So I decided to reach out to Nigerians that tend gardens on my various social networks to write basically about gardening in Nigeria and their experiences. While I won’t call it a series, it is the first in many I hope to put up. Anyway this is the first person that replied me, and I hope to have more people here as time goes on. Without much ado…Cuo.
Growing up, Saturday mornings consisted of doing chores and then breakfast after which my mum would spend an hour lighting oil burners and tending the numerous house plants she had dotted around the house. The house always felt very Zen after.
A few years and 6,762 KM later, I was living alone in campus accommodation dreaming of lovely two up, two down cottages with a bit of space outside to grow plants. I got myself a peace lily (which my friend killed by overwatering while I was on holiday, thanks G!) and experienced some of the Zen I remembered from when I was little.
University ended, life happened, and I got stuck in a poky 2 bed flat smack bang in the middle of the city. Definitely not the stuff of my dreams. We did eventually move to the ‘burbs and a lovely cottage with a garden which I had fun tending while I was there.
I decided to move back to Lagos is 2010, which was an experience in many ways. I found that a lot of the veg I love and was used to were obnoxiously expensive to my cheapskate self (haha!). So I decided to grow as much as I could. Well, it turned out to be a case of easier said than done.
I tried to search out people who gardened as a hobby and turned up nothing. Nigerians are not overly keen on gardens beyond having some greenery in flower beds which mostly get tended by people other than themselves. Proper gardens are a rarity. You are more likely to see a paved over yard to accommodate cars.
I went down the trial and error route which was very interesting. I direct sowed a variety of vegetables but the only thing that showed promise was some purple sprouting broccoli. Only one plant survived however and even that gave up on me. It was a combination of factors: poor soil, lack of time and attention… this list could go on.
I was disheartened and put off it for a few months until my mum went away soon after and brought me back a whole variety of seeds which got me revved up again. This time around I had immense success. I started my plants in pots and everything I planted sprouted except for one variety of tomatoes. I was in veggie heaven! And then the hectic pace of life here struck and one by one, my lush herbs and salads and other vegetables gave up.
Not one to be deterred for long, I tried again but the only thing that came up were a couple of courgettes and some spinach that I propagated from cuttings gotten off fresh spinach from the market. Both promptly gave up with the advent of the harmattan season.
I’m soldiering on though. I have taken stock of everything I have tried in the past year and come up with a plan of action. The soil I have is not in the best condition and needs improving but I can’t compost as there’s no room for a compost bin or heap. I might have to resort to buying in manure but I still need to figure out where to put it so it rots down properly. I have also realized that when I direct sow my seeds (I’ve tried this twice), I don’t get so much as a peep from them. I didn’t think this would happen as it is warm year round. I have had better results from sowing in pots and then planting on or leaving them in the pot if it is big enough.
With all this in mind, I have decided to try sowing one or two things a month so that I can easily manage and monitor my plants. I will try to water them at least every other day as this is where I have the biggest challenge as I get home really late most days. I’m also branching out into ornamentals. I have recently acquired a pink hydrangea and two varieties of crepe myrtle (purple and white flowering). The man I bought these from got really excited because I was pumped about the hydrangea and promised to find me other varieties. I am hopeful.
I’m looking into the import restrictions on plants for Nigeria as I hope to join the RHS or some other such society with access to a wide variety of seeds and plants. I would love to have a tulip and lily collection, they are my favourite kinds of flower. At present I have a trumpet lily which I hope I can divide.
I have plans for a pomegranate that is currently chilling in my freezer (ha!) and some recently acquired sweet potato (the brown/red skinned variety not the typical creamy skinned one commonly available). In short, total plant domination! *evil cackle*
I’m very excited for what the future holds for my little patch (literally a small flower bed/border which will progressively expand to a container garden) and hopeful that I can connect with more people here in Lagos with an interest in gardening.
I had trouble uploading the other picture, but I will do that later. so if any other Nigerian gardener is out there, please reach out to me. thanks…and don’t forget to leave comments too.
Update; Shirley from roak-oak-deer corrected me on the ‘Crepe Myrtle’ is actually Duranta ‘sapphire showers’ thanks a lot!!
Love and Greens