After a three-month summer recess during which the board members met several times to plan the Society’s activities for the up-coming year, the Horticultural Society of The Bahamas-Abaco Branch meetings resumed on September 13.
The meeting was held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Dean and Mary Murry in Leisure Lee. Thirty five people attended the gathering, a very fair number for this time of the year when the second home owners have not yet returned. The assembly was comprised of quite a few new attendees.
After the customary welcome and updates by returning President, Barbara Foreman, the presenter, Michael Lightbourn, owner of the Lightbourn Family Farm located in Schooner Bay, was introduced.
Mr. Lightbourn immediately captured people’s attention by delivering information on soil conditioning in a precise and confident manner. He talkeda bout the best ways of growing vegetables and fruits and on controlling garden pests at the home gardener’s level.
Mr. Lightbourn also had a surprise for the attendees as a Solar Energy presentation followed the one on gardening.
The Lightbourn Family Farm is mostly a hydroponic facility with only a few beds of in- ground vegetables. As such the soil acidity is controlled and the use of pesticides is greatly reduced.
“In ground, there is a lot of nature interfering and the PH varies depending on the area,” explained the presenter. He suggested that people take soil samples and send them to the University of Florida for results. The service is free. A nearly neutral PH is preferable at around 6.5 – 7.
He explained that soil can be reconditioned with the addition of compost and by adding peat moss to existing soil to drive the PH down. Growing vegetables in raised beds using a soil mixture of Miracle Grow potting soil, to which peat moss and composted sea weeds had been added, will produce a favorable growing medium.
For the organically conscious gardener, cow manure or chicken manure can be used instead of chemical fertilizers. The presence of Earth Worms in the soil is a very beneficial addition. He suggested that people look for ways of adding Earth Worms to their soil.
To control pests without the use of harsh pesticides, Mr. Lightbourn recommended management control which meant to examine the plants on a daily basis and immediately act on the problem by removing the attacked limbs and the actual pests.
He mentioned having success on certain plants with hot pepper spray – which unfortunately for those who do not like hot peppers- might leave a spicy taste in the produce sprayed. Hence the pepper spray is better used on ornamentals.
He also said that spraying with Neem could help control white flies on tomatoes and that making sure there is a good air flow between the crops minimizes the possibility of infestation.
Having beneficial insects such as Lady Bugs or Praying Mantis also helps in controlling the most common garden pests.