Monday, January 10, 2011

Return of the prodigal gardener

Welcome to the jungle! 
Thorn fence blown apart; African spinach (back left) towering as behemoths;
tired zucchini on right;
 tomatoes and okra hiding in the weeds

Several of you have asked about my garden and how it fared in my absence and how it weathered the storms. W—e—l—l… It did ok, all things considering.

I almost fell over at the sight of the 2’ high weeds on my return—so much for deep mulching! Oh well, at least the weeds were happy and thriving in their mulch! The weeds, it seems, is the most formidable challenge of repair on my return. They’ve had massive, massive rain while I was gone and have been living quite happily and growing to monstrous proportions in my vegetable bed!

A portion of my thorn fence was lifted over onto my beans/green bed. This has happened before. The beans seemed to be happily blooming up through the thorns! My African spinach (amaranth) as happy though and had grown into 4’ behemoths. Zinnias too, were happy blooming in the amaranth’s shade. (I’ve since had a couple of dinners of African spinach, so the shade problem has been solved.)

My tomatoes were sprawling (as the plants were quite small when I left and I hadn’t yet tied them to their stakes) but seemed to be doing well in spite of the weeds; they were in bloom when I returned. Maybe I’ll have decent maters yet! My heirloom okra is alive and well too, again, in a tangle of weeds. I had asked a neighbor to come “take what you’d like” from my garden, hoping she’d take the zucchini, so it would keep producing. I confused her, however, as I told her it was a “squash plant” and so she was expecting to see butternut squash. Since the plant was producing, well, green zucchinis, she didn’t know what they were and did not harvest them. (They call zucchinis “baby marrows” here). So I SHOULD have said, it’s a baby marrow plant. Oh well. So, I had some bloated, tough zucchinis rotting on the vine. I’ve removed them, in hopes of reviving the plant, but we’ll see.

I’m debating what to do next. I will certainly salvage the tomatoes and okra and keep the amaranth, of course. (It will produce all season with cutting.) Will watch the zucchini plant to see how it fares, but I may need to go ahead and put it out of its misery. Any suggestions?

I think I will not rebuild my thorn fence and will dismantle what is left of it. The point of the garden was to see if a home garden could be (somewhat) easily constructed by someone living in rural South Africa, and even more to the point, someone who is living in rural South Africa and affected by HIV/AIDs. So, the hope was that the installation and maintenance of the garden would be somewhat easy. I have learned that it is not so easy, even with a healthy, able-bodied individual. The digging of a trenched bed is labor-intensive, although community members could help an ill person with digging; and a home garden most certainly needs proper fencing and without it, goats are a formidable problem (proper fencing being too expensive for most ill, rural South Africans).

Also, I was hoping my “demonstration garden” would be a point of interest for community members and, well, it was not.

Ultimately, I garden for personal satisfaction and enjoyment, and will likely continue to garden a bit during my last days in Africa; however, I think I’ll downsize considerably—and be free from the danged thorn fence!


Zinnias thriving, despite shade from the towering African spinach

Did I mention that Ounaai is ok??

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