Garden Restart: Summer Edition!

A view of one of our garden beds, sorely in need of a restart!

When Neha and I returned to the Habitat Homestead a couple of days ago, we knew that a garden restart was on the cards. After just under 3 months away from our home in the hills, we were eager to see what impact the hiatus would have on our veggie beds and our potted plants. While we weren’t expecting complete decimation, we did anticipate some damage. We’d hired a part-time gardener to water the garden three times a week, and do some light weeding, but the lack of our supervising presence meant that we genuinely could not estimate what the state of the garden would be.

In the middle of our trip came news that monkeys had trashed our nursery section (AGAIN!) and generally played havoc with the garden. Fair enough, we left, they stuck around, and struck when the timing was right. We haven’t seen any since we’ve returned, and with Miko the perimeter security dog back on the job, we’ve hopefully seen the last of the monkey raids. So, on to the next piece of work: getting our garden back on its feet! We’re taking things in stages:

Step 01: Survey The Situation

Our first big day in the garden came yesterday, when we spent a long time surveying the damage:

A garden restart will include a plan for this damaged trellis!
There were broken trellises…
Wind, sun and rain account for the damage to this footboard. Another item to replace in our garden restart.
and damaged steps.

Some of the damage was caused by weather and decay, like the footboard above. The monkeys were responsible for more large-scale assaults, like those on the trellises.

Most of the carefully laid mulch was gone, some of it decomposed into the soil, the rest undoubtedly blown away.
More monkey damage to our fence…

Amidst all the destruction and decay, though, life still bloomed through.

Fennel flowers peeked out from the foliage…
And a brazen Marigold thrust herself at me by the front door.
While in the shade of the overhang by the porch, a pomegranate furtively buds.

Not to be outdone, the chillies in the garden are also putting on a show.

Other Unexpected Garden Surprises:
Our fennel plants are doing incredibly well in the rocky soil and low water situation
We have a lot of biomass thanks to the glyricidia and elderflower bushes
Our moringa plants are now taller than I am, and already supplying us with greens!
ALL the basil survived!

But perhaps best of all, the most unexpected surprise was… our worm bin had created some amazing vermicompost and FIVE LITERS of worm juice!

Step 02: Make A Garden Restart Plan!

OK so where we stand at the moment is not looking too bad. A lot of our plants have in fact survived, albeit in survival mode, and they’re far from thriving. Our real obstacle on the path to a full garden recovery and restart is the water supply. We’re heading into summer, and the next three months are going to have us on a strict water-use regimen, similar to our first summer on this piece of land. With only 15,000 liters of tank space to play with, we need to be very careful about re-using our dish washing water, channeling our grey water to planted areas, and reducing the number of beds we water. That last one is a wrench, because it means abandoning some of the plants that are in beds we won’t water.

Our water math boils down to us having about 8 buckets of water per day, until we return to a more steady water supply. (Which, realistically will happen in July at the earliest.) That’s about enough to water 2 beds adequately, especially if we want the plants in them to thrive, rather than merely scrape by.

Our plan, therefore, is to:

  1. Identify two beds which will be our primary growing spaces for the summer (down from our total of about 10 beds).
  2. Spend the bulk of our water and soil resources (vermicompost, worm juice, fish meal, etc) on getting those two beds into lush, food-producing status.
  3. Gather mulch materials (dried leaves) and heavily (at least six inches) mulch the beds.
  4. Transplant into those beds all the plants we can ill-afford to lose.
  5. Germinate, nurture and then plant in new saplings of select, drought-hardy species (bhindi, brinjals, etc)
  6. Nurse along any other plants that are in un-watered beds as best we can.
  7. In case of early rains or sudden windfalls of water, sow the un-watered beds with a cover crop of millets (foxtail and pearl), moong dal, and cow pea. With any luck, they’ll survive and be ready to be worked into the soil by the time the rains come in. This will add a hit of nitrogen and organic matter to the soil just when the monsoon planting is happening.

Bulking Out The Garden

Apart from the plants we already have in the garden and the ones we plan to grow from seed, we also managed to pick up a lot of cuttings from Goa!

More Glyricidia and African Bitterleaf for biomass!
Perennial greens like Moloccan Spinach!
Tree spinach (chaya), Sweetleaf and tree tomatos!
Black pepper, betel and tropical dill!

I can’t wait to get these guys planted out in our two luxury beds!

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