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Organic Gardening

Hello everyone! My name is Jon Davison and I am the new Organic Gardens Coordinator here at Sunseed. I arrived here at the end of September, and what an adventure it’s been already! I have already seen a few volunteers come and go, and, rather unfortunately, a coordinator as well (We miss you Fran!). But that’s just a part of life, everything is subject to change. These past couple weeks have been challenging, exhausting, exciting, inspiring and, above all, extremely rewarding. I have received an incredibly warm and enthusiastic welcome for which I am grateful.

Some initial thoughts from the last couple weeks;

We are so lucky to be here, I mean we are in the middle of the desert and yet we have our own little oasis, with a river to swim in and an ancient water channel, which dates back to Moorish times, that provides irrigation for the entire village! As soon as you leave our little paradise, even to the other side of the river, the temperature rises 5 degrees or more. Without this microclimate due to the river, which has been carefully extended and enlarged by the residents over the years, growing crops would be nigh impossible.

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The “Seret Posa”, one of many hidden swimming holes that dot our river valley.

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Los Molinos del Rio Aguas, looking east from Isabella’s (one of the sunseed buildings) during a sunset.

Anyway, lets talk a bit about whats happening in the gardens, shall we?

For those of you who don’t know, the gardens of Sunseed consist of 12 terraces, in a variety of shapes and sizes, spread along the southern side of the hills of Los Molinos del Rio Aguas. Due to unfortunate but unavoidable circumstances, over the last few months the gardens have received little to no attention, hence such a wonderful welcome :). They had become overgrown with weeds, the veggies had been chocked out and many trees were suffering from lack of water. Needless to say, I got cracking as soon as I could.

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Long term volunteers Leesha and Vijan, along with short term volunteer Rosie, working hard on my first day of work. They were as excited as me to see some progress in the gardens.

So far, with the help of volunteers and my assistant Pauline, we have managed to clear and prepare the majority of Diego 1, which is one of the largest and most central terraces, as well as create a small herb patch for Lizzy (Sustainable Living). What does clear and prepare mean? Well to start with we removed what organic matter we could from the surface of the soil. Usually any organic matter should be kept on to shade the soil and keep it cool, reducing evaporation from the sun while at the same time slowly breaking down and feeding the life in the soil and reducing the amount of weeds (talk about multi functional!) . We took this off and piled it up to put back later, so we could turn the soil over and reshape the beds. The soil had become compacted, dry and full of weeds. By doing this we simultaneously loosened the soil and added air, allowing for better water penetration, and mixing in the weeds, exposing their roots to the unforgiving sun. At this point, I would like to add that, generally speaking, you should try to avoid messing too much with your soil as the interference can end up destroying the structure, texture and fertility of it. However, in the long run, flipping it about once or twice to mix in some manure and reduce compaction is in your best interest. Just don’t make a habit of it!

Once this was done, we let it dry in the sun for a few days in hopes of killing the weeds and reducing the amount of hand weeding. However, my plans were thwarted by a rather intense rainstorm and we had to weed it by hand eventually anyway. Once weeded, and the compost bays full to bursting, we turned in some manure left over from last winters Hot Bed. We watered it using the Acequia (the ancient water channel) and a series of channels and sand bags to divert the flow into the appropriate patch. We did this to ensure that the channels were in working order, and other than a few paths that need a leveling out a bit, it was!

Next comes the best part… Seeding! Even Kostas, our Education Coordinator, managed to get some fresh air and help.

Now, after a couple weeks of hard work, with beets, a variety of oriental and normal Brassica’s, spinach, carrots, beans, peas and turnips freshly seeded, swiss chard, celery, rocket, radish and lettuce next in line, only half of Diego 1 is prepared and planted…. wait wasn’t that supposed to be an encouraging sentence? 🙂

With some luck, and a lot of sweat, we should manage to get Diego 1 up and running and start on Diego 2 (another, but far smaller, garden cultivated by Sunseed) next week.

I think that’s all for now. I’ll let you know soon if we ever make it to Diego 2 🙂

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Diego 2 in it’s current state, before any clearing or work has been done.

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