Saturday, July 28, 2012

Patzcuaro Gardening 101


Prior to moving to Mexico I had lived in a condo for 14 years so gardening was really not a part of my life. When I moved here I was quite excited, not only about building a house from the ground up, but also about landscaping the yard. For some reason I thought I would be able to grow almost anything. It’s Mexico after all!

Clearly logic didn’t enter the picture. I failed to take into consideration the fact that I was 8000 ft. up the side of a mountain and that bitterly cold winds swept through the back yard from the field next door. Oh yes, and the soil was about 70 percent clay, thinly covering bedrock.



View From The Rooftop Patio


However, undaunted, I soldiered on. After sifting all the dirt in the areas staked out for gardens and mixing the result with potting soil I was ready to plant. Todd had purchased a veritable library of gardening books and we had carefully researched everything we would need to get started. I sketched out each of the gardens I intended to build and the plants that I wanted in each one. There are quite a few viveros, nurseries, in and around Patzcuaro and I visited them all. Many times.

Another thing that we hadn’t taken into consideration, was that due to our lack of expertise in the Spanish language when interacting with the vendors in the viveros, that we might not purchase the ideal plants for our location.



Notice The Plants On The Left


Hence, almost 70 percent of everything we bought died almost immediately. Clearly more research was required. I also think that I had been misled by an incident that occurred not long after the house was completed. One day Todd and I were walking around the back yard, talking about laying sod and where the gardens should go, when we came across the little lean-to where the workers had rested and built a fire during their lunch breaks. It quickly became clear that the ever-present “cup of noodles” was not the only thing that they had been having for lunch. There were about a dozen little marijuana plants growing around their little campsite, some of which were already about six inches tall. We dug them up, put them in pots and gave them back to the guys that had “planted” them, but at the time I thought, wow, things grow really fast here.

Unfortunately I learned pretty quickly that all plants are not created equal, and very little else, other than peaches, ever grew as readily as those little marijuana plants. So we took a gardening class offered by a couple of friends who had a farm in Lake Ziruhuen,  a beautiful, pristine lake about 1/2 an hour from Patzcuaro. The lake Ziruhuen area is also colder than Patzcuaro and faces many of the same gardening challenges, so we felt that we were on the right track.  We took soil samples to our class and analyzed them, and we learned about what would, and would likely not, grow in Corazon de Durazno.



Peaches In Abundance



Fern Garden, A Rare Early Success


Armed with all this new information we were ready to start again. Recently friends from Erongaricuaro, another little town around Lake Patzcuaro, had told us about a wonderful  vivero in a small town about an hour from us, called Lombardia. The nursery there is huge, with acres and acres of plants to choose from. It is also a wholesaler for the surrounding viveros so the prices were fantastic. The man that owns it was wonderfully friendly and helpful and also very honest in telling us which plants would not do well in our area.


pict 001

Vivero In Lombardia


We still made a couple of mistakes, trying to grow things that the nursery owner had told us were probably not a good idea, but overall we were much more successful this time around. After quizzing all the neighbours in the area about their gardens we had more realistic expectations this time as well. We knew that the plants were going to have to be coddled and would not grow quickly so we managed not to be too impatient and frustrated.



The Secret Garden


As it turned out we discovered that it takes about a year for anything new to really become established in Corazon de Durazno. We bought a lot of cactus and succulents as well as other plants so that we would have something growing in the interim and eventually we managed to make a very pretty yard.



Back Yard



Front Yard


  1. Thank you, we really had fun doing the yard. I still miss the house.

    1. I'm sorry,yes, it was our house. We sold it and moved to San Miguel de Allende about a year ago. I like it here but I also miss Patzcuaro, our house, and our life there.

  2. Fortunately, someone else does all the work in my garden. Voltaire would not be pleased.

  3. LOL,is that why it is so picture perfect? Actually I've found, much to my surprise, that gardening is quite relaxing.