Permaculture


I spend the morning doing the first garden garden maintenance this year. I don´t really like working in the garden when the soil is too wet, it sticks to much. I’ve picked up some weeds and made it a bit ready for spring to come.  I noticed some of the plants coming to life. In the warmer parts of the garden the roses where getting leaves all ready. And here are few of the crocus bulbs popping up.

And here is are some yellow ones. Personally I like the purple ones better.

Rubarb is also one of the earliest plants, when the leaves are still folded they look like little green brains.

And here is our rooster, he has been working on the vegetable patch eating weeds and worms. Having the time of their life now that the can run around free. Soon they´ll have to be locked up, when the seeds go into the ground.

Tomorrow we get two chickens, who are going to be our gardeners. Also they have to take care of leftover food and produce an egg or two in the mean time. Mrs wife is not completly conviced about this project, but Sebastián can’t wat until the chickens arrive.

This is the arc we made for them, it is also called a chicken tractor. The Idea is that every couple of days we place the arc at a new spot so they can eat, scratch the soil and poo throughout the garden. Leaving me more time to lay in the hammock, which is something I have not done much this year.

I’ve made the arc using leftover wood from the atelier and a couple of old window frames. Most of the parts are recycled or just thing that I allready had laying aroud gathering dust.

Note the retractable ramp so the chickens are safe at night, I can pull a string on the side and the ramp goes up.

As you can see the main framework is done. Now I’m going to put larch planks, that still have to have their own little support frame. The larch planks should have arrived today but somehow the delivery got mixed up their are coming tomorrow with 250 meters off larch.

I got distracted with our other project, the edible garden, we already planted trees in the beginning of the year, now we have removed the grass and put a fence so the dog does not run all over the place. This is only half of the edible garden, the other half is on the other side, I need to make some pictures of that later.
Seba is playing hide and seek and Olaf is enjoying some leftovers from the atelier.

From late August until November it’s time to start pulling out the carrots and parsnips. In itself the carrots are a very easy crop to grow. As long as you make the ground nice and loose they will grow. If you use crop rotation most of the plagues will stay away.

Carrots have only one major plague on them, the carrot fly (Chamaepsila rosae), which can do a lot of damage. It is not the fly itself that does the damage, but the larvae creamy white maggots that do the most damage. The fly lays their eggs next to the carrot and the maggot starts digging and eating.

The carrot fly can have up to 3 generations in 1 year after that the larvae lie dormant for the winter. While the 1st generation of larvae only eat the little hear roots of the young carrots, it is the 2nd generation that does the most damage. They eat themselves straight trough the carrot leaving brown boring holes in it. Making it inferior in taste and, well it doesn’t look very appetizing either. Also carrots that have damage cannot be stored well.

Now except for pesticides which are not an option for me, what can we do?

Positioning.

The carrot fly does not like wind, so if you can, put your carrots unsheltered from wind. I my case there is not to much wind in the garden so I need a different solution then this.

Crop rotation

The larvae lay dormant for the winter in the soil. So if you put the carrots somewhere else next year, tough luck for the flies!

Earth care.

If the soil is disturbed by for example thinning, harvesting or walking  it is easier for the fly to lay the eggs and the larvae to get to the root itself. So thin early and don’t disturb the soil.

Onions.

800px-Two_colors_of_onions

“According to Misses E. Smit from Westernieland, carrots in her garden grew undamaged and more beautiful if she planted some onions in between them. Where she got this knowledge is unkown to me. ” This is an passage in an article from the Dutch Phytopathological Society in May 1923. This article further teaches us that shallots have the same property. According to Mister Heidema, the author of the article, the repelling properties of the onions comes from the strong scent which is not appreciated by the flies.
So unions, shallots an garlic work well, I’ve tested it and until harvesting the unions and the garlic I did not see any carrot flies. Remember for onions to efficient there need to be lots of them, think 1 row carrots, 1 row onions.

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare).

Another effective plant against wormflies is the tansy, in dutch it is called boerenwormkruid, farmers-worm-herb. Tansy has a mix of oils and one of them is called Eucalyptol, which is used as a insecticide an insect repellant (and a number of other things). The tansy also contains camphor which is also used to repel moths. If you break a leaf and rub it on your finger you smell those two clearly.

tansy_cropped

It turns out that the tansy is a very versatile plant;

-Tansy is highly toxic to internal parasites, and has been used by herbalists to expel worms for centuries.
-It can be used to keep flies, moths and even ants out of the house by hanging it in the windows.
-It keeps flies and worms away from berries.
-And, my wife is going to love this: it can be used as a natural dye in colouring wool to a golden yellow.

I can also find lots of recipes where tansy is used, like this one:

‘Beat seven eggs, yolks and whites separately; add a pint of cream, near the same of spinach-juice, and a little tansy-juice gained by pounding in a stone mortar; a quarter of a pound of Naples biscuit, sugar to taste, a glass of white wine, and some nutmeg. Set all in a sauce-pan, just to thicken, over the fire; then put it into a dish, lined with paste, to turn out, and bake it.’
Tansy is a flower that grows a lot in the area around our house, so I think I’m going to cultivate some next year among the carrots, and probably in other places in the garden. For now I picked some here and there and put in the windows and amongst the carrots. And I’m drying some seeds.

Oliva

The Absinthe Drinker by Viktor Oliva (1861–1928)

One more thing….
According to wikipedia (and others) the tansy is toxic for herbivores (some among them horses) and humans (if eaten in large quantity) mainly because it contains Thujon. One of the components in Absinthe and the component that made it prohibited in 1907, however you will probably die of alcohol poisoning before thujon poisoning. In the Netherlands Absinthe is legal again since 2004.

00afrikaantjes

Our vegetable patch is more and more looking like a marigold (Tagetes patula) plantation, although it looks very nice and colourful, some of them are getting a bit out of hand. Half a meter wide and about the same height. There won’t be any roundworm alive in the earth after this attack!

Serious, the reason for the Marigolds in the garden is roundworms. Roundworm, nematodes for scientists, are little worms that live everywhere. Soil, water, roots, animals and humans; they are all over the place. You can’t see them with your own eyes but under a microscope you will find up to 50 in a cubic centimetre of soil. In a square meter of soil there are up to 10 million of them.

According to wikipedia there are 80.000 known species of roundworms and there are and estimated 500.000 different species. One group of this half a million, targets the roots of plants, specially perennials but also potatoes, eggplants and tomatoes. Against these roundworms you can use the marigolds, it is not that the worms are scared away by them. Although everything looks peaceful there is an underground war going on.

Some science for the other geeks: the inner skin of the roots (endodermis) of the Marigolds contains chemicals called thiophenes. When a roundworm enters the cells of  this inner skin, it forms peroxidase. The combination of this peroxidase and the thiophenes create O3 (ozone), this aggressive form of oxygen burns the roundworm. So far for the peaceful vegetable patch.

The bee doesn’t care about any of this and comes for very different reasons to the Marigolds.

00bee

Alltough not uncommon at all in our area this is one of the few frogs we’ve seen in our garden. blog-frogthis is a European Common Brown Frog trying to escape trough the fence after eating a lot of slugs and snails I hope.

This is a picture of a small field near our house. Altough it is a very small field there is a lot of intresting stuff going on.

Field

This field is seeded with green manure which are plants that improve the soil. These will be later cut down and ploughed into the soil, or just left to rot away after the season. The plants that you can see are Phacelia the blue flowers, Buckwheat the white flowers in front and White mustard the yellow flowers. I also saw, but these aren’t in bloom yet, cornflowers and poppies.

Buckwheat.

buckwheat

The name buckwheat (boekweit) comes from the middle dutch word “boecweite” boec = beech and weite = wheat. The relation to beech is that the triangular seed resembles a beech nut, alltough a beech nut is about 3 times the size.

This seed can be grounded and used as a wheat. Technically it is not a wheat but it has more or less the same properties. Buckwheat has no gluten, and can not be used for leavened bread unless mixed with wheat or rye. The yeast needs the gluten to produce the gas that leavens the bread. Traditionally in the Netherlands buckwheat is eaten in pancackes with bacon.

Buckwheat was grown by poor farmers in the 19th century because it needed little investment in machinery or cattle and still had a good yield, however, early frost could ruin the whole harvest. Because of this, it was also called “jammerkoren” which could be translated as “corn of sorrow”.

Phacelia.

Phacelia

The flowers of this plant can be used to make perfume, and the bees seem to like them too! The farmers seed  it  to suppress weeds.

White Mustard.

whitemustard

Dispite the obvious yellow flowers it is called white mustard. The seeds can be used to make mustard which is very yummy. Each yellow flower makes a seedpod that contians 6 seeds and they should be harvested just before the pods are ripen. The mustard plant can also be used as cattle fodder.

Well that’s it for todays botanics lessons. I have to wait a couple more weeks for mustard especially because I broke the pot this morning, and I think I’ll just buy the buckwheat in a shop.

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