Garden Update January ’16

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A view of the garden today, facing East

If you read the last post I wrote about ants, you may understand why I haven’t gotten around to giving a garden or chicken update, let alone any posts about special projects. We also were dealing with the Holidays but now that they are over, things are settling back down into normal life again. This has given me time to do some much-needed work out in the garden.

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The new carrot patch, moved from the last site to help deter pests

The garden has reached a stage that you could view as “the end of a growing season” though we can grow all year here. Most things are past their prime or are getting ready to be harvested. If we lived in a place that had winter at this point (meaning where the garden is at in development, not the month) I would be preparing my garden to winter over, cleaning it up and perhaps preparing some cold frames to be planted. Here, I’ve just begun to replant some staples, try new varieties and replant the things that the abnormally-heavy rains killed earlier. I’m also working on rotating the crops to help with nutrients and deter pests. For example there is a pest here that looks like a white crustacean of some kind that attacks root vegetables, like my carrots, and causes them to rot in the ground; you go to harvest a carrot and you end up pulling up half of a mushy one even though the top looked perfectly healthy.

IMG_0006The squash and melon patch has been replanted after ripping it all out and then making new mounds. We added mounds at the base of our trellace to help with the drainage and wash-out problems that we ran into last time. We also planted fewer varieties because last time we just had way too many going for that amount of space to support; even this time we may have overplanted by a mound but we should be ok.

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Squash on a mound with more volunteer amaranth
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Sugar Baby Watermelon seedlings growing on a mound next to the trellace
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A forest of self-seeded Amaranth and a volunteer tomato

I’m trying lemon summer squash, sugar baby watermelons and another melon on the trellace again. The third melon hasn’t come up after two attempted plantings. I may need to try a different variety in it’s place if it doesn’t come up in a day or two.

I replanted Amaranth again, as we are going to have it be a garden staple of ours, and low and behold it has also self-seeded an ample amount. I will be picking a bunch of it when it is young to space it out more. The winds during the dry season could be a problem for the tall-growing plant if it is in too large of groups.

IMG_0016We replanted sweet corn after saving seed from the last batch and it has come up and is doing well so far. With no chickens to eat the seedlings or rip them out, they should have a better start. I have also replanted more onions to hopefully begin giving us a year-round supplemental supply of the different varieties. I say supplemental because I could never grow enough to supply all of our onion needs; we just eat too many of them to keep up.

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An older onion with a young seedling in front of it

The special orange-fleshed sweet potato that was sent to us in a package from my aunt is thriving. I have planted out several other mounds using slips (or vines) cut from the planted tuber and they too are doing very well. The original mound is doing so well in fact that I plan to do more mounds on the other side of our husk berries and transplant more slips there. I have also had the chance to share slips with others in our community including two Samaritan’s Purse Doctors and a Congolese friend. Another Pilot has also shown interest in getting some clippings from me to plant in their garden.

As well as harvesting, planting and cleaning up the garden I have been working on saving seed from various plants. I have saved seed and replanted blue lake bush beans with great success already – in fact the saved seed from the plants that did well have had a better germination rate and seem to be very robust. I figure that if I continue to save seed from the plants that do best here and replant from that, I will end up with plants that thrive in these gardening conditions.

IMG_0011I have also saved a lot of seed from my Chinese Red Noodle Beans that I planted on a trellace. I have given away all of the saved seed up until now to friends and one Congolese gardener to try. The pods that are hanging and drying now will be saved for us to replant in the future. I would like to try a different variety of bean on the trellace after this one. I also have pods maturing on our okra plants and will save seed from them as soon as they dry out. Earlier this week I planted another variety of okra to try that produces bright red/orange pods. I’m excited to see how they do, taste and look. I have at least two more varieties to try in the future to see which we like best but in order to save seed can only grow one at a time.

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Chinese Red Noodle Beans going to seed and drying

So the garden is in a state of “roll-over” right now as what was planted before is finishing up and new planting has started. I’m looking forward to seeing all of the new seedlings come up soon.

IMG_0023Also as a special treat from yesterday, totally un-garden-related, one of our turkeys laid their first egg! So excited about it too because I was beginning to wonder what was going on with them.

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