Baratzea: Week 16
The next week I made frequent visits to new plot, just to look at it, measure it, see what is there, and work out way is North (it didn’t correspond a tall with my intuitive feel). There wasn’t much left but was left was of value. A strawberry bed, a couple of artichoke plants already as tall as me, a couple of rose and hydrangea bushes, a decent amount of compost and most importantly 5x 200 litre water barrels rain fed from the roof of the garage and interconnected by a series of pipes. I met the neighbour who gardens the plot above mine (the garden is split into two plots) who mostly grows flowers, together with a few potatoes and strawberries. One afternoon I met Jean Pierre bringing over a bundle of freshly cut bamboo stakes as a gift for her to use to train her tomatoes and peppers. Bamboo grows in abundance around here and is a really useful resource for gardeners and other D-i-Y’ers. The modesty/wind screen on my balcony is largely made out of bamboo stakes and woven matting. The stakes that Jean Pierre brings are freshly cut, sturdy and green and look fantastic.
It’s good to meet Jean Pierre. He tells me a little about the quality of the garden, the variations in soil quality, that he never runs out of rain water, that he has taken three water barrels but left me five and some compost and the strawberries. I get the impression he is angling for something but feel that that debt, imaginary or real, can be repaid later in the year with some harvest. He says he minimised his use of pesticides, although some more radical bio neighbours disagreed with that. I am not going into commercial production so I don’t have to worry about conversion periods or past applications too much.
And while I am thinking about what resources are on the land I am also thinking about what resources I have got and those I ned to find: there are some seeds that I sowed in March with the intention of planting them on my balcony and on the tiny plat that I have negotiated on my jardin collectif’s terrain across the border by the airport in Hondarribia. But that plot is much smaller and my first year’s seeding programme was set back by torrential rainfall, which drowned many of the pots and my cat scratching out a large number that remained. Strong winds blew away many of the labels, so although I can see the difference between the surviving tomatoes, pumpkins and beets – I don’t actually know which varieties are which anymore. It’s going to be speed date, rather than companion planting this year.
The plan is to do a permaculture garden – minimising the digging and building a productive and aesthetically pleasing garden – the later important as it is in such a visible public space. At the moment the plot is surrounded by bare chain link fencing so it looks quite unloved. I want to prioritise planting barrier species along the perimeters to slow down wind speeds, reflect heat, reduce any pollution from cars and make the plot look and feel self-contained. My first tasks are to locate cardboard, from supermarket skips and to recuperate the two bales of hay left over from preparing my plot in Spain. The latter proves to be hard work as the hay has been out in the rain for three months. Normally I can lift a bale of hay easily by myself, but being so wet I can only to lift about a sixth a bale at any one time. It takes a long time to load it, and unload it. My car which I had swept out a few days ago before its technical control, once again starts to resemble, and smell like, farm machinery.
My 'Partner': a perfect fit for four bales of hay.
By the end of the week I have two of the six plots and a third of the perimeter fencing covered with cardboard and bakers’ sacks (there is new organic bakery immediately opposite the land who is willing to supply me with a limitless supply) and mulched over. I have planted in a few things that I hope will be fast growing and give me and passers- by the illusion of quick progress: three rhubarb cutting and a sprig of mint (in an otherwise not very useful step on the wall between the gardens where it can spread as much as it likes), a buddleia (to attract butterflies) two fig trees, a laurel and an iris that were volunteers on the plot of land around my co-working space at Cocoba and a dozen or so pumpkin and courgette seedlings that were getting too big for their pots. Hopefully they will all quickly grow and spread and make the garden look less like a desert.
My system for laying down 'a lasagne garden': first the cardboard - easy to work and place when it comes in one metre square sheets (though it's better to tack the sellotape off before laying it down) with a 'slice' from a hale bay placed on each which i then spread out. Later the weeds from my neighbours garden will go on top. One bale covers about five square metres , which takes about an hour and half to prepare.