How quickly April has rolled around.
After an unusually hot and dry March, true to song, April showers have begun.
It’s on and off so far which means that plenty of planting can be done in between cups of tea and researching. An app called Garden Plan Pro by growveg has been very useful as it updates planting advice according to your location, and allows you to make a precise, to-scale map of your garden complete with plants from their fairly extensive list.
Compared with simply having all the information in your head or on a piece of paper, this excels because it is easy to change and update. It’s also quite fun.
The chickens still haven’t layed any eggs but the tractor is working well. A local restaurant has been kind enough to agree to fill a bucket of food scraps once a week for us will which we are using to partly feed the hens. At the moment it takes them around 3 days to clear the ground with not much green left. Then we move them along and plant something.
Last month was the crucial time for potato planting. Almost all of the other plots on La Vega had big tractors come in and till the land and spread cucho (shit), then planted potatoes and raked everything over. We didn’t really want to do this for a number of reasons:
1. Tilling the land exposes worms, beneficial insects and microorganisms to the light which means that birds may come and eat them/ they die
2. Tilling disrupts the soil structure and fungal networks
3. It can help to germinate weed seeds so the weeding war is never won
4. We didn’t have enough to plant anyway if the whole field was to be turned over like this
The plan was always to use a no-dig system, whereby the weeds are smothered using cardboard or similar, then layered on the top goes organic matter, compost, mulch. This way the weeds get little to no light which means they die underground and add to the organic matter, rather than resurfacing and constantly being a problem.
Side note: ‘weeds’ is just a blanket term for unwanted plants, but of course they have their place too!
Instead, we borrowed a strimmer from some local friends to mow the area we wanted to plant, then simply placed the potatoes on top of the ground, with a handful of well-rotted compost each, and a huge smothering of hay. This is known as the Ruth Stout method, from a wonderful woman who founded ‘no-work gardening’. What’s not to love? Here’s the original video of her explaining the method, well worth a watch.
So in total we have planted 25kg of potatoes, which is a lot of potatoes. Apparently harvests can be up to 20 times the planting amount, so it’s a good thing we really love potatoes.
Despite this hefty amount, there is still so much space left on La Vega. It’s 100m long and nearly 4m wide. Because we only managed to get the space about a month ago, we missed the key window of bed preparation that would have ideally been done in winter. So now seed sowing, planting and bed making have all come at once. I found this quite stressful at first because I felt sad that we wouldn’t be able to plant the space how I’d envisioned and felt worried that we wouldn’t have any veg.
But then I remembered that this was almost exactly the same position we were in last year with the garden behind our house. We arrived in March, it was overrun with brambles, yet somehow we managed to bash them all, build up soil, and harvest vegetables throughout summer and autumn. So it’s okay. And for now, we will use that garden to plant what we have whilst creating the beds in La Vega.
Because of the no-dig method we’re using, it will be initially slower to create the beds, as we have to source cardboard (salvaged from a giant industrial bin outside one of the big shopping centres), then add cucho, compost or mulch to a high enough degree that we can plant into it. A kind local farmer drove his tractor down to the plot with a cartload of fresh cowshit – with me sitting in between the crate and the tractor – and dumped it at the front, something that will hopefully happen multiple times as this entire cartload was only enough for about two beds.
Anyway, there’s less of a feeling of urgency now we have decided to focus on utilising the back garden and we are not pressuring ourselves to try to open a fermentation business and regenerate a piece of land all at the exact same time. Phew.
The other day we did a seed swap with Anna and Signe, with Anna’s bountiful collection of wonderous semillas making our little tupperware look quite pitiful! But we were so grateful to swap and share knowledge and tips, and left feeling very inspired for the planting season. And of course, to save plenty for next year too.
Some seeds we sowed indoors last month sadly died due to something called ‘damping off’, where the seeds get too wet with not enough air circulation or light. So all of the barbentane aubergine, rainbow chilies, mixed peppers, jalapeños and black beauties are gone. It was honestly a very emotional time. But this is something we have to face as beginner gardeners and move on from. So plan B is to get some pre-grown seedlings of aubergine, chilli and pepper when they become available. Building a greenhouse would also definitely help. It’s on the ever-expanding project list!
For now, the garden has a nice little variety of plants, some almost ready, some only just planted.
garlic, oca, leek, purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, chard, calendula, parsley, courgette..
..mizuna, lemonbalm, onion, parsnip, peas, garlic chives, sorrel, beetroot and kale
And if they all survive, we will be very happy.
Some seeds are round the back of the house in an extremely makeshift semillero (cold frame/seed starting place) which will hopefully work too. Below are some potted flower seeds like Aquilegia and ‘dwarf fantasy’ sunflower from realseeds.
Do you have any tips for successful seed starting?
Peace and Pollen x
Oh!! And the other night we saw an exciting new animal in the garden. It had a long bushy tail as big as it’s body and a round face with brown fur. The closest thing I can find on the internet is called a fisher cat. Kind of like a mink. Still searching for the Spanish/Asturian name and if that’s really what we saw…