Our growing garden

The garden all dug up
The garden all dug up

Busy, busy, busy! It has been some time since I’ve put out a post but that doesn’t mean that we have been sitting by idle; in fact it means the very opposite! Since that last post there have been many happenings going on here on the homestead, specially the completion of the garden plot followed by planting the garden! Other projects like the chicken coop are also making progress but the big project of late was getting the garden in.

Stakes are used as markers in the garden
Stakes are used as markers in the garden

It feels so backwards to be planting a garden in September! Usually the last of the produce is being taken from the garden now and it’s getting cleaned up, awaiting winter; if you have cold frames or are growing a winter-hardy crop you may still have some things in the garden at this point but for the most part the season is coming to a close. Not here in Congo. Here there is the unique and special blessing of being able to grow all-year-round!

You can grown things all year round here but there are seasons. A wet season and a dry season. The wet season has cooler temps and thunder storms bring rain often to water the garden for you. The wet season begins around April here and goes through the end of October about. Then in November the dry season begins. The dry season is hotter and with the exception of a little bit of rain at Christmas time, is dry and without rain until around March. *These are the rough “typical” months for these seasons. Lately the weather has been less predictable, so we will see what comes our way this year.

Rows dug up and ready for planting seeds
Rows dug up and ready for planting seeds
More rows of vegetables
More rows of vegetables

So we are in the end of the wet season right now and will be transitioning into the dry season during the end of the next month or so. This doesn’t mean things wont grow, it simply means that the garden will require more hand watering. It also means that the crops you are starting now should be crops that do well with heat and dry if you can find them, the heat-loving being the most important. Other crops like the brassica family (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc.) that like cooler weather do better at the beginning of and into wet season.The cooler weather crops that I want to grow like cabbage, certain onions and leeks, snap peas, and kale will have to wait until the dry season is over.

Mounds of melons and squash with Amaranth in-between
Mounds of melons and squash with Amaranth in-between

Gardening here is different and it is all going to be an experiment to see what does well when and if different gardening methods like vertical gardening, no dig and deep mulch affect the outcomes of produce. What I have been told is that almost anything will grow here but that zucchini, other squashes and melons struggle the most; mostly due to insects and I believe rot is an issue as well. I want to try being proactive with natural bug repellants and deterrents and I’ll experiment with the melons and squash to see if deep mulch or vertical gardening  can take care of the rot problems.

Walking paths marked by bamboo
Walking paths marked by bamboo

So take all of my gardening posts as experimenting and just trying different things. I don’t know the for-sure ways of how to grow this or that; what will or wont work here. I will have failures along with the successes and will try to grow the same thing in multiple conditions, ways and scenarios. Even different varieties of the same vegetable. Nothing is for certain and I am just beginning my gardening career here. I also want to mention that almost all of the seeds I ordered are heirloom seeds that I will be trying to save seed from. Some crops need cool weather to do this and I’m not sure it will work but we will be trying various things with this too. Ok – disclaimer rant over.

week-old okra
week-old okra
Some collard greens emerging
Some collard greens emerging

For now here are the crops I have planted (taking a deep breath because there are a lot of them and for the sake of experiments and recording details I’ll be specific): Golden Bantam 12-Row sweet corn, blue lake bush 274 beans, Utah Tall celery (usually a cooler crop but I’m experimenting like I mentioned), Vulcan swiss chard, Australian brown onions, Aswad eggplant (a large purple variety), Golden beets (orange beets), Crapaudine beets (red and carrot-shaped), Sweet Chocolate Bell peppers (chocolate brown color), Buttercrunch lettuce, Baby Oakleaf lettuce, Mache lettuce (from France), Flat of Italy red onions, Red Creole onions, Early Purple Vienna Kohlrabi (they are Asian, tolerate heat and taste like cabbage), Riesentraube grape tomatoes, Aunt Ruby’s German Green tomatoes, Black Cherry tomatoes, Ozark Pink tomatoes, Tigerella tomatoes, Arkansas Traveler tomatoes, Paul Robeson tomatoes (A black variety), Amish Paste tomatoes, Hssiao His Hung Shih yellow tomatoes, Atomic Red Carrots, Muscade carrots, Morris Heading Collards, Georgia Southern Collards, Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard, Tronchuda Kale (a more heat-resistant variety), Verde de Taglio Swiss Chard, Harlow’s Homestead Okra, Red Mini Bell Peppers, Ping Tung Eggplant, Florence Fennel, Opopeo Amaranth, Zucchino Rampicante Squash, Vegetable Spaghetti Squash, Zucchini Gray Squash, Desert King Watermelon, Kajari melon, Orangelo watermelon, and four other varieties of melons that I saved seed from during our time in France. I don’t have their official names, only their descriptions written down.

My leather gardening gloves and some of the onion seeds I planted
My leather gardening gloves and some of the onion seeds I planted

Yet to be planted: Edisto 47 Melon, Sugar Baby Watermelon, Small Persian Melon, Lemon Squash, Chinese Red Noodle Beans and Tendergreen Burpless Cucumbers. All of these will be grown on trellises (the cucumbers under an arc of the beans) because we are in the process of getting fencing to use for trellises. Hopefully it wont be too long before we can get the trellises set up and put those in the ground too. Things take time here to acquire and I have to keep reminding myself that we have been here for just under two months and really have made a lot of progress.

Whew! That was tiring but now you know . . . like I said, busy! The vast majority of my seeds came from Baker Creek Heirlooms, in case you were wondering. I have a lot more (yes, I did just say that) herbs and useful flowers to plant eventually. Today I will be planting a row of sunflowers along the Eastern side of our fenced yard. I will also start figuring out where I want to plant the various herbs I have for cooking and many other uses around our homestead. I have also started a few trays of various berries that I will transplant as seedlings into our berry patch (yes, a separate patch for berries from the garden!)

Dave up in the tree by our garden sawing off the overhanging branch
Dave up in the tree by our garden sawing off the overhanging branch
The branch falling
The branch falling

We have had some “mini-projects” to do that concern the garden like trimming branches from the tree next to our garden because it was casting a shadow over large sections throughout the day. It was fortunate that we trimmed it before the seedlings were up in the garden so it didn’t crush anything. It didn’t take Dave too long to hack apart the branch. It gave us more stakes to mark things in the garden and some more future firewood for our outdoor kitchen. There have been other big projects alongside the garden but I will put those into another post soon.

The downed branch
The downed branch

2 comments

  1. Awesome update! One thing I know well from growing up with okra—soak your seeds 24 hrs. before planting will increase the sprout rate. Okra seed is usually quite expensive so be sure to let some pods grow to real maturity and dry your own seeds. Best results in eating okra pods is to harvest when they are about the length of your middle finger. They get woody and tough when any longer than that. You probable already knew all this anyway! We are praying for you and Dave and family. God Bless.

    Don and Cindy

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    1. Thanks Don for the info. I did soak the seeds ahead of time and most of them have come up. I may need to replant a few but will give them more time. The variety I planted is special and extra long so I will be experimenting to see when the right time to harvest the pods will be. I actually have two other varieties of okra I brought with me to try sometime and seeds from a local variety as well. I’m excited to try them all but as I want to save seed I’m only going to grow one variety at a time so the seed stays true. Dave’s mom grew okra in Illinois and I was able to enjoy it there. The flowers are just beautiful and I love the productivity of okra. Fun! Thanks for the prayers.

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