The Wild Garden

I think most people would have difficulty recognizing our garden. There are no neatly kept beds filled with straight rows of vegetables. Instead our garden follows the contour lines of the landscape and all plants are mixed with other vegetables and weeds. This morning our garden looked like this:

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The work on the garden started last year in October. Cris’ uncle was visiting for a couple of weeks and although he’s in his sixties, he’s a real beast with a machete so we asked him to clear a part of the land that was overgrown. Back then we didn’t know this would become our main garden. We had a test garden in another part of the farm and it was clear that we had to relocate it, because it was quite a climb to get to it. We just put it there because it was an open space and we had to start at least something going.

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After cutting down the regrowth (you can see the huge amounts of sticks on the ground) the area turned out to be quite a nice, gentle sloped valley. Rainwater naturally collects in this area, it is right next to our new valley dam and we’re planning to build our house about 20 meters away from it, so all factors pointed to this area becoming part of our zone 1 garden.

Next we let the pigs in to root everything up and manure the area.

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Then it was up to us to work the landscape. To minimize erosion and maximize rainwater infiltration of the soil we decided to swale and terrace the whole area. The terraces keep water flows calm and in severe rain events the swales transport excess water to our valley dam.

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The bottom of the garden is lower than the wall of the valley dam, so last week we dug a little pond there as water collection feature. Hopefully it will attract frogs and other hunters to help us keep insect populations controlled.

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After we had some rain in May, we started planting and seeding the swales and terraces. Below you can see the first papayas planted in one of the swales.

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Today, just a few months later they’re over a meter tall already. On the right there’s a pigeon pea, in the middle a small pineapple.

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This is how it looked this morning. In the front the recently dug beds and the little pond on the right. Behind it the green jungle of the garden that was planted some months before.

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A few more examples of what is growing: if you look carefully you can spot tomatoes. Carrots are on the right, but a bit out of focus.

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On the left some acelga (I believe it’s called chard in English) and carrots on the right. The acelga is eaten quite a bit, as is the case with most leaf vegetables we have tried. We don’t have a sufficiently balanced insect population yet.

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A cucumber climbing a tree…

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Water melons as living ground cover…

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And a little patch of amaranth which we mainly grow to multiply our seed store.

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There are more things growing, but we don’t want to make this post too long. The main thing we like to show is that life is picking up again. The reasons why we have such a wild garden we’ll post about on another day, there’s a whole story behind that as well.

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