Archive | October 2013

Gardening in Portugal – Lasagna Beds

cabbages

A  year after this blog was written-result!

How do you get rid of all your Autumn garden rubbish; the coffee grinds from all the local cafes; the cardboard from the boxes you moved house in and several months supply of chicken bedding and poo and end up with good soil?Cook up a lasagna bed of course!

I ‘ve never really believed in digging. Although I actually enjoy it and find it satisfying to look at a newly turned bed, to me it has never seemed to be a very logical or natural activity. In my London days, I had an allotment in South London and it was very interesting observing  the different gardening styles og the allotment members, who came from all corners of the world. Although digging was generally considered to be a virtuous activity and a tidy allotment something to be admired, the people who grew the best vegetables didn’t dig at all.   One of my allotment neighbours, an elderly Jamaican lady, piled up her soil with anything organic she could find, much of it chopped up with a machete by her Italian husband and never put a fork to the soil.  She had made  a wonderful dark soil, and talked about her plants as though they were babies needing sustenance. She would take her seedlings and gently part the rich, moisture holding organic mulch which she had built up over the years and gently arrange their roots. You could see that they would be away in no time and they were. She planted things very close together, so the weeds didn’t have any room and all her vegetables were huge. And yet she was always getting into terrible trouble for her untidy plot!  I was impressed and tried to emulate her methods with varying degrees of success. I am now determined to give it another go.

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Our house came already terraced at the back and this is where I am making my vegetable garden.The soil isn’t bad. It is a mix of both the white and the red clay that we get here on the Barrocal, an area of the Algarve unique for its limestone and clay soils.  It’s reasonable on nutrients and good when it rains, but bakes hard in the sun. But having spent a year growing vegetables on it, I am not really satisfied. I want to be organic and the nutrients aren’t enough. My neighbours plant straight into the soil  at the appropriate times of year, often using artificial fertilisers. Favas, the broad beans that are often dried and used throughout the year grow well if it rains, as do peas. I am not sure if a lasagna bed will work here. Will it rot down? Will it hold enough water?  I haven’t seen anyone local even making compost, although I have heard it discussed as something that used to be done. The farmers do plough their weeds back into the soil, but I often see green waste next to the bins.  We will see. It’s an experiment.

So, I began with the cardboard boxes I had saved from the packing. Then I loaded on all the fifteen foot high wild daisy stalks I mentioned earlier, then a load of chicken poo mixed with wood shavings, then lots of olive leaves, followed by a load of horse manure kindly donated free by a friend.  Then I was tired and sat and watched the chickens trying to undo all my layers!

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More of the chickens later!

A local cafe, kindly offered to donate the coffee grinds it collects in the week and the newspapers left by their clients.  So that went on as well. It looked a bit untidy for a while!

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I have nearly finished it now. Just a bit more chicken poo and shavings I think. I can’t decide whether to put black plastic on top or not. It is rotting well underneath after a week of heavy rainfall recently, but the top stalks are still very much in evidence. We will have to see what the winter brings, but I hope to plant my courgettes and tomatoes in it next year!  Hopefully it will help me to make an edible lasagna!  I will let you know how I get on.

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Gardening in Portugal – One of 50 sheds of grey

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I’ve  always wanted my very own shed. Not one stuffed with children’s bicycles, old fairy lights and half used paint cans.  I hanker after a shed where I can put all my gardening stuff away and find it without falling over the aforesaid objects.  So (I’m sorry I can’t find the little thingie that goes over the n)  and I  found ourselves driving up and down the Algarve looking for sheds. To our dismay, the humble shed seems to be a luxury item here. Even without a floor, the cheapest 6 by 4 four shed we could find was about 240 euros and that was without a floor or delivery!  After a lot of deliberation and not without regret, since we like to buy local we found that it was cheaper to buy a shed from England over the internet and get it delivered than to buy it here. It arrived and went up like lego kit.

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We painted it grey, to match the windows on the house and it wasn’t until I did this that my sister pointed out  the irony…hence the blog title!   I got cracking organising it.  Old tin cans saved over from the cat’s food were duly employed to take my plant labels, bits of wire and clips.  I screwed up a bank of old clothes hooks to hold hand tools. I never really realised that most hand tools have a hole in the end, so you can tie a string through it to hang them. I am a pretty untidy gardener, but am hoping that having the shed will encourage me to put my tools away at night so I can find everything the next morning.

The shed has a window with the most beautiful view over the Algarve countryside. Although it’s  built on a slope, there is a little platform on the West side, sheltering me from the morning sun and it is here I sit, potting seeds ready for the Spring and making cuttings from my neighbour’s donations.  Although, this shed is too small for entertaining guests I am planning a hippy shed at the bottom of the garden. Senor Faz-Tudo has never really been much of a hippy fan, despite me being one when I met him and I have a desire to return to the mirrored indian hangings and joss sticks of my youth by creating a sort of  New Age den at the bottom of the garden where I can entertain my children and nieces and nephews  in true old hippie stylie.  Watch this space….