Today was a momentous day – we started our veggie garden! It’s hard work but it’s worth it, knowing with every shovel of earth we are a little bit closer to eating our own organic veg 🙂
So our huerto (Spanish for vegetable garden) is – obviously – based on the principals of permaculture. As most of you know I am an Apprentice Permaculturist so was happy to work under the Head Permaculturist’s guidance while he got on with fitting the door to the solar battery cupboard! One of the first steps with permaculture, whatever you are doing, is planning: the better you design it, the better it will serve you and the more yield it will give you for the least effort. It appears that the current stage is where most of the effort goes – hard digging on a hot spring day!
So we are following a design for a mandala garden from Linda Woodrow’s book the Permaculture Home Garden. The concept is that the veggie beds are circular (which is the most efficient use of space) and in a keyhole design so that you can reach all over the bed either by walking round the edge or by standing in the centre. This is so that you never have to step on the bed and therefore avoid compacting the soil which would mean re-digging every season. Each bed is 4 metres from side to side and there are 6 beds, arranged in equal spacing around a central circle of the same size.
After marking the outline of each of the beds, we chose one to start working on and then dug a path all the way round the edge, just wide enough to be comfortable to walk on. The earth that was dug out from the path was chucked inside the circle to allow more earth for planting. What this also does is to raise the bed up a bit, above the level of the path, so that in the case of heavy rain, the water will drain off into the path and the bed itself will not get waterlogged.
Once the path was dug and the earth evened out on the bed, it was time for one of the principal concepts in the world of permaculture: MULCHING! Mulching, a wonderful and very important word which is becoming a big part of my life. It basically means “composting in place” and is a great example of another key concept in permaculture: MULTIPLE FUNCTIONS. All you do is to lay organic material over the earth and look at all the functions this covers:
- Protects the earth from the harsh rays of the sun to stop from scolding and drying out, keeping it cool and damp and stopping evaporation
- Allows any water to seep in gradually to soak the earth in a more even and effective way
- Provides protection for worms and beneficial insects
- The organic material will decompose over time and enrich the soil
- A thick layer of mulch will also provide wind protection for seedlings until they grow a little stronger.
Good materials for mulching are hay, cardboard (recycling!), paper (watch out for prints which may contain toxic ink), or any garden refuse that you may have from trimming back other plants. We are using hay as we have a few bales of it on the land right now. Don’t forget to wet the soil before starting to mulch, and if you are mulching quite heavily then you can wet in between layers too.
So now we have a nicely prepared bed awaiting the first round of veggies which are to be planted this weekend! Yum yum yum yum…..