Gandul aka Pigeon Pea is great to help build soil and keep down weeds

Hey reader(s): Thanks so much for checking in!  In an earlier post I described Vetiver and Madero Negro as part of our permaculture methods on the farm.  But I forgot the third leg of our triangle of eco-goodness which is pigeon pea also called frijol gandul or just gandul.  File:Cajanus cajan.jpg

It is super-popular to eat this bean in Puerto Rico.Gandul has more or less a typical bean type look except the pods can get really big and in general the plant can grow a bit larger and when it does get larger, it turns into quite a sturdy little bush.

This plant also has the “living mulch” sort of effect in that when it finally matures you can just “chop and drop” it and it is like putting compost down on the ground.

Some visitors enjoy learning about the farm, so I hope this is of interest to some people…give me a comment if you please 🙂

So before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s review a bit.   We have the Vetiver bush to control erosion and form natural terraces, help decide where the rainwater infiltration occurs, and as an aside it is good for making potpourri and perfumes. The other plant we have are dozens of volunteer Madero Negro trees that we have cleared into alleys. This is another chop and drop option for us. Alternatively, we can use it to feed the neighbor’s cow.

Where the gandul comes in is, at least how we’ve used it, twofold. First we plant two of them as companions to fruit trees that we plant. We have found this to be a nice way to give the little trees some protection, help keep down weeds around the tree, and it seems like the nitrogen fixing is occurring as the gandul grows, although I don’t believe that is what the science tells us…The second way we use gandul is as a cover crop.  This is where weeds have been growing and maybe the soil isn’t that great.  There are some areas for example that are not as fertile as they could be due to having had plantains there in years past.

Like: Since gandul is a bush, when it grows it really keeps the weeds down.

Dislike: None so far although we don’t want it to grow wild it could take over sites.

Here in Nicaragua the lifecycle of the plant that works best is the following:

  • Plant in late September or early October
  • Harvest in March/April.

We have planted three generations so far and it grows well everywhere we have planted it. Our soil is a mix of sandy and volcanic rock and dust. Probably a kind of high pH level. Haven’t tested it. We’ve planted in the beginning of the rainy season and that works too, you might not get any beans until the next dry season though.

Hey reader, watcha think?