Gardening in Afghanistan

In 2018 I finally got my chance to practice my gardening skills in Afghanistan. While some people think of Afghanistan as a hot desert because it is in the Middle East, the reality is it is very mountainous terrain. I was there during the winter and it was very cold, like a few inches of snow kind of cold.

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The soil I had access to on the base where I was living was very poor quality. It was a mix of some sand and some clay, but had very little organic matter. Luckily for me, I’ve been composting since I was a kid, and had some ideas on how I’d fix this. I starting saving some food scraps from the chow hall. I’d bring home the used coffee grounds from the coffee maker at work. I even sourced some egg shells from the Afghan restaurant on the base. I saved some peanut containers and water bottles to use for mixing the ingredients for my modified soil together. I mixed my compost materials with some sifted soil from the base. It was a somewhat odd consistency relying heavily on the coffee grounds, but it did the trick.

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My family sent me some peas and kale from home that I could plant. Both of these are cold weather crops that could withstand the winter there especially if I kept them in the windowsill of my hooch. I planted them and let them grow there in the window.

On occasion I added some nitrogen in the form of urine from a watered down piss bottle.

My deployment ended before I had a chance to let the plants fully mature, but I passed them along to one of my friends on the base.

Lessons Learned:

If I were going to attempt this again, I would source a few things from the local bazaar (market) to expedite the process.

The first thing I’d find is some soil from one of the local farms. Afghanistan is know to have some very fertile soil, just not on the base.

I’d also source a blender for mixing up my eggshells, coffee grounds, apple cores, fish bones, and banana peels so that they would break down faster.

Mulch for adding a protective cover layer to the soil when I transplanted the seedlings outside.

Live worms from one of the local farms to help work my soil into a better quality.

A clear polytarp to make a cold frame or small hoop greenhouse for the plants during the winter.

All in all it was a dream come true to get to experiment with my green thumb in another country. I’d love to hear any tips and tricks others have used when cultivating crops in a similar environment.