This time last year I wrote a post about how we had started to implement a design to improve the fertility and water retaining properties of the soil in our garden in Andalucia. Over the year we have already noticed a big difference in the structure of the soil and water retention in the areas we treated. This year, as planned, we decided to chip the fresh almond tree prunnings as they happened. These then included lots of leaves which added an increased nitrogen concentration to the chips. Like many topics in permaculture design there is an ongoing healthy discussion about the pros verses the cons of using woodchip as a mulch to improve soil. Rather than discuss these here, I have linked to some of the main points in other articles, at the end of this post. Our observations had indicated that here using wood chip as a mulch was likely to be beneficial and worth including as part of our soil design.
After several weeks of sitting in a heap, being exposed to both heavy rainfall and warm sun, the chips had started to heat up and the inner area already had lots of evidence of fungal activity commencing. The beds we are building to grow lots of annual edible plants, were either mulched with a layer of goat manure or overwintered beans last year, which meant that they will tolerate the big spike of carbon the wood chips will initially bring, much more effectively. A deep layer of the beautiful chipped mixture was added to all the beds from last year, and as a mulch around the trees planted over the last 2 years too. Im going to be closely observing the areas mulched over the next year to analyse the immediate effects of the almond wood chip/leaf mix. I'll also be comparing the health and growth of the same species and varieties of annual edible plants: - planted 1) in the wood chipped mulched areas, 2) areas which had manure only added (last year) and 3) in areas of the garden where we have not changed the soil at all yet.
I've read some great accessible articles about the use of wood chip in edible gardens, both benefits and possible challenges - some of my favourite ones are listed below
Building garden soil with wood mulch - Mother Earth News
Woodchips- the secrets to effortless, inexpensive biodynamic gardening - Mercola
5 things you should know about wood chip mulch - Reformation Acres
Mulches and mulching - Royal Horticultural Society
Why we should use woodchips better - The Telegraph
As a way of healthily coping with the aftermath of Thursday's EU Referendum vote Ive decided to; learn, do, read or listen to a new solutions focused thing each day. Ive been thinking about creating a solar cooker ever since we arrived in Spain, so I thought I might as well start off my new daily pattern with giving it a go.
As you can see, my equipment isnt complicated. A garden chair, a pan with a glass lid and a foil backed beach mat! I decided as a first meal try to use ingredients that cooked fairly quickly, in order to have more chance at success.
9 am (as the sun was getting hot) - I placed chopped courgettes, whole garlic cloves and chillies, a splash of olive oil, seasoned with salt into the pan, lid on and tilted it within the chair to the sun.
1pm - The pan was too hot to touch. All ingredients were nice and soft - I added some chopped tomatoes, chard, basil and parsley and gave the whole thing a stir. I placed the pan on its bottom and curled the beach mat around its sides a little more to ensure the pan gained maximum benefit from the middle of the day sun. In addition this protected the pan from cooling down as a response to the fairly strong breeze that had arrived.
3.30pm - Everything was cooked perfectly, it smelled and tasted amazing. Cooker dismantled, "summer veggie garden stew" eaten with rice, greek yoghurt and toasted seeds.
And a real success with solar slow cooking - meals created with the pure energy of the sun. I will be using this throughout the summer, trying out many different meals. Like cooking on outdoor fire (which here in Andalucia we cant do in the summer because of wild fire risk), Its such a lovely way to connect further with the rituals of nourishing ourselves and the environment.
regular updates and reflections about the permaculture designs in my life