Vegetable Gardening in Patzcuaro, Mexico

May 14, 2009

As much as I enjoy my own garden, it’s always a thrill to see photos and read the stories that arrive sharing the experiences that others are having as they cultivate the patches of earth that they are responsible for.

I especially like to learn about the edible gardening practices and crops that are grown in other parts of the world. Some of the accounts force me to count my blessings when I consider the challenges that many gardeners are forced to contend with; harsh climates, poor soils, shortages of seeds and natural resources, and severely limited space to even plant a garden.

High Altitude Gardening in Patzcuaro, Mexico

It’s inspiring and encouraging to get a glimpse of your gardens and over the next week I will feature a few of them here at Veggie Gardening Tips. Churchill lives in Patzcuaro, Mexico and gardens with Andrew on three acres of land at an altitude of 7,400 feet. Here is her report from the garden:

Much of the soil is “adobe” clay, which turns into soup in the rainy season, and serious hardpan in the dry. However, we have a knoll upon which we grow incredible roses and flowers, and have started vegetable beds.  The knoll is rock and mulch which is made from wild crabapples, blackberry vines, century plants, and who knows what.

Sizing up the Lay of the Land Out in the Garden

From November though February we have frost in the night, which nurtures our orchids (in the wild apple) during most of the dry season (mid-October through May). In this area, farmers grow tons of cabbage, cauliflower, corn, wheat, hay & other livestock grasses, Swiss chard, spinach.

I’d give my eye teeth for collards! No seeds here for that, and they probably never heard of it. Locally they grow apples, peaches, nut trees, at lower altitudes, avocados, citrus, bananas, etc.  Pomegranate does well here.

I can’t figure out what our growing zone is, based on US growing zones, because of our altitude. The local “soil PH” is considered a “medium acidity.”  We do have pines and oaks at this altitude.  Our linguistic Spanish (Mexican) is poor at best. I am “guessing” at what may grow, and plant what I want, on an “if it works, great, if not, try something else” basis.

Rainy Seasons and Sunny Days South of the Border

Climate: now, that is curious (remember we’re at 7,400 feet).  In the summer rainy season, it can get downright chilly when the rains set in for three or more days, hot in the sun on clear days, and great in the shade.  Autumn is perfect. No more rain, but the soil is wet down deep.

Winter nights can get below freezing, but the soil never freezes, and the frosts nurture the orchids. Spring is hot and dry. I was born and raised in coastal North Carolina, and Mama grew all our vegetables.

This all boils down to “can I grow artichokes?” Whew.

Churchill, thank you so much for allowing us a peak inside your garden. Regarding your question about growing globe artichokes; with the wide variety of crops that you mentioned I don’t see any reason that they would not grow for you. They are a challenge here in Pennsylvania because they struggle to survive our winters. They also don’t appreciate the heat of summer but usually rebound nicely as soon as fall rolls around.

Just follow your prescribed pattern and try the artichokes on a “guess at what may grow, and plant what you want kind of arrangement… then if it works great, but if not try something else basis” as you stated in your email! I love the way that you summed up your planting strategy and hope you don’t mind that I will be borrowing that line in the future.

Next up is a visit to spend a little time at a friend’s organic garden in Northern Virginia.

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  • I just wanted to let you know that I have really enjoyed reading your blog over the past year and have learned a lot from the information you have provided. Especially on some of the vegetables that you have trialed in your garden.

    Great post, I am always interested to see how people garden in other areas of the world.


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  • Yes, I am growing artichokes. Mine have started pushing up artichoks. Plan to plant more too, just for their beauty. I am also trying horseradish, and have a hearty crop of redtop turnips, chard, spinach, and green peas. Brussels sprouts are thriving. We are having an unusually wet January and into February, and the winter veggies love it. Broccoli, cabage and cauliflower are still producing, and I am planting more.

    We are working a plot in the field, building soil, and hope to have it ready for serious Fall planting in September.

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  • Paul

    I would love to be able to talk directly to Churchill. I live in Morelia, only one hour away although about a thousand feet lower in elevation.
    YES, you can grow artichokes in our climate. I started some from seed about 15 years ago and they produced for several years. The plants are beautiful and fit well in a decorative garden, although they only produce a few heads each year here — perhaps a bit more in your colder climate. My worst problem was aphids on the heads.
    I am also growing different kinds of tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, snow peas, basil, and a mega-spicy Oaxacan chile pepper called “solterito” here. Blackberries produce beautifully in both our climates, although Pátzcuaro might be too cold for my over-productive guavas and sweet oranges. However, I struggle to produce apples and pears, which are very productive up higher.
    Where on the earth do you get collard, brussel sprout, horseradish and rhubarb seeds/plants down here?

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  • Karole Johnson

    I am trying to build a mission around adding a garden to feeding centers that are being built around the Mazatlan area in some impoverished areas. I live in Washington State, and am able to dedicate as much time is as needed to work the soil, plant the seed and educate the locals but would need to know more, prior to my arrival, as to what will grow there.
    This is the very beginning stages, but I would like to have all the ducks in a row prior to November 1, so I can put out the request for a team and donations to facilitate the first one, which I have a goal to plant in April, 2014. However, that may not be the correct timing for that region…

    As you can see, the beginning stages require much definition, and I require much guidance. So, if you are interested in assisting, or any of your readers are interested I would be so honored if we could communicate about this further.

    Thank you so much for your time, and for your wonderful blog!

    Karole Lee Johnson

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