Garden Update: February 2016

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Garden - Before and After
Garden – Before and After

Each morning, just as the sun rises, and as I hustle the children into the car for the school run, I quickly glance at my little vegetable garden, full of greens, reds, (and purples!) these days.

Then, after dropping the kids off at school, I get to take my time and examine each little plant. I like to run my fingers through the cascading branches of the lemon thyme, with its tangy delicate scent, perfect for a finishing off a meaty sauce.

I rub my fingers across the mint, its fragrance reminds me that I need to make mint smoothies and mojitos more often.

Garden Herbs
Garden Herbs

The Thai basil just stares at me, begging me to harvest its leaves before it gets too bitter or eaten by bugs. I make it promises of Vietnamese summer rolls and Pho.

The garlic chives are happy because I’ve recently used their leaves in a batch of Pork and Shrimp Gyoza. However, my onion chives are overgrown and very droopy.

I check for bugs and other pests lest an evil weevil chews through my leaves again, or a catty devours my mint, or leaf miners make my basil and tomato plants unsightly. Spider mites are a recurring problem as well. Last year, my bok choy was devastated by aphids eating all the tender new growth.

We’ve lived in this new villa for just over a year not but only last month did I reclaim part of the garden for fruit and vegetables. Scotch and I constructed a grid-like system based on Square Foot Gardening (which I’ll write about in future posts) and it’s been working out well for us. I like the methodical nature of the grid system. It speaks to my Type A personality.

I don’t know how I stumbled upon the concept of square foot gardening in early 2014 but since researching it and reading Mel’s book, I felt that the concepts really resonated with me and have implemented it in part of my garden. I will go into more details of square foot gardening one day but you can read more about it here or click the book image to the right.

Here are photos of my garden using the square foot gardening method (please excuse the peeling paint on the walls! It was only recently scorched and re-painted but obviously done poorly):

Square Foot Garden
Top: Garden on January 1, 2016; Middle: Garden on January 15, 2016; Bottom: Garden on February 5, 2016

It’s crazy how fast everything has grown – especially the salad greens, bok choy, and tomatoes. I’m hoping the peas will grow in fast to hide the ugly peeling paint. Crikey – I hope it’s not hazardous to the plants.

We were out by the plant souk last weekend and my son Wee Scotch picked out a few strawberry plants (25 dhs each) for the garden. We have been harvesting strawberries every few days.

However, the berries are not as sweet as I imagined they would be. Even when we wait until they are very ripe and a deep red color, they are still sour.

Wee Scotch's Strawberry patch
Wee Scotch’s Strawberry patch

I have been eyeing this orange plant for years. Not this exact one of course.

I finally decided I would buy it (190 dhs! or $52). It looks nice and luscious now because it’s been on the plant equivalent of crack-cocaine (aka being pumped with fertilizers). There is hardly any soil in the pot and I’m skeptical as to how it could grow so big and fruitful with so little potting medium without mega doses of fertilizers.

I expect it will shrivel up and die soon now that it’s off its drugs. But I’ll try my best to detox it and keep it alive.

Orange Tree - newly bought
Orange Tree – newly bought in February 2016

The children love helping out in the garden. Wee Scotch likes to help me weed and plant new seeds as well as collect seeds from our existing plants. Li’L Ginger loves helping me water the garden – she has her own little watering can for this purpose.

And here’s a 17-second video of how my kids “help” water the garden by running up and down the grass screaming like banshees. Click here if the video doesn’t show up below.

While I was going through my garden photos, I came upon many images of once beloved plants that have gone to a better place. The Dubai summer heat can be brutal.

This collage is their memorial:

Garden plants that have gone to a better place
Garden plants that have gone to a better place

If you are so inclined, you can take a look at some of my first attempts at balcony gardening in Dubai (beware of bad photos though) in my April 2008 update and May 2008 update.

I would love to see photos of your garden as well – feel free to share your links in the comments section.

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  1. It’s beautiful! Can I ask for some trimmings (?) seedlings (not sure how to call them) of chives and thai basil? That I can replant in our balcony next time we see each other. ?