The Garden Plot and Compost Bins

Our backyard before the garden started going in
Our backyard before the garden started going in

A garden is a big deal to me. It’s essential to building a productive homestead in my opinion. When I think gardening I think vegetables, not flowers. I really enjoy flowers but spending time working on flower beds that don’t produce anything is just not me. So low-maintenance flowers are the only kind that survive on this homestead, unless someone else is tending to them.

The garden plot beginning to go in
The garden plot beginning to go in

My mom, bless her heart, has a magical green thumb and does all things plants; flowers, vegetables and even floral arrangements. Plants, especially flowers are one of her passions in life. I commend her for it, enjoy talking about them and even enjoy helping make arrangements for weddings with her; but for me “gardening” is vegetable gardening. I’ll have flower beds but don’t expect to see me spending a lot of time on them. The vegetable patch and orchard is what I enjoy.

There is just something about putting a tiny seed into the ground, watching it grow, tending to it and then at last reaping the rewards with wholesome food. Awwww, now that’s living. From your garden to your table; in this case the shorter the journey the bigger the benefits.

Some of the seeds waiting to be planted
Some of the seeds waiting to be planted

So in order to enjoy those benefits and wholesome food we are going to have a garden here on the homestead. A large garden to heavily supplement what we are purchasing. I have seeds-galore just waiting to be planted.

Chard, okra, collard greens, amaranth, beans, eggplant, beets, peppers (lots of varieties), carrots, lettuce, onions, tomatoes (again, lots of varieties), cabbage, strawberries, corn, SO MANY herbs and more! We love our produce and though, in general, it’s not expensive to purchase produce here I still want to grow our own food. Every little bit helps.

The garden progresses
The garden progresses

It also gives us the opportunity to pick and choose what we want to grow. For instance there is produce here that is very common and cheap, like a local variety of amaranth that you use just like spinach. Knowing this is available in the markets allows me to use our garden space for other things that are either expensive here (carrots) or are rare and harder to find (carrots, peppers, green beans and more) or not available at all that we have seen (beets, varieties of other veggies like purple cabbage, red or orange peppers and more).

Fenugreek growing by our back porch. Literally the first thing I  planted here.
Fenugreek growing by our back porch. Literally the first thing I planted here.

I will also eventually start an herb garden where I can grow a great variety of herbs to use fresh in the kitchen and to dry for later use as well. Herbs for teas, herbal treatments, making extracts, maybe making soap or other cleaning products; there are endless uses. I already have fenugreek growing in a flower bed just out back of the kitchen. I literally threw the seeds on the ground and whipped some dirt over them and have let nature do the rest. It’s growing well and it will be nice to use in my Indian dishes. There are also lemongrass bushes and several aloe plants around to use.

Almost finished being dug up
Almost finished being dug up

We love our vegetables and herbs but we also love our fruit. Now where I’m from apples and various stone fruits (cherries, peaches, plums, etc.) are the norm. Here though we are right on the equator and in a tropical area so naturally, the norm are things like mangoes, pineapple, guava and banana. We are planning fruit and eddible trees around our yard along with the garden and herbs. We have an orange tree, lemon trees, lime, moringa trees, papaya, banana, and are working on an avocado tree as well. We are also considering planting a mango tree but with that comes even more mango flies . . . .but we already have one in the neighbor’s yard of the juicing kind so they are already around. We want to plant eating mangoes that are not as stringy (the kind you think of in the states).

The posts for the composts bins are in
The posts for the composts bins are in

Another important part of the garden and kitchen cycle is compost. I was so excited when we moved in to have a compost bucket in the kitchen again so all of the food and produce scraps are not wasted anymore. We have been waiting to build our compost bins until the fence was completed but now that the fence is done the bins went in quick.

We are doing two “bins” at the end of the garden and eventually after we have lived here for some time and things are moving along we will be filling one while the other composts and turns into “black gold” for the garden. They are of substantial size because we make a lot of compost here; you cook from scratch and that involves a lot of compostable waste which is great for the garden.

The wood around here is very heavy hard wood so we used the 4-wheeler to move the boards around.
The wood around here is very heavy hard wood so we used the 4-wheeler to move the boards around.
Screwing some of the last boards into place for the bins
Screwing some of the last boards into place for the bins

We wanted it to be able to be turned frequently and easily so we left the front end of them open, building only the back and sides with a partition. We will be putting grass clippings onto the pile for some dry matter to mix in with the wet from the kitchen. Later when we have chickens, there will be less kitchen scraps going into the pile because we will be feeding those to the chickens but we will be adding the chicken manure to it, which is wonderful.

The completed compost bins - ready to be filled, turned and one day emptied out onto the garden
The completed compost bins – ready to be filled, turned and one day emptied out onto the garden

So things concerning the garden are moving along nicely; even the garden plot itself is nearly finished! The grass has been dug up over the entire stretch. What remains to be done before planting can start is to get the dirt from the grass roots and then break up the clumps of soil left over from that, so the ground is smooth and plantable.

Growing the plot
Growing the plot
All that's left is to remove the dirt from the sod and then break up the large clumps of soil so it's workable
All that’s left is to remove the dirt from the sod and then break up the large clumps of soil so it’s workable

So we hopefully should be able to start planting by this weekend! I am thrilled to get out there and put some seeds in the ground to start growing! It’s the end of the wet season here so most things should grow fine and then as we enter the dry season we will just have to do extra watering as needed. One challenge I’m wanting to face is growing melons. Most of the expats here have had trouble growing them and zucchini (of all things!). I brought seeds for many different varieties of heat tolerant melons and a variety of zucchini that is supposed to do well too. I want to take them both on and see what we can accomplish!

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