Finished the last of my gardening sessions - with a suppressed sigh of relief - then learned that there is another course being held in February which will be a continuation of this one, focussing on different gardening subjects. One of them is all about ‘vegetable gardens’ which probably alone justifies signing up again in Feb.
Our last lesson was; ‘gardening with indigenous trees and plants, pots and plants for pots, lawns and hedges’ (i.e. pretty much every aspect of gardening in Nairobi). I piped up, as usual; ‘what shall I do about my dreadful blue gums/ eucalyptus trees’ and was batted off with the usual; ‘we are only talking about indigenous trees today!’
That’s the problem with pre-arranged topics for our lessons, the lecturer has to stick to his subject but all of us students just want to ask questions about the things that look nice in our teacher’s garden’s. The one we visited this week was in Tigoni, another 1,000 ft higher than Nairobi (ie Tigoni is approx 7000ft above sea level) and much cooler and wetter (good growing conditions for tea). We drove there in a mist and even needed a wool jumper until the sun finally peeped out at midday.
We are lucky enough to have this lovely garden in Nairobi with lots of mature trees, but unfortunately when we arrived there were also more than our fair share of blue gums. We’ve cut down about twenty, and there are probably a dozen left. The problem is that the ones we’ve cut down have not exactly gone, as their stumps and roots are still in the ground. The tree cutters were happy to remove the trees for almost nothing on the proviso that they get the timber for planking and firewood, but removing the root bowls was not something we really thought of much (see previous post on tree cutting). Now our once dramatic drive/entrance looks pretty scruffy with old bits of tree trunks that we never got around to cutting into firewood (or ‘kuni’ as it’s known here) and lots of stumps, half of which are sprouting and bushy looking now. I didn’t mind before, only I signed up for this damn gardening course and now I feel compelled to do something about the problem!
Blue gums and jacaranda are the most common trees in Nairobi and are obviously both ‘exotic’ to Kenya. Jacaranda kind of earn their place here as they are so pretty at this time of year decked in brilliant purple flowers, but for half the year they are without colour or leaf, they are also very greedy and take a lot of nutrients out of the soil, so therefore they are difficult to garden underneath. Above all, they are not indigenous!! Blue Gums have nothing going for them as far as I can tell, originally imported from Australia, their leaves are unsuitable for composting, they are very unstable when old, stupidly tall and greedy water consumers.
What else did I learn about gardening? Tons and tons and I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface on the subject. I’m still a total novice. What have I/Shadrack and Jared achieved so far? A composting system that seems to be working but takes some patience in waiting for the end result (the good news is that there are fewer of our bin bags heading out from our house each week to the city rubbish dumps thanks to composting – see previous post on Nairobi rubbish dumps). I do now have the beginnings of a herb garden and am considering how it might be humanly possible to re-channel my ‘grey’ water to a veggie patch and when, or how, we are going to start harvesting rain water? So much to do.