Sunday, December 12, 2010

June 15, 2010 – The New Cycle of Gardening



June 15, 2010 – The New Cycle of Gardening
Armed with a little more knowledge and experience than last year, I started to sow outdoors at the first sign of cool and wet weather. Differently from temperate climates and from the North Hemisphere, most leafy greens are best grown during winter. We haven’t have a frost in decades, and even cold days are just for days, never for weeks in a row. The winter bright sunshine must be like spring sunshine in other countries. In that, I can say that I am very fortunate.
Of course, some vegetables and fruits (and flowers, nuts, trees) can’t be grown here. I miss all sorts of berries that I easily found on the hillside at any country road in California. Artichoke, Brussels sprout, blanched celery, asparagus, potato, kohl-rabi, celeriac don’t grow in this area. The nightshade family also takes a lot of chemical for controling diseases that it makes difficult for a homemade gardener, specially if organic minded.
In a visit to a small farmer, I found out that they don’t use regular seeds that I buy at any store and costs only R$0.50. They rather use an expensive hybrid type that may cost up to $25.00 for the same weight. I have bought a little envelope of salad cabbage, as regular cabbage is heavy and tough. My ordinary lettuce is beautifully tasty, displaying healthy texture and color. However, the number of leaves and perhaps the size are a bit smaller than the hybrid type. The Veneranda lettuce variety came up so great that I wouldn’t change for commercial iceberg type.
This year I also have built a greenhouse nursery for my seedlings. We followed all the instructions on a course handbook and successfully built a rustic yet efficient greenhouse. The six columns hold a 4m X 8m structure, covered with plastic and the sides protected with netting. This type of greenhouse allows plenty of sunshine from the top and ventilation from the side. As the greenhouse is located on the highest part of the farm, therefore, windy, I had to place plastic 1 m from the ground to stop the harmfull wind that dries out the seedlings and have killed so many of them even inside the greenhouse. I am starting to believe that I either have to water more often (3 times or more) in order to keep it most or change the commercial grown medium I have been recommended. My hope is that the nursery can dramatically improve the sowing that so far I have done directly on the soil, wasting seeds that some never came to sprout.Two problems involve the direct sowing: they germinate bundled in the soil with large empty spaces and the seedlings are irregular. I see advantages, though, in this system. I can harvest sooner, and some that grow, grow hardy. It is easier to water as it doesn’t dry out so quickly.
The new cycle of gardening has its challenge in its own way. Once I planted and harvested sweet potatoes, mandioc roots, hot peppers, parsley, I don’t know how and when to replant them. Should I replant them at the time of harvesting? Should I keep some plants without harvesting and leave them for multiplication?
A single New Zealand spinach spontaneouly grew in a bedside. What a inconvenient place. I took it from there and planted on the other end of the row. What for? It is doing so poorly that bugs now live on it. I sprinkled some homemade biofertilizer. Soon I am going to see if it recovered it.
The direct sowing for lettuce has good results. I have gotten many seedlings and was able to harvest a few dozens of lettuce heads. My neighbor helped me to sell them. I charge half of what is charged elsewhere and made little money. But this incentivate me to cultivate more. They loved my veggies: Veneranda lettuce, wild chicory, flat leaved chicory, arugula, green onions, parsley, cilantro. I am soon to have collard greens, beets, daikon radish, carrots, and radishes.
I have sowed on trays: tomato, Chinese cabbage, purple cabbage, brocolli, collard green, wild chicory, eggplant, Swiss chard, bell pepper, sweet pepper, hot cayenne pepper, lettuce, yellow onion, cherry tomato, mustard, Florence fennel, Thai eggplant, leek, green onion, strawberry, turnip, salad cabbage, cauliflower, cukes.
Besides having sowed on trays, I have direct sowed zucchini, fava beans, watercress. I still have some other seeds that I haven’t sown but soon will: pole beans, peas, okra, sweetcorn, gourd, sesame, celery and other varieties of lettuce.
I try to have as many different types of plants, culinary or medicinal, to populate my garden. I think it is the least I should do having the priviledge to live on a farm.

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