MY GARDEN JOURNAL
Yesterday was mightily impressive. I switched the gears up and aim to change my garden into a fully-fledged food forest.
After watching a series of harvest and market garden videos the day before, I was inspired to journal my own journey.
One James Prigioni reminded me why we do gardening in the first place – to harvest.
A lot comes into play once gardening is involved; one major area I have to improve on is composting. I cannot state this enough.
Composting is the way to go. One thing I noticed was how lax my composting was. Since we are slowly moving into winter, my bins of compost haven’t quite hit the right notes.
The amount of water they received had decreased gradually since the rainy season is behind. Fortunately and thankfully, my curiosity helped me realise how dry my bins were.
It rained yesterday as it is today. I am glad it did. Nevertheless this is one area to grow in.
My plan is to incorporate old tyres into my gardening. In order to grow more food and deal with less weeds I will have to make use of the old tyres in my garage.
They will act as raised beds, alongside other timber I can use, to keep the weeds away. I worked the areas that had empty spaces by adding grass clippings and dead leaves. The walkways were also filled with paper and pine needles to kill of any weeds.
The first season will be tough but I know what I am doing now. Thank God for YouTube.
My pumpkins have been a real hit and miss. They grew well but lacked the right nutrition at the right time. The timing of the male and female flowers was such that I had to use pollen from other pumpkin plants to pollinate the female flowers… this was a nightmare. It has not worked so far and for the pumpkins trailing behind, building trellises will be the way to go.
I hope the growing season is still upon me. I also want to incorporate trellises for the tomato plants, depending – of course – on the weather.
How easy it is. My relationship with the soil has been a work in progress. So easy it could have been to give up.
My sunflowers are blooming though they are not food. I have picked three so far with the third being my largest.
If it were not for my harvest of peas and beans in the early morning yesterday, it could have been bad. The early harvest – and first – of real food helped me realise just why I do this. My chillies are also coming on fine as are my tomatoes and spinach.
One lesson I have learnt so far is to write my experience. Just like entrepreneurship, gardening is a lonely journey. Thank God for my experience in the former.
However, because I had invested poorly in my soil I thought of my failures as my overall ability. This is not so. There is hope.
Journaling my garden experience will help me fix my wrongs instead of trying to recall what I did. This way I can compare and contrast with other gardeners and their experiences.
Pirigioni preaches and lives food abundance. In a small area of land he manages to get so much yield it is hard to believe.
Watching his videos and comparing his garden to mine will help me with adding variety.
I know I can increase my own yields as one of the gardens I opened got full access to compost at seeding.
Most of the produce in my garden came from plants I had grown in plastic bottles. This felt great when I started but then I noticed that as soon as I planted my seedlings, the growth would slow down significantly.
I am really inspired by Charles Dowding’s no-dig approach. I now know where I went wrong. Whenever I grow new seedlings I will designate an area where I will transplant these onto ready-made fully composted soil.
Adding trellises, steps and containers alongside the heavy mulching and composting will increase my yields significantly. Also, planting along the fence will not only provide a natural barrier against some predators but make use of the space I have in the garden.
I am glad I once worked in a seed farm; I will make use of old acquaintances to add variety.
I absolutely love the idea of having a basket full of fruit and veg that come in different shapes, colours and sizes.
My first potato harvest was quite the thrill. I got two good potatoes, two damaged and two growing potatoes. Since this was my first potato harvest ever, I took pride in that.
My plants were going yellow and according to Dowding, some varieties do that; were I to keep the potatoes longer I would have likely got nothing. They did not flower. The root nodes still had about three/four bulbs so from that aspect, I would have likely gotten seven potatoes a plant.
I think my mistake was in rushing to cover the plant before the potato bulbs appeared. I’ll be ready next time no doubt.
I spotted good material at my former pastor’s funeral, which had me thinking maybe I could go foraging for some myself. Luckily I did. I found good quality timber which I can play around with to get what I want. My beds have already been prepared and after looking at some pictures I took, my soil is getting that well-composted look. The garden is also taking on some kind of order. The pathways are clear and the raised beds will make it easier for me to plant in rows.
I looked at one bed and realised that planting this way will give my garden that neatness it deserves. It will look much orderly and pretty as well.
I was able to locate a drum about a day ago and rolled it into the garden. Having it there will save me a massive amount of time and energy.
Before I had the drum I had to move quite a bit to collect water but the pictures told me I needed to water more. This will be easier now.
What a day for composting. Because of our initial problem – asking neighbours for manure then rain falling again – I looked deep into my reserves and realised a had a lot of compost lying around.
There are four heaps waiting but I will work with one in the meantime. This will save me time and energy and allow me to focus on making this heap good quality compost.
It has plenty of roots and pine needles but a lot of quality soil as well. I did dig some for my self-watering containers but I feel now it will come into its own with the concerted effort on abundance.
The compost is crying out for water and my plan is to water every three/four days then turn it over once every week.
My old box bin also showed some promise; I realised that it fell dry because of the sticks and thorny material I placed initially.
I did some digging and noticed how fine it had become. It was soft to the touch and smelt of earth – as did the potatoes – so I guess I’m moving in the right direction.
I think without the sticks, it could have been quality hot compost. What I will do now is lay that compost over the areas I filled with green and brown matter.
I will cover these areas up and once I get my winter crops, plant over them and lay more compost around the areas with plants already.
I also need to add more mulch over these areas.
My cherry tomatoes are seemingly going strong this late in the season. I suppose they take well to the dry weather conditions.
I maintain that my brother would be shocked at how quick they grew.
My biggest concern is whether the fruits ripen in time as they are yet to develop.
I can safely say my chillies (liso lenyoni) are thriving at this point. After trying out a few before their time today one tree had three good red chillies. I picked none as I’m safe in the knowledge that the trees are fully productive.
What a fantastic four-month journey.
To think I was stressed whether I had damaged the tree when it had one flower, to now having fruits and flowers in abundance is quite the thrill. When I first got these chillies, the leaves were ashy and full of yellow spots.
Now they are big and a lush green.
Today was the King’s 53rd birthday. My carrots all appeared from the ground as did some of my peas. Good new sprouts for winter harvest. I am over the moon at this point, in particular because of my growing grasp of good soil knowledge.
At day 8 and 9 I was concerned whether seeds would sprout or not. To say I’m happy at this point is an understatement. My soil practices are working well and I’m thrilled with the early results.
After noting the new shoots, I decided it best to decrease my watering to once a day again so my seedlings develop a good rooting system early.
I will wait another week then thin out and add more compost. After transplanting I will then add a thick mulch. Hooray to my first raised bed, plot H.
I turned my compost heaps over today and what a thrill. I felt young again – down on all fours with a stick in my hand while prodding away at the vicious roots that were preventing my heaps from getting the full benefits of water.
A thankless task it may seem but I know I will reap the full rewards of well prepared compost.
I am slowly gathering momentum and the next task will be making leaf mould. I already have a few leaves in my bin but it’s far from finished. Since we are in full autumn, there are lots of leaves thus raking will be the next major task.
I will do anything for good compost.
Lest I forget; today I filled three bottles of similar volume (440ml) with liquid fertiliser. I reckon mixing one into a two-litre bottle will make a world of difference. I will apply this fertiliser over the tomatoes and garlic in plots F and G. I also applied a little over plot H when got a little concerned with my sprouts.
I even gave one bottle to a friend. Sharing indeed is caring in the garden.
He also gave me spinach seedlings which we’ll plant in plot I.
The first one is that time flies. First one happened when I looked at a picture I took of my chillies, exactly 11 days ago. The amount of growth then and now is astonishing.
The second would be multi-sowing. I absolutely love Charles Dowding’s method of sowing multiple seeds in modules. The overall size of the crops is small but there are multiple opportunities for prolonged harvest.
I will be experimenting with both methods of sowing for a feel of bigger sizes and prolonged harvests.
The third would be succession planting. This method is another way of extending your harvest period. For salads this is weekly and for perennials/hardy crops, I will do monthly.
No one wants to work 60-plus hours a week only to harvest for a week at most so this will be a way of enjoying all the hard yards taken.
This one is about microgreens, shoots and sprouts. This is a market I will tap into as I ease into a more settled sowing and harvesting calendar. There clearly is a growing trend towards enjoying these so I am enjoying the opening up of opportunity.
The fifth one is dedicated to bee farming. Watching bees dive into my sunflowers – about five and seven a plant, towards the latter part of the month – was quite therapeutic. It rekindled memories of my old boxes; I will definitely plant more as well as add other flowers/crops to increase the bee population and harvest honey.
The last one would be notes taking. It can be daunting writing about every lesson learnt/observation noted but I was clear about not overwhelming myself with this from the beginning. I am thrilled I must say with my four-month journey so far.
Taking a notebook into the garden with me will be better for reviewing my weekly progress as well as making notes on the spot.
This came just now, so you can see the multiple opportunities for growth already. That would be the perfect place to start really. Writing about my journey has opened my eyes to so many avenues I had not thought about.
This month was quite the thrill really. One enormous take-home would be succession planting. I did not harvest much towards the later part of the month and by the end of it, my greens were a long way from harvest although I did pinch a pea shoot, which was creamy and crunchy in taste and texture.
At this point I am thrilled with my sowing results, plus the soil structure. I am quite a way off from reaching the required depth but definitely so far so good.
I can only hope my new perspective about succession planting brings the desired results.
Another take-home would be tree pruning and propagation. I did a lot of this especially for the grapes, mango, bananas, and box for my compost.
At this point my leaf mould is piling up successfully and can only turn better from here.
Today was absolutely brilliant. I am growing everyday with my knowledge in the garden. One lesson I have learnt is that harvests don’t always come from your garden.
Today was extra special. I collected a 70-kg nett worth in chicken manure, which I added to the compost heap in the garden. Two more heaps to go. Such an amount would have cost me a fortune but our strengths as farmers/gardeners is shining through.
In exchange for manure I provided Phesheya with kale, carrot and pea seeds. In return – on top of the manure – he provided me with limes and a couple of strawberry plants.
Such generosity makes me want to get the best out of my plants so I can return the favour to him and others who have helped me – and are yet to – on my gardening journey.
I must say, visualising what I want for my garden has made getting some fruits and crops easy. God truly works in mysterious ways. It shows in some of the connections and knowledge we share.
It can only get better from here.
The mango tree I pruned was teeming with bees. I’m glad I decided to have a look today. Truth be told I was both happy and nervous; happy because this means its preparing to flower, nervous because the juices might better be served going into fruit production.
The wounds might be healing so I can only hope I did well at this point. I just need to open more areas up and remove the diseased leaves.
Take a Look Back
I stepped back a little after hauling my manure, and took a look at the garden from where the grapes are growing. What a view! I almost fell in shock.
Never in my life had I thought I would achieve so much by gardening. To say I am delighted is an understatement; over the moon doesn’t even begin to express how happy I am right now.
The quote by Masanobu Fukuoka ‘the ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops but the cultivation and perfection of human beings’ rings so true – all thanks to Prigioni.
I am suddenly full of life and beaming with joy. Look at the number of positive words I am using. I am filled with life.
My father is no more and would no doubt be delighted with my progress. I know for a fact he would have provided the finances to power the drive. I do say though, maybe I would have trailed off or taken the garden in a short-circuited journey.
Knowing I am doing this in his honour has been the fuel I needed to keep going.
I know he is with me because I keep finding material I need for the garden. On top of the compost and other tools I have found, I retrieved a wheelbarrow I thought was useless and a number of seeding trays – of different sizes – plus a few pots.
I feel it when I remember how he would always say ‘anisaboni nje Andzi sekutse phihli tipinach, bo anyani, sekugcwele la?’ Farming ain’t so old school no more dad, I can see your vision now.
You really invested in the trade dad and I hope I can make your dream a reality. God is shining over us and will bless us still. Thank you baba for everything you have taught me. This wouldn’t have been easy without you but knowing you are still here with me, with us, is the best feeling ever. I love you man, what a remarkable being you are.
I can do it.
Working 6 Days a Week
Little did I know when I started this journey that I would work at it six days a week. There is much to do in the garden, most of which involves pick-again engagement.
Just this week I was collecting cut grass and the more I collected the more connections I made for pick-ups.
After hauling that chicken manure, I have been gradually accumulating material that will make compost. Everyday I wake up with a goal or more and other itinerary to accomplish. No two days are the same. What I enjoy most is the ability to switch up or ease up depending on the workload.
Employees rarely have such liberty… even less the luxury of hours worked. Here, I am employed with a support group of friends and fellow gardeners. With it are endless resources of self-help/motivation tutorials. I am at my happiest now than I ever was.
I’m currently reading Be All You Can Be by John C Maxwell and going through the Realization System by Daniel A Simmons.
Let me just say I am happy because I am growing. Growth – just as it is with plants – helps you determine just how far you are to your end goal. It also helps you assess whether you are closer to your dream and still on course or not.
Growth is critical to happiness and the latter brings success. One valuable lesson the aforementioned gurus have taught is that success can only come when doing what one loves.
The greatest part of a journey is the trip, not the arrival. I have noticed how I am not as excited when harvesting as when I was pushing growth and expectant of a good harvest anyway. This goes for planting too.
I can be salivating at the prospect of adding a few more plants here and there but down on that particular day or once I receive new seeds or plants.
Visualisation is good when you can bear the ‘disappointment’ of success. For anyone reading this, try to enjoy the journey more than the destination. It’s harder thinking about the new best thing once you have what you wanted.
For instance, I remember the anxiety I had when my chillies were just one flower. I was eager for fruit to appear and once it did it was about reaching maturity.
Once I started picking those chillies, the excitement was gone and I was helped by the fact that I had new tomato plants, which were inducing as much anxiety as the former.
Learning to control these dips in adrenaline is critical for your success in the garden. Having more variety of fruits and plants helps but more critically learning to enjoy the process.
What a run-around these guys have been giving me. Luckily, having them grow in different stages helped significantly; first I was fascinated by the strong growth but them ‘begging’ for climbing material helped me provide it from the early stages.
Yesterday appeared the first multi-sown heads. They also form the first crops of my multi-sowing project. Day by day my beautiful lush garden is becoming a food forest.
Just going through the picture (kuroda/red Nantes carrots, sugar snap/Oregon pod peas, tomatoes, kale, garlic, spring onions, early wonder beetroot, mint, rosemary, red pepper, cauliflower, spinach, Swiss chard, great lakes lettuce, cabbage, corn, chillies, cherry belles, etc) is enough to whet an appetite.
I’m so happy right now. Yippee!!!
Between me and you, remind me never to make them grow as vine tomatoes. My trees just keep getting bigger! Haha…
Much seriously though my fruits are ripening on all the trees. What a turnaround. Considering the fact that I was worried they wouldn’t ripen on time to now watching more of them grow is absolutely amazing.
I think the Oregon sugar pods are not enjoying the winter or last of the autumn. None of them have appeared although the kuroda carrots have sprouted quite well. Let’s give them a few more days though.
I will be working on finding a balance between planting in trays or directly. I prefer the latter but there are areas to exploit with the former.
Just the other day, I planted beetroot to replace the damaged spinach only to come upon Swiss chard. Then again I hadn’t planned on buying any. Nevertheless having replacements or substitutes on hand will make closing any gaps that much easier.
My flax also flowered which means I’ll be planting more.
Auntie Zanele handed me a couple of thyme seeds which I planted on a number of plots. Hopefully we will see sprouts soon.
On another note, next Tuesday will be 10 days since I planted spring onions. I am keeping my fingers crossed until then because of the bad Texas Grano and white Welsh seeds I had.
Sprout seeds sprout.
I extended plot D and planted kuroda, early purple top turnips as well as Swiss chard.
My garden is ever becoming the food forest I desire. By planting more crops, vegetables and herbs, I am taking back more land from the weeds and ever increasing our food supply. Think about it, June is around the corner and harvests will come from the spinach, kale and tomatoes. By the end of next week, we’ll be eating cherry belles. I had one yesterday from my earlier plantings and what a treat.
I have had two from my garden so far and I must say I am delighted with the size and taste.
Six months ago, I would have never thought I’d be gardening full-time. It dawned on me as I was preparing my bed… something which has become second nature for me. I can plant anything at any time and rest easy with the fact that those seeds will sprout.
But yes, Monday to Saturday I am working my garden then Sundays I water only.
It is a job I am grateful for and I am happy with the amount of satisfaction it gives me in return… the bed preparation, planting, anxiety, sprouting, ecstasy, watering, composting, pruning and much more. Above all though, it’s the harvesting that makes everything worthwhile.
Now that I have quality seed, I’ll be harvesting more and often. I was thinking with the giving away of food, I’ll be linking cooking recipes as well…
I must say I was blown away by the fact that turnips can be used in place of potatoes. I watched a video where they made some with peas and curry… things that Grow together Go together…😀
It brings tears to my eyes looking at the state of my garden in early April and comparing it with the lushness it has 50 days later.
To think there were so many weeds to now having so much food to go around is nothing short of miraculous. The more areas I open up the more revealing my garden is to me.
It seems it opens up its propensity to produce abundantly with new croppings. Looking at some pictures of what it was to what it is makes me believe in my abilities as a gardener more. It also helps me realise just how good I have become with soil management.
My soil is brilliant and my liquid fertiliser skills are getting highly equipped as well. I am growing in body, mind, and spirit – I believe just as much as my plants.
I made my A-frame today and I must say I am delighted. My peas will keep growing and now they have something to cling on to.
It was easy in the end. Having a no dig garden is amazing because I hardly did any digging for the reed poles.
Speaking of which, having a no-dig garden has come with many benefits. First of which is the lack of need to dig… the only thing I dig are holes to plant crops. In fact since I am building the layers, I only draw a line then lay more soil over what I have planted.
It is quick, easy and highly beneficial. In fact, had I come upon no-dig years ago, I would have long established myself as a food gardener. I have always loved good food and I have always wanted to grow my own crops and herbs.
I am living my dream. It’s quite incredible that no-dig came upon me as a last ditch attempt at anything meaningful. Now my joy and health are just as abundant as the food growing in my garden.
I am capable of more and each new avenue I open up shows just that. I am growing, learning and pushing myself to exploit as many opportunities as I can without compromising on quality and most importantly – happiness.
There is absolutely no point in living to make ends meet when you can be happy and allow that joy to carry through in everything you do. These plants give me food, joy, lessons and so much more.
Good food, living well.. just as I have always wanted.
I am ready to have children now.
Remind me to take a break at this time next year. The cold weather is a bore-and-a-half.
It has rained, even on this night. The rain has been heavy too. We are into the sixth month now and inching ever closer to growing season. I know it’s quite early but hey, weren’t we here about improving soil quality not so long ago?
My pipes are cold, equipment damp and the bite on my cheeks and hands is unbearable. This time next year is all about harvests and closing up my garden in preparation for spring planting.
First Significant Harvest
The winter season has always been favourable to me. Around this time my mum was preparing for the third trimester. I guess there’s a connection with why this season is about abundance and massive opportunity for me.
As you have it then, today was a very beautiful day for me. Today we had our first garden to plate meal.
I harvested baby spinach, baby kale, cherry belles, oregano, garlic leaf, and mint among other ingredients.
For an early harvest this was great. The leaf and fruit formation is quite telling, the colour on the radishes is distinct and the general health of the plants is obvious.
Over the weekend nje, I indulged in a couple of cherry tomatoes. It is important to note though that the reason I went early with my harvests was simply due to temptation.
After two months of no harvests, something had to give. The beauty, lush greenery and healthy fruit formation built up a network of recipes that eventually, I had to give in to the temptation.
Holding the leaves in my hands and picking the best from each plant is the exact feeling I was going for. Pity I did not take a picture of the lunch I fixed but can you really fault me?
Anyways I made a kale and spinach pasta with cherry tomatoes and a salad of chopped radish leaves, mint, flax seeds, cucumber, cherry belles and mayo served with ox tongue.
Today appeared the first of my pea pods. We are there now. It’s funny to think how time flies. With gardening, you are always planning about tomorrow; seeds sprouting, then harvesting.
I am delighted for sure and this is just another pointer to the direction I am taking.