Sunday, September 5, 2010

Gardening in Holland

I've been really busy this summer, and have been adding new interests to my repertoire. Everyone was surprised when I decided to try my hand at gardening - and I've never been able to grow anything successfully other than mold before. More than half the land in the Netherlands is agricultural, and the Dutch know how to grow all kinds of things.

Dutch tulips are different than the original tulips brought over from the Ottoman Empire - they have cultivated and refined them to create endless varieties and colors - and there's a rumor that it was the Dutch who made carrots orange - for King William of the House of Orange, naturally. So I decided I'd try to do more than just admire other people's gardens - and I started my own.

Here's what I started out with:

The clippers and fence (bottom left) are mine - the rest is how the garden looked "naturally."

The first step was clearing out all the weeds and junk. Well, not junk - as I ended up using much of what I uncovered.  I like to recycle, and I really like saving money!  Unfortunately some of the wildlife had to move out so that my garden dream could be realized. 

Naked snails
 I got a variety of seeds from the local garden shop and began planting indoors.  Old egg cartons became miniature greenhouses, and finally the first seedlings burst from the earth, much to my shock and amazement.

Baby... something.
I was thrilled!  I wasn't sure that they would actually keep growing, so I made sure that their life was as pleasant and peaceful as possible.  I gently watered, said nice words of encouragement to them, and played new-age music for them.  No, really.  I kept them in the warm indoors, away from drafts until they got a little bigger.  Then they'd go outside for the day, and I'd take them back in at night - it can get cold here!

Young basil plants
So many seeds grew into plants, I had to start giving some away to good homes.  The garden was also taking shape, and in August all the plants were moved outdoors.
A lawn!

Garden "path" and planting bed

From wild, tangled jungle to order - the garden grew and took shape.  Jeroen planted grass in the middle, and helped me fence off the beds containing kale and carrots.  On weekends we could enjoy a morning coffee in the garden, and weekend barbecues were frequent and delicious.  I still find it odd that daylight lasts so much longer here - at nearly midnight there was still light in the sky.  I suppose I've never lived this far north before  - even in the summer time I feel it should be getting dark by around nine or ten in the evening.

Container gardening
I found a plastic tub and a roll of fencing, and decided it would be okay to let the tomatoes and paprika grow together.  Since I've never grown anything before, I probably should have asked someone's advice - but, I didn't.  I was enjoying the process so much, and it didn't really sink in that these plants might just keep growing... and growing... and growing!

Teenage Basil
Wall of Basils
Wall of tomato plants
I gave away more Basils, and the tomato and paprika plants flowered.  Tomatoes started forming everywhere, although the sunshine hasn't been cooperating as much as I'd like to keep the plants warm and start ripening!
Tomato flowers and fruit
Hopefully this will turn red. 
Sunflower plant, or so I am told.
A sunflower plant started growing after a bird dropped a seed in my bed of kale.  I put it in a pot, and it seems to be doing okay.  In August there was a terrible wind and rainstorm - it felled the Anne Frank tree, and I lost parts off of many of the plants.  I had a headless Basil, an armless sunflower, and there was debris everywhere.  Three carrots survived, and my remaining kale was attacked by snails; eaten in one night!

Amsterdam carrot growing in Alkmaar
Marigolds, Orange Boy variety, of course.
  My flowers have all grown up now too.  I'll move a lot of the plants indoors for the winter (which isn't far off now!) and see what happens.  I did notice that there have been a lot more bees and butterflies in the garden than before - and I'm finding more earthworms and fewer naked snails.  I haven't used any chemicals or fertilizers, and since I can't read the Dutch instructions on the seed packets, I followed my own growing method.  I still don't know anything about soil PH, or the proper care and feeding of the various plants that now grow in the garden - but I don't think they know that.
I'm going to do more next season, and hopefully finish off this growing season with a few home-grown meals!  Fresh basil, (hopefully) ripe tomatoes, a few carrots and maybe paprika...
Eet smakelijk!