Gardening in the Desert

Garrett here – reporting on some of my activities around Gabs. Seeing as we have no TV, Tori works all day, and
that we are 8 hours time difference from friends, family and work associates
–  there is a need to fill some hours
during the day.  So I have taken up a new
hobby- Gardening!

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I can see how old people
love to garden – its relaxing, not too difficult and you save money on groceries
(well maybe), you get to work your mind and your muscles a bit too.  The biggest obstacle to gardening in Gaborone
that we are located in a desert and there has been a drought for 5 years – oh
and its HOT! 105 degrees and 9% humidity…
The soil most closely resembles the sands of the Kalahari.  Luckily for me the previous tenant had piled
up leaves and branches during his two year stay at the property so we had a
good start on making some composted soil. With the help of a local gardener I burned a
huge pile of branches and leaves. 

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So now I had some
leaf compost, ash from the fire and sandy soil for drainage. Now we needed some fertilizer or nutrients. Like
most every African country there are some cows roaming around and I considered
taking a bucket and going on a cowpie collection mission.  Instead I got chicken manure from some guys on
the side of road. They get it from the chicken egg farm for free – all you have
to do is shovel it yourself – no thanks! I got 5 large sacks of chicken shit for about 10$. A great deal until you
open the bag and realized that there are thousands of little beetles in the manure. It was like the ground was moving they were crawling everywhere – extra
nutrients!

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With the soil ready I had to decide what to plant.  About half the seeds came from the local
grocery/garden store and the other half I smuggled in from Colorado as they
don’t have some of the watermelons  or
flowers that we have back home. Here is the list:

 Popcorn –
We have ears that have already started to form, but the stalk are only 5 ft
tall. They got pretty stressed at first with too much sun and
not enough water. Then they got blasted and leveled by a crazy wind and hail storm
a few weeks back(photo below). We will see – I’m going to plant some more in a different spot
of the yard which is hopefully better suited for them. Also I think we packed them in a little too tightly so I’ll do a better job spacing them out. 

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After the storm

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10 days after the storm

Sweet Corn-
I really wanted some olatha sweet sweet corn like they sell in Denver but
couldn’t find the seeds so I’ve settled for the African Variety.

Zucchini

Yellow Squash
A little one just formed on the vine!!!

Cucumber
easiest plant to start from seed- every seed germinated.

Watermelon-
soaked the seeds in water to get them started after a few failed attempts

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Cantaloupe

Birdhouse gourds-
for fun/art projects

Spinach

Peas
first batch died cause they didn’t get watered for 4 days while away

Jalapenos- cheated got seedlings from the garden store

Thai Peppers cheated and got seedlings from the garden store

Bell peppers cheated and got seedlings from the garden store

Tomatoes –the
seedings from the store did great at first, but then they dried up and died 😦 I think it was too hot for
them. The second round has been from seeds and they seem to be doing much
better.

Carrots

Sweet potatoes- Learned
how to make my own slips. When there are shoots from an old sweet potato you submerge it
partly in water and in a week or two the shoots will form. You separate these off
from the sweet potato and stick them in water till they shoot root and them
plant it in soil. Then moderately water and supposedly you’ll get lots of sweet
potatoes. This is the biggest experiment so far.

Herbs:

Mint  Got some from a friend and then got more to
kick start mint production…. its mojito time!

Basil

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 Sunflowers

Various flowers

 The first 5 weeks had been slowing going. I have to water everything once or twice a day but finally everything has started to grow. It seems like the plants doubled in size in the
last week.  Today I just spotted the
first squash and its one inch long! I had to construct shade nets as the dirt gets
so hot from the strong African sun that all the water would evaporate in a few
hours after watering.  We just got
another soil bed ready for watermelon (they are expensive here) and I think more
sweet potatoes and some lettuce.  We are
also considering getting some chickens or guinea fowl for the yard. But I need to consult a few
friends to see how much work that would be. 

I cant wait to start showing off my harvest and see what I’m
able to grow by taming the harsh African climate. More updates in the near
future!

–Garrett

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