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permaculture advocate in Zimbabwe - too little/too much rain

 
pollinator
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Rufaro Makamure wrote:We increased number of onion plants and we are adding beans. These will be inter-cropped with choumollier. When we started, we planted the beans directly into the beds, but the mulch seemed so thick and had the highest probability of obstructing the proper germination of the beans so we planted some beans in pockets from egg trays and we are excited it seems to be working. We are also planting lima beans along the fence.

We are suspending chickens and tomatoes for when we have stabilized.

I still have stacks of egg trays--I used to use them for starting tomatoes and such, but they were so tiny that the plants outgrew them within a week. I started using toilet paper tubes instead.
 
pollinator
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Our efforts to increase productivity continue and it's still pretty much learning and establishing systems. The germination of beans that we directly planted in beds as well as in trays was not a success. We counted the seeds we put in the trays and in total they were 216, only 32 germinated and the rest rot.  That's about 14% germination rate, the ones in the main beds are still popping out, but it's equally as bad. We still want to give beans a try so we are willing to experiment again. I noticed that the trays allow us to control different things better than if we plant in the actual beds. Watering trays also takes up less time and energy since we only use half a bucket to top up trays once in two days.
We have already planted more seeds and they are about 7 days old, this time we are lowering our water quantity. My fingers are crossed we make it this time around.
20210817_110500_e001.jpg
first attempt at growing beans in trays
first attempt at growing beans in trays
 
Lauren Ritz
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I find that too much water is often a problem with germination. Are you planting beans you harvested, or seeds you purchased? Beans you harvested will usually do better.
 
Rufaro Makamure
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It is a mix actually. I didn't think it would matter much.
 
Lauren Ritz
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And it may not. It has been my experience that seeds harvested from my own yard do better. I will get 10-20% germination from purchased seeds, and an even smaller survival rate. If I can get one plant to seed, the 2nd generation jumps up past 50% germination. And by the third generation they're trying to take over the world. :)
 
Rufaro Makamure
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The bean seeds are promising this time around, we see a number of them starting to come out. I have been telling my niece that we grow our own money and we can tell if we get a lot by checking how good we take care of our plants from seeds / seedling stage until they mature. She also noticed that we might have many seeds germinating for our second trial, and in her head it meant we will make a lot of money. So she asked with concern if I would still go to the plot if ever l make a lot of money  ( she loves going to the plot, a lot). I told her I would, because it's actually a privilege to be in my position, where something I enjoy can potentially earn me a living. I also took a picture of my "work" environment and told her to look back at this moment, when she gets older and she will understand why I am privileged as an adult, I play and enjoy and this is work for me.

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planting more beans
planting more beans
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Rufaro Makamure
pollinator
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It's over 3 days since we planted the first few successful bean pockets in the choumollier beds and they look beautiful. The onions inter-cropped with rape are also looking good. The choumollier though, has some disease where the leaves start turning yellow and then dries up and for some plants the stem is affected and the whole plant dies.
Our kitchen compost which is about a meter+ deep is full and thats going to be manure for our maize in th coming months.
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planted beans from egg tray experiment
planted beans from egg tray experiment
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onions and rape
onions and rape
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kitchen compost
kitchen compost
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stem drying up
stem drying up
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leaves turning yellow and drying
leaves turning yellow and drying
 
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That Choumollier doesn’t look good.  To me it looks like it may be a fungal disease, like blight on potatoes. Has anyone else in your area got similar symptoms? I would be inclined to remove the affected plants if possible to try and stop it spreading. You could try spraying  the other plants with dilute milk or a solution of sodium bicarbonate. Both of these have a mild anti fungal action and may give a little protection against spores, without being toxic to yourselves or wildlife.
If you do ‘hot composting’ this should kill fungal spores, if not, then remove or burn the affected plants, since the spores could come back another time and affect future plants.
Maybe the plants are a bit stressed, is it hotter or drier than usual?  Maybe a compost tea pick-you-up will give them vigour to fight it off.  I’m only guessing at a distance, but hope it helps.
 
pollinator
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Location: zone 4b, sandy, Continental D
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It sounds like sometimes you have too much and sometime not enough, so what you need, essentially is a way to equalize the amount of water over the course of a year. Do you think it would be possible in your area to have rain barrels or better yet buried cisterns? It should not freeze, in Zimbabwe so the cisterns can remain full to help you in scarce days? I like the idea of swales too but they represent a lot of work to create. Long before we had reliable wells, and electricity, some folks built cisterns under their castles in Europe, and water could be drawn with a pail and a pulley. And yes, it is true that some children would sometimes fall in, but that can be remedied by keeping a heavy slab over the cistern.
https://www.oldhouseweb.com/blog/cisterns-historic-water-convservation/
A cistern could be made of several concrete tanks buried in the ground side by side and communicating, either in series [if you have a slope or in parallel if you are on flat land [a bit like we build septic systems]. At the end of this system, perhaps a pond or a lowland that would be good for water loving plants? I'm not sure what it would cost in Zimbabwe to bury several concrete or plastic septic tanks, but here it can cost.  The good part is: once it is built, it will last forever. It can be fed by gutters or channels, storm sewers, but then the rain would need to be decanted and the bottom of the cistern cleaned once in a while.
https://homeguide.com/costs/septic-tank-system-cost
With electricity, you can use a transfer pump to water your crops, do the dishes etc. Depending where you get the water from, it may not be potable, but for agriculture and washing, it would be quite suitable.
If it rains too much, that pond could be used at the end of the system and allowed to go dry during the dry season?
 
Rufaro Makamure
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I am itching, to post an image of the germinating beans, l had to hold myself and at least wait for tomorrow, there are still more that have their tips showing, at least the number will be more tomorrow and it's exciting.

What l can share though, is a non tangible or invisible achievement that my niece and l are celebrating. My niece started staying with us last December and we have been trying to kind of home school her so that she does not fall too far behind with her school. She was supposed to have started her form one, that is, moving from primary level going to high school, and she will. I started trying to follow the method of teaching from my days in school and it seemed like it was working. One day l gave her maths word problems and she did not get a single problem right. I was a little angry because l was so sure she knew the math concepts being tested.

I think l showed her how dissapointed l was, maybe said some discouraging words. I honestly felt like she was being ungrateful for the time and effort l was putting. It crushed her a little bit and we had to work again to rekindle her interest to read, for sometime.

When we were revising the test, l realised she did not understand a thing and l had already raised my voice. I assumed she could read, she had finished grade 7 and every single exam is in english except for the Shona exam, so there was no way she could not read. She had been going to school, but l do not think there was much room in her class for a teacher to make a follow up on whether each child was getting what was being taught. She read shona perfetly, but when we would try an english story it was like torture and she would tear up a little bit sometimes, if l would ask her to raise her voice because she would whisper, she did not want to read english at all. But we could not leave english because every single opportunity l can think of is made easier when one can read or write english. Any formal job interview l know of is in english and almost all exams except for Shona are in english.  We had to drop all other subjects and try to figure out how she could learn better and how l could also teach her better. We ended up hunting for novels to try to excite her and we started with relatively books for older kids, but we had to keep going down to basics. She felt uncomfortale at first because she wanted books associated with her age group. But now we both have changed. I am so much more understanding and she is now excited with reading some stories and most of all she now understands some of the things. I feel like if she learns to read, the sky will be the limit for her because she can teach herself anything she choses to learn.
 
Lauren Ritz
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My youngest sister hated reading--She was 12 when she plowed through a 500 page novel in a few days and never stopped. The novel in question was FAR above her grade level, but that didn't matter once it engaged her imagination.

I had a similar experience--I loved my older sister, and SHE loved reading. I didn't (this was first grade, maybe 6 years old) but I wanted to be just like her, so I walked into the school library and picked a book that looked interesting. Read it front to back and never stopped. : ) I still remember the book.

A nephew it was science. A niece loved animals, so I gave her animal novels. Remember that some like novels, but some will do better with biographies, tutorials, or other types of books. Whatever they're interested in.
 
Rufaro Makamure
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We have planted the germinated beans and this time more came out. We have more trays we planted in the past week and l plan to add more as we keep creating room for putting the bean pockets.

More are still coming out from the batch l selected the plants l planted today, so l will write the final number of the seeds that germinated successfully sometime later. So far, out of a total of 156, l planted 34 (making a success rate of 21%), l could see 44 still sprouting, meaning the rate can easily get to 50%. I even dug out some of the seed that showed no sign of life and one had a little root coming out and k stopped disturbing, so it could be way better. I need it to be above 50%.

With seedlings I intend to sell, they were not looking too great before but there is some light now. I am doing them in batches also, to help me master the skill of growing them without risking too much.
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Rufaro Makamure
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Of all the plants the sprouting of the bean seed is the most fascinating. We placed the planted seeds  right behind  a door that slides up and the first place l go to when l get to the plot is this place. I can feel my heart beating more and more when the door is sliding up and for all the times we (my niece and I) have seen the sudden presence of an elongated sprout  we both gasp spontaneously. I don't  know what happens to the plants  during the night, but the mornings are coming with a little miracle and we are loving it.
 
Rufaro Makamure
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I have sold the first seedlings and it's exciting, they have more value.

We are still digging the holes in preparation for maize planting and l am putting a lot of grass in each hole. My hope is the grass will retain a lot of water underground in case we fail to mulch the field. We are also picking cow dung daily on our way to the plot, I am sure we will have a lot by the time we start planting and, we will  mix this with the kitchen compost and also the ash that we are piling up. I do not intend to put any financially demanding input in the field this season if l can help it. We already have left over seed from last year, we will use time and energy to cater for the rest, i.e. labour and feed.

Today I got 14 more bean sprouts, taking the germination rate up to 30%. This is so important to me, because my two main tasks are
  • exerting energy that yields results
  • finding crops of value that we will be able to grow as well as sell

  •  
    20210826_074301.jpg
    a hole filled with grass
    a hole filled with grass
    20210826_085513.jpg
    first seedling sale
    first seedling sale
     
    Rufaro Makamure
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    We  have  sprayed bicarbonate of soda solution on our plants. We left one bed though, for us to look more into the soil properties, some of the new bean plants already look yellowish and I worry that it could be something to do with soil properties. I saw some tests we can do using household items, like testing for pH...and these are worth trying. It could be, something is inhibiting nutrients from being absorbed or we have a deficiency entirely.

    We now have a total of 69 planted bean plants from the 156, making our second germination rate rise to 44%. We have a 3rd batch which we started planting today. The objective was to fill up all choumollier beds that do not have onions in them, but I am going to stop for sometime and work on how to make the existing plants healthy.
    20210902_084953.jpg
    the plants that we planted directly into the beds
    the plants that we planted directly into the beds
    IMG_20210901_110838.jpg
    [Thumbnail for IMG_20210901_110838.jpg]
     
    Rufaro Makamure
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    Today we received some showers, it was such a welcome surprise and it helped put a lot of things into perspective.
    The prayer;
    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    courage to change the things I can,
    and wisdom to know the difference.
    is what has been helping me of late, but the past few days were so rocky in all areas.
    I remember going to the plot and seeing the bean plants continuing to turn yellow, the seedlings that were being asked for are the ones that did not grow properly and all of a sudden nothing was working. I started seeing unfairness in life generally and the above prayer did not make much sense. But the rain today made me realize it's not fairness in life that I seek, it's the ability to embrace life and appreciate the opportunities. I am lucky to be here, to see these lovely tiny droplets of water, all l need to do is keep on trying as a way of 'saying thank you', for another day and another opportunity.
     
    Rufaro Makamure
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    The bean plants are becoming greener, we increased the watering frequency and we put fresh cow dung soaked in a lot of water in some beds and we soaked chicken droppings that were over 2 months old in other beds. The part with the cow dung mixture is changing faster than that with chicken droppings.

    We are almost done with filling maize holes with grass and we are now toping with the kitchen compost as well as ash.
    20210913_100336.jpg
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    bean with cow manure
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    beans with chicken manure
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    holes filled with grass
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    topping with compost
     
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