Design 2:4

The Veg Garden

Location: Finca Florecer,
Zone: 0 - 1
Date Started: January 2013
Date completed:May 2015
Design Process: SADIM

Survey

Annual vegetables are not my main concern, It is nice to have some home grown vegetables but we are very lucky to be in an agricultural area that produce good quality fruit and vegetables. In my village we have an 'Agrobotiga' or farm shop, were you can buy or sell your locally grown produce. Much of it has not travelled more than 3 km from where it was grown. Most of the produce is seasonal and it's very exciting when a particular fruit or vegetable arrives on the shelf. Of course they do sell produce which has been imported to keep up with the consumer market and veg that is hard to grow here such as carrots. But these you can recognise from their uniformity, and early appearance. Local standards have not stretched to producing organic fruit and vegetables at this point in time but on the whole the transport and packaging costs out weigh the small amounts of chemical fertiliser used in production. A few of the local farmers are producing a commercial fruit crop of mandarins, peaches or olives and the vegetable are grown between the rows as a surplus crop. The Agrobotiga is only open two mornings a week, to make sure I don't forget the day, a few local friends and I meet for coffee and a chat and then do our shopping. I also get a supply of waste vegetables and leaves to give to my chickens.

I most certainly would not like to grow vegetables for a cash crop or as market gardener. But I do like to have a few summer annual vegetables growing closer to the house. I have been growing my vegetable in the herb garden but find that in the summer it is too far a way from the house in which to collect the harvest. Before the house was built I was living in the caravan and although the caravan was on the same terrace as the house that extra 50 metres is becoming too hard to cross in the heat of the summer months when the harvest is at its peak. I am loosing a lot, due to lack of attention. I am also running out of room in the herb garden to plant the annual vegetables, as the space is being occupied more by the perennial and the herbaceous and shaded by the fruit trees.

Analysis

This is Zone 1, the most intensively cultivated area on the whole land, it is close to the house and is being used as the out door living area.

The patio is gravelled and covered with wire to hang shade netting and support vines to grow and eventually cover the area.

There is a play area for Georgia with a swing and a slide, and in the summer an area to put up the plastic swimming pool (3 metres diameter).

As with all the land the ground is hard and compacted with little hummus and a lot of stones.

There are a lot of hard spiky drought tolerant plants in the boarders which I planted when I first arrived to stop anyone falling off the high terrace on to the terrace below.

The grey-water from the house flows under the patio area and at the moment, flows out onto the terrace below and caught in a 200 litre container to be used for watering the fruit trees.

There are two olive trees in the area and a male carob tree.

The location is a south facing terrace with little shade from the house to the east, to the west it has a wind-block from an olive and carob tree. The terrace wall and olive tree to the north will also give shelter from the strong, cold winter winds.

The house has the original a rainwater catchment well, situated in this area, at the moment it is broken and doesn't hold water but in time I will repair it, the overflow from this can be used to water the garden.

Wants and needs

  • I want to create a space close to the house to grow summer vegetables that will be easy to harvest in the hot summer months

  • Build a tree house for Georgia to play in and escape from her mum!

  • A patio area which can be used for out-door cooking and entertaining

  • Cover the patio with deciduous vines to create shade in the summer and let light into the house during the winter months

  • Introduce more flowers to attract beneficial insects, create a point of focus and beauty

Limiting factors: SWOC Analysis

Strengths:

  • Close to the house

  • Used to this type of ground and have worked to improve it with prior success

  • South-facing terrace with good light

  • Protected from the strong north-westerly winter wind, but open to the summer breeze that comes off the sea

Weaknesses:

  • Not a lot of shade during the summer sun

  • Water supplied via hose pipe

  • Lots of bed-rock on the north side of the terrace

Opportunities:

  • To make an abundant oasis with lots of vegetable production only a few steps away from the kitchen

  • Create a shaded pathway using a stacking system, to access the play area in the summer

  • Introduce irrigation

  • To make a long standing arrangement that can grow over the years using succesion planting

  • Due to the planning of the Natural swimming pool, the paddling pool is soon to become redundant

Challenges:

  • Converting the hard, compacted and stony ground in to a fertile environment for the cultivation of annual vegetables

  • Money, Always a challenge!

Boundaries;

Although this is not the full extent of my Zone 1. For this design, I have decided to focus on just the area surrounding the the house, as this has the main function of providing for myself and my family on a daily basis. Due to the weather it is really zone 0 as this is where we spend 60 percent of the year here.

Field Map
Veg Garden Base Map
Principles and Ethics;

In the process of converting this space into the families vegetable garden, I will be using the principle of catching and storing energy my own energy by keeping the vegetables close to the kitchen. I will also be able to obtain a yield, better in this zone, than when the vegetables were grown in the herb garden due to ease of harvesting. In understanding that the herb garden was too far away from the house for me to maintain it on such an intensive level during the hottest months I have applied self-regulation and accepted the feedback.

As the kitchen is so close to this garden I will be able to use the washing up water as a renewable resource and in producing my own vegetables any waste produced will go either to the chickens or as a much needed green material for the compost piles which in turn will come back to the beds as mulch and fertiliser.

Design

Using the principles, from pattern to details and using the edge and valuing the marginal, I designed two planting beds that would fit into the space, giving me as much planting space as possible but also allowing access around the beds and to other parts of the garden, the design had to also work around the problem of the bedrock on the north side of the terrace.

I used the no-dig system as a small and and slow solution, which would grow over time in soil fertility.

Implementation

Stage one:

The first step was to create the horseshoe bed. I took apart the original beds Ⅲ and Ⅳ and digging into the patio area. I thought that I would have plenty of soil to work with, but to my amazement, after sieving out the stones, to use as a path around the bed, I was left with very little soil.

I brought in large rocks from the surrounding area to boarder the bed and then lined the bottom with cardboard to create a barrier against any weeds that might come through, saturating it well with water. On top of this, I added the sieved soil mixed with 4 sacs of well rotted donkey manure which I had collected from a friend.

Then the exciting job, to decide what type of plants I wanted to plant.

I chose seeds of vegetables that were hard to buy here and which I could save the seeds from for future use.

Marking out bed for seeds.

Stage 2

To enlarge the production of vegetables I started to design the S bed. This would enable me to make better crop rotation and more diversity of plants.

By designing the bed in an S shape. I could utilise the space better, create more edge and access all sides of the bed easily. In this shape I gain more planting area than I would have if they were straight.

I cleared and marked out the space for the S bed in April 2015.

I filled the bottom of the bed with as much waste material as I could find, Bits of old rotten tree stumps and kitchen waste went in to fill up the space.

Once the base was filled up I watered the area well and added some soil mixed with 8 sacs of compost and some well rotted donkey manure. 

I bought 8 bales of straw which I laid end to end and then cut the string and spread them out to cover the bed. 

Using more compost I made pockets in the straw and planted in vegetable plugs to start the bed off.

The total cost with all the straw and compost came to 80€ 

Maintenance

The vegetable garden was a great success. The amount of vegetables that we produced in the first year was amazing, it far surpassed the 80€ cost of materials, I didn't buy vegetables that summer or for the summers to come. 

We are very fortunate to have a local vegetable plug supplier in my neighbouring village, he as been a much needed source of information to me, for planting times. He know where I live and when I try to buy a vegetable plug that will not suit the appropriate planting time he'll tell to come back in a week or two. I have been buying vegetables from him for about 5 years now and have got used to him giving me more plugs than I have planned to plant, I have had to adjusted my order to cater for this, to stop, waste of plants and my time in finding a space to plant the surplus.

The patio area has really grown into itself. I was given some paving slabs which were enough to cover half of the space outside of the house. I bought some more the same (but a different colour) and laid them on a bed of sand. I planted grape vines at either end of the patio thinking they would grow fast to give shade in the summer, but for some reason they have never grown very much. The wisteria on the other hand has been amazing and in 5 years gave cover to 80% of sitting area. On the south-facing wall of the house I planted a kiwi (grafted with male and female shoots) which benefits from the shade of the wisteria, at first it was growing in a pot and it's growth became stunted. When I laid the patio slabs down I created planting beds along edge of the house and finally the kiwi got its roots in and is growing with vigour but has not flowered yet so I do not know which graft is female or male. I have planted another female kiwi at the east end of the house but this is still small.

On the west-facing wall of the house I have a passion flower which is rampant and will hopefully cover the wall in time. To the east is my wash area which has also developed over time. Due to the increased demand for the washing machine (washing the sheets for the cabin) and the need to dry the loads even in bad weather, this areas was covered and a jasmine grows over the roof. The run-off from this roof and the outlet from the washing machine supplies water to the strawberry/garlic bed.

Last season 2019, I had time to grow my own vegetables from organic seed. This was such an achievement for me. Although I did not have the surplus crops that I normally get from buying plugs, I had enough to supply the families needs with little waste, I also managed to collect enough seeds to replace what I had used.

I sit on the terrace before anyone else gets up in the morning. The view of the mountains changes everyday, it gives me a good idea of what the day will be like, in both the weather and my mental state, it is my point of meditation for the day to come.

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