Introduction: How to Grow Flowers on a Military Base in Iraq
I came to Iraq about 4 months ago to work as an Environmental Technician. I really have enjoyed my work, even if it is dangerous. I have almost all the confronts of home here thanks to KBR, however I was missing one thing, GREEN. I came here from Pennsylvania (Just PA for you from there) and missed seeing all the green. In PA we have more trees, grass, and flowers then we know what to do with.
I began to miss the foliage so much that I decided to try and start a little flower garden. Unfortunately I came into more then a few problems being here in Iraq, on a military base.
1. The dirt here is super fine and free of any organic matter, therefore, very very very dense when wet. It has the consistency of baby power when dry, you can only imagine when it is wet. Ridiculously hard to get seeds to start in.
2. I had no seeds, and I couldn't have them mailed to me.
3. It is hella dry here, unless you have a constant flow of water to wherever you trying to grow, the plants dry out.
So, I set out and used my limited resources to figure out a way to bring some of the PA green to Iraq.
Step 1: Step One, Materials
So I first started off with Finding everything I needed to build My little setup. I wanted a flower box style garden for my flowers for outside of my hooch (home for you non-military base people). So my first place was the Scrap wood pile here. And boy do we have a big one. It covers about 2 acres and is stacked 6' high. Some digging found me the perfect box. It once held some kind of 4' valve assembly.
I next got the things I needed to tackle my watering system. It isn't a new idea probably, I took some ideas from two inscrutables and combined them to fix my dryness problem. First, I got some 1 liter water bottles which can be found everywhere here on base and got some 550 cord (parachute cord) from one of the air force people I know. Apparently they had some old Parachutes they were getting rid of. I'll show you what I will do with that in a later step.
Since the Iraqi dirt is to dense when wet for growing efficiently I remeberd that one of the tools at my disposal to soaking up Hazmat spills on base is peat moss! Which made for an awesome growing material. I also did one better. I went down to the STP Plant (poopie plant) and got some of the "dried solids" (poopie) and mixed two parts of that to ten parts peat moss. It makes for excellent soil to grow things in!!!
Finally, I talked to one of the Iraqi guys that works on base filling sandbags. He lives off base and comes into base during the day to work (16 bucks a day makes him a rich man). I had him sneak in some seeds from outside the wire. I wasn't sure what he was going to bring me, but to my surprise they were in packets just like home.
Step 2: Putting It Together
So now that I had all the materials I needed it was time to start putting it together. I put holes big enough to squeeze the parachute cord in the bottles along the top. I then shoved around 4 feet of cord into each hole and ran it to the bottom of the bottle and left the rest hang out the hole.
Then I buried these up to the cap in the box with my super-duper-pooper soil. I made sure the cords were in various depths so to irrigate the roots at all levels.
Finally I planted the seeds, and filled the bottles up!
Step 3: The Waiting Game
You probably know how it works already. The cord soaks up the water from the bottles and takes it to the drier dirt. So.... thought the day there is a constant supply of water to my plants!
This has been working better then I could ever think and now I have some green here in Iraq. Hot darn!
And one of the coolest parts is the ferns move when you touch them, they close up!