Last week I began to write a little about our efforts to produce our own produce, as part of our push to be plastic free, and enhance our sustainability. In 2018 we had managed to produce a couple of productive plots, and we self sufficient in produce such as potatoes, carrots, beetroot and leeks right through to the end of winter. Meanwhile, a somewhat out of control kiwi tree (or three of them), meant that we are still overflowing in kiwi fruit – even though we were only able to harvest about half of our total produce before storms and birds took their toll. The short version, is we did well, but we aspire to doing better.
We’ve made a big push towards permaculture this year. While our plots last year were productive, we were digging and turning soils which we know and understand will sustain such activity for only so long. So, this year, we are doing our best to go ‘no dig’, and draw on our wider resources to ensure a strong, sustainable crop.
As winter came around in late 2018, we experimented with some perma plots, mostly built up out of our of straw from our stables. We planted onions and garlic, just to see what sort of results we might get. Encouragingly, as the new year began, we had green shoots sprouting out, and as we move into Spring, the crop is looking really robust. So, we felt encouraged to press on, and so far in 2019, we have increased our perma plots from 1, to 4, with efforts ahead to add even more if time allows.
Most of our perma plots are built on a cardboard – after moving house from the UK to France, we have a wealth of cardboard in storage, not doing much apart from slowly breaking down. So, better it do that in the ground than in a slightly leaky barn. On top of the cardboard sits a layer of straw from the stables, and leaf mulch gathered from the woodland floor which surrounds our home. We are also going to be experimenting with sheep wool as a layer. Our neighbours farm sheep, but more for a hobby that for any other reason. As a result, they do nothing with their wool, and they donated a few bags for us to explore using in our garden.
With the beds largely in place, it’s just a case of gradually planting that which can now go outside. The weather is still pretty wild at the moment and, while temperatures have stabilized, the early Spring storms have already whipped up. This means that there is a lot of wind and a lot of water coming down, so we could easily lose some of our outdoor plants if they are not monitored. Otherwise, all of the other produce is being started off inside, and will make their way out once the skies have settled.
In terms of our long term plan, there is a lot riding on getting this right. For us to be truly plastic free, we must be producing our own, and as much as possible of it. Harvesting seeds will be as important, especially as so many seeds in our locality can only be purchased in plastic covered packs, the irony! Still, that is just one more factor in moving ahead with this plan. With plastics hidden in so much, the easiest way to avoid, is to be in a position to not have to engage with conventional shopping. While we appreciate that is not an option open to everyone, it is to us, and it is all the more important that we take advantage of the resources at our disposal.