Garden? I Can Dig It

Garden? I Can Dig It

I decided my first time living in a semi-arid desert climate was a good time to start a garden.

Omutete Garden

Omutete is a wild spinach type plant that grows in the northern part of Namibia.  It’s sour and delicious and I’m addicted to eating it.  After several months of relying on people to bring me my fix from the north of Namibia, I decided to begin cultivating my own stash.  I came across some seeds at an open market in the North, and I was determined to make it work.

early garden
Baby mutete

To give you an idea of what it’s like to grow things here in Outjo, I give you my paraphrased version of a parable from the bible.  It is the one about a person who throws seeds on fertile soil and another person who throws seeds among rocks.  The seeds in the fertile soil spring up, but the ones in the rocks shrivel and die.  Outjo is the rocks in this metaphor.  With very little dirt, and none of it fertile, I had to import soil from the agriculture store.

The growth after three months.

Working in the location, I’ve noticed a lot of homes have tire gardens in order to avoid the rock problem.  The tires are also nice for retaining the water.  The troubling part about these gardens is that everybody grows flowers instead of vegetables.  There’s nothing more frustrating than entering the house of a malnourished child that’s surrounded by flowers and other inedible plants.

Next week I’m going to a Peace Corps permagardening workshop to upgrade my skillz.   That way I can make ‘garden in the rocks part 2’ even better, and maybe help some people switch from flowers to vegetables like omutete.  There really is nothing like food fresh from the garden.

Garden pests
Butterfly in the garden
Meet the author / Weens


  • Daniel Donohue

    The picture of the garden pests could never do their size justice.

  • Barbara Damon

    Those locusts look meaty enough to eat. It would probably add a nice crunch to a salad. Can you plant the mutate at any time, or is it seasonal?

    • weens

      My research says its hearty enough to plant at any time, but I’m still skeptical about the winter. It gets pretty cold at night. Also I only like to eat bugs I haven’t seen alive, its too creepy.

  • Barbara Damon

    If omutete is similar to spinach, does that mean it needs cooler weather? As you recognize, there is more to successful gardening than sticking seeds in the ground. You may want to consider the principal of raised beds, and companion planting with flowers. I always put marigolds among my veggies and planted herbs such as basil with tomatoes. Using tires is a great idea for flowers but may not work for veggies because of toxins leaching into the soil. Let me know what you find out from your gardening class.

    • weens

      yea raised beds would be perfect. I couldn’t afford any extra garden stuff, but once I start real life I will definitely do raised beds. I didn’t think of the toxins … I’ll look for other soil containment options.

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