Grow your own world!

This month in the garden - 2018

April in the garden

April is haba time! After watching the broad beans growing since October it's finally time to eat them! It's also time to get all the summer veg in. Keep on transplanting the tomatoes, aubergines and peppers until they are big enough to go in the ground. The pumpkins, courgettes, cucumbers and melons should be ready to go in the ground by the end of the month and sweet potatoes can go in too. Corn can be direct sown, as can French beans and runner beans. Don't let the weeds get you down, try to look at them as a resource. Chickens love all those greens but if you don't have chickens, your compost pile will love them too. Try to get them out before they go to seed. In a few weeks March's deluge will be a distant memory and we'll be getting ready for the long dry summer but in April the weather can still go either way. One way to guard against drought or excessive amounts of rain that can cause soil loss, is to build your soil. Ideally, you want your soil to soak up the rain like a sponge and hold the moisture through dry spells. Top dressing your beds with a layer of compost is a great way to feed your plants, suppress weeds and over time build a healthy soil. Mulch can also be used to help retain moisture and suppress weeds. Additionally, as it breaks down it adds structure to the soil. Mulch with straw, comfrey leaves, leaf mould, grass cuttings or withered weeds. Permaculture is a design approach which, like nature, uses what is available. It is a whole system approach that connects different strategies and techniques. The good folks at La Loma Viva in Gualchos are happy to invite Alex Kruger (South Africa) for the 4th year running to hold a Permaculture Design Course in May. Alex has been a permaculture designer, teacher and social activist for over 25 years and will be the lead facilitator for the PDC. Karen de Vries and Ryan Botha (the La Loma Viva team) will be sharing their knowledge as co-facilitators on the course, along with international itinerant investigator, Roman Eisenkolbl (of Soil*Sun*Soul). The PDC is an inspiring course that connects us to our world. It is a comprehensive, certified permaculture course with international recognition, providing basic skills in a vast array of subjects, to enable you to start designing a world based on the ethics of earth care and people care. Permaculture provides the tools for whole systems thinking, allowing us to understand that we are interconnected and interdependent with all of the living world. It helps us to apply these skills in all our activities and professions, to create a more regenerative way of being, that rehabilitates degraded systems in all areas of life.

TIP: Put cut nettles in a barrel and cover with water. Leave to ferment for a couple of weeks then dilute 20:1 and use as a liquid or foliar feed. High in nitrogen, it encourages leaf growth and more resilient plants.

Reader's question: How do we use wood ash to raise the fertility of our land? We have a hectare at 1350m alt above Mecina Bombarón and produce lots of ash from our wood burner. I've heard wood ash can be good for the soil- how do we use it? Jo and Jane

Wood ash is a great source of potassium, one of the three major nutrients that plants need to thrive. As well as providing vigour, it is also a flavour enhancer. Ash has an alkaline effect on the soil so acid soils can be remedied with it but be sure to use it with care if your soil has a pH of more than 6.5. It also repels maggots and can be sprinkled on and around any plants prone to insect attack. Ash can be incorporated into your soil by adding it to your compost pile or simply use it as a mulch around your plants. Cauliflowers and garlic are particularly fond of it. In October mix it with clay, lime and powdered milk and daub it on your tree trunks to protect against pests.

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