Survival of the fittest

There are thousands of women and men in Guyana who take a really great interest in the food that they eat, and I think that most, if not all of them believe that good food starts off with  good, high-quality ingredients. The highest quality ingredients are those that spend the shortest amount of time between being harvested and the pot. Although for most things the supermarket provides an invaluable service, you will be hard pushed to find first-class quality perishables (fruit and vegetables) in them.

So the ideal aim is fresh food, freshly picked and full of flavour, and above all chemical free.  And the other ideal is to eat at least five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables every day to keep you all fighting fit.  If you stick to that they say you’ll live forever! So the use of the term “fresh” means eatables grown by the kitchen door whether or not you have used chemicals to control pests or diseases which might affect them. Obviously it is better if you can get plants to the harvest stage without recourse to chemicals, but I’m afraid that the purists also include fertilizers in their list of restrictions. In an ideal regime of growing one should try to use the minimum possible, and wherever possible use manual means to remove pests and diseases. Rub off with thumb and forefinger, prune infected parts with scissors or pinch out with fingers, and above all keep down those plants (weeds) which provide alternative shelter to the pests and diseases which get to your crops and to your ornamentals.

From a practical viewpoint you’ll have to become an intensive gardener. This means that you’ll have to use every bit of space. Plant or sow your vegetables amongst your herbaceous plants in the border, or in pots,  as well in the traditional vegetable garden. Many are sufficiently attractive in their form and habit that they can actually increase the interest of the ornamental side of the garden. In Guyana one is incredibly lucky because it really is easy to grow a wide range of fruits in a relatively small garden, and it is surprising, or perhaps not so surprising that because fruit trees grow upwards and usually form a head there is space and shade below them which enables you to grow lower growing fruit (tomatoes) and vegetables.

Remember dear reader that when you are growing for yourself or for your family just a pinch of seed will generally give you enough plants for the entire street. Sow thinly to avoid damping off fungus.  One important point occurs to me and always preoccupies my mind and it is this. When I’m moving seedling from the tray into their first pot or even into the ground I select only the strongest youngsters. The rest are discarded.  It’s a bit ruthless, but you should be the same as well. This is natural selection at work, and applies to everything we do in the garden. When we’re taking cuttings we take them (or ought to take them) from the strongest plants. That is those that are the most vigorous, those that produce the best flowers and the most, and those that are disease free and you know rarely get infested by insects. And so on. And so on. It is the survival of the fittest.

Until next week may your God go with you wherever you may be.

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