I had to leave things in the garden to their own devises while Neu was so ill, some of it went mad, some didn’t survive due to lack of water (we didn’t get much rain) and some things clearly needed to be moved. So for the last couple of months I have been busy clipping back, dividing and re-planting and generally trying to get things going again.
As we are gardening on sand it is amazing to me that anything grows at all, actually we have had an amazing amount of success considering that when we came here there was nothing growing other than a frightening cactus that nothing seems to eat and the vetch like plant that covers the dunes.
Even the cows don’t eat the cactus
House nearly finished, garden just begun
A few beans planted, not much else
Looking back at the photos of the area taken as Neu was building the house, it’s hard to believe that the garden is only 12 years old, we must be doing something right.
12 years on and what a difference
The garden in 2016
We garden organically and the only thing we ever bring in (apart from plants) is manure from the cows that wander over the dunes. The bulk of our organic matter comes from the garden itself, in the way of fallen leaves and green clippings, with kitchen waste adding to the compost. Thankfully we have some fast growing plants whose clippings make ideal mulch.
Moringa, a nutrition rich tree.
We have two Moringa trees and I keep them pollarded at about head height, they sprout constantly and grow very quickly, giving a ready supply of green matter. The Moringa is a fantastic source of nutrition and just about every bit of it is edible but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to agree with me, so as I said I use it mainly as a green mulch for the other plants.
The other bushes I heavily prune back are the Mulberries, if I leave them to their own devices they reach for the sky, taking the bulk of their delicious fruit with them. By regular pruning I encourage them to grow sideways rather than up, the green clippings go on the garden and the clipped bushes give us an all most constant supply of wonderful berries. Umm berries for breakfast, yum!
One of the several mulberry bushes, how I love mulberries
The bananas are the third plant that help in the mulch mix, by stripping off the dead and dying material from the outside of the trunks, the bananas seem to grow better and we keep the hiding place for pests down. The way a banana produces fruit is really something to see. The dark purple pendulous flower was such surprise to me. Before coming here I’d only ever seen bananas in the shops, I’d never really thought about how they actually grow.
Baby bananas and flower
Earlier in the year I bought some sweet corn to eat, one of the cobs had gone past its best before it could be eaten and so I threw it out onto the compost, only to find it sprouting a little while later. Sweet corn is normally planted here after November, to coincide with the rainy season but I figured, if it’s sprouting, plant it, so I did.
My father in law laughed and said they would not grow because it wasn’t the rainy season but I watered them and they grew. Then he said that they might grow but they wouldn’t produce corn because it wasn’t the rainy season. I can’t honestly see any rhyme or reason for this and am assuming that this is one of those tales from days gone by.
Corn, pumpkin, sugarcane, sweet potatoes, manioc and beans were always planted during the rainy season, possibly as that was the only time they would get enough water. Certainly until the arrival of electricity in Prainha and with it the possibility of an electric water pump, all plants had to watered by hand pumping water into buckets and lugging them around the garden, having done it when we first moved out here, I can honestly say it’s hard work. It is so very much easier to flick a switch and water with a hose and I am pleased to say our sweet corn are producing cobs, we’ve eaten some of them and very good they were too.
Picking sweet corn
One of our sweet corn cobs
The other day one of my son’s school friends came over asking to interview me for a school project he is doing. He wanted to know how we garden (organically or with chemicals) and what edible plants we grow, when I sat down with him to make the list I was pleasantly surprised by just how many food-producing plants we have.
Some of what is growing in the garden now:
Basil, Mint (4 types) Parsley, Rosemary, Salvia (2 types, one for Chia seeds and the more common Sage), Chamomile, Coriander, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Chilli (several types), Green pepper, Beans, Pumpkins (2 types) Sweet corn, Jaboticaba (a delicious berry), Acearolas, Mulberries, Bananas, Papaia, Melon, Cashew (2 types) Mangos (2 types) Caja, Sugar cane, Grapes, Siriguelas, Guava, Tangerine, Orange, Lime, Sapote, Atá and Star fruit.
Tangerines and Mango
Not bad for a garden that really isn’t all that big and considering the growing conditions. Along with the sand, scorching sun and lack of rain, we have constant sea winds. At this time of year the wind is so strong that it can make walking down the road in shorts a painful experience, with the wind-driven sand stripping a layer of skin off your legs, imagine what that does to plants!
Seedlings sprout only to get burnt to a crisp if you forget so much as one day of watering, or have them where they get more than a couple of hours of early morning sunshine. During the rainy season the rain can come down in sheets for days on end, forming great pools in the garden, they will drain away quickly if the rain stops for a day or two but every year some plants fail to make it through.
With all that to contend with it amazes me that anything survives at all.
Enjoying the rain
Sunshine and showers
The other wonderful thing about the garden, a bonus gift from mother nature, is the now constant bird song. When we first came here I was shocked that I hardly ever heard birds, but it was the lack of trees that kept them away. Now with ours and our neighbours trees, we have bird song from morning till night, wonderful. I do so love my garden.
Sparrows having a natter