Sunday, June 19, 2011

garden in the desert...

Now I ask you, who would be silly enough to take on a major and overly ambitious gardening project in an area which is essentially desert. That's; silly excitable enthusiastic gardener that I am.

Now that it's past mid June, at home in Ohio I would have most everything planted and the garden would be a green living thing of beauty. Here, not quite the same. The garden bed (or at least part of it) has been mostly prepared, and planted with lots of hard work and many wonderful helpers, especially the girls of the English Garden Club.

These students, in grades 7-10 volunteered to help me work in the garden, 3 times a week for an hour each time for the opportunity to practice speaking English. I am delighted and grateful for their help! The watering alone for the approximately 50' X 10' bed involves countless trips into the dorm and filling up buckets in the sink then carrying them back out to the garden. It's a time consuming and good exercise, but a tedious task.

Our garden bed is a fenced in area in front of the school dorm, conveniently located and at least partially sheltered. However,much to my dismay an ornery dog has found his way in and likes to traipse over the beds; I have caught him running through!

The ground in these beds (one on either side of the entrance) is filled with sandy dirt and lots and lots of rocks and stones, not to mention the fire weeds that sting like chiggers. The initial preparation involved hours of digging, then adding in some decent soil (thankfully school got bags of it for us) and some manure (mostly bagged as well, that we added in, while attempting to remove most of the rocks. In addition to the club students, occasionally another student or school worker has pitched in and dug or pulled weeds and rocks with me!

Seeds planted in the garden have come mostly from my sister Sue and my friend Stephanie back home and include my favorites, which may or may not fare well here. Huge amounts of green beans, peas, radishes, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, herbs and about 40 tomato's have been planted thus far. (all from seed except the tomato's which I nurtured on my bedroom window sill.) This week I anticipate planting a few cucumbers which I've started and perhaps a few flowers to fill in some spots, as well as working on preparing the other side garden, which though smaller, is extremely rocky.

My plan for this smaller side includes "the three sisters" as the trio of sweet corn, pole beans and squash was called by Native Americans, though I don't know how well they may do. I think I'll try it along with a few small areas of potato's which are a big favorite here.

Hesitation and angst permeate my mind lately and my garden efforts here.... I have made such a big deal of my gardening abilities that now if it fails I will "lose face"....( least many of them have seen my lovely indoor garden). The location is not as ideal as I'd hoped (almost 7 hours sunlight a day) and the director warned me that people may take (i.e. just up and steal) plants and or veggies from the garden, plus the poor soil and the tremendous amount of physical labor involved.... This is the experimental garden year, I have now started telling folks; we will see what will grow, and the soil will be enriched just by growing plants in it this year. By next spring our compost will be ready and I will have a clearer picture of how to adapt my gardening practices to Arvikheer. Plus, I think I will attempt to write a grant for a greenhouse project here for next year!

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