martedì 2 novembre 2010

Progress update #3: Moving outside.

Seeing as how almost all of our planned developments for inside the house have been reaching completion status, our attention has recently been cast on the space just outside our dwelling. There are currently two main entrances into our portion of the house, both of which are separated by a space of 2 meters and lead out to a raised courtyard. This courtyard connects with the portion of the house currently occupied by Aureliano's grandmother Carmelina, and also provides access to the stairs which lead out to the path taking visitors to and from to the entrance/exit point of the property. This path also takes visitors past the garden/orchard, which we would like to put more focus and attention on, but only once our dwelling space and immediate surrounding zone has been more or less perfected in terms of functionality and presentation.
We believe that perfection of the developments in our immediate sphere of influence, and slow step-by-step outward movement of our attention and involvement away from our starting point is a very effective technique which can be used to approach project development. This attitude of starting small, perfecting what you already have and only then moving outwards, also resonates with the sayings of Geoff Lawton and Robyn Francis (creators of the Permaculture Research Institute and Djanbung Gardens, respectively) who were mine and Aureliano's main teachers of Permaculture in Australia.--|||||Sergie||||| 
And so, it was decided that we had reached a point in time suitable for the expansion of our focus to encompass the area immediately surrounding our dwelling which, in our case, included a 3 meter by 60cm unused garden bed. The garden bed had not been used or maintained in any way for quite some time, and therefore had become quite overgrown with weeds. Seeing as how it was in very close proximity to our kitchen, it was deemed a very important growing area with lots of potential for being used, and so we decided to take the steps necessary in order to transform the overgrown under-utilized space into a nutrient-rich garden bed. Below is an overview of the steps taken with several photographs showing the process. 

The garden in its original state, overgrown with weeds spreading out onto
the pavement.

The weeds were cut and placed directly on the ground where they grew.
This is done to kill them off and speed up their decomposition into plant
available nutrients. A layer of slightly composted sheep manure and wood-chips
was then applied, along with a scattering of leaf mulch and a covering of fresh
food scraps. The combined dead weeds, manure, wood-chips, leaf mulch and food
 scraps will decompose slowly over time and build a nutrient-rich soil for the plants. 

The garden bed with the entrance to our dining/office
area in the background.

Some more leaf mulch over the top of the food scraps.

All of this is covered by wet cardboard, which stops any weeds trying to
penetrate from below.

Aureliano breaking apart the cane which was found
in the roof when our kitchen was being repaired. The
wet cardboard is covered with this cane and another
generous layer of leaf mulch.

The mulched bed.

We have observed large numbers of snails
and slugs in the area, and so have created a
barrier around the pile made from spiky chestnut
and crushed walnut shells which should deter them
from entering. Some species of fragrant herbs (such as
rosemary, lavender, thymes, sages and various "balms")
will be chosen for planting as they also deter slugs.
Some old semi-rotted logs were found and placed
around the perimeter to provide food for beneficial
fungi which will improve the general structure and
water absorption quality of the soil.
The old roof tiles seen in the photo were placed to cover-up the irregularities
in the wall (caused by the tree root breaking apart the bricks), but also to
provide a habitat for predators such as lizards and beetles. Predators such
as these keep the insect population in general check and therefore make sure
that no one specie grows to uncontrollable population levels to become a pest.
 The old logs also act as a habitat for the predators.

A rosemary plant purchased at our local nursery, and wild spearmint and
sage cuttings which were harvested during our recent trip to Elia's property.

Aureliano planting the wild sage...

....and Sergie planting the rosemary.
(Rampant and generally hard-to-control species such as
the wild mint should not be planted in areas used for
vegetable growing)

We think they look pretty happy.

A full plan for what will be planted in the bed is still underway, and will take some time to formulate since we are currently researching possibilities for planting local traditional varieties. Our possibilities are also limited at this time because we are now heading into November, but for now we can say that the general desire is to have a bed where edible plants such as salads and herbs can be grown for regular picking to be used in the kitchen close-by. After enough research has been done on the possible varieties and a few nurseries have been visited, a post will be typed up showing our plan for the garden bed.

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