Gardening

I garden for pure pleasure. I love being outside working in the dirt, nurturing plants, thinning seedlings, pruning, and of course harvesting the bounty. Bounty? Okay, I’ll confess, the harvest could often be better described using “dearth” not “bounty.” But I don’t garden to save money on buying produce. In fact, even serious gardeners who plant tens of square feet of vegetables and are quite productive even won’t save money. But that’s only if you put a price tag on the time spent in the garden. If you give your labor for free, because you don’t think of it as labor, then in the long run, you are definitely coming out ahead.

Unknown pepper disease!

Living in El Salvador has opened up a whole new world of pest issues and planting seasons. Upon moving to the tropics, my first thought was that there are no planting seasons – it’s more or less in the 80’s all year round, so the world was my oyster – I mean….onion, or okra. But it proved a tad more challenging than that. From July to the end of October, fierce rainfalls should be expected. Sorry, little seedlings, too much for you. Then, from November to June: say goodbye to rain. Well, maybe there’s some rain…but not much, and it can go days and days without raining. Couple that with the brilliant sunlight and nearly 3,000 feet of elevation, and the soil is as parched as the Sahara when I come home from work. If I leave for the weekend, I try to drown my plants immediately before leaving the house and rush right to their wilted stems upon returning the next day, hoping I can work miracles to revive them. So it’s a land of extremes. The seedlings I started recently have grown tall and gangly because I have kept them sheltered from the daily downpours. But keeping them sheltered also means they don’t receive as much sunlight as they should.

Wilted only because it was just transplanted into a bigger pot!

If I surmount all odds and manage to grow a plant to maturity, more often than not the plant is stricken with some incurable and unidentifiable disease or mildew before it has produced much fruit. I watch helpless as the leaves shrivel, turn yellow with white spots and then become brown, or as strange blackish purple growths form on the stems, or as flowers fade and die without becoming fruit. (I have seen pollinators around, but not too many given the number of flowers!) But I have been able to harvest tomatoes, hot peppers, white beans, and several kinds of herbs. I do not have much planted now (September) because not much will grow in the mud pit that is my garden. What I do have planted is in large pots that I move around and rearrange, trying to optimize sunlight for the little plants without leaving them exposed to the daily deluge.

Here are the entries on gardening in El Salvador:

My first efforts of the rainy season: Stormy Season Strifes.

Troubles in paradise: I’ll be amazed if any of my tomatoes make it!

Surmounting the storms and droughts, I’ve been able to enjoy the harvest!

3 Comments

  1. suepogson says:

    Did you give the tomato the benefit of the doubt? Mine always look like that for a day or two after potting up….they nearly all stop sulking pretty quickly.

    Have you tried liquid soap or garlic spray on infected plants? They help a lot. My plants get regularly damaged by wha tthe locals call ‘ cinche’. According to my dictionary this is a bedbug (!!) so i think it’s an obscure Salvodoran term …. Shrivelling leaves and general malaise /discolouration – sounds similar to your problems. Slap on the ajo!

    Nice blog. I’ll be following…

    1. Thanks! Yes, I’ve tried the liquid soap spray. That seems to work the most effectively, but I haven’t tried any local Salvadorian remedies!

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