Sunday, July 16, 2006

Being a Novice Gardener, All Over Again

I am starting to feel very discouraged about ever learning how to garden well in Chacala, in this climate, with this soil, and all these new plants. I only know the vernacular name of most of the plants here. And no varieties. The nurseries don't label things, and people have very odd nicknames for plants.

Of course, local people in Chacala may not know the botanical names of the plants they grow and use, but they do know how, and when, and where, to collect the plants. And how to dry and store them, and their medicinal uses. Herbs are used here constantly, all day long. If I have a symptom, like the sniffles or a headache, or someone thinks I look sick, various plant cures are offered (really, forced) on me.

I used to ask people in Chacala to write down the name of the plant they gave me. But I finally realized that very few of the older people can write more than a few words. Or maybe just their name and "addresss". So I don't ask anymore. But I do take out my little plant tablet and start writing. Usually if the person can write, they will take my tablet and write a name for me.
It is amazing how many different ways there are to spell bouganvillea.
Right now I am kind of discouraged about how slow and low my learning curve is here in Mexico. Learning about soil, and climate, and plant culture, and possibly growing some food plants is not like learning something new in the US. The only gardening magazines here are from Spain, in Spanish of course. Wrong climate,wrong plants. My only gardening book for Mexico is in Spanish, and it focused on gardening in Mexico City. I did bring down two gardening books,

"Tropical Gardening" by David Bar-Zva at the Fairchild Tropical Garden

"Cacti and Succulents" by Hans Hecht

And Daniel Hinkley's Plant Explorer book published about 4 years ago.

The first two have been very helpful for identifying some plants. And Dan Hinkley's book is just plain inspirational. So have the horticultural sites on the web. But it's still hard and sometimes I feel like I will never learn enough.

And I miss having gardening-addicted friends, and garden clubs, and garden tours. I have started searching for other people who would like to get together sometimes. I have met two women in the next town, one Spanish speaking, one English speaking who are interested. So many something will happen. Plus there are a couple of really good (in my opinion) gardeners here, who have been teaching me alot. But still.......

But!!! When I remember it took years and years to feel competent in growing vegetables (organically) in the US. And to build the soil, and manage irrigation, and deal with soil in insect problems successfully. And marketing. So maybe I'll stop sulking and start focusing on what I DO know about gardening, and just fake the rest.

1 comment:

La Gringa said...

I've been reading and enjoying your blog. This article really struck home with me. I'm a new gardener in La Ceiba, Honduras, and can identify with so much of what you write. I've recently started a blog of my own -- I think from the frustration of having no one to talk to about gardening. If you'd like to see it, it's