Vegetable garden: the story so far

Since our vegetable plot was turned over with a load of compost (abono in Spanish), as per previous post, I have been practically living there, at the bottom of the garden.

Unloading manure in the vegetable garden
Unloading manure in the vegetable garden

We had vegetable plot dug up two years ago, and so far I miserably failed to grow much there. I am not a gardener, and neither is Steve. Besides, it is my ‘department’, and he’s not allowed – my decision. But one needs to start somewhere, isn’t it?

So, in the year one I followed everyone’s advice – ‘just throw seeds in the soil and it’ll grow because terrain is very fertile in Galicia’. So I foolishly did. Failed. Apart from too many courgettes (which husband apparently hates with vengeance, hence they ended up in our neighbours’ kitchens) and a few radishes, nothing came out. And this is after I spent a little fortune on organic seeds and compost both in shops and online. Not mentioning back-breaking work.

Year two we missed due to being away at the start of growing season. Secretly, I was happy. After previous year fiasco, I was in no rush to be a failure again. Then a shopkeeper in the village supermarket gave us some tomato seedlings, so we had no choice but to plant them. Steve dug up a few rows, and there they went. No expectations. All I did just kept watering them. Guess what? We couldn’t stop harvesting tomatoes. Unbelievable!

Now, about the soil. Turns out, the ‘very fertile’ soil needs abono. I knew that in general manure is essential. But for the ‘very fertile’ soil? Nobody told me about abono! In my non-gardener head, if it needs abono – it’s not THAT fertile. Anyway, the rule in full, now known, is – ‘add abono, throw the seeds, and it’ll grow, because the soil is very fertile’.

So, year three, not wanting to be caught out, we asked our digger man about abono. We tried to buy it ourselves earlier from our neighbours who have cows. Although they had it, they pointed out that they’ll be needing it for their land. To be fair, they own a lot of land around, and, as we now know, fertile soil needs abono nevertheless. Farmers, tuns out, don’t want to sell abono even though they have continuous supply of it. Because they need it.

After hunting half day, our digger man managed to buy us a tractor-load of abono – at a premium price, we found later. I guess the price went up the minute that farmer knew it’s for ingleses. As a result, I started making our own compost from grass cuttings and food waste. Even made a container from plastic and pallets. Self-sufficiency is a must in this case.

As soon as my garden plot was done for me, there I was (on the very same day!), equipped with numerous tools, my garden plans, shop-bought seedlings and a determination to succeed.

Vegetable garden, work began
Vegetable garden, work began

Oh dear. I’ve started mid-May and I am still there, two weeks later. Yesterday, Sunday, when the good people of the planet Earth take their families out to pictures, lunches, dinners, shopping, sight-seeing and all things nice and relaxing, where was I? In that vegetable garden. All day. In the heat.

Vegetable plot
Vegetable plot

I admit, I am a slave of my own creation. I realise that now. What’s more, this creation is rather large and constantly thirsty. I said to Steve: ‘Do you realise that we tied ourselves up to this plot for the whole summer? We can’t leave for more than 2 days, or it’ll dry out’. After all the effort it would be a crime. Now husband is not happy at all. At least I am not the only one suffering…

Now, before I started my slavery at the bottom of the garden, I have done a LOT of research. I have planned it thoroughly, with companion planting and visual design in mind. It must be pretty, not just useful.

Then we headed off to all garden centres in Monforte. Steve said to me: ‘Well, we spent a lot of money on this garden, we may as well fill it up with plants. Fill your boots!’

So I did. I filled my ‘boots’, and the boot of the car. On several trips we bought: 50 onions, then 100 onions, then 100 more onions (that’s 250 onions in total), 24 beetroot, 48 tomatoes, 60 peppers (3 varieties), 10 cucumbers, 24 lettuces, 8 brussels sprouts (bought 10 but 2 got lost in the shop?), 12 cauliflowers, 14 melons (10 crushed to death in the boot), 12 aubergines, 12 courgettes (we decided that due to Steve’s dislike for them, we’ll eat them very young), 12 celery. I possibly forgot something. Then I sowed the left-over, just about to expire, organic seeds of carrots, beetroot and radishes. And I know it’s late but for the sake of experiment and hopefully as a pest control, I planted organic garlic under fruit trees and on the plot.

All plants in, with lavender for bees
All plants in, with lavender for bees

So far, birds keep eating all the lettuce right to the core. We have to make a scary permanent version of me from straw to keep them away.

First lot of 50 onions mostly didn’t survive.

Melons are looking sick, and I’m not sure about their future.

A border of rosemary propagated from my banking (that needs finishing too – next project) isn’t too happy either. I’ve had 90% success with rosemary before. At least I have unlimited supply from banking should some fail to survive.

Oh, talking of disasters, I tried to grow herbs (that is what I want most of all the veg!) from seeds, and the second lot is already failing. Seeds are so not my thing.

Then, a few days after I planted everything out, we’ve had some torrential rain, and the whole plot got flooded for a few hours. Our ‘very fertile’ soil, despite all the abono, couldn’t absorb water quickly enough and became covered with a crust. I am now manually digging around every plant to air the soil, as it became so compressed that roots wouldn’t stand a chance to establish.

After more research, I have decided to mulch most of the vegetables. It’s not going to look pretty, that is a real downside. I’ve started, and husband is not liking it already. Neither do I. But I intend to slave as little as possible in the coming months, and to suppress weeds, keep the soil moist and cool, only mulching will do. I use straw found in one of our unrenovated bodegas. There’s a possibility of self-seeding from straw apparently. But I have to take my chances. Weeding this size garden all summer (and weeds are coming out already, from the very expensive abono it seems) doesn’t appeal.

And watering is taking forever! Dear husband made a water tank from the old wine barrel, right next to my veg plot. Free underground water trickles nicely into a barrel. He attached a tap, and now I can water through a hose-pipe. Next year we must think about proper irrigation.

Husband-made water 'tank' with free spring water
Husband-made water ‘tank’ with free spring water

So making my life easier for the coming months is what I’m working at now. Digging, weeding, then mulching. Then only watering. Hopefully.

My vegetable garden: high hopes
My vegetable garden: high hopes
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