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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Unexpected Parterres Turn up in Inca Calendar c 1580

Had no idea the Inca practiced a sophisticated and highly bureaucratic form of agriculture before the Conquest . The workers were given the grain, showed how to plant it, cultivate and store it -as is happening here. There's someone with a hoe on the right, parrots flying above the corn, another female worker carrying cut corn to a store house.

 The wife of the Inca-- the quoy, was basically in charge of the Dept. of Agriculture-- the quoy in turn appointed various female overseers who distributed the grain .

 In other scenes from the Calendar men are shown hoeing, loading llamas, and making the holes for the seed as they are doing above. Inca farming was amazingly productive and supported their heavily populated cities. Like  So Cal gardeners the Inca irrigated their crops.

If we are contemplating turning our lawns into food gardens as Heather Flores suggests in her provocative book    Food Not Lawns  we might as well be as aesthetically pleasing and as efficient as possible, no?

Take a page from the Inca Calendar. The climate the Inca worked with was much like our own , and as the efficiency experts of MesoAmerica found parterres worked for them I'm fairly sure that's the best way to grow food on former lawns. It's also an easy way to control run-off to cut down on the pollution of the Pacific. Highly recommended reading:  Ocean Friendly Gardens

 Douglas Kent explains how to set up paths so they absorb water, prevent run-off, filter the water --all very practical mostly involving knowing how to do it, and a shovel.
Another consideration --- a garden set up  in parterres is the likely to be more popular with the neighbors who worry about the neighborhood going to seed  (sorry, couldn't resist that) than a less structured cottage garden . The French  potager is usually set up in parterres as well and we all know where they stand in the history of garden making.

Note: all the pictures and the Inca garden information are taken from Edward  Hyams (op.cited)  A  History of Gardens And Garden Making (out of print, publ.1971 by Praeger)

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