No matter what I do I cannot play rain god and the soil --such as it is -- dries the more.
The comestibles live -- indeed in demographic abundance -- but they do not live well as the wee things suffer from the absence of precipitation. Even the dew has got surly and comes in each morning parched.
But such weather as this seems to suit the squash family. Less mould. Not damp. Just right to throw out the buds and shoot out a succulent stem or ball.
After years been held hostage to Black Jack Zucchini I've expanded my engagement with Cucurbita as I begin to notch up more successes growing selections from this wonderful and very large family.
I know the supposed DIY drill of course and while it may not work every time, my most recent embrace of squashology has reminded me of the 3 Sisters Tradition of intercropping.
This image of a 3 Sisters example suggests how intense can be the plant-out mix of corn and squashes.
How jungle like is the mix -- there's nothing neat about it. Path/ What path? Each plant for itself.
I say that as I'm in the process of giving myself to the rambling desires of the Cucurbita. My corn is hardly there -- well, not at all as it hasn't thrived thus far.But I'm planting and mixing and when I reference the 3 sisters I come away with a 4:4:1-- 4 corn seeds to 4 bean seeds to one of squash-- all in the same spot -- traditionally a mound.
This year in deference to companionship I planted out heaps of potatoes and mixed them in with later sewings of squashes, coriander, parsley, salad greens(like endive),various 'spinaches', tomatoes and beans.
It seems to work. I thought, 'what the hell: I'll go for it! Let the veg work it out among themselves.' And what they came up with was a bit scary because I got marginalised. All I had to do was squirt some water regularly at my clay pots -- my 'ollas' in Indian speak -- and sit back. Indeed the more long and short and broad my mix, the better the plants have done.
I also had to seriously collect and sew seeds so that I could have plants to insert in any of the spaces available. Plants that would take their time before they crowded out their already established neighbours. It's proving to be quite a squeeze.
I'm losing my paths of course --as everything falls and rambles where it may. Since I haven't got the corn I've rammed sticks in places that may need beans to climb. I've given up on bean pole and teepee niceties. My approach is improvised trellis on demand using sticks cut from my last trimming of mulberry and malaleuca trees.
After spending so much time obsessing over what goes on underneath the earth in way of root crowding, I'm amazed how much can grow in one spot above the earth. Indeed my garden is much more complex than it has ever been and seemingly has more of a mind of its own than ever before.
Harvesting is really foraging. Tucker requires you to know where to look for a feed.Because my garden is shaded in part each day and the plants throw their own shadows differently at different places no species comes to harvest at the same time.
That means no glut. No one-off harvesting. The supply line is semi consistent...at least hopeful.
Mind you I cannot send anyone else into the garden to harvest something as they won't find what they are looking for.
Plants may not ripen as quickly as I'd like but as a KITCHEN GARDEN the engineering works. I'm sure I pay a productivity price and I don't get to fret over prized vegetables ruled by best-in-show dreams...but the garden feeds the house.
Consider this: growing potatoes in the same space as these other plants.
Not in the rule book. I'm sure there is a price to pay.
But come dinner time, I'm not complaining.
I guess the key aspect that is driving this mix is that I've freed myself from the sewing tyranny. I make sure I always have a good selection of seeds to choose from and since I started making my own seed raising mix I'm more confident about raising my own seedlings.I may miss the joys of shopping for seedlings at the Sunday markets -- but I'm more in control over the volume and the range I chose to plant.
My costs have gone way down. My water budget keeps improving. My dinner plate has a wider range of food on it.
POSTSCRIPT: Today I finally measured my watering time: it took me 30 minutes at one end of the hose to top up all my clay pots in succession. Every second day -- except when the rain is fullsome. That's 30 minutes watering with low pressure town water (we have water tower in town). The circuit is quicker when hosing from my tanks as the pump delivers more volume per minute.
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