Monday, February 8, 2010

Welcome to my garden...

When I returned to site after a 10-day absence, I was more than a bit afraid to visit the community garden. While I was gone, there was a torrential rain and the weeds had literally grown 4 feet high.

Right before I had left for training, the community-garden manager had “gifted me” with my very own two plots. I received this gift reluctantly because, well, I feel more than a bit daunted at the task. (Remember, I’m lazy and don’t like to work hard. Work hard, like dig.)

We had had a conversation about dormant plots. What happened when a garden plot became untended, weed-infested, and unmanageable? Well, he told me that the plot would be “sprayed” (with poisonous herbicide) so the foliage and weeds would die. The plot would then lie fallow for several months before planting. (So the poison could be safely “washed” away.)

Ick! was my thoughful response, although I didn't say it out loud.

I asked him if we might try a “deep mulching” method instead. I explained that since the plot would lie fallow for months anyway, could I cover a plot or two with deep mulch, which would smother and kill the weeds but also add important amendment to the soil? (And thereby avoid any use of poison in the garden.)

He agreed. He was so excited that he had some friends bring a truckload of mulch to the plot the very next day. This was the same day I would be leaving for training. I was somewhat worried when I saw that the mulch was spread very thinly and nothing at all like the deep mulch necessary for smothering weeds. I made a note to attend to his plot first thing on my return.

(In theory, you need a layer of 10 centimeters or more—oh my gosh! Did I actually USE the metric system!!—in order to cover the ground well enough to smother the weeds. He had lain about 1 centimeter worth of mulch. In America, we would need 6-8 inches of deep mulch, and in comparison, he had down about half an inch.)

And, the first thing he said to me, on my return, was “The mulch is not working.”  :-)

So, this weekend, I continued the process of applying a deep mulch to his plot.

I was also disheartened to see that the college lawn workers had burned the yard waste instead of saving it for me. No matter! There is plenty enough yard waste to go around. I found these lovely, lovely grass clippings instead!

Back home, I’ve raided my neighbors’ recycling-day piles, nabbing bags of clippings and leaves to carry home to my own garden. I’m shameless!

So, the top photo is of his plot and you can see where I’ve added grass clippings. My plots lie directly behind his, in the background. And the photo on the left is a photo of my plots. Depressing, isn’t it? :-)

No matter. I figure it took me a whole weekend to properly mulch one plot and will take three more to have all four plots covered with deep mulch.

(At my best guestimate, the whole garden consists of about 200 plots. We have about ten active gardeners, which leaves a WHOLE LOT of plots that are only weeds. Weeds going to seed. Depressing.)

The above photo is of a typical garden plot in our community garden. Notice the trenched bed (sits low within a trench wall surrounding to help hold in water) with no mulching. Also notice all of the weeds growing around it. The next one illustrates how high the weeds have grown in two weeks. Welcome to my nightmare.

Apparently, this is a common problem in all community gardens, that some people do what they are supposed to—keep the garden plots clean, and some people do not—they let theirs go to seed/weeds.

The above photo is of the plot I had mulched the  woman's tomato patch.  Can you tell which which half was mulched and which was not? (The photo is not great; think in terms of lower left and upper right.)  I removed the mulch at her request; it was heartbreaking.
The good news is that my compost is sprouting. The one pile has a happy watermelon vine sprouting up and out. The other pile seems to have a whole variety of sprouting going on.

I’m not sure if they have the hybridized seed here in South Africa, so I’m not sure if the fruit will form true to seed. Should I pull them, or let them grow? What do you guys think?

(The pointy palm frond thingys are supposed to deter the goats.  It seems to be doing the trick.)

And then below are some favorite shots of things growing both in the garden and around it. I love the bean blossoms; I love the grasses; I love the dainty, I-don’t- know- what but remind me of bluets; and I love the eggplants I’m tending for a fellow gardener. They call eggplants brinjas here. (It's an Afrikaaners word, actually.)  These are the ones I’ve applied an earth-friendly pesticide to, a stinky concoction of onions and garlic that has been soaked in water overnight then applied, and the plants are doing much better.

Back to work!

Soon, Karen


  1. Your garden will be gorgeous! I love that you are making pests-decide to go somewhere else with onions and pepper. Do you need some pepper? Can send in my package. Love you

  2. Can NEVER have too many peppercorns! Yes, would love some. (I have a grinder.)

  3. LOVE your new profile pic! It's my newest favorite thing!