Department Description: The gardens are managed by the Organic Growing Coordinator using organic principles and practices based on observations of this natural environment.
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Sunseed uses twelve gardens to grow a portion of our food; our aim is to improve and increase this production to reduce the proportion of food we buy. The gardens are managed by the Organic Growing Coordinator, Fred, and two Assistants, Rosalind and David, using organic principles and practices based on observations of this natural environment. We enrich our soils through the distribution of our home-made composts, including the rich ‘manure’ produced from our compost toilets and green manures grown in our lands. Efficient soil management is ensured through crop rotation and companion planting; we also incorporate green manures, raised bed systems and various mulching techniques to maintain and increase soil fertility and structure. A high biodiversity of plants and wildlife is a sign of a healthy ecosystem and we ensure there are always wild areas to increase biodiversity within our cultivated gardens.
We source all our irrigation water from the ‘acequia’ (irrigation line) running through the gardens which is 800-1000 years old and was originally built by the Moors. Different methods of irrigation are incorporated into the gardens’ design; we use a combination of traditional sunk ‘flood’ beds and raised ‘channel’ beds both fed by the irrigation line. Trials are currently underway comparing the growth and health of the same crops cultivated using the differing irrigation methods. We save our own seeds where possible and grow a wide range of seasonal vegetables, including: tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, pumpkins, carrots, garlic, beetroot, sweet corn, broad beans, spinach and lettuces, etc. Our gardens also incorporate crops from herbs, flowers, wild vegetables and tree fruits and nuts. Our resources are managed carefully and we are always looking for ways to increase our self-sufficiency. Most of the ‘waste’ the community produces is recycled into valued resources within our garden nutrient cycles:
- Waste paper is kept separate and makes a high carbon addition to the compost heap.
- Our kitchen grey water passes through a ‘grease-trap’ to separate grease and nutrient particles for addition to the compost heaps before the water passes through a 5-layer reed bed system.
- All biodegradable kitchen waste goes to the compost heaps, which are layered with garden waste, goat manure, seaweed and accelerated with urine.
- Urine is kept separate and fills a barrel in the gardens for use as a high-nitrogen fertiliser and compost accelerator when diluted; and as a natural herbicide when used neat.
- Compost toilets provide well rotted ‘humanure’ for the fruit and nut trees.
- We sell sustainable menstrual products (organic cotton tampons & pads and reusable menstrual cups) that allows menstrual blood to be added to our compost toilets, further enriching the finished compost with vital nutrients.
This region of Spain is an environment of extremes. Our village is set within a semi-arid area made green by the diverted river (Rio de Aguas) which brings water to the acequia that runs through the gardens all year round. there are two growing seasons (Spring and Autumn) divided by the intense, drying heat of the summer; these periods are very mild and we receive much of our annual rainfall between September and March; in addition there are cold winters bringing with them regular frosts. We have built a polytunnel to extend our growing season further, constructed using columns of caña (bamboo) sourced directly from the riverbed here in the village. This department provides the opportunity for volunteers to learn about and practice organic gardening techniques. If you choose to join us we offer fun and the opportunity to learn many new things through the dynamic style of informal education that living at Sunseed’s low-impact community provides.