its crop. At Global Organic Gardens we grow moringa extensively. When we first began creating the farm we used moringa trees to quickly produce a canopy which shaded the ground just enough that other plants could thrive in the hot summer sun. At the same time they gave us an edible crop of leaves. The plants also flower several times a year. The flowers are very fragrant and attract bees and many other pollinating insects. The flowers are then followed by seed pods which can be eaten when young and tender. If allowed to mature the pods produce up to 20 seeds which are easily sprouted and grown into new trees.
Moringa is extremely easy to grow in the home garden, especially in warm climates. It can be grown from seeds and can also be easily propagated through cuttings. Sprout seeds in a well-drained seedling mix in 1 gallon pots or trays. Keep the soil moist but not wet and the seeds should sprout within 5-10 days. The major consideration when planting is that the soil be well-drained. Moringa trees do not like wet feet and will rot if the soil moisture is too high. Plant in a sunny area with room to grow and soon you will have an abundance of leaves. Moringa trees respond well to heavy pruning and can be maintained as small bushes or large trees.
Moringa seed cakes, produced as a byproduct when pressing the seeds for oils, can be used to filter water for potable use. Certain compounds in the seeds cause particles that are suspended in water to clump together and fall out of solution. This is of particular interest as a sustainable method of filtering water in places where moringa grows abundantly.
Many animals and insects visit the farm looking for food and shelter. One of these creatures is a monarch. Monarchs are one of the most well known butterflies in north America. Certain populations of monarchs make long yearly migrations to overwinter in southern areas. In south Florida we have a resident population and they can be found year-round. Monarchs are an important pollinator species feeding on many nectar bearing flowers. However, the larval stage of the monarch butterfly feeds only on species of milkweed (Asclepias sp.). In places where the milkweed population is reduced due to herbicide use the monarch butterflies numbers are in decline. At Global Organic Gardens we allow and encourage milkweed to grow, as well as other wildflower, in an effort to attract monarchs and other butterflies.
Many people cringe at the thought of coming across a snake in their gardens or backyards, and would prefer that they not be there. Of the 44 species of snakes that live in Florida, only six are venemous. Most snakes are completely harmless and actually consume smaller animals such as rats and cockroaches that are common pests. It is always advisable to avoid a snake if you come across them. Identifying a snake can be tricky and its best to err on the side of caution. The picture shows one of the smaller native snake species that we have here at Global Organic Gardens called a ring-necked snake. These snakes are docile and harmless. They consume insects, slugs, and small lizards among other things. We commonly find them under wood and mulch piles in the garden areas. We enjoy seeing them and take it as a sign of a healthy ecosystem.
The two ducks in the picture above are the only animals that we actively take care of at Global Organic Gardens. They have been on the farm since they were ducklings and have spent nearly all of their time occupying our small aquatic system. We feed them organic scratch a couple times a week and allow them to forage for food on their own.
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