Classes teach ancient growing methods

Members of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center community collect ripe corn from the Resilience Garden during a past harvest. (Courtesy of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.)

This spring, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center began offering gardening classes that demonstrate some of the centuries-old methods developed to grow traditional crops in the dry southwest climate.

The Seasons of Growth classes take place from 9-11 a.m. on the second Sunday of each month; the next class is on Aug. 13. Those interested in learning the techniques can register to attend by emailing class organizer Bettina Sandoval at bsandoval@indianpueblo.org. Class size is limited to 20. There is a suggested donation of $5 per class.

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center has had its “Resilience Garden” for several years and began offering the classes in March this year. Classes began with a focus on soil preparation and the basics of composting. In April, there was a presentation about traditional farming methods such as creating “waffle” gardens.

Corn grows in a “waffle garden.” in which low hand-formed adobe barriers help collect precious water around plants’ roots.

Sandoval said the waffle garden technique was developed at Zuni Pueblo. It involves forming a roughly rectangular earthen wall a few inches high to surround plant crops such as corn. The low wall helps conserve water by collecting the available moisture in a small area immediately around the plant.

“It really makes a lot of sense instead of having to irrigate a large area or bring water from a distant source,” Sandoval said.

The garden has an area with the traditional “three sisters” crops — corn, squash and beans — as well as modern vegetables such as asparagus, chard, tomatoes, lettuce, chile and bell peppers. There are also fruit trees and bushes.

The August class will focus on the history of corn, how it has changed, and the importance of saving seeds. Participants can take home their own indigenous seeds and seedlings.

On Sept. 10, Tiana Suazo of Taos Pueblo will lead a workshop on canning methods to preserve vegetables. In October, those who have attended at least three classes can harvest vegetables, then cook and eat the fruits of their labor.


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