Tag Archives: Beneficial Insect Plants

News from Busso…

Today brings welcome news from Italy. The very nature of our journey means that we are connecting with, working with and then inevitably parting way with friends, couch surf hosts and wwoof hosts along the way. We wonder often how the projects are going that we leave behind. We can of course receive the odd update via email but its just not the same as seeing with our own eyes. Some of our permaculture blitz ideas were met with caution by our hosts, seen as “crazy” gardening or “cocktail” gardens. “Let’s see” was a common used phrase when a new experiment had been planted out.

Luckily Giovanni was very open to the idea of a new synergistic garden, less work, less water, less disease, no chemicals, no digging, more food were all promised once the initial set up was complete. You can read the original blog post here.

The pictures above show the set up process followed by the photographs below, just received from Giovanni, taken only last night, with the comments that it hasn’t even rained since we left – looks like that thick layer of moisture holding mulch is doing the trick…

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Synergistic Gardens at La Fattoria dell’Autosufficienza

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I have just finished a week volunteering with Elena in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy.  Our main focus was in the vegetable gardens.  Elena follows Emilia Hazelip’s methods adapted to a temperate climate from Masanobu Fukuoka’s natural farming techniques.  A term referred to as Synergistic Gardening which is a fancy way of saying self fertilising garden.  The main focus is building soil fertility.  Here are the main principles;

  • Permanent raised beds with the ability to reach the whole bed without stepping on it.  Keyholes are best use of space but if you have room strips are easy to work with
  • No bare soil – permanent soil cover using organic mulch like straw or sheep’s wool.  I believe a living mulch could work really well too.  Adding even more life to the beds.
  • No monoculture – massive diversity in plants for all the obvious reasons; Resilience, beneficial insects etc.  There is no particular planting patterns it seems.
  • No chemicals! (pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, hormones)
  • No tilling – yes that means no digging (apart from the original prep)!
  • No added compost (with the possible exception of demanding transplants)
  • No treating plants (i.e. for insects, illness, etc).
  • No pulling out plants (except for root vegetables)

It actually seems like a lot of rules but it’s pretty simple once the beds are set up – keep it covered, mix things up when sowing and interfere with the garden as little as possible.  If you want to remove the odd weed then cut it at the base letting the roots stay.

Helping Elena made me realise that keeping annuals can actually be very easy.  I helped her do her yearly irrigation system check, her yearly weed (by chopping at the base of the stem), yes once a year, and the rest of the time we were scattering seeds.  She likes to observe what does well in what situation rather then referring to a companion planting book.

There are a few logical sowing methods that I observed like salad plants taking up most of the edges for ease of regular picking and some larger rooted plants in the higher positions with more soil below.

Whilst walking around the gardens I thought to myself that one packet of seeds is roughly equivalent in cost to one vegetable, like a fennel or a pumpkin or something similar.  So compared with the effort that we put into annual gardening we may as well just scatter seeds and hope for the best.  If two come good then we have saved ourselves the cost of one vegetable and for the very very least effort spent.  Even less if we are saving our own seed!

Thank you for having me for a week and good luck with the continuing success of your experiments at La Fattoria dell’Autosufficienza

Foraging and Preserving

Most of our carrots seem to be ready and we’re picking them as we need them at the moment…stacking in time!!!  Nina has been busy foraging hazels, crab apples and blackberries from around The Patch and has made some delicious jam that I’m sure we will eat into the winter!  The green roof has taken well and we are keen to get it finished now.  We’re now on the hunt for plenty of cardboard and organic mulch for the fruit tree’s in the food forest.  We will be creating a guild around each tree with a large area of cardboard covered in some well rottened poo and straw mulch or 18 day compost if we can get some made up soon.  We will then plant some fruit, herbaceous perennials and other supporting plants.  This will create small islands within the food forest that in time will be expanded to form a large and balanced eco-system.

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August – Pulling up Potatoes…

We have been away from The patch for quite a few weeks but on returning during August was a great surprise and the harvest was excellent from the veg garden.  We were able to give my Granddad a nice big veg box for his birthday.  One of the great reasons for growing fresh organic vegetables is that you can supply your friends and family with surplus…

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July – Sudden abundance

The first week in July and already our vegetable garden is producing an abundance of tasty food.  Nina’s medlar has settled in nicely.  Everything is mulched to hold moisture and suppress those volunteer plants.  We seem to have no pests eating anything as Nina carefully chose where to position plants to benefit one another and exploit those niches…

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