So Jess and I have been kind of quiet about our home garden because, well, it was pretty much a failure. Except for a bunch of tasty arugula it produced for us. Everything else either didn’t even sprout or fizzled and died. There’s a number of speculative reasons for this:
- The day after we planted our seeds, it absolutely poured. Enough that I think a lot of the seeds were washed away, as evidence by them sprouting in random areas of the garden instead of in the rows we planted them in.
- Before it was a garden, our tiny shamba, it was part of our landlord’s lawn. Lawns probably delete soil of nutrients, and it made the ground really hard to till the first time. I added manure, but I’m not sure if it was enough (or maybe too much?).
- It didn’t rain at all in Nairobi for all of January and most of February until a few days ago. So whatever was hanging on (squash, onions, peppers and eggplant) completely died by the time we got back from our recent trip.
Anyways, you live and you learn. In theory, the “long rains” start in Nairobi in another week, continuing all the way into June. As I’m writing this I’m watching clouds building up. So I figured it was a good time to plant again. Especially as I was inspired by all the farmers we met on our recent trip to Tanzania and Malawi.
What we are planting is a small “home garden.” Most Africans have shambas far bigger than this that they are reliant on with their lives. Just tilling this small plot is back-breaking and skin-blistering work, I can’t imagine doing 3 acres worth. And I think it’s good exercise, but usually people that are doing all this hard work hardly need the extra exercise, nor do they probably get enough calories to give them enough energy to be doing such work. These small home gardens are the kind of thing Jess is encouraging farmers in Africa to grow, to supplement their diets of maize with some vegetables and varieties of other foods.
So this morning I tilled the soil (much easier the second time around!), cleaned out more rocks and roots, added more goat manure and planted some seeds. I made the row mounds flatter and packed the dirt down harder over the seeds to prevent them from being washed away. And I was more thorough in tilling the soil. So we’ll see. The only problem is there hasn’t been power at our house all day, so no water to give them a good initial soaking. Of course I could do what most Africans would have to do, which is carry buckets of water from the nearest borehole. Or pray for rain. Here’s what the “blank canvas” looks like:
In order from left to right I planted: jalapenos, arugula, swiss chard, eggplant, red onions and red bell peppers. We are leaving in a few days for NYC, for three weeks, so it will be exciting to see what grows while we are gone. Hopefully the rains will come, other areas north of here in Kenya and Ethiopia are suffering from drought. So we’ll be praying for rain with the rest of them.