I have completed my third week working full time on site at Langbos and the food garden is well under way. Within a couple of weeks we will be making the first of many harvests to come.
The ‘ridges and ditches’ component of the design has been completed and half of the beds have been planted up; primarily with seedlings of cabbage, onions, cauliflower, spinach and beetroot. Potatoes, broad beans and strawberries have also been planted. To ensure good succession of plants, some of the other half of the beds will be sown with seed this week – carrots, onions, beetroot and spinach. The remaining beds will be sown in three weeks time. Poles have also been erected on the western side of the ridges and ditches to provide a framework for shelter for the beds from the hot westerly summer sun.
Mango, apricot, plum, fruit salad citrus (5 different citrus species grafted onto one tree), almond, apple and mulberry trees have been planted around the border of the garden. I have mainly used deciduous trees for a variety of reasons. Firstly the trees will provide shade in the hot dry summer. Secondly they loose their leaves in winter thereby fulfilling another two functions of providing humus for the ground while allowing the weaker winter light into the garden and thereby extending our growing season as much as possible through the use of micro climating.
The border area or ‘fedge’ (food hedge) has been covered with cardboard to suppress weeds and then covered with animal manure and straw to start creating living soil through a classic permaculture ‘no dig’ method. Peas and beans planted on the fence line will fix nitrogen for the plants as will the tagasaste trees that have also been planted. The fedge has also been planted up with watermelon, sweet potatoe, pumpkin, potatoes and granadilla. Nasturtium, wormwood, rue, lavender and sage have also been planted as sacrifice plants, to create biomass and deter pests. This week mielies and butternut will be sowed as well as two bamboo plants planted of the clumping variety. The ‘fedge’ is nearly completed.
The chicken straw yard has most of the poles up. We are waiting on an order of chicken wire as well as a donation of poles arriving before the straw yard can be completed. Once the wire is up irrigation can be laid and chickens introduced to start turning the earth and making compost for the veggies.
Water is quite an issue at Langbos and I have given much thought to it. The ‘piped’ water/’municipal’ water in Langbos is unreliable. Last year this supply was cut off for six weeks in the middle of summer. While permaculture principles have been applied, this is not a ‘food forest’ and we therefore do have some dependence on some form of ‘reticulated’ water, especially in the beginning phase while the trees and biomass is increasing.
The vulnerable time for the garden is in summer as we border the Karoo, an area akin to desert – scorching hot and dry. While there is some summer rain as we also border the sub-tropics, some form of water is required in the middle of summer. The watering system I have designed therefore is as simple and strong as possible erring rather on the side of caution while bearing in mind that one old man needs to be able to run it, therefore there can’t be any ‘messing’ about with hose pipes and watering cans as it covers quite a large area. While there is still a lot to be done, the laying of irrigation and harvesting of rainwater has begun.
The original shade house has been amended somewhat primarily due to a more detailed inspection of the land. The result is a more utilitarian design with more space being given to growing food and a better shade house for propagating plants. I am looking into putting the shade cloth as per the original design on the southern side of the garden over the play ground but among other things space needs to be found for a washing line.
We are also waiting on an order of ‘white’ IBR roof sheets which will protect the shade house from the harsh overhead summer sun while allowing light to penetrate. ‘Green’ corrugated sheets will be placed on the western side of the house to protect it from the hot late afternoon summer sun and ‘clear’ corrugated sheets on the south side of the house will protect it from the southerly wind while allowing transparency of what is going on in the shade house and garden.
All going well the implementation of the project will be completed in the next two weeks.
Langbos project leader