Coffee in the Ground at Xandari

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Coffee ready to be planted, next to its hole

On Monday, we began planting coffee and made great headway on getting the shrubs in the ground. Fortunately, José Luis, Xandari’s head gardener, and his team (or should we say “coffee crew” in this case?) had already done significant work in preparing the soil to receive the plants. This particular area had a good many stones in it that had to be removed before work could begin, and in order to jump-start the growing process rich soil had to be brought up from the composting heaps. (Pictures of the prepared field, and more on the story of coffee at Xandari, can be found in the the last post on coffee.)

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Coffee staked out in rows, with Negro (José Luis’s dog) overlooking and Isaac passing by

There are a number of steps in planting the coffee. Once the land is generally prepared, it must be measured out, and stakes must be placed to indicate the future locations of the plants. Next, the top layer of grass has to be removed (typically with a large, flat shovel) and carted away. Then, we had to excavate holes large enough to take the earth-pods covering the plants’ roots. Next, the shrub is placed in the hole and rich soil is packed around the roots. In between layers of soil, a natural calcium-phosphorous compound (the white powder evident in the top picture) that helps to balance the acidity of the soil and provide inorganic nutrients for the growing plants is sprinkled in. Finally, more earth is placed around the top of the plant and securely tamped down to prevent it from running off in the heavy rains (aguaceros) common in the rainy season in Costa Rica.

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Ready to be covered with earth (Jesús in the background)

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Seth snapping a photo of the rows of coffee – don’t worry, it wasn’t all snapping photos! Plenty of holes to dig (Isaac looks on)

After Monday, this piece of land was basically squared away with the exceptions of a few rows added today (Tuesday). In a future post, we’ll cover the same process on another piece of land so you can see it from start to finish. Here was the more-or-less finished product–only possible with the  hard work of José Luis, Jesus, Isaac, Huberth, and Pipe!

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One of the fields of planted coffee

10 thoughts on “Coffee in the Ground at Xandari

  1. Thanks for this update. Is “coffee plant” the customary name for plants that grow the beans? When was coffee introduced to this part of the world? You mention that shade trees are needed. Does this mean that direct sun can be problematic for growing coffee?

    • So far as I know, “coffee plant” is just a casual way of referring to them. “Coffee” also works. All the species we planted are cultivars ( of Coffea arabica, by far the most common species in world production (approx. 75-80%). The two major cultivars of Arabica we used were bourbon (borbón in Spanish) and caturra. As for the sun, it shouldn’t be too damaging to the plants provided there is regular rain. The shade is mostly useful because it a) means that you haven’t deforested the area to grow coffee and b) that there is an environment for insect-eating birds to help control pests.

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