Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gardening Adventures in the Kalahari:
Okie gardener in South Africa

Among many other things, gardening in South Africa is a project I'm working on during my Peace Corps service. Last week, after a few days of rain (yeehaw!), my host family and I set to work turning over the earth, weeding and creating garden beds. Working in the sandy soil here in the Kalahari desert is MUCH easier than working in the clay of Oklahoma. The downside is that we have to water much more often, as the sandy soil drains much faster.

I purchased some seeds at a local ag store in Kuruman (my nearest shopping town), including two varieties of tomatoes, carrots, bush basil, mixed herbs, swiss chard, hot pepper (i think it's cayenne but we'll see) and green beans. They have also requested beets, onion, cabbage and spinach. These are the staple foods of the baTswana people, as well as mealies (corn), which they make into pup, which is a corn porridge. But, I am not equipped for growing corn, so we're going to stick with the more simple veggies.

I used the stake and weave method for my tomatoes, basil and green beans when I left Oklahoma in July, and have heard that it is the most beautiful site to see (I'm blushing), so I'll try to get my family to use that method here, too. They do things differently here, but the purpose of my service is not just to teach, but to also learn. I'm been an apt pupil, I'm happy to report.

I have been saving all my fruit and vegetable peelings, as well as egg shells and teabags to start a compost heap. We are going to dig a big hole in the shape of a garden bed about a foot deep and layer it with animal manure, food scraps and ash. We don't have any grass clippings in the desert, and any wood is used to burn for cooking, or to build fences and brush is used to deter the birds from eating the crops by piling it on top of newly planted beds. We will mix with a shovel periodically, and hopefully have some compost within a month or two, as it's now springtime and working into summer here.

I hope to get my primary schools composting as well, as they both have food gardens. Happy autumn gardening in Oklahoma!

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