April 21, 2020. – The new series of articles on Total Croatia News will bring you the story of how one of our authors decided to spend her coronavirus gardening leave actually gardening! (the Croatian version of this article is available here).
It’s possible I’ve fallen under Paul’s influence, so this article will have several introductions. I’m sorry.
If you’re a careful TCN reader, you might’ve noticed that we’ve had more articles recently in Croatian. I’ve been mostly working on those, but to prevent that section from becoming just a list of translations, we decided to drop in a seed of original content in Croatian, hoping that maybe something will grow out of that seed – we’re living in rapidly-changing times, so who knows what the future might hold.
So, as the initial seed, I’ve decided to write a series of articles in Croatian (and translate them into English as well) about how I decided to create a small city garden in my backyard (I know, I know; that was a very predictable pun, sorry), in Zagreb, 2 km from the main street of Ilica. Here comes the second disclaimer: I’m completely and utterly a city kid!
I was born and raised in Zagreb, on the asphalt, first living on the 9th floor of a skyscraper, and then in a building almost completely surrounded by concrete. I didn’t even have a grandma somewhere in the countryside (I actually did, but I visited her very rarely, and she was a city lady through and through, too, but that’s a different story). A little over ten years ago I moved to the apartment I’m in now, which has the smallest backyard, and ever since, I’ve been attempting to do some gardening: some herbs, different tomatoes, strawberries and raspberries, but most of my time is spent on numerous desperate attempts to maintain some decent grass on my 60-square-metre lawn. It’s a battle I’ve lost every single year, the herbs do alright, I’ve had some decent raspberries in the past, the tomatoes often end up spending their summers there and being picked by friends, as we go 600 km away in August and there’s no way I can take care of them.
And so we come to 2020 and all of this around us, that’s happened since the beginning of March: the COVID-19 pandemic, the earthquake, the measures introduced by the governments of the world which are (or are not) slowing down the pandemic, the Croatian response to the Zagreb earthquakes, the possible collapse of the Croatian economy, which is far too reliant on the tourism, and some personal consequences for me, since I lost several well-paying gigs in a week. At some point, I realised I had no vegetables in the refrigerator, and while there are still some in the freezer, there’s nothing to brag about. In previous years, I was reluctant to go all-in into creating a garden, because honestly, it seemed like I just wouldn’t have the time for that, and this year I can’t use that as an excuse. We also used to spend a lot of time at our summer home, sometimes even bordering on two months and often going several times during the summer. This year, if you ask me last week if I’ll even be able to see the seaside, I wouldn’t respond with a convincing “yes”. All that put together, coupled with the enormous anxiety of sitting around by my computer reading news and “news” about COVID-19 precipitated into a decision: Yes, I will have a garden in 2020!
Step no. 1: Where? Have I mentioned I have around 60 square metres available? I picked a part of my backyard where there is some sun (that is a serious problem due to the position of my building and the surroundings), where it won’t be in our way too much and where I’ve already had success with raspberries and strawberries in the past. The grass was horrible there once again this year, so I wouldn’t feel bad about destroying it, the pandemic prevented me from buying the stuff needed to fight the moss that grew there, so it was horrible in that way, too. Long story short – the 5 square metres for my garden were selected!
That part of the garden was never really dug or worked on. I know that the quality of the soil in my backyard is horrible because it’s mostly rubble left over from when the building was constructed, covered with literally 5 cm of some poor soil. All those are the experiences obtained during my years of struggle to get the grass growing nicely. I was aware of the fact that turning that horrible soil was going to be a serious chore, as well as picking the leftover bricks, stones and pebbles and various bits of garbage out of it by hand. I had help with the worst part of the manual labour of putting the spade in the soil (I literally did it once myself!), and the photo below shows what the area looked like after the first step of the process was completed.
Oh, and yes, what am I going to grow there?! That was also not an easy decision and included several considerations. Of course, I’d love to have tomatoes and watermelon and stuff I really love. But, still, the silver lining of optimism took over, so I decided to dedicate this year to those plants which I’ll be able to consume as soon as possible. I’m still somewhat hopeful that we’ll be able to spend some time at the seaside, and I didn’t want plants which will only become ripe later on in the summer, wasting away while nobody was home. I found the lokvina.hr webshop, where you can find wonderful detailed explainers on what to do with each type of seed and how long it will take before you can consume stuff from your garden. For this year, I chose carrots, spinach, zucchinis, rocket, swiss chard and parsley for my garden. All of them were delivered to my doorstep a day after I paid. I’m fully aware that the five varieties I picked are way too much for my small garden, but I have a contingency plan for the situation in which everything starts sprouting perfectly and my garden becomes too crowded.
Read about that and much more in upcoming articles in this series.