After months of oppression under thick layers of dust and sun-baked soil, the green world of living things has once again sprung forth in the hills of Nueva Segovia. Dull gray fields, burned in April by the incessant sun (and some misguided/lazy farmers) happily took in the May rains and turned black under ox-drawn plows. Now they are bursting forth in slightly crooked, green rows of beans and corn. The nature is, of course, far ahead of the farmers' fields. The untended hillsides and valleys are already in full “winter” glory. It happened so fast that it was almost impossible to believe that a few weeks before there was nothing— absolutely nothing— green and growing to be found. Startling. Magical, but starling.
I have been doing my best to take advantage of this seasonal glut of growth potential to get my garden going. So far I've had only marginal success. For a long time I was surprised at how few Nicaraguans had home gardens. Given the length of the growing season and the fertile soil, I figured the productive potential would be pretty high. You could also stagger your planting in order to extend the period in which fresh produce was available. Unfortunately the same sun that nourishes most growing things seems to have a vendetta against seedlings; the rain that showers plants with love doesn't know when to stop and drowns the objects of its affection; and as those two forces battle for supremacy they create an ideal environment for molds, fungus and all sorts of leaf eating bugs. Only my cucumbers and my beans, plants that grow fast and are resilient to losing a few of their leaves, survive from my first round of planting (well, and one severely stunted swiss chard plant).
Far from being discouraged, I've sought some Ag volunteer advice and reorganized my efforts. I've planted some more beans and cucumbers, a concession to what grows well. My sitemate and I call beans “Nicaraguan ivy” and I plan to make a tunnel-like trellis for them to climb. For the more difficult items I've moved away from planting directly in my garden. I started my eggplant seeds in Coke bottles, my lettuce in old water bottles, and my kale and swiss chard in tubes made by from rolled up paper. My herbs (oregano, mint, basil, and thyme) are also in bottle planters, though they'll stay there for the duration. The green, leafy vegetables are the most difficult because of how susceptible they are to molds and hungry pests. That could be why they are not available in markets here... and also why I'm so anxious to get my own crop growing. I'm armed with soapy-water, flour, and various other non-chemical weapons for the battle ahead.
Some days I consider just growing interesting-looking weeds. Aside from the leafy greens I'm not overly excited about anything I've planted. I do, however, like playing in the dirt and watching things grow.