Dylan Sahabdool… The Trini Gardener
By Chantalé Fletcher
TWENTY-nine-year-old Spanish and French secondary school teacher says, “get up and get growing,” as he sets out on a mission to introduce and educate Trinidad and Tobago on organic gardening.
One man from Tunapuna has fused his love for education and gardening, and hence birthed TheTriniGardener.
“It’s always been in me to teach and to educate, so now that I have this YouTube channel.”
AZPNews.com spoke to Dylan Sahabdool recently and he gave an insight into organic gardening and its benefits.
Organic gardening meant taking a step back which allowed nature to grow plants, without the use of chemicals and pesticides.
Sahabdool said, “We use natural methods to fertilise and protect our crops while feeding and protecting the beneficial organisms living and working in the soil.”
He described himself as a hard worker and a very positive person who found value in every situation.
“I enjoy the physical work involved in gardening and the feeling of accomplishment from being tired after a day, working the land.”
When asked what was his biggest motivator, he smiled, “My girlfriend Janelle is my support and main motivation in life.”
He laughed, “She is the reason I started gardening, after complaining of having a big back yard without any plants as her family thought the land was not good enough for agriculture.”
“However, I transformed it in a food forest in a few months and she has now picked over 20 varieties of rare vegetables from Rainbow Swiss Chard to Black Vernissage Heirloom Tomatoes.”
Gardening had always been a dream and he quickly dispelled the assumptions that this venture had anything to do with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Yet, my practice of gardening was completely different in T&T as I practised a close cycle.”
Sahabdool said, “This meant whatever I need to grow, my crops can be found on my property and when I get my produce, that produce and its remains should be re-cycled and so forth, become the nutrients I use to get my next crop.”
He added that no blame was passed on to local farmers for their practice of synthetic fertilizers, as this was how they were taught, but for the home gardeners, organic practices should be the first preference.
Sahabdool said, “Synthetic chemicals will do more harm than good in the long run, as you bring on more things than you take out, which creates an endless cycle of wastage and water pollution which becomes toxic when entered the streams, and watercourses.”
He also strived to be 100% organic as it’s better for the world.
“So, I try to be environmentally conscious because I know you can grow crops without using any synthetic fertilizers. I teach ways in which crops can be fertilized crops without purchasing blue powders which tends to be very potent; yet, no plant can actually suck up all.”
Process of carrot growing
Carrots though not tropical were not that difficult to grow. Sahabdool gave AZPNews.com a brief synopsis.
“Use a pigtail bucket or any container at minimum six inches deep that you may have and apply five one-inch drainage holes, which could be applied with a drill or anything hot.”
He said that the roots need moisture but still required drainage as plants were not designed to sit in water. “Water that comes from the atmosphere was filled with oxygen and when it enters the soil, there’s no more oxygen there, and if it sits, it gets stagnant which causes the roots to rot.”
Compost was another important factor that could be made from kitchen scraps, grass and other clippings. “This also cuts costs which may deter any beginner from gardening, as garden soil was usually expensive.”
Sahabdool said, “The carrots shown on Facebook were Danvers brand and were seven to eight inches long. It also compromised of 50 % garden soil, 40% compost and 10%pro mix which was mixed into the bucket.
He shared one trick; that seeds should not be placed any deeper than your first knuckle on the index finger. “It’s better too shallow than too deep, as if it’s too deep they can’t push up on the soil.”
Carrots were cold-weather crops but with the right guide, it’s possible to grow in your backyard.
Sahabdool said, “They need moisture and heat at the right temperature to germinate. Seeds should be placed on a window still or (a garage with a bit of warmth) in the early stages of germination, and therefore later receive at least four hours of indirect sunlight either early in the morning or late in the afternoon followed by shade.”
He added the seeds should be checked daily to prevent drying out even though germination has begun. Hence, compost was an excellent choice as it is made up of organic matter and could retain moisture while allowing drainage.
“Carrots usually take 90 to 120 days from germination to harvesting depending on the brand, however, those in the video were harvested in 87 days, as insects had begun attacking them and I lost a very big one.”
Organic all the way even to deal with pests.
Sahabdool said, “I use light and see-through fabric on my plants, sometimes I cover from my roots, the top and even the whole container. Yet, the material allows light and water pass through but prevents the insects from going in.”
This may sound strange and he laughed. Then, he said, “Insects respond to organic matter, once they feel anything synthetic, they reject a plant as it does not feel natural, but for or my carrots, I cover the entire bucket now with light headwear.”
Challenges in the Garden
Sahabdool said, “Nothing in the garden was viewed as a challenge but rather than a lesson to be learnt and experience to live through. When we have a ‘success vs fail mindset’, we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves.”
He said that his garden soil was a natural mixture of the ruble from two demolished houses which requires a lot of manual labour.
“So, I had to use a pickaxe to get through the solid two feet of concrete chunks, old tiles and the occasional pieces of steel in order to access the soil underneath. It all sounds a lot worse.”
Yet, he described his time in the garden as therapy.
Sahabdool said, “Having my hands in the soil relaxes me in a way any gardener would understand, as the mental health benefits from having a home garden far outweighs the nutritional benefits.”
He has no interest in any commercial agriculture but is eager to make a difference but hopes to inspire and teach others the organic way of gardening.
Although, he admitted that the process of learning lacked many local videos for inspiration. He will continue with his.