Saturday, November 16, 2013

Lessons From A Mango Tree

I have a rather nice mango tree on the main farm. It's popular with the chickens as a roosting tree. The horse often rests under it, especially on sunny days. At this time of year it is quite lovely, pushing new leaves that are very colorful. But sigh, it never bears mangos. Why? It's at too high an elevation to set fruit. A tree planted in the wrong place. 
I really like this tree and I'm so glad that it is where it is. It's pleasing to look at, provides shade and shelter. But it will never give me even one mango. Instead, it has taught me, and forever reminds me, that a gardener must provide for a plant's needs if you expect it to produce for you. 

Since moving to my little homestead I've tried to grow just about everything. Along the way there have been plenty of failures, often because I have ignored what the mango tree is telling me. 
...soybean failure. They require warmer soil and air temperature than what my farm experiences. 
...okra failure. I  sowed the seed in January. It needs to be started in the early summer here. 
...garlic failure. It needs a drier climate. 
...leek failure. The variety I tried was day length sensitive. 
Oh my,there are more failures, but you get the point. I didn't consider what the plant needed. I only thought about my own desires. 

Now I try to put a bit of research into a new variety I'd like to try. Not that I don't like to experiment. Indeed I do! But it doesn't make much sense to totally ignore a plant's growing requirements. So to be successful at growing food, I need to learn and be attentive. No sense wasting time, effort, money, and garden space on something that simply won't grow here on the farm. Therefore, you will not see breadfruit, rambutans, or lychee on my farm.  Neither will you find plums, pears, cherries, or blueberries. I miss lilacs, daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, bluebells, dogwoods, and more but my location does not give them the chill days that they need. And I'm too busy to try refrigerating bulbs. So I have learned to enjoy the vast array of tropical flowers that thrive in my area. 

The same applies to livestock. For example, wool sheep would not do well on my farm.  I get light rains frequently during the week. Thus a damp wooly sheep would be a prime buffet for flies and maggots. It's difficult enough keeping hair sheep healthy, let alone woollies. Luckily I've been wise enough not to try keeping wool sheep. 

Ignoring the requirements of a plant or livestock means that you're just setting yourself up for failure. Heck, I have enough trouble as it is making things work on my homestead without purposely flirting with disaster. Thus I appreciate gazing at my mango tree. It surely keeps me in line! 

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