Oops! When I goof up, I do it well, but, thanks to my readers, I can correct my mistakes.
After last week’s column about gardening at elevation, I received a number of letters pointing out that we have plenty of earthworms at higher elevations here in Costa Rica. At first, I blamed it on our many microclimates. Wrong again. Earthworms, it seems, thrive just about everywhere that there is biomass for them to enjoy.
As to making good compost, Paula, who lived at 2,300 meters, suggests that it was the lack of heat that caused a slowing of the breakdown of composted material. She has an excellent point as nights can be chilly at that elevation. Ivy, who lives at 1,500 meters, agrees that lower temperature is an important factor.
Just as I was losing confidence, Ivy agreed with me that shredding compost material into smaller pieces was helpful in promoting decomposition. She also adds shredded cardboard (but not cardboard with color – the dyes are bad) to the compost and says it is helpful.
As to those pests, ants and termites, Bob, who lives at 1,300 meters, has plenty
of termites and assorted ants. Paula, at higher elevation, had neither ants nor
termites (we all seem to have cutworms though). So it does seem that ants and
termites have a hard time making a living as elevations get higher and that microclimates do make a difference. Another confidence booster.
Everyone seems to agree that our rich volcanic soils are a large part of the reason for the fecundity of the area although Ivy added a caveat. Volcanic soils tend to be acidic and she, like her neighbors, adds calcium to the soil as a neutralizer. She has pine trees on her property and makes sure that she rakes and disposes of pine needles to avoid adding their acidity to the soil as well.
And what should we grow at higher elevations? I always suggest looking at what your neighbors are growing successfully. After all, atmospheric pressure, temperature, sunlight, and other factors play into the production of a successful crop. Paula found that potatoes, cabbages, Brussel sprouts and strawberries, the “northern crops,” did well at elevation. Ivy pointed out that palms grew more slowly at elevation but that her azaleas, rhubarb, and iris did well.
So, my apologies to the humble earthworm and my thanks to my readers. I do a lot of research for the column, but sometimes the best information comes from people with their toes in the earth and sweat on their brows. If you catches me in an error, let me know, I welcome your input.