I'm sure you guys will not be surprised to know that one of the things I do when visiting other places is to observe the gardens and take pictures - to be inspired and to learn from. You may even remember what I learned from a special Arizona garden last year (yes- even for a cold Northwesterner!). Well, it was no different in Kosovo and Greece - while Brian was snapping photos of strange and funny things (remind me to do a post on just these, they'll crack you up!), I was scoping out the gardens.
I'll share the fun garden ideas I found in Athens next week, but this week we'll start with Kosovo - actually the village of Kamenica, which is pictured above. It looks quite pastoral from this view - and the outlying communities are - though the main village (we would call it a town) has 6-7 floor apartment buildings, big grocery stores, and lots of buildings as well as single-family homes on town-sized lots.
We were able to visit a farm similar to the one you see above. It has a couple houses (there is usually more than one family on each farm) with a barn, garden area, plastic-covered greenhouse, and pasture for farm animals. This was in mid-April, and most vegetable gardens were plowed, but not planted yet except for onions. The climate seemed very similar to ours here in the PNW - trees and tulips were blooming.
Okay, I can hear you: "Yeah, so what? That's a farm...it doesn't look too much different than here. Where's the lesson?"
Here, lovely garden friends is the take-away: 80-90% of the houses on regular lots in the village looked like this: a couple of fruit trees, yard plowed and ready for planting, and a greenhouse with warm-weather starts inside. Actually, I'd go on record saying probably 98% of the occupied houses have a front or side-yard garden and a greenhouse (there are many homes in this village that sit empty for most of the year as the owners live in a different country and return only for a few weeks each year).
So, almost every house uses what available ground they have to grow food - and almost every garden also has a greenhouse.
And it's these greenhouses that I found so inspiring - I've always viewed greenhouses as an expensive proposition with the need for a huge cash outlay, fans, heaters, automatic openers, thermometers, etc. But here they are - simple pipe-and-plastic construction (and most actually without a door like the one pictured) - being used in every garden because they are relying on the food they grow and they are able to start tomatoes and peppers a lot earlier by using the houses.
If you look closely in the doorway of the house above, you'll see the tomatoes planted right in the ground inside the house and since it was a mild day, the door is propped open. I also saw houses that held strawberries and lettuce that were already producing. As far as outside planting, you can see in the bed on the right a plot of onions and I believe a few potato hills behind the greenhouse.
The people of Kosovo are resourceful, using the land they have, as well as the equipment they have, to grow their own food. They trade and share flowers to be able to add beauty to their landscapes and I saw many, many new mini fruit orchards in yards of all sizes. As we drove to the capital city of Pristina past one small village after another, it was the same: ground ready for planting, fruit trees, and plastic greenhouses.
So, the lesson? Use what you have or can get cheaply - do what you need to in order to grow food for your family. I think of all the land I have in comparison, and I know I've been inspired to figure out how to use it more efficiently. And how to make a simple greenhouse like this!
Has anything inspired you lately in your gardens?