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                             Intensive Gardening
Intensively cultivated vegetable gardens can supply a great deal of a family's food
from very little land. However, to maintain their productivity, these gardens
require a lot of fertilizer and some special techniques, which are discussed below.
As one crop is finished, another is put in its place throughout the growing
season. Without additional fertilizer the soil would soon be worn out. Cost of the
garden can be kept low by using compost and a crop rotation system that also
includes poultry or other livestock, which can give a steady supply of manure.
This virtually eliminates fertilizer costs. The best way to ensure a large supply of
manure is to keep the animals in a pen, barn, or corral, especially at night.
Fertile soil includes organic matter and minerals. The best soil is loose and has a
crumbly texture that breaks easily into small pieces a few millimeters in diameter.
The deeper the crumb structure exists in the soil the better.
If the soil is compacted or dense, it can be loosened by first plowing or tilling to
break up the soil. Tilling also controls weeds. This work can be done with a pick
and shovel, a hoe, or a heavy fork. A small tractor, or animal drawn tools, may
be helpful in a very large garden.
The soil can be improved by: 1) adding manure or compost, or by returning to the
soil plant materials that you or your animals do not eat, 2) rotating crops, 3)
working the soil only when it is dry enough. Test for dryness by taking a handful
of soil and squeezing it. If it sticks together tightly, it is still too wet to work.
Make planting beds no wider than you can reach to the middle of for planting,
weeding, and harvesting. In that way you won't have to step on the beds and
compact the soil. One meter (three feet) is a typical width. Lay the beds across
any slope to slow water runoff and reduce erosion. The soil may be raised in long
mounds so that it will warm more readily and be less subject to flooding. Edge
the mounds with stone, brick, concrete block, heavy boards, or other material to
hold the soil in place. This is not essential, but makes the garden easier to care
for in the long run.
Leave a footpath between the beds that is wide enough to walk in and to allow
some space for the tops of the growing plants. You will want to be able to work
between the beds without damaging plants. Build a secure fence around the garden
to keep out chickens, rabbits, cattle, and other animals.
If there is a stream or a tubewell nearby, the garden can be watered by running
water in furrows between the beds, or by hand watering. Widely spaced individual
plants, such as tomato, pepper, or
eggplant, can be watered by burying
a jar with a tiny hole near the
bottom in the ground near the
plant (Figure 1). The jar is filled

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with water, which seeps out to be
used by the plant as needed. This
is quite a bit of work, but can be
very effective in very dry areas.
Bury the jar when you set out the
plant so you don't disturb the roots
later. Check the water level in the
jar about once a week, oftener if
need be.
Growing plants take nutrients from the soil, which must be replaced or crop
yields will slowly diminish, and intensive cultivation uses up nutrients rapidly. The
major nutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. These can be
bought as chemical fertilizers, but are also found in plant matter and manure.
An inexpensive way to enrich the
soil is to use compost from a
compost pit or crib that is located
near the garden (Figure 2). Pile the

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materials into layers as shown.
Keep moist. Turn and mix every
week or so as they decay. When
the compost gets to be dark and
crumbly, it is ready for the garden.
Composting will not usually supply
all the fertilization needed, but will
add nutrients to the garden soil
and improve soil texture.
The simplest way to fertilize and improve soil texture at the same time is to use
animal manure. If you use fresh manure, spread it over the garden at the end of
the growing season and work it into the soil. During the growing season, it is
best to use only seasoned manure.
If only fresh manure is available, a small amount of it may be used to make a
weak "tea" that can be poured around the growing plants. To make the "tea" put
a shovelful of fresh manure into a bucket of water and let it stand for about a
week. Dilute the liquid until it is the color of weak tea and use it to water your
plants about once a week.
Select crops that suit the climate and your family's tastes. If you want to grow
vegetables to sell, consider community tastes as well. Try to choose an assortment
that will give you something fresh from the garden throughout the season. Unless
you have some way to preserve the produce, don't plant more than you can eat,
give away, or sell fresh. But do plant vegetables you like a lot or want in
quantity at intervals of a couple of weeks so that you will be able to harvest
them over a long period. Keep in mind that in a well-fertilized garden plants can
be more closely spaced and will yield a larger harvest for the space.
Some crops may be planted directly in the beds while others are best started in a
seed box and later transplanted into the garden beds. The table below gives a
partial listing of both types of vegetables.
                  Seeds To Plant and Seedlings To Transplant
Vegetables that should   Vegetable Seeds to Plant Directly in the Garden
be Transplanted
Broccoli                 Black Colocasia   Okra
Cabbage                   (roots)          Onion
Cauliflower              Beet              Pigeon pea
Chinese cabbage          Bitter gourd      Pointed gourd
Eggplant                 Carrot            Potato (tuber)
Indian spinach           Collard           Radish
Lettuce                  Coriander         Red Amaranth
Mustard                  Cowpea            Soybean
Pepper                   Cucumber          Sweet corn
Spinach                  Field bean        Sweet potato
Tomato                   French bean        (cuttings)
                         Green Amaranth    Sweet pumpkin
                         Jute              Sword bean
                         Kohlrabi          Turnip
It is a good idea to rotate the vegetables in the beds each season. That is, plant
one type of vegetable one season, another type the next season, and so on. Each
type or family of vegetable is subject to similar pests and soil diseases. Planting a
different type vegetable in the beds each season helps prevent the build up of
these pests and diseases and gives the soil a rest.
There are four basic families of vegetables--root vegetables, leafy vegetables,
legumes, and fruiting vegetables--so the rotation would span four seasons.
Peas, beans, and such are legumes, which means that they can make their own
nitrogen plant food and so enrich the soil. Plant vegetables that need a lot of
nitrogen in the bed when the legumes are finished. Root vegetables are grown
primarily for their thick fleshy roots--radish, carrot, onion, beet. The leaves of
some root vegetables, like beet, are often eaten as greens. Fruiting crops include
peppers, eggplant, tomato, and white potato.
Leafy vegetables--cabbages of various kinds, lettuces, spinach, collard--are grown
for their leaves, which are rich in vitamins and minerals. Some leafy vegetables
tolerate cold weather better than others and some do well when it is hot, so it is
possible to have some kind of fresh greens from the garden almost all year round.
When you are planning your crop rotation, include broccoli and cauliflower in the
leafy group, even though you don't eat the leaves, because they are attacked by
some of the same pests as the leafy vegetables.
Plan the beds so that as one crop is finished another takes its place (with the
addition of a little compost or seasoned manure). Save space by planting vines
like beans and cucumbers on trellises at the edge of the garden, situated so they
don't shade other crops. Stake tomatoes, peppers, etc., with posts of bamboo or
whatever is available to keep the fruit from rotting on the ground.
Cover the soil around seedlings with a thick layer of grass clippings, leaves,
straw, or other material. Some people use black plastic, which is expensive, or
even layers of newspaper. The idea is to keep the soil from drying out so fast
and to keep weeds from sprouting. Mulching may seem like a lot of extra work in
the beginning, but it saves a lot of work over the season. It also saves water,
and the organic mulches, like grass and straw, enrich the soil as they decay.
Paul J. Abrahams. VITA Volunteer, Atlanta, Georgia
J.W. and J.B. Fitts, VITA Volunteers, North Carolina
Harlan H.D. Hatfield, VITA Volunteer, Bend, Oregon
James M. Corven, VITA Volunteer, Washington, D.C.
                             Silage for Dairy Cows
The small dairy farmer who maintains five or six cows on two or three hectares
(four or five acres) of fodder and pasture grass is usually faced with a serious
decline in milk production during dry or cold periods. The decline in milk
production is nearly always the result of the seasonal scarcity of fresh, succulent,
nutritious feed. Without good feed, cows are obliged to eat dry, strawy, weedy
grass, which not only lacks nutritive value, but often causes digestive troubles,
constipation, and difficult birth. These troubles can be dealt with easily and
cheaply; good health and a high level of production can be maintained-by the use
of silage.
Silage can be stored in permanent
or temporary silos. Permanent silos
can be either upright tower-shaped
structures (see Figure 1) or

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horizontal, like the trench silo (see
Figures 2, 3, and 4). Upright stack

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silos (see Figure 5) and fence silos

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are examples of temporary silos.
The use of successive rings of
fencing is becoming widespread;
these silos can be lined with plastic
or paper or they can be unlined.
Many farmers have saved the
money needed for permanent silos
by using temporary silos for several
Losses of silage vary with the type of silo, the crop ensiled, its stage of maturity
and moisture content, fineness of chopping, and the extent to which air and
water have been excluded from the silage. Losses run from 5 to 20 percent in
permanent upright silos; from 10 to 30 percent in permanent horizontal silos; from
15 to 50 percent in temporary trench, fence, and stack silos.
A silo should be located near the barn to keep to a minimum the time and labor
involved in feeding.
Detailed instructions on silo building are given "Farm Silos," Miscellaneous
Publication No. 810, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture,
1967 (revised).
It is not worthwhile to make a silo of less than four tons capacity, except under
very special conditions. Spoilage in smaller silos is often excessive. A cow of
average size not provided with any other fodder will consume about 23kg (50
pounds) of silage in 24 hours; on this basis a farmer knowing the number of cows
to be provided for and the approximate length of the period during which silage
is to be used, may estimate the quantity needed; for example:
20 cows @23kg (50 pounds) per day
  for 90 days                                     41,400kg (90,000 pounds)
5 heifers @14kg (30 pounds) per day
  for 90 days                                      6,300kg (13,500 pounds)
5 calves @7kg (15 pounds) per day
  for 90 days                                  3.150k (6.750 pounds)
                                                  50,850kg (110,250 pounds)
    51 metric tons                                (56 short tons)
The bare requirements would be 51 metric tons (56 short tons) of silage, and an
allowance for wastage should be added. The tables may be used to estimate the
dimensions of a silo.
A silo of ten tons capacity or less should be filled in two operations, that is, on
two separate days with two or three days between operations. Similarly, a large
silo should be filled in proportionate operations, though this is not so essential as
with the smaller size. Table 1 gives trench silo capacities.
                                                        Approximate Kilograms
     "Dimensions in Meters (Feet)                       (Pounds) of Silage Per
   Top Width   Bottom Width Depth                        30cm (1') of Length
     2.4 (8)   1.8(6)      1.8(6)                        756 (1680)
     3   (10)  2.1(7)      1.8(6)                         918 (2040)
     3.7(12)   2.4(8)      1.8(6)                       1080 (2400)
     2.4 (8)   1.8(6)      2.1(7)                        882 (1960)
     3   (10)  2.1(7)      2.1(7)                        1071 (2380)
     3.7(12)   2.4(8)      2.1(7)                       1260 (2800)
     3   (10)  1.8(6)      2.4(8)                        1152 (2560)
     3.7(12)   2.4(8)      2.4(8)                       1440 (3200)
     4.3(14)   3 (10)      2.4(8)                       1728 (3840)
Material for silage varies considerably. Corn, guinea corn, sugar cane leaves, uba
cane leaves, napier grass, guatemala grass may be used singly or in mixtures; the
important point to be borne in mind is that the material should be young, fresh,
and green. Uba and sugar cane should be cut before the stem is formed; guinea
grass should be cut before flowering and seeding takes place; napier, guatemala,
and elephant should be cut while the stems are still tender and green. If only
fresh, leafy growth described above is used, there is no need for chopping the
material as it is brought to the silo. It should be scattered thinly over the entire
surface of the silo, and should be constantly trampled to cause consolidation.
Trampling close to the walls is especially important.
Silage that is considerably more nutritious than grass silage can be produced by
combining fresh young leguminous fodders with grass when filling of the silo. Cow
peas, edua peas, soya beans, Bengal beans, and St. Vincent plum fodders have
been used with success at the level of 20-25 percent of the total bulk. This
material must be chopped.
The use of molasses is recommended in all silos, for increased palatability,
increased nutritive value, and in the case of young grasses, or silage with
leguminous mixtures, as an aid to the essential fermentation. Molasses should be
used at the rate of 10kg per metric ton (20 pounds per ton) of grass material, as
follows: if the material is wet with rain or dew, add two parts of water to one of
molasses before application; if the material is dry, add four parts of water to one
of molasses. As each layer of material, several centimeters or a few inches thick,
is laid down, sprinkle on the molasses-water mixture, unless a blower with a
continuous molasses sprayer attached is used. In leguminous mixtures 25 percent
more molasses should be used.
Diameter                            Depth of Silage in Meters
of Silo
in Meters   2.4    3     3.7   4.3    4.9   5.5   6.1    6.7   7.3   7.9    8.5   9.1
3           9.9   12.6  15.3  18     20.7  23.4  25.2   28.8  31.5  35.1   37.8  42.3
3.7        14.4   18    21.6  26.1   29.7  34.2  36    40.5  45    49.5   54.9  60.3
4.3        18.9   24.3  29.7  35.1   40.5  45.9  48.6   54.9  61.2  67.5   74.7  81.9
4.9        25.2   31.5  38.7  45.9   53.1  61.3  63.9   72    81    88.2
                 Table 2. Number of metric tons of silage in a vertical silo.
When it is not possible to obtain young, fresh material, and older material must
be used, then chopping is essential. Once the material has been chopped the
remaining operations are similar to those described above, with the exception that
only 6kg of molasses need be used per metric ton (12 pounds per ton) of grass
material plus 35 percent more if legumes are included.
After a silo has been filled level with the top and has been thoroughly trampled,
the silage will settle gradually over a period of several days, bringing the need
for refilling once or perhaps twice to compensate for shrinkage. After the final
refill a thick layer of dried grass should be laid over the silage and trampled
down; finally, a few heavy logs laid over the dried layer will assist consolidation.
A pointed roof over the silo with eaves reaching down below the rim will shed
rain water.
Silage made in the spring of the year when grass is young and nutritious will
keep perfectly until the winter or drought period comes; then it is possible to
supply cows with feed every bit as nutritious and as palatable as fresh grass in
the natural state. It is true that some
cows do not take naturally and readily
to silage, but they may be taught to
consume it with relish.
When a silo is opened to feed cows,
logs and the dried grass layer should
be removed. It is commonly found that
a layer of silage several centimeters (a
few inches) thick from the top
downward will have spoiled--turned
black or slimy with white streaks of
fungus here and there. This should be
thrown away.
The color of the good silage exposed below may be green, yellow-green, or
brownish-green, and it will have a strong pleasant smell; there will be no
sliminess or streaks of fungus. The silage may be fed at will to cattle, care being
taken only that each day's supply should be removed from the whole surface of
the silage rather than from one spot; in this way an even surface will be
maintained and no one section will be over-exposed to air. After each day's
supply has been taken out, the surface of the silage should be covered with old
bags to prevent drying out; if it should become necessary to interrupt the feeding
of silage for more than a day or two, then the silage must be sealed off as it
was when the silo was first filled.
                        WARNING - GAS DANGER IN SILOS
Suffocating and, in some cases, poisonous gas may be present around silos.
Suffocating gas from fermenting silage, mostly carbon dioxide, forms in all
silos shortly after filling begins and continues until fermentation stops.
Poisonous gas, when present, is nitrogen dioxide. Its color and density vary
with temperature. At room temperature it is orange yellow and 2 1/2 times
as heavy as air. As the temperature rises, its color becomes darker and its
density becomes lighter. The gas, being heavier than air, collects and
remains in any depression or enclosed space when there is no strong, free
movement of air. Danger of nitrogen dioxide gas occurs only during filling
and for about a week after.
Many lives have been lost because of carelessness in entering a silo where
there may be danger of gas. Gas is a particular hazard in below-ground
silos. To stir the air in a silo, tie a rope to a basket, a blanket, a large
piece of canvas, or a tree branch and then drop the article into the silo
and raise it a number of times with the rope.
The Farmer's Guide. Marvin D. Van Peursem, VITA Volunteer, Newton, Iowa.
Kingston, Jamaica: Jamaica Agricultural Society, 1962.