Mar 2, 2009
How Does Our Garden Grow?
"Gardens are not made by singing 'Oh How Beautiful', and sitting in the shade"
Gardening keeps you busy. Especially if you are Maya. If you've been keeping up with our blog, you'll remember the pictures of our garden when we first moved in last year. The garden was barren, with huge crab holes everywhere. We picked up at least a quizillion nails and had to work out how to evict crabs, fill holes and level everything out. We had some really nice big Gumbo Limbo trees, Palmettos and some Tropical Almond trees but otherwise, the garden was a virtual desert. Things have come along since then and it is time to start sharing.
These elephant ears were tiny little babies when they were planted. They now dwarf the dogs and make the garden look quite jungley.
Buddica, the brindle on the left was the newest addition to our family, when we found her on the beach last summer. As you can see, she has grown into a somewhat lopsided but very characterful part of our family.
Midas, the little black one, known for her love of whine, loves her new playmate - if only Buddica wasn't scared to jump off the docks. We're workin' on it. Watch this space.
This picture of Colette is going in first, only because it suggests that she has some responsibility for the garden. The truth is, that while she doesn't mind weilding a power tool now and then, it has been Maya's blood, sweat and tears that has made our garden grow.
Oh, and what a beautiful garden it is becoming. Maya has discovered her amazing green fingers and has learned how to propogate Hibiscus.
We now have 30 Hibiscus plants in a range of 5 different colours. Maya has grown these all from cuttings and they are absolutely beautiful. They are all managing to mature, despite a repeated onslaught by Ocky, who tramples them in his effort to protect us from the rubbish truck.
Ah, there is Ocky, otherwise known as Octavius. He quite likes Buddica too, though he hates to admit it. Before Buddica came along, he didn't really know how to play with other dogs. His idea of meeting another dog involved lots of shouting, swearing and teeth.
Fortunately, Buddica is persistent, has a high tolerance for abuse and is always in a playful mood. She has slowly taught him that playing is more fun than fighting and he's been a much more relaxed and mellow dog ever since.
We love tomatoes. Maya, grew up in an Eastern European family and Colette grew up with a French mother. Both of us have a love for fresh tomatoes and we decided that they were going to be an essential part of our garden.
The first tomatoes were given to us as a gift by a lovely lady who cycles by our house. We've known her since we've lived here and she always stops for a chat. She gives massages on the beach and does hair braiding for tourists.
When Colette mentioned to her that we wanted to start a garden, she stopped by one day with threelittle plants in black bags.
We now have lovely and delicious tomatoes. We have about 10 plants going right now and believe it or not, we get what we call rogue tomatoes. They just sort of pop up all over the garden. We've got about 4 of them doing very well too.
We're not quite sure why this happens, but can only think that it is birds who are dropping the seeds. We dont' complain, we just water them and enjoy. We're also grateful for the seed care packages from our lovely friends Bill & Becky.
Of course it isn't just tomatoes we are growing as you can see from the photo, we've been getting some lovely melons too.
We had a good crop of watermelons last year, but this year the melons are popping up. This came from a tiny little baby plant given to us by Cindy. Cindy is another transplanted Brit, who made her way to Belize.
This is probably a good time to say that this sense of community is exactly what we were looking for when we came to Belize.
Maya has been very adventurous since she discovered her green thumb. The tree you see her with here is known as a Flamboyant Tree. For some reason, Colette insists on calling it a Fabulous Tree, but it is indeed Flamboyant and not Fabulous.
What is fabulous is that Maya has grown this tree from seed and it is already taller than she is.
What has been strange is that we had a real winter. We realise that is laugable to many of you, but for us, a huge drop in temperature is as cold as it is for you, even though our starting point is much higher.
Colette spent several days wearing jeans and a jacket, not dissimilar to the way she dressed in London. The weather was gloomy and depressing. We actually had weeks with only a glimmer of sunshine and when the sun came out, so did the mosquitoes. We even considered expanding our garden to become a free-range, organic mosquito farm, but we didn't see it catching on.
Colette doesn't honestly do too much in the garden except play with the dogs, weed a bit, pick up dog poops and complain about the ants, but she does make her own contribution by making Maya feel useful. Oh - and she deals with the serious creepy crawlies like snakes and scorpions. The most recent tarantula visitor escorted himself off the property before Colette had to intervene.
How does one do that, you may be asking. Cooking. Colette cooks and cooks and has to keep cooking.
Maya burns off an extraordinary amount of calories working in the garden in the hot sun and she shrinks really rapidly if she isn't fed enough. Maya's previous job entailed her sitting in a studio for 8-12 hours a day and having a chef bring her food on demand. She still never got fat. But now, she is suddenly spending several hours a day in the garden with a machete and a hose and as fast as she grows it, Colette cooks it.
You can just about see one of her home made olive oil and sunflower seed loaves in the background.
People are often curious as to what sort of plants we can grow on a piece of sand in the middle of the salty Caribbean. Well here is our trough, built by Maya and Bill. In this trough we have potatoes, cucumbers and radishes. We've just transplanted some lettuce into the trough and have some coriander (called cilantro here) growing at the other end that you can't see.
Of course, there are the plants you would expect, such as these bananas. We won't get any fruit off them til next year probably.
These were grown from tiny little baby chutes and are really big now. The fence is six feet high, so you can get an idea of just how quickly everything grows with sun, water and tender loving care.
Some of our friends have complained that their gardens haven't been so successful. The secret to our garden is attention. Every day, Maya goes out into the garden, checks every single plant. She waters them twice a day and we are planning to start a compost pile soon.
This is a Papaya tree. This will take about 5 years to fruit, but we love Papaya. Did you know that the traditional way to tenderise meat in Belize is to wrap the meat in Papaya skin. It really works and it is super effective.
This is the nursery at the moment. There are some orchids here, hibiscus an avacodo tree along with a few other plants. This is where they are hardened up enough to be planted in the ground.
The orchids are a type of air plant and are absolutely beautiful when they bloom and very interesting looking while they grow.
This is a different kind of air plant. Colette bought it last year on the mainland and we put it up on tree. As you can see, we now have two Bromeliads and they seem very happy indeed.
And so it isn't really true that Colette doesn't do anything for the garden. She shops for it. This was one of her early contributions.
More recently she went to Belize City to visit the shop where everyone goes to buy anything to do with growing things - Prosser.
This is Prosser Feterlizer and Agrochemicals. Somehow it doesn't feel that inviting from the outside, but the guys inside were more than happy to help by providing us with seeds that were tolerant to the local climate and coconut food.
Yes, we have about 10 coconut palms planted now although Buddica has done her best to reduce that number.
We really learn so much here every single day. Palm hearts are considered a delicacy by humans and are very expensive. Well, what do you think happens when a dog discovers a 'delicacy'?
We have had a couple of disasters, but we are finding an equilibrium with Buddica and so she has limited her damage to days when she knows we will feel guilty enough not to be mad at her if she trashes the garden. Strangely enough, those days coincide with the days we don't get her out for a decent walk. Noticing a pattern here?
We don't just spend time in our garden. We have a spectacular roof. We can see the Caribbean Sea, the Barrier Reef, the Lagoon and, of course our neighbour's houses.
I think we all spend time looking at our neighbour's homes. This is Miss Cathy's place, she lives sort of diagonal to us.
Well it seems that she watches us too!
This picture was in an email we got from Miss Cathy. She'd snapped our 'guard' dogs hard at work.
Meanwhile, on the other porch, Midas and Maya take a break from gardening.
Let's get back to spying on neighbours. This is our direct neighbour's house. His name is Wally. This is a woodpecker that lives in Wally's roof.
We've named him Wally's Pecker.
And finally, just to prove that we do leave the confines of our home sometimes, this is Maya on her bike (RIP) as we cycle into town.
This is the road that leads to our house, the lovely Mermaid Manor.
This blog would not be possible without the chocolates, seeds and other amazing gifts that our wonderful friends have been bringing us.
We're not going to name you all in case we embarrass ourselves by missing someone out, so please just know that we think you are wonderful.