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Grow Carrots They Said… – Kellers in Africa

Kellers in Africa

our life in Zambia

Grow Carrots They Said…

It’s easy they said!

Before I tell you my sad tale, there’s something you should know about Africa.  Everything is bigger here.  The trees are bigger.  The animals are bigger.  The insects are bigger.  Everything that can be bigger IS.

Then there’s something you should know about me. I can’t grow anything. At all. Horticulture hates me. Bring me the vegetables and I’ll give you an entree that Jamie Oliver wouldn’t turn down. Bring me the plant and it will shrivel on the way in the door, begging for mercy all the way.

In case you thought I was exaggerating.

In case you thought I was exaggerating.

However, I firmly believe “nothing ventured, nothing gained” and this last year I determined to conquer my nemesis: the vegetable garden. After talking to a variety of home gardeners I found a general consensus: Carrots. Anyone can grow carrots. After considering the fact that preschoolers even grow carrots from carrot tops, I decided even I could not screw this up. I sallied forth with seeds: carrot, onion, and cauliflower (because I am a masochist at heart). I cleared, mulched, and tenderly planted those tiny seeds in the soil. I’ll confess that I was skeptical. After decades of failure (my preschool carrot didn’t survive the week) could I hope to see those seeds germinate? Survive??  Produce some FOOD?!

While I waited to see if Tim’s fond epithet “the Minus Touch” might be overcome with a little care and patience, Monica planted some flowers. Apparently the plant kingdom does not hold one’s unfortunate genes against them.

white fluffy flowers and pink puffy flowers. I am such a horticulturist. Ok, Monica grew these.  I had nothing to do with it.

white fluffy flowers and pink puffy flowers.
I am such a horticulturist.
Ok, Monica grew these. I had nothing to do with it.

With time, water, and sunshine my carrots did grow.  And much to my surprise they actually looked… great.  Lacey green fans promising a juicy, crisp harvest before long.  As the carrot tops began to expand I decided to take a little sneak peek at my gardening victory.

Frankenstein's salad.

Frankenstein’s salad.

Apparently the nematodes are bigger in Africa is well.

Freakiest carrot I have ever seen and apparently NOT edible (unless you like ingesting nematode egg sacks).

Freakiest carrot I have ever seen and apparently NOT edible (unless you like ingesting nematode egg sacks).


Nothing ventured, nothing gained. At least we have flowers!!

Olivia takes time to smell the... whatever those flowers are :)

Olivia takes time to smell the… whatever those flowers are 🙂

Please share your gardening failures so I don’t feel like such a loser.  You know… unless you don’t have any of those stories… in which case you can just go away and enjoy your garden.

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a wife, a mommy, a missionary, a teacher, a writer. I'm living a colorful life in Africa.

Latest posts by Ashley Keller (see all)


  1. ROFL. This is hysterical Ash! I too cannot grow anything. I kill everything. Everything.

  2. Love it! My Grandma can grow anything! I’m trying my hand at stuff now that I’m not in the desert anymore. 😉 We’ll see how that goes. 🙂

  3. Ashley, you write really well. Really enjoying your blogs. thanks for sharing your insights about Zambia and farming. We live in a suburb where you can practically reach from your porch and touch the neighbor’s garage. No room in the yard for gardening so we have about 5 Earthboxes on our deck. We planted them with nice vegetables last spring and used a “certified organic” potting soil that turned out to be just plain old mulch. Each and every plant turned yellow and died.

  4. Oh no! I just lost a whole bed of green beans to “damping off” or something like that. Gardening is not for the faint of heart!

  5. Ashely,
    I am enjoying catching up on your blog. Yes, this is Mrs. D from Tucson. I love gardening, and generally have pretty good luck, but this year has not been one of the best. Part of the reason is that I am now teaching at a poor school, and have become an ELL teacher, with a class that is half Hispanic and half Muslim, primarily from Somalia, with one from Rwanda. He remembers that only a year ago he was herding goats in Africa. I have to work long hours to keep up with what my class needs. This month, we are learning about seeds and plants. After this Fall break, we will plant chia seeds in “Chia Pets” such as a Ninja Turtle and a SpongeBob! We will also try onions, both from seeds and bulbs, spinach, and squash. I will confess, however, I have never, ever been able to grow carrots! Radishes, yes, and potatoes even. But no carrots. They need very light, sandy soil, and you know our AZ caliche. My hollyhocks are the envy of the neighborhood, and I have lovely violets, marigolds, petunias, and strawberries. NO carrots. So don’t feel bad about that one.
    This year, I saw a book at the library and it showed how to grow a garden in a hay bale. I still had some left over from 4-H, so I soaked them with fertilizer and planted my seeds and seedlings. It was a complete and utter failure. The author had wonderful pictures of hay bale gardens on concrete, on rooftops, in front yards. All were thriving, and none looked like my pathetic plants. Maybe when I retire I will try again. For now, I am too busy trying to get 3rd-graders to read above a first-grade level.
    You probably keep up on Molly, but I will say, after talking to her on Skype, that her challenges teaching English in Kosovo are far greater than mine! She has your can-do attitude, though, and keeps soldiering on.
    Keep up the great work, Ashley! I am envious that you can teach teachers to bring the Gospel into the classroom. Wish I could here in the States. TTFN.

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