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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

Manos Sucios

On Saturday, with the guidence of our instructor Erick, four others including myself had the pleasure of spending the day planting a small garden. The plot was about one meter wide and four meters long, situated cozily outside the Cochabamba apartment belonging to our instructor Sandy.

Before we began planting, Erick shared with us some wisdom and techniques that would ensure the longevity and health of the garden. While we sipped fresh, real coffee, a rarity here even with the large number of coffee plantations, he taught us that in order to make a garden with plants that need various amounts of water and sun, we needed to create what are called microclimates. We did this using old tires, planting the cacti and other succlents within them and covering the soil with small rocks to prevent too much water entering the soil and drowning the desert native species.

Next we planted flowers and other water loving plants such as tomatoes, rosemary, lavender and other herbs in pots or directly in the ground on either side of the tires. Sandy had two unfinished carved drums in the garden already which we used to plant cacti in, and arranged them on either side of the half moon of tires we created, right behind the rows of flowers and medicinal herbs.

During the blissful three hours we spent in the garden, we listened to good music, compared the dirt under our fingernails and laughed nervously as small cactus spines pricked our hands as we set them in the soil. Once we had potted the last plant, filled the last hole and arranged the final stone, we looked over the small space with new eyes. With only a few hours of hard work and focused energy we had transformed the small space from a weedy confusion of plants to an intentional and medicinally abundant garden.

Starting out as novice gardeners, I now feel that it is safe to say we will all be exploring our our green thumbs a little more upon returning home.