Finca de Luz Permaculture
The intention of this documentation is to provide a guide to the land owners as to the maintenance and placement of plants & design elements. Secondly, to provide insight to future friends & clients who may join us to co-create in their landscape! :)
Finca de Luz is a retreat center hosted by Echoes of Light and offers a sanctuary for those seeking healing. Valerie & Rurico are facilitators of various traditions that aim to change one’s consciousness & vibration. As curanderos of Nahuatl, Aztec & Mexica lineages, they have a diverse tool kit of traditional techniques such as Temazcal, song & dance, diet & nutrition, plant medicines. & ceremony. Through these techniques, they are able to accomplish a shift in one’s perception of themselves and of the world, which ultimately leads to one’s healing. It is only our lack of awareness of our self that leads to our disease & discomfort!
A desire to accommodate their family and their guests with food grown on site, allowed a six week opportunity to design & implement a system. In exchange, I was given a great gift of learning their ways & methods, taught the celebration of Temazcal. Their gardens are a reflection of the needs of the landscape, their needs as caretakers of the land & the future plans of expanding their retreat center to a 40 acre plot.
Assessment and Survey
Climate: near ideal, side of the volcano, fertile soil (the worm count is extraordinary, though no soil tests have been done), plenty of rainfall without being too much, short dry season with rainfall once per week, relaxed atmosphere, access to local raw fruit and vegetables
Tools: shovel, machete, hoe, pickaxe, level, twine, iPhone. With proper knowledge and a few of hand tools, earth can be moved in a good way that aligns with the patterns and circumstances native to the landscape.
Resources: sourcing for various materials was accomplished by seeking out local gardeners to ask questions and by visiting neighbouring towns and their shops to learn what is available.
Plants: seeds and young plants were gathered from neighbours, the side of the road, the rainforest and local farmers. I personally brought some seeds from my other projects when I came and seeds had been saved by land owners.
Nursery for vegetable seedling and propagating perennials
We decided it would be ideal to get our plants growing right away. We started in annual veggies in trays for a few reasons. We were unsure of pest pressure, needed to take care of ant piles and placement of garden beds was not determined. Sourcing of materials in Costa Rica was easier than expected for some items and more challenging for others.
-source seed trays, pots, potting mix, ensure hose is available. Decided to use thick cardboard cups as pots for perennials, experimenting with longevity and sturdiness. Typical pots were not readily available or affordable. We may be able to transplant directly with the cup and not remove plant from cup. Perennials were grown in containers for future projects on other properties.
-source seeds for locally grown produce
-sow into trays according to moon schedule, transplant as close to the last day working on site
-soak seeds to check viability for old stock
-fertilize when true leaves are shown with cow manure tea, fish emulsion or plant tea
Corn field to food forest design
The intention with this garden to move it in succession towards a perennial system. We can grow annuals that require more sun and space between our long term species. We have planted canopy, under story and support species as well as staple crops such as the three sisters.
-build raised beds on contour
-To half of the garden, we mulched & watered with an EM1 microorganism inoculant with molasses which seemed to attract pests and resulted in low success. We removed the mulch and reseed with greater success.
-seeded annual vegetables: corn, squash and beans, watermelon, Seminole pumpkin, local pumpkin variety
-transplant or seed food forest species thoughout: poro, breadfruit, ice cream bean, canistel
-dig up fruit trees from multi clumped groups throughout property and transplant into the area
-monitor staked trees for climbing vines and that they do not get chopped and dropped
-ensure weeds do not reach seed
Jardin de el sagrado corazon; Educational Mandala inspired Kitchen Garden
Often times, intuition guides our design. In this case, the first major Earth moving project was the Mandala Garden. It is a design element that is intended to offer education about the Nahuatl traditions in a two ways. In its design, we have coordinated our plants according to their association with the elements and their corresponding direction of the Temazcal sweat lodge. The south, for example, the direction of Will, Heart & Fire, was planted with peppers & tomatoes. Secondly, rock paintings are being created for each direction to give vistors a brief understanding of the traditions.
-find & stake the true cardinal points from a center point
-move earth from walkways to beds, leaving room for pathways into the garden, thus defining each direction’s garden bed
-cover beds with mulch, while waiting for nursery plants to grow, allow weed seeds to germinate & grow, finally weeding prior to planting (stale weed bed)
-sow anything that can be direct seeded, transplant seedlings prior to departure
-add informational signs, paintings to depict the doors, or directions, of the Temazcal
-transplant plugs of perennial peanut into paths, covering the soil and reducing weed growth
-weed as often as possible in beds and path
-continue to add peanut plugs to path
Compost System; Flies and Worms
-source: large barrel with lid, cement blocks, opaque bins with tops
-add hole to bottom of barrel with funnel for liquid to drain, use this as fertilizer for trees
-add PVC elbow and union to the side towards the top to allow for black solidarity flies to enter and for the larvae to leave, falling into bucket
-begin dumping food scraps into barrel and monitor for presence black soldier flies and drainage of liquid
-feed black solider fly larvae to chickens periodically
-apply liquid fertilizer from barrel to fruit trees, may burn annuals and young plants
Vermicompost; building fertility with worms
-once food is processed in large barrel, migrate food to worm bins
-experiment with processing times in large barrel and proper timing for migration of food
-collect charcoal and ashy dirt from Temazcal fire pit
-place charcoal in bottom bin, inoculating the biochar with worm tea
-use ashy soil as a grit in food waste bin and in start of bedding for worms
-collect worms from garden, we decided that acquiring compost worms from California was impractical, we observed the high volume of native worms in the native soils, so as we built the Taro garden, we simply harvested dozens of worms to start our colony
-add semi rotted food to worm bins
-first use of worms may be slow; new environment and stress of acquisition may cause longer time frame to startup, compared to later operations. Don’t disturb worms as much as possible.
-to harvest vermicompost; use a new bin with semi rotted food scraps to migrate worms to this new bin, harvesting worm compost from older bins, sorting and harvesting worms and eggs may be required to ensure maximum yield of worms present in the worm colony. Sunlight method may be used to harvest vermicompost, hand collecting from the sides of the pile as they move to center of the pile (darker and cooler)
-monitor for any ants, place tower on blocks that are submerged in water or spread lime to deter fire ants
We observed that the water flowed and pooled on the east side of the mandala garden, as it followed the slope of the landscape. This was a low point in the landscape from a few directions. So we decided to put in a Taro garden, which handles flooding, with a banana circle on the border, acting as the dam walls for the pit.
-dig out soil until pit is lower than mandala garden pathways (water runoff) and level paths so water doesn’t settle to one side of the pit
-shovel soil to banana beds
-plug in Taro tubers into formed beds in the pit
-add banana, lemon grass, turmeric onto formed beds
-with extra soil use to build beds using extra trellis structures
-monitor flood levels, may need to add a spillway to reduce water level
-flooding should maintain weed growth
-since topsoil was removed to form pit walls (banana circle), we recommend periodic fertilizer tea applications
We found three bamboo A-frames, once used for a tipi on-site. In decent condition, we moved them around a little bit, tied them to the tree, added soil while digging the Taro garden and seeded! We used species that climb and vine; luffa gourd, bottle ground, tomatoes & various beans. Prior to building the beds, we added food waste, weed material on top of the grass, then added the soil, then mulch, then seeds. No dig garden! In this way we did not disturb the soil but added fertility and topsoil.
Rotating Chicken Garden
Chicken garden is located near property edge, on the last (bottom) contour. We observed runoff and opportunity to catch and store nutrient & water, feed chickens & grow food. The coop is near the corner of the property, so fencing needs are reduced.
-build A-frame level, find contour for two garden beds to capture water runoff
-add a level spillway to drain caught water from trench at the top bed into the last bed, which is downhill
-collect prunings from overgrown plants on property and use to fill trenches
-add yam hills to fill in spaces
-add guavas, will produce periodically throughout the year as human and chicken food
-add beans and Mexican sunflower to fill in gaps, creating as much biomass/feed as possible
-add new fencing around new gardens with gates from main coop area to allow the chickens in, after harvesting or for a single day to reduce pests
-rotate chickens through gardens as needed, this will reduce over grazing in coop while providing fertilizer, pest management and healthier chickens (more eggs)
Homemade Fertilizer Tea
-collect manures, fermented noni juice, garden/rainforest soil, molasses, carbon (dry grass, rainforest leaves), river water
-stir often (at least three per day)
-ready in three days
-dilute 10 parts water to one part tea for use in the gardens
-don’t apply to leafy greens that will be consumed within a couple weeks