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Bulgarian Gardens - To Grow or Buy

Bulgarian gardens are typically employed for providing food and drink, livestock and if there is a woman at home then flowers will also be added for colour.

The work involved in the upkeep for most Bulgarian gardensis very much a year round operation and only when snow is on the ground does the gardener get a well earned break.

 

What is grown?

The produce from garden to garden varies very little and probably the most commonly seen vegetables and fruit will be tomatoes and cucumbers followed by hot chillies and sweet peppers. Butternut squash, pumpkin, aubergines and melons are also found in many gardens. These make up some of the main summer crops and of course most gardens will have a selection of fruit trees and grape vines, however the fruit, in particular the grapes will be harvested for the seasons Rakia stock.

Throughout the rest of the year most Bulgarian gardens will have onions and garlic along with lettuce, spinach, horseradish and herbs such as dill, mint and parsley.

Potatoes are grown by some but this can prove to be an endless task in itself due to the menacing presence of the Colorado beetle which just adores being around potato plants where it will devour them and also lay its eggs on the underside of the plants leaves, this eventually destroys any chance of harvesting the crop unless a suitable pesticide is applied.

Grow your own - or buy?

The question of whether it works out to be more economical to grow your own produce or purchase it from the markets is very much dependant on a number of factors which should be considered.

Decide what you want and how long you want it for! If you have 30 tomato plants in your garden then you will have a large fresh daily supply of tomatoes. This would not cause a problem for the locals as they will have several old recipes which will enable them to make use of their surplus stock to consume through the winter months when tomatoes and other summer season produce becomes expensive.  The same can be said of many other fruits and vegetables which will be stored in jars for eating later.

If your intension is just to use the produce from day to day without storing and preserving the excess, then it is more likely that buying your fruit and vegetables from the market will prove to be more economical.

Bear in mind that for most Bulgarian gardens, the upkeep is very hard work and it is ongoing, heavy rain and storms can be heartbreakingly damaging and with some parts of Bulgaria suffering from water shortages during long hot dry spells, it can be an impossible and stressful undertaking to prevent your garden from dying. The cost of feeding the garden should also be considered and the labourious task of controlling the rapidly growing weeds can at times make you wonder why you started in the first place.

What's it to be?

Taking all the above into account, there is nothing more rewardingly satisfying than going into your garden and picking some of the home grown foodstuffs which you have nurtured for all this time, and if you are prepared to learn from the natives the art of preservation then you will again be rewarded for all the hard work that you have put in.

If preserving is definitely not for you but you still want to grow your own, then do it in moderation. Don't copy your neighbours in terms of quantity and just aim at planting around a quarter to half the amount as what he or she has, this way you will not be inundated with food which you have cooked eaten in every possible way. Maybe speak with fellow expats and most would be happy to share their experiences and knowledge of Bulgarian gardens