Right after we returned from our walking holiday through the lush and sheep-strewn English countryside in June, we vowed to start taking what steps we could towards homesteading. I already wrote how both of us came back dreaming of a great, big farm, but the reality of living in an apartment in a desert necessitates something a little… smaller.
Thankfully, a friend offered up her backyard for chickens and we discovered our local community gardens. If you haven’t heard of them, community gardens are communally owned or even volunteered squares of land on which are typically located 10+ plots for growing. Our community garden has plots scattered throughout the city, from backyards to next to church parking lots. The monthly fee you’ll pay to secure a plot goes towards property taxes and water supply – it’s all nonprofit.
Well. At least ours is. I can’t really speak for all of them. 😛
We signed up and planted our seeds and then… waited. And waited. And got excited, because there was a sprout! And then waited some more. And worried. Two weeks. Three weeks. By early August we had some lively squash, but no sign of the watermelon and beans and pumpkin and okra we’d also planted. We all but gave up, resigned ourselves to studying up on gardening for the rest of the season.
Practically overnight, our plot erupted. First the sprouts became recognizable plants, then they grew into outright monstrosities. The basil was the very last to come into its own, right after the watermelon.
The amaranth towered over everything else, even the okra. Before we knew it, we pushed aside the squash leaves and discovered veritable behemoths hiding beneath. Not exactly the squash we were led to expect for one – the seeds we had were for something resembling a butternut, but this is much closer to a zucchini. We’ve been up to our eyeballs zucchini spaghetti and chips and lasagna ever since.
Even as the monsoon season is winding down, our watermelon and pumpkin are only just now fruiting. We’ve got a month or two left before we pull most of it out and turn the leftovers into compost, so we’ve been thinking back on our first season, what we did right and what we did horribly wrong as we plan for the next.
We planted seven different things in our tiny little plot and that was easily three too many. On top of that, three of them were sprawling squash type plants and one was a pea that we didn’t get trellised until after it’d got going. Next season, two sprawling plants TOPS, including any pea types, and maybe a max of four different kinds of plants. Towering things like the amaranth and okra worked very well between the squashes, but our basil is slowly being overrun.
We’re also going to start the next batch of plants soon, so they’re ready to go by the time this season ends. We planted out current batch a little late and now everyone is harvesting their melons around us while ours are just now flowering. Plus, this way we can avoid the panic that set in when it took most of our plants almost a full four weeks to germinate. As night temps begin dipping lower and lower, it’s probably better to germinate inside, where we can be sure the temp is consistently warm and hospitable.
But now is definitely the exciting part: enjoying the produce from our plants and planning out our next season. Lady’s ordered some endive seeds and I know I desperately want some greens – like kale and collard and chard. We can probably intersperse them with brussel sprouts as well. Going to try and not get too overly enthusiastic this time.
There’s supposed to be a second, winter monsoon in January which would really bring this season to life, but they’ve been drying up lately. It will definitely be interesting seeing the difference in our plants as the current monsoon trickles away and we’re left with the autumn dry season. The plot is (thankfully!) irrigated, but that extra dousing of water seemed to help the explosions.
One thing I’ve definitely learned: I completely understand gardener’s love and affection (and obsession!) with their plants.