Packing Up

After a very successful growing season, it’s time to pack up the garden before going back to UK for the winter. As I have said before, I practice permaculture methods at the finca for sustainable living and there were jobs I needed to finish before going away. So I needed to sheet mulch the rest of the annual vegetable plot with the carboard I have been collecting over the summer to feed the soil and keep down the weeds. You can see the difference this makes in these shots of our plot vs the next door neighbour’s who only cleared his 2 months ago.

Sheet mulching vs leaving the weeds to grow
Sheet mulching vs leaving the weeds to grow

Sheet mulching vs the neighbour's plot!
Sheet mulching vs the neighbour’s plot!

When I moved the pile of cardboard I found 6 fire salamanders that I carefully moved to the rock pile where they can hunker down for the winter.

I also moved the polytunnel – while it was a bargain and very useful this year, the plastic cover was of poor quality and needs to be replaced. Don’t skimp on the plastic, folks! False economy. However, there were frogs and salamanders under the hay floor there too so we are getting useful wildlife already chez nous.
The ornamental garden now has the paths mostly complete and the beds were forked over gently and ground cover crops of tares and field beans sown to keep down weeds and add nitrogen and green manure to the soil. I also laid weed suppressing sheeting to the ground around the van so mud isn’t constantly being traipsed inside everytime we need to fill up with water, empty the loo or just walk to and from the car.
ornamental garden
As I prepare to leave I know I will miss Viris enourmously, but I am so looking forward to seeing family in the UK, visiting various gardens and organic plantations and having a very large Xmas with Terri and David on the boat in Southampton. My next posts will be about my adventures in the good old UK!

P.S. Someone asked me what the straw bales were for….
If you’re looking for a method of growing your own organic food, and you want to grow more, in less space, with a lot less work, and no more weeding, you just can’t go past growing in straw bales. And I know, whilst the idea might seem a little wacky to begin with, there are many benefits….

1 -> Healthier Plants & Better Vegetables
When you grow in straw bales you immediately eliminate the need for soil. The only thing required is a straw bale, some (optional) potting mix and compost.Because you’ve taken soil out of the equation, it also eliminates all soil borne diseases and pests that can bring your crops to their knees when they get out of control.

While This Straw Bale Garden Might Be Small, The Harvest Was Anything But…strawbalegarden006

…also keep in mind – the less pests & diseases that are around, means less need to use pesticides (organic or otherwise) which can also harm beneficial insects that we actually want to attract to our gardens. It also means that our plants are just much healthier overall, we really don’t need or want that kind of stuff on the food we eat.

2 -> No Soil Means No More Hard Work
Not having to deal with soil means there’s no digging, no tilling, hoeing, or raking. We don’t need to break our backs doing any of that stuff, or use expensive machines to do it either. Nor do we have to worry about crop rotation cycles or conditioning and improving our soils. You can simply plant right into the bales themselves (which you can put literally anywhere)…

3 -> No More Weeds
Growing in straw bales pretty much eliminates the need for weeding. Weeds just don’t take well to the straw throughout the growing season, and any initial weeds that might sprout early on, can easily be pinched out of the bales roots and all. From then on in you’re not likely to spend more than a few minutes per bale for the ENTIRE growing season.

rz4-lettuce-straw-bale-garden-2 (1)

…I don’t know about you, but I’ve yet to meet a gardener that actually enjoys weeding.

4 -> Self Composting Growing Containers
When you grow in straw, the bales themselves are your actual growing containers… They are also “self composting” growing containers that are slowly decomposing internally throughout the growing season. This produces a certain amount of heat which regulates the internal temperature, keeping it ideal for the roots of your plants. It also helps to mitigate the impacts of any frosts or sudden cold snaps too and can extend your growing season. This also means, if you’re growing cold weather crops in your bales over winter, you’re going to give your plants a much more favorable growing environment.

5 -> Straw Bales Are Cheap
Straw is cheap & it is usually pretty easy to get. Plus at the end of a growing season, you can just bang it in the compost bin or use it as a mulch on your traditional garden beds. So you’re going to end up saving money because you’re essentially investing in next seasons compost (and you’ll know exactly what’s in it)… although they can last for two years.

6 -> Flexibility & Creativity
You can design a straw bale garden however you like. It can be as small as you like…
…or it can be as big as you like…


You can place your bales directly on the lawn, on concrete, pavers, your patio or even on space you don’t use for anything else on your driveway. With a straw bale garden, you really are only limited by your imagination and your available space…

7 -> Much More Comfortable, Easier Gardening
Because straw bales are roughly 400mm high, you’re going to be gardening at a much more comfortable height. It also means you’ll be able to harvest many of your crops simply standing up as you stroll through your garden. For anyone with a bad back – or anyone that just doesn’t really enjoy crawling around on their knees, this is great news.

The Straw Bale Gardening Book by Duncan Carver is an excellent reference for this technique and can be obtained at:

7 thoughts on “Packing Up”

  1. This is such interesting information. I mess around in our garden, but I don’t get into it this intensely. Still, if time ever permits, this is inspiring.

    Have a great time in the UK. I know with David and Terry, Christmas will be delightful. I’m envious of your boat!

  2. Hi Mandy

    Great to see how much you have done this year.

    The spider on your September blog is a wasp spider, we have them in our garden. They spend the winter underground and usually appear about August. As far as I know they are not poisonous.

    We have built a wildlife pond this year and have everything except frogs. May have to steal some spawn next Spring.

    The chickens are great, we have not had to buy eggs for 3 months now. They are very friendly and will jump up on my lap.

    We have almost gutted our living room to remove the 70’s style built in shelving, fake fireplace and the asbestos artexed ceiling (used a specialist) . We now have a new smooth ceiling but still a lot of work to do. Mart has spent the day putting ducting for the new radiator pipes ( I wanted them moved).

    Have a great Christmas, it would be lovely to see you all sometime soon. love Rachel x x x x

  3. ! & 3/4´s rolls later. I´m over half way to laying the weed inhibitor. I´ve tackled suckers ( I´ve been calling them something else) brambles and the occasional cat bite??( Allie likes to watch me whilst I´m working ) and at last I´ve uncovered a fence., long since forgotten , another walnut tree, a sapling oak amongst other things. I now realize that the compost heap, formally known as the rubbish heap is in the wrong position as it will be an eye sore once the tree table has been erected, this will hopefully be achieved within the next, say, 3 years but as all gardeners know, you must have patience… where can I buy this online? All of this would never have come about if it hadn´t have been for Mandy.. for which I thank, I think!

  4. Loving it Mandy. You have been a busy bee. Miss you lots. We are all desperate to visit you next year. Enjoy the winter in the UK. X

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