Coffee: From Home Garden to your Mug | Daily News

Coffee: From Home Garden to your Mug

Do you love coffee? Then why don’t you start growing coffee in your home garden? Growing coffee in home gardens is one way forward for sustainable coffee growing in Sri Lanka, in fact, it is perhaps the future when it comes to coffee production in the country.

Green Thumbs speaks to SriCart (Organic Certification Sri Lanka) Manager and Lanka Organic Agriculture Movement Project Director (LOAM), Ajantha Palihawadana, on growing coffee in home gardens.

Your home garden is a place where you grow all kinds of fruits and vegetables. In order to have a successful and thriving home garden that yields a bountiful supply of fresh food, there are certain methods you use; if you use that same methodology for growing coffee, it will give a yield that is enough for yourself perhaps for your entire family.

We normally grow a variety of plants in home gardens. This method has proved successful. It is a time tested method. It is how we maintain a home garden that gives us fresh food throughout the year.

“In the plantation sector, if coffee is grown using the monoculture method, that would create certain problems. In my opinion, growing coffee in home gardens is sustainable. When growing coffee in home gardens, you will not face pest and disease problems because, in the home garden, there is a mixture of plants,” said Palihawadana.

In an organic garden with no chemicals used, many animals are there. When there are more insects in the garden, it attracts predators like birds who feed on insects. So, pests are controlled naturally. There are spiders that eat other insects. One is prey and the other is the predator - that is nature. All these ‘good’ and ‘bad’ things are part of biodiversity and they all have a role to play in the garden.

When there are no spiders in the garden, the number of flying insects increases as there are no cobwebs to trap these insects. These insects might be carrying microbes. Of course, the spiders are eaten by birds. This food chain is important in the home garden. We know that some animals eat plants and other animals eat the animals that eat plants. Ati Kukula is the best slug and snail controller.

He pointed out that in home gardens, we also have a cooler temperature and there is shade, and those are ideal conditions for coffee to grow. For example, if you grow Chili plants in the sun, it will be vulnerable to the leaf curl disease; but if you grow it in the shade, that will not happen.

Every plant has its own place in nature. The coffee plant in home gardens will thrive because of the shade. There is no stress for the plant. Coffee grows well when it is protected from the sun.

“The home garden environment is very suitable for the coffee plant because it has the ideal environment. You can grow coffee in plantations as monoculture, but in plantations, there is no shade. You can grow in plantations, but you need to mimic the home garden model. You will need several canopies. The monoculture also attracts diseases and pests much more than home gardens. If one plant gets the disease, it will spread. This is because the nearby plant is also of the same type. In a home garden, this will not happen. This is because the plant will die and it will not infect the plant that is next to it,” explained Palihawadana.

Of course, it will be pollinated by bees and you will have a good crop. If you follow the model of home gardens, that will be a model for the whole world. Coffee grows in home gardens very well, and that is a lesson learnt from Mother Nature. What is working well in agriculture is naturally replicated.

Coffee is planted with other plants as polyculture. It is not exactly ‘Companionship Planting’ but a bit similar in terms of having a variety of plants. In Companionship Planting, we purposely select plants belonging to different families and mix them. So, in the bed, it is not fully chillies or fully pumpkins or fully cabbage. We plant from each type together. So, if there is a disease for chillies then that won’t affect the pumpkin or the cabbage. In summary, in polyculture, diseases cannot spread widely.

However, you need to keep in mind that when you grow coffee, you cannot grow vegetables among them. It is because the coffee plant blocks the sunlight that the vegetables need to receive. But you can grow coconut, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, cocoa, black pepper, vanilla, cinnamon and all sorts of spices.

The Government should encourage and help home gardeners to grow coffee as they are free labour. We can then produce the best coffee in the country with a good brand name.

With other crops, crop rotation works. During one season, you can grow one crop in a certain location, and during another season, grow a different crop in the same location. That is how we rotate crops in our home garden. If we grow the same crop in the same location in all seasons throughout the year, what will happen is that pests will come to those locations and take permanent residence in those locations. This is because certain pests love certain crops. However, coffee is a permanent crop. There is no crop rotation with coffee. Therefore, it is important that we practice mix-cropping.


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