When we returned to the island in February, after a few months away, the garden was in disarray. Some of it was over grown, some of it was dying off. For the first few weeks back I was kept pretty busy just cleaning up the mess. I was expecting much the same when we returned at the end of May, but it looked amazing. Our neighbour kept it watered while we were gone, and after a few good dumps of rain in the weeks preceding our return the garden looked very happy indeed!
I've been back for less than a month and I have to leave again tomorrow, so there hasn't been as much change this time around. But still there has been some progress and some learning...
The basil (we grow three kinds: sweet basil, thai basil and lemon basil) is still going gang busters. It's so happy that I cut back handfuls at a time to give to the kitchen and the boats that stop in. We eat it all the time. The flowers bring in the butterflies and the bees and it has started to just propagate itself as it drops seeds and we have babies all through the garden beds. It's also started to pop up in the ground around the boats and I've transplanted some to underneath the lime tree and it seems pretty happy.
The Cayenne Peppers have been ripening nicely and have been a great addition to our meals at home. The trees have been producing well so when the kitchen is light on chillies I take a handful up for sambal! Our razamataz chilli plants have started to flower and fruit so I'm looking forward to seeing what comes of them. They are a much smaller, bushier plant so I'd like to try them in smaller containers as well, but for now they are growing in the boats.
We have a few ongoing experiements... some more successful than others. We have tried one round of carrots with no success, 2 rounds of beets with no success, and one round of capsicums and eggplants, both of which have done well. We had grubs in our capsicums when I left the island in April and I decided I had no idea what I was doing. But upon our return they were growing fruit that didn't seem to be affected and in the last few weeks it has ripened and we have been eating deliciously sweet capsicums!
The eggplants also seem pretty happy with lots of new growth, but no flowers or fruit yet.
We have been trying to grow mint since we arrived on the island. I thought it would be one of those things that would just go wild, but we haven't even been able to get the seeds to sprout. We have tried to find an Asian variety (in Bali, Vietnam and Cambodia) but haven't had any luck. At the last market Jambu tried in Cambodia we learned that they grow mint from cuttings, not from seed there. This gave us the idea to buy a packet of mint in Bali and try to grow it from cuttings on the island. While we were at it we picked up other woody herbs like oregano, thyme and rosemary. The rosemary's dream was over pretty quickly, but the mint, thyme and oregano are still happy with lots of new growth so fingers crossed they will stick and take off when we transplant some of the cuttings to the boats!
While we were in Bali we also stopped in to visit our old land lord (who is quite the gardener) and asked for some frangipani cuttings! Now, we have no idea what we are doing here. The internet, as it tends to do, gave different information on different sites, most of which is hard to follow for us because it talks about what to do if you're propagating cuttings in winter, and what to do if you're propagating in summer and we don't exactly have seasons here. But we took a stab at it. We have five cuttings in buckets and five straight in the ground and now we just have to wait and see. We're somewhat unsure of how they will go because one thing the internet tended to agree on was leaving the cuttings in full sun and to not let the soil get too wet, but it's poured with rain every other day since we've planted these guys so we're not overly hopeful. Still, the prospect of frangipanis is exciting, and if it doesn't work this time we will most certainly have another crack at it!
The boat that I planted out with rock melons and pumpkins is more or less taking care of itself. Everything seems super happy and the vines are growing up and over the tree roots and generally looking spectacular. The plants are full of flowers, but we have yet to see any fruit. Fingers crossed there will be some more action there in the next month!
This little garden in the roots of a pandanus, and at the bast of a coconut palm has been just doing it's own thing since we moved here. When it flowers it brings lots of butterflies and bees to the garden so I've decided to try and replicate it in other surrounding tree roots to add to the native habitat and bring more colour and life to the garden.
This is my first attempt. I haven't spent a lot of time landscaping anything, just built up the leaf litter and thrown in cuttings. So, once again, it's just a matter of wait and see what happens. I hope to try this in 2 other trees in the surrounding area when we return to the island at the end of July.
The most recent project has been extending the sweet potato growing area. We have put potatoes directly into the ground in an effort to build up the soil and slow down erosion. When we first planted them we did so on a slope that peters off down to a rock wall that runs along the base of our house. When the swell is in and the tide is high water comes all the way up and over that rock wall (and sometimes right up onto our porch) so we hadn't considered the space appropriate for a garden bed (this and the fact that it's underneath a coconut tree so spending lots of time in the space probably isn't the safest option). But our potatoes are so happy after the rain we've been having that we decided to even out the slope and see if the vines would like to grow all the way down to the rock wall. Again, we're not trying to grow more potatoes so much as we're trying to slow down the erosion...
We filled the space between the potatoes and the rock wall with piles and piles (and piles and piles, seriously, it took me SUCH a long time) of leaf litter, grass clippings and seaweed. I had hoped to get it all topped with soil before leaving but that is not going to happen so it will be waiting for me when I return!
I have loved watching how my garden wants to unfold and grow. I love walking around it, sweeping the leaves and tidying it up and looking around and letting the garden tell me what it wants to be next, where it wants to go. Let's see what happens while I'm gone for the next month!
If you have any tips for gardening on an island in the middle of the sea at the equator, I would love to hear from you!