Sankofa Gardening Homes
The saying is true, “My, how time flies.” Here we are celebrating the first anniversary of Sankofa Garden Homes. I wish to thank The Dallas Examiner for this opportunity. I would not have thought when I started writing this column that I would make it to the first year. There were doubts in my mind about the interest in the Africa American community for growing gardens in their yards. Given our disdain for manual labor created by the tragedies of slavery and Jim Crow, I felt my call to grow our own food as our “Africans who Built America” ancestors did, would fall on deaf ears.
However, to my pleasant surprise, I found several “Descendants of Africans who Built America” were willing to create a home garden and others interested to learn how. As with any new ideal, it takes time and commitment. Sankofa Garden Homes notwithstanding.
During the year, I have crossed paths with people who would talk about helping to create community gardens. While this is an effort embraced by many, I choose to focus on creating above ground gardens at homes that one can manage with the least interference of politics and minimal resources.
Sankofa Homes Gardens also harken back to the days when our ABA ancestors were self-sufficient, because much of their food was either in the front yard, on the side of the house, in the backyard or a combination of the three. There are many African American elders who fondly remember their families’ home gardens. They are a rich source of knowledge and skills we should reap the benefits of as we go into the second year of this column.
As we celebrate our first year, I would like to share key points that will help ensure a successful Sankofa Garden.
Do your research on above ground gardens. There are many You Tube videos that can be very helpful. Begin with 5×5 gardens and expand from there. Remember the right soil, fertilizer, compost and peat moss mixture is key. Cover the grass with the appropriate cover to kill grass and weeds.
Select an area around your home that gets the east sunlight. This will give you the light needed for your garden to grow.
Select a store with the products you will need for your garden, landscape timber, landscape stones, above ground organic soil, fertilizer, meat moss, water hose, etc. Be sure to get to know the garden specialist; they can be extremely helpful in helping getting your garden going and sustaining it.
Google how to build a compost bend. Be sure to look at a You Tube video that shows you how to build a compost bend from wood pallets. These are the most cost effective and work quite well. Be sure to save your vegetable scraps to mix in with leaves, grass clippings and soil and water and turn as instructed. A pitchfork will be needed to turn your compost.
Be sure to select non-GMO seeds. You may have to go to a specialty feed store to find them. After your first harvest you can let you crop seed out and have seeds for the next year. Collect seeds for future planting.
Draw out your Sankofa Garden in the area of your home where you want it to be. Remember, it should fit into your existing landscape and compliment other plants around your home.
Make sure there is a water source near by with a water hose that is long enough to sufficiently reach all your plants. Purchase a water sprayer that has the cyclical that turns to different sprays. Be sure to use the spray setting that does not damage you plants and allows for the greatest amount of soaking. Being in Texas, I find that watering early morning and late evening are the best times. I have found that covering plants with burlap or black sunscreen block material can help plants from drying out after watering during the extremely hot days. Plant marigold flowers to keep insects away.
Study what you want to plant in your garden so you will know when to plant and how to plant. Refer to the Farmer’s Almanac or the garden specialist at your local garden store. Be sure to talk to your Elders.
Plant enough of each crop to yield a sufficient harvest. Your hard work should reap a bountiful harvest. I recommend collard greens, okra, rosemary and mint because they reap a bountiful harvest, are healthy and consistent of an important part of the African American diet.
Keep a journal of when and what you plant, as well as any problems you experience. Be sure to take pictures and videos of you and your garden as it grows. I look forward to seeing your pictures and videos. You can subscribe to my You Tube page, Professor Freedom, and see my clips. I will be adding more in the future.
I hope these 10 Sankofa Garden Home tips will help you begin this next year excited about getting started. Remember “you” are responsible for your food and the food your family eats. While you can’t grow all of your food, you can begin growing certain vegetables, herbs and spices that will be healthy for you and your family and begin to impact your grocery budget.
As your Sankofa Garden grows, you will create a new gathering place for your family and friends to gather. It will literally become an outdoor classroom for the youth in your family and community. A garden is full of science, technology, engineering and math experiences for students. Students in your family and community will find many things that will align with what they are learning in school. They will find that their Sankofa Garden is a great Project Based Learning experience. Be sure to let their teachers, especially their Science teachers know of their home garden. It could be a great way to get extra credit.
When I started writing Sankofa Garden Homes, I had the vision of changing our communities from food deserts to food oasis – one African American home at a time. While this may seem to be a mammoth task, I am still committed to the effort. I am committed because in the spirit of Sankofa, “we can reach back and fetch what we left behind.”
As our nation struggles with the quality of food being sold in stores, we should be comforted by the fact that our ABA ancestors were among the first organic farmers/gardeners in America. The knowledge of agriculture they brought with them from Africa while enslaved served to be the foundation upon which our nation was built. If they, under the most oppressive conditions of slavery and Jim Crow, could produce food that would feed a country that would become the most powerful nation in the world, certainly we can produce food for ourselves today and overcome a food crisis in our own communities. Our ancestors and elders are expecting nothing less of us today.
I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep growing!