After the previous posts on food, which caused some controversy among the vegetarians and vegans, today a less emotional topic, growing vegetables 2.0. Less about the Azores but more about our gardening efforts. So far, we had a beautiful summer with hardly any rain, but we are not unhappy about the rainfall announced for the next days. We are now about three months into our gardening experiment, time to look at our green stuff and see how things are going. The first conclusion, that might be more true for the Azores than other places, everything is sprouting and growing at an incredible speed. Unfortunately, this is not only true for our vegetables but also for all kind of weeds. A week or two after preparing the soil and seeding, the plots are fully covered in green. Being novices and not being able to distinguish weed- from vegetable sprouts and not wanting to throw out the baby with the water by radically weeding, the unwanted weeds quickly take over. So far, in most of the cases the vegetables won, meaning they grew faster than the weeds and we could start taking care of the pest. In some of the plots though, the unwanted greens were so successful that they completely suppressed our vegetables and nothing or just some individual plants seem to have survived. Obviously, we do not want to use any chemicals to keep things under control, as a result we have a new form of physical exercise – weed the plots. The next round will be up later this week as it is raining right now, which will cause another explosion in biomass. Also, we have started to use mulching, covering the soil with compost, straw and cardboard, to inhibit weed grow. As a positive side effect, we can make good use of the cardboard from the 179 moving boxes.
The second conclusion is that despite the fact of living in a paradise on earth, plant louses, snails, caterpillars and other seem to be at constant struggle for survival and like to feed on those plants that survived the challenge from the weed. Initially, all plants were faultless, but with time leaves started to be nibbled then leaves started to disappear and at the end only the stems remained. Remedy is on the way, last week I bought a manual sprayer, and, on the weekend, I started to tackle the bugs, not with chemicals, but with a classical natural brew made of soap. This should help against the louses and all kind of flies, the latter also like the bananas and leave nasty spots on the banana skin. The second step in pest control will be “planting” beer bottles to lure the snails, they seem to like that stuff as much as we do. Sadly, they will drown, but probably in a cheerful mood. The third step will be planting all kind of aromatic plants, herbs and garlic, all of them should help to repel or distract those bugs. To sum up, it is not only a great pleasure to see the plants growing, but without the necessary care nature fully takes over and does not care about our intention to produce vegetable. As a friend said, nature is indifferent and does not care about human’s intentions. Luckily, we have some friends here having experience with all kind of local enemies of vegetables, they are a great help with their advice. Have a look at this great garden from Horta Cá de Casa which is some years ahead of ours.