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Considerations for your garden

Starting SeedlingsAround the lake the weather is like what you would expect (minus the smog) on the good days in Los Angeles, California. The big difference is that is what it is like year round here. In general, expect the temperature to be in the range of 10C to 30C, day or night, whatever month of the year. January will be on the low end, April on the high end but that’s about it.

If you are living in the area you may wonder why there are particular planting times for crops. The reason is water. Most of the area does not have irrigation water so crops are planted such that the rain will happen when it is needed. (Note that in San Antonio Palopó there is irrigation water for all the rural land and what you find are crops, particularly onions, growing year round.)

Why Bother?

Fruit and vegetables are very cheap here so you may be wondering why bother? I see two reasons:

  • You don’t know what is organic in the market. Lots of things will be but not all. To buy specificially organic you will end up spending a lot more money.
  • The convenience of being able to walk behind your house and pick a fresh organic salad is really refreshing.

What to Plant?

The short answer is “that which you want to eat”. What may limit your choices are the seeds you can find. Start by going to the regular agricultural stores to see what they have. Most will have fairly big cans of seeds but they open them and see by the ounce. For example, I recently bought an ounce of parsley seeds for Q5. There is also a woman in the public market in Sololá (at least on Fridays) with lots of vegetable seeds. I recently bought an ounce of alfalfa seeds from her for Q10. What is hard to find are exotic (by Guatemala standards) veggie seeds and herb seeds.

In the photo above you see hierba blanca and tomato from an ag. store and bell pepper from the seeds of a red “chile dulce” I had bought in the public market. I am also starting basil from the seeds of my previous plants and oregano from a cutting.

In theory, you cannot import seeds without a permit and, generally, I think that is good as it will help keep GMO plants out of Guatemala. But, there are some non-invasive and non-GMO things I want to grow. For example, bok choy. The approach I have used is to order a small quantity of seed packets from a U.S.-based vendor of heirloom seeds and ask them to send it via U.S. mail. Correos (the post office) here likes to open bigger packages in the mail but generally is uninterested in the smaller ones. I have some more on the way so I have my fingers crossed but, it the past, there has never been an issue.

Final Thoughts

While Guatemala and El Salvador said no to GMO (actually a violation of CAFTA but the people came to the rescue), Mexico didn’t say no to GMO. Also, corn is sacred among the Maya which helps reinforce the position. As Mexico is nearby, most of the sacks of dry corn come from there are are almost assuredly GMO. So, shop for local corn. When buying tortillas, I buy blue corn tortillas if available as I doubt Monsanto has any interest in a small market.

If you are looking for seeds, ask around (including me). People do save their seed. Once we get the exotics here, we can share.

 

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