woensdag 28 juni 2017

An horta in the Alentejo - Part 3

May and June 2017:

Dry! Hot!

Threatening ... but not doing!
The months of April, May and June have been exceptionally dry (until today). The usual exuberant bloom of flowers in April lasted only a single week. The grass disappears soon and the sheep are looking for food again. Down by the river Hendrik has begun to mow and collect the hay for his composting farm.

The first hay has been mowed already.
The first hay packages are already on the monte.
The potatoes, down in the valley (An horta in Alentejo - Part 1) are withering. It is about time for a shadow cloth.

In May I wrote about the ants in our vegetable garden. And yes, they still form a plague. Especially the combination of ants and lice produces a lot of disappointments. When they are not around, everything in the garden grows exuberant. In my life, I have never ever cultivated such heavy and compact lettuce, as in the past winter and last months. It's a miracle.

Learned from the previous year.

In fact, we now are already assuming that we will not have much luck in the garden during the summer months. If the weather stays like this, with temperatures of 40-45ºC in the burning sun, much shade and water will be needed to keep the boat going. The previous summer taught us that we should not sow or plant small plants in June . Everything we harvest now we freeze as much as possible. We guess we will have to get used to the fact that summer is a time to wait...

I realized that I could cover the cabbage plants, that we planted in the first week of June, with a flowerpot. That little shadow is enough to keep them going. We also scattered chips of reeds or wood to cover the top layer of the soil, leaving it moist. That helps.

The garden benefits from the shadow of a tree in the evening.

Flower pots on the cabbage plants.
We also hope that the planted onions will be all right, and will not languish like the previous year. The onions we planted in February are now ready and dry. We never know what species we sow or plant... Nobody can tell us. So, we do not know if we can keep them for a long time.

Here in the garden, the potatoes suffer from the heat also. The first to put his leaves above the ground burned them immediately.

In the shadow it grows better...

One week later...
The melons in the barrels do well, in the full sun, to become nice and sweet. They get water twice a day. Then the leaves remain bright green and do not hang limp.

This year I planted the tomato plants early, and cut them well. 'Thieving' we call this in Holland. Most of them do there utmost... and we are watching the process with admiration...

These are of the variety that is called Chucha. They are usually elongated, round or pointed, firm and fleshy. These plants (that we sowed our selves) give themselves away completely in more then 4 bunches of tomatoes. At 6 clusters, the top is cut, because we assume that the plants will not survive the summer. 
In the greenhouse, this is different...

These tomatoes are Chucha also, but from an other kind, and purchased from the market als plants.
...In the greenhouse everything is different, always. For the moment, this is a good place... For the moment we have had not any problems with lice and ants... for the moment...


At the very moment that I write this all... yet it starts to rain. Today it is 24ºC. A party for the plants! The world is full of surprises. And definitely there will be more.

In the early morning at 6 o'clock...

and at 9.00 am.

July 2017 ... The weather is still good. No temperatures above 38ºC. And the lettuce is growing bigger still:

1715 grams... almost 2 kilos :) And good !

Ion did send us an interesting link about a composting and heating project that was set up in the seventies of the last century. Here the link:



zondag 21 mei 2017

Ants in the horta.

In our post 'An horta in the Alentejo - Part 2' we also wrote about the nuisance that was caused by ants. They invaded our horta to find things to lick, scratch and gather. It seemed they wanted to build several nests in the raised beds, for we found holes in the ground where they walked in and out. Most of the beans did not come up and the beans that came up showed great damage. Around, just sprouted beans, holes emerged, which indicates that the ants had been at work there frequently. What to do??

May 2017. Onions and carrots in one bed have fun.
We often plant onions between the carrots. Because, "What goes well together on your plate, goes well together in your garden," we once learned.
We found out that there were hardly any ants in this bed. This could not be because the ants would avoid the carrots... for ants find carrots irresistible... so it had to be the onions that the ants did not like.
Well, you could plant onions all over the garden, but this no longer seems a reasonable garden plan. So we gave it a try with the waste of the onions from the kitchen. We laid this between the plants and waited. And ... yes! The ants walked by without further action.

Beginning of May 2017. Our raised bed next to the house... The result of the interference by ants, the sowing of peas, the sowing of green beans,  the re-sowing of green beans and the planting of carrots. And as last hope... some onion waste between this all.
Half May 2017. The same bed next to our house. Of course it is far too full... but the plants are quite well again and the ants are no longer active.
May 2017. And so we also put onion waste between the beans in the other beds. Here a bed with two types of beans. Where the first failed we sowed the other species.

The weakest.

But things went a little bit different with the eggplants. Nature applies a tough selection to the weakest and the 'ant-scum' is strong.

The eggplant at the left on the picture must taste the defeat. It is attacked by the ants and is also immediately overrun with lice. The rest of the eggplants, and also the other plants in the area, have no problems at all. Time for pepper spray...

The eggplant with lice and ants.
(See for pepper spray: 'An horta in the Alentejo - Part 2')

Our vegetable garden in May 2017.

Meanwhile, we have made the garden a little wider. This sounds simple, but here on this rocky land it is a lot of chore, which mainly means chopping and dragging with stones. We did not take pictures of the work. We were so busy that we forgot! Well, now we have some pictures of the result... and this is much nicer :)

Also anti-root cloth outside the garden, to keep the weed growth at a distance. And a fence that is hopefully cat-proof. Initially, this path was very narrow (see the width of the staircase), making the raised bed laying almost on the edge of the garden. We saw that the grasshoppers made use of this immediately, hopping from the weeds into the garden, back and forth. We had almost no problems with the grasshoppers in the beds that lay further from the edge of the garden. We hope this larger distance from the fence will work out better. The future will learn.
A small height in the corner of the garden where are only rocks below, bordered by a low wall. Nice for a barrel with melon plants.
A wide path where we can put some barrels with melon plants, besides a higher wall, giving some shelter and the opportunity to place a shade cloth.
A widened path for barrils with melon plants along the fence (with shadow cloth). The raised wall (left) also provides a nice storage for the frames that we use in the summer to cover the beds against the hot sun.

Enough lettuce and cabbage:

The beetroots we let blossom ... see if we can harvest some seeds:

The carrots are now well on there way and are very nice. The onion waste between them has now been digested. These 'Rodelika's' are of biological 'Demeter' seed; Grown on Portuguese soil. Origin: Living Seeds Cementes Vivas SA. Website: www.ls-sv.eu

Here a first harvest in June 2017.
Ants are ripe on carrots. They bring lice to them, which then sit on the root at the attachment of the leaf. In addition, the ants make spaces around the root in the ground, allowing the lice to reach the root posts. Sometimes there were lice on the root in the ground, and especially on the top of the root, where the leaf begins. And yet we could harvest the carrots like this.


And all this on 'Stone Dust' with some Grass Compost !!
More difficult we will not make it :)

An after post...

Our garden in June 2017:

Well ... optimism? Yes, all plants are growing wonderful. But the combination of ants and aphids we seem not to be able to defeat. No pepper spray, no garlic-onion-spray may benefit. Meanwhile, the combination has taken possession of the four eggplants that are closest to each other. It is unbelievable what is happening there...

But... look now... if a plant is taken over by aphids like this... how can the leaves not discolor or why does the plant not die? Those plants must be very strong, wow though !!

Now we do not want to do anything to expel the ants anymore. We do not think the ants can be combated without spraying poison. And they are only busy with these four eggplant. They do not like the tomato plants that are right next to them... or the lice do not like them... Who will tell?

Further down the garden we have another pair of eggplants. These are not attacked by ants, and are now up to making beautiful fruits:

Against the summer heat and especially against the rapid evaporation of the water in the top layer of the soil, we have laid cane ships below the plants. This helps keep the soil moist.



zaterdag 6 mei 2017

What to do with manure.

Wholly in the spirit of the perma-misunderstanding (see previous post) we asked the shepherd for manure of his sheep. We would like to improve our soil, and we thought to do this with manure. The shepherd came with his pickup truck and dropped its load of fresh sheep manure at the back of our house.

January 2016
Hendrik first put a robe over the heap, because it would rain that week. And the manure should 'ripen a bit', as in the past it had already been heard that old manure is better for the garden than fresh. Fresh manure does not add anything to the soil. The parts in the manure, which are so carefully consumed by the animals, rinse out with the first rainfall, and the solid parts remain as a thin layer of straw. Many will certainly know this. So I am not telling something new here. But it is nice to remind about a "certain development".

January 2016
Meanwhile ... we were exploring the internet and learned from microbiologist Dr. Elaine Ingham that manure is not needed at all... and if one wants to use it, it is a must to compost it. A very remarkable remark that has been proven to be true over time... by the results of our garden!

And so it came to pass that Hendrik made an extra tarpaulin over the manure, and made some reinforcements to prevent it from blowing away, and to isolate the heap from outside influences. Completely according to his manner of composting grasses and herbs. In this case the manure stayed there exactly for a half year. Simply on the ground, in the grass, under its plastic cover.

And so we found out that this is what you need to do with manure.

June 2016

June 2016
Here the nicely digested sheep manure. We still have some:

May 2017
Even the cabbage (a crop known for its 'high demand for fertilizers') makes no distinction between grass compost and composted manure. Although we suspect that the manure contains more NPK... we see no difference in the results also.
And the weird thing is that we do not need NPK (or whatever extra mineral) afterwards. For now we have understood (and it took quite a long time) that our soil contains all the minerals that we need. Whether it is with grass compost or composted manure... the microbes in the organic substance (helped by fungi and the secreting of acids by the plants) transform the minerals in our garden soil into plant food. Our garden has shown this to us in the recent years!

April 2017
We would prefer to roam around, that this part of Portugal has a soil type, which has a great potential. But nobody has understood this correctly. People watch us with glassy eyes and remain friendly. But who will say what they think, meanwhile? What they say is that the garden is beautiful. Well ... and yet we are not wizards.