17 November 2006

Our vegetable gardens.

The first time we had a mini-digger on site at the new house, we used the water retention plan we'd worked on to shape and terrace about a half acre at the back to make a potager and cut the chestnut poles from the trees there to make the raised beds. The paths followed the lines we'd made with an A frame to act as mini-swales to help water retention in the beds.

At that time I had only just started using my computer as the solar panel installation had to wait for the completion of the roof. I only had a little digital camera, so all the photos I took at that time are very poor quality. But you can see in the photo on the right how our sloping land was terraced to slow down the loss of water on the site and to create the terraced vegetable beds.

We used all the branches of the trees at the base of the beds or smaller branches as a wood mulch to improve the condition of the soil and to improve the drainage. Every time the beds are harvested I let the chickens clear it up, then rake the stones and wood from it to the bottom of the bed near the poles to improve the drainage and help the retaining poles last longer.

We clean out our goat shed once a year and leave half of the dry manure to rot down for compost, and the other half we use to spread over the wood mulch or between established plants to keep the ground clean and keep in the humidity. I never dig, but rake the earth gently to clear out any big stones and turn the rotted manure over the first 10cms of the earth to make a flat planting area.

Our 50 odd chickens roam all over the garden, but have to cover up salad and all the cabbage family with wire cages to protect them.The birds to a brilliant job of keeping the weeds down and spreading the mulch when it rots, spreading their own contribution in small doses at the same time. We have to put sticks into cover anything newly planted, but as soon as plants are established, the chickens leave them alone and the sticks rot down easily after a year or so.

With good planting schedules, storage, drying and bottling we eat mostly our own veg all year round.

We've recently restarted using our old garden at the cabin because we've run out of space here, stream water is on tap and there's enough room to put up a polytunnel for early veg. We also grow plenty of fresh veg for the pigs and share all the the space with two sets of gardenless neighbours.

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