In the developing urban area of New Cairo, the students of the green (but surrounded by the desert) American International School decided, in November 2014, to get together and start approaching the idea of a Slow Food garden where they could grow their own food and herbs and start recycling while also enjoying their shared outdoor gardening time.
They were guided and trained on basic gardening knowledge and tips to start planning and designing the garden itself, starting from the decision of what they want the garden to be.
They finally decided to first build up an “herb spiral” where they grow local herbs and medicinal plants, with some flowers interspersed. “The Herb Spiral is a highly productive and energy efficient, vertical garden design. It allows you to stack plants to maximize space – a practical and attractive solution for urban gardeners. It is typically 1.5 – 2m wide in diameter at the base, ascending to 1.0 – 1.3m, with the center of the spiral at the highest point. The spiral ramp provides a planting area large enough to accommodate all your common culinary herbs.” (from: http://themicrogardener.com/15-benefits-of-a-herb-spiral-in-your-garden/)
The students also drew up plans for a “keyhole garden” and other growing containers to be implemented in the future. “Keyhole gardens hold moisture and nutrients due to an active compost pile placed in the center of a round bed. Although most helpful in hot and dry locations, a keyhole garden will improve growing conditions in just about any climate.
From a bird’s eye view the garden is shaped as a keyhole. A notch is cut into a round garden bed, the notch makes for easy access to the center compost well.” (From: http://www.inspirationgreen.com/keyhole-gardens.html)
While working on the soil, students discovered the pleasure and how fun it can be to spend some quality time in the garden. Tools were provided and now fruit trees (lemon, mango, banana, guava), herbs (rosemary, oregano, sage, basil, mint, chamomile) and various vegetables grow in the garden. The students and teachers are also drawing up a program to offer the school a “green” subject where they can approach nutritional and environmental topics.
In the kitchen, they started recycling the daily scraps to use in the garden for composting.
The garden’s produce is also used to prepare real local Egyptian recipes, such as “bamya”, Egyptian okra stew, which is typically served with lamb or beef, or even without the meat for a vegetarian variation.