Friday, March 6, 2009

Pine Ridge Field Report

Two acres of garden now grace the hilltop and floodplain, at this site near the heart of the Pine Ridge reservation. Work has included everything from construction of a greenhouse; installation of a drip irrigation system; providing natural fertilizers, plants, soil amendments and pest controls, and sharing information on traditional agricultural practices.

The 2008 harvest turned out to be quite good. There was not only excess to give to elders and individuals in the community, but also enough to take to an elders gathering in Montana, and several community members come to the site to get produce now. Wilmer Mesteth, our project manger, doesn't care to sell produce and would rather give it away. He'd like to get recipients to garden themselves and help teach them how to successfully garden

This good year is in the face of the fact that nearly all other gardens were eaten by grasshoppers. This garden is one of the few that survived. We speculate that it survived either because a zone was mowed around the garden, and/or possibly because marigolds and other flowers were intercropped into the garden to attract beneficial insects.

We even entered a harvest contest at Oglala Lakota College, and a very large squash received first place! As an educational tool, we have a Lakota agricultural display of dried roasted corn, chokecherries, squash, and beans.

There have been several lessons from this year:
• The greater garden size puts a strain on the available compost. Since the site is essentially a sustainable organic farm, quality compost is critical. We will be exploring ways to increase the supply without purchasing fertilizers or store compost
• The amount of water required is creating excess load on the one well that serves both gardens and the extended family home on the site. The plan is to excavate an additional well.


  1. Thank you! Yes, Indigenous Permaculture is a natural fit. So much to learn from traditional and new methods as they combine. I am so happy to see this. I am working with a Native American CSA in Hugo, MN. We are combining the best of Permaculture , traditional plantings and medicinal plants. I will keep in touch. I hope all is well and the gardens go well for you.

    Dan Halsey

  2. Hi,
    Many friends have had luck with chicken tractors mopping up those pesky grasshoppers. Why not turn the pestilence into protein? Maybe just eat the grasshoppers too!!! I also started to run out of good compost. I lover to grow comfrey, dock, yarrow, borage, and other plants simply to grow compost for the garden. It's good to have lots of gardens for the garden. Chicken manure would work very well mixing with these compost crops and some brown matter. Some friends are staying here in Iowa with us from Pine Ridge foe some kind of fund raiser. They've gone without water, electricity and propane with children. I've seen photos and the land looks barren, at least in these spots. Why not plant some Osage Orange and Black Locust windbreaks? I know they are invasive, but hey, why not have invasive firewood, straight timbers that don't rot and brown leaves to mix with comfrey and chickeedoo for heaps of nutritious compost?

  3. Have you thought about humanure? It can be used in gardens carefully, around things that are off the ground and perhaps cooked, like corn, tomatoes, etc.
    You can read the whole thing on line at
    I mean, that's a constant resource, and you could use chopped dried grasses for the "brown matter."