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Teia's Garden in Portugal

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    Burra MalucaBurra Maluca

    E – thanks for that info about the eucalyptus. If it’s a chemical, then there’s no point in me just planting stuff and giving them extra water. We’ll try some different acacias by them, and I’ve sent off for some ‘snot-berries’ which will apparently grown anywhere, including under eucalyptus, so maybe we’ll be able to get them going.

    ccBear – our sawdust is all natural at the moment, but the man we get it from is busy building a treatment plant. We’re really hoping that he keeps the sawdust from that yard separate 😐

    My son and I have been enjoying the permaculture course, and we’ve all watched the forest gardening dvd through a few times now. My husband is getting quite into the idea. He had grown a few special ‘silk tree’ acacia from seed earlier this year and today we planted them out between the fruit trees, muttering ‘shade is better than mulch’ and he’s happily wandering around deciding what we need to plant where. We can buy the basic orange/plum/peach/cherry trees at the market but almost everything else has to be ordered from abroad as seed so it’s going to take absolutely ages to get the forest garden going.

    I watch Geoff Lawton on the dvd with his huge collection of container grown trees with pure envy. And all those nitrogen fixing seeds with innoculant in huge bags!! We have to import it a couple of grams at a time!!!! We tried growing native beans at the bottom end of the garden but the land has been ‘dead’ for so long that they never got going, and you can’t get innoculant here as the bacteria are supposed to be endemic. We imported a little tiny bit and grew some in a little bed, and then we scatter a bit of the soil from that bed onto a new, bigger bed, but it’s slow going.

    The one nitrogen fixer that seems to do ok is lupin so we saved a load of seed this year today we planted a load in the fruit tree area near the new acacia trees. I’m going to experiment with russian olive, hybrid broom, siberian pea tree, perennial lupins, carob, anything I can persuade to grow!

    The other thing I heard on the forest garden dvd was mention of a chocolate pudding fruit tree. It’s related to the diospyra, (sharon fruit or kaki) which grow well here, but it’s a bit more tender. I’m determined to try one – how can I resist anything with a name like ‘chocolate pudding fruit’? 😉

    Burra MalucaBurra Maluca

    We’ve been busy planting! Here are some of the new fruit trees. We travelled down to a nursery an hour and half’s drive away and happened to arrive on the same day the bare-rooted fruit trees did. That meant we got first choice on everything, but they hadn’t finished unpacking them and labelling them so we don’t really know which tree is which, so it’s going to be a bit of a ‘lucky dip’ food forest. I think I prefer it like that though 😉

    And here another area where we’ve been ‘filling in the gaps’.

    Here’s the new clementina, sporting a *double* layer of mulch!

    We’ve been using half rotted donkey poop and sawdust as a primary mulch, but I decided that our acacia tree needed pruning and it’s provided us with a whole lot more mulch material. It wasn’t quite ‘chop and drop’, more saw, clip, carry and drop, but we’re getting there. We’re hoping that the compost mulch will feed the soil quickly and the acacia mulch will be a slow release feed/mulch so that eventually the donkey poop won’t be needed. At the moment donkey is stabled every night as we need ready access to the poop. Also the land isn’t fenced and we don’t like her tethered 24 hours a day. Ultimately she will live out permanently, with a shelter, and hopefully by then we’ll have the mulch situation under control and the soil in better condition.

    Here’s the newly pruned acacia.

    The branches used to droop right down to the floor and it wasn’t much use except as a hiding place for kids, but now it’s a nice shady place. We might stick a bench under it next summer. We’ve also been digging out acacia suckers and planting in between the fruit trees for shade, nitrogen and to provide ‘chop and drop’ material.

    We also found this!

    It’s a sucker from the old almond tree. It’s quite a way from the original tree but the roots obviously recognised a nice shady place and sent up a new shoot on the shady side of the concrete floored greenhouse. We thought it was a seedling as it was so far away but there a was a great big root feeding it when we tried to dig it out. It’s now been transplanted into the food forest.

    The latest assignment on the permaculture design course was to design a herb spiral, and I’ve been busy collecting stones to start building it. There’s loads of work left to do yet, but it’s a start.

    There are a whole load more stones to collect, then I have to start shifting soil and planting seeds. I’ll keep taking photos as we progress.


    Inspirational!: both your achievements so far and the ultimate goal.


    awesome. I’ll be watching this thread 😀


    Yes this is just so interesting and inspiring. You are all doing a great job Burra Maluca. And I agree that it can be the best way to convert someone from traditional garden style to a new way of thinking by going slowly.

    I really enjoy seeing the progress pics. Please keep posting.

    :clap: :clap: :tup: :tup:




    You’re definitely getting there now… all’s growing and making progress with filling up the land there.

    Keep it going and keep us posted about what you’re doing!

    Its nice to see how you weave your work with study…

    Cheers! :hug:

    Burra MalucaBurra Maluca

    This is the reason why my other half is so obsessed about straight lines…

    It’s his Jalo push hoe!

    These things first came out in the UK in 1951, when he was a teenager, and it was one of his lifelong ambitions to own one and a patch of land to use it on. Just before we emigrated three years ago, one turned up at a farm auction and he finally got his wish! I don’t have the heart to try to persuade him to give up his lines until he’s had a few more years to play with his new toy…:lol:

    This patch of land is one that we’ve been struggling with for a while and we’ve finally persuaded some field beans (like broad beans) to grow there. We still haven’t got a decent source of inoculant for them, but with a bit of fiddling about, including soaking the beans in water containing a good dollop of soil from the patch we grew them on earlier, we seem to have finally got them going.

    We did, however, manage to source some ‘RootGrow’ – an inoculant of friendly mycorrhizal fungi which form a symbiotic relationship with plant roots and extend their root system, helping the plant get itself established and supplementing the root system, making the plant more drought tolerant. It arrived in time to treat the latest batch of fruit trees and, for the ones that we’ve already planted, I’ve been digging up wild lavender seedlings, inoculating their roots and potting them on so that we can plant them as companions to the fruit trees to, hopefully, inoculate them without having to dig them up.

    Here’s the view (excuse the mess…) of the caravans and the shade from the eucalyptus. In the summer when we need the shade they cast very little, but this time of year they seem to cast a shadow over half the garden. I think they are going to have to go 😐

    This patch is where we had the hay stored over the summer. It’s carted in loose and just covered with that green tarpaulin you can see heaped in the background.

    The protection of the hay (shade and moisture retention) has meant that this was the first place for the grass to grow when the rain came – not we’ve had much yet…

    And here’s another nice messy place…

    We’ve always had a bit of a problem getting the hang of the zoning system in permaculture. I think we’re just not sufficiently house-oriented to get the hang of it. For some reason my tutor (hi April! 😉 ) doesn’t seem to think donkeys are zone two, but we’ve built ourselves a shower right next to donkey’s stable, and have her (and her poop) as close to the main veggie area as possible. Originally, the house would have had sleeping areas for humans directly above the goats and donkeys, so they might even have been zone zero in those days. Anyway, this little lot is right next to the stable.

    First, a shower room. The old radiator is an attempt at a solar heated water system. Unfortunately we have discovered a couple of snags. In the winter, the sun is low and the water heats up fine with the radiator stuck on the wall like this, but in the summer, the sun is too high and misses it completely. Also, the water is really really soft here and it’s dissolving all the insides of the radiator and the water is now coming out full of rust. We are going to scrap the whole idea of using the radiator and try a poly-pipe system, wound into a coil and put on the roof, now we’ve finally got the roof on…

    Next to the shower room is the brand new seed house. I think my other half was getting uncomfortable spending so much time kneeling over the cold frame… 😉 We’re experimenting with loads of imported seeds to try to get things like gingko, tea tree, tagasaste, guava, all sorts of things to put in the food forest so we need lots of room to start them all off. We need a bit more guttering yet, but we have a big green tub to catch any drips, and we’ve put up a couple of little solar panels that we picked up the supermarket to power an aquarium pump to make up some actively aerated compost tea in the black tub to try to get some life into our poor struggling soil.

    The water for the shower and the garden is pumped up to a storage tank on top of this building, which doubles as an outside toilet, humanure style! The raised channel to the left is part of the old irrigation system. We must get a better curtain up in case we get visitors…. 😐

    And finally, this is going to be a new little pond, to supply drinking water to the bees in the summer.

    In the foreground is donkey’s plough, which we’ve never used, and a ‘cutting’ from a yukka plant, or something like one. Loads of people dump stuff in the area around the industrial estate of the nearest city, and when we went shopping there once a year or so ago, we noticed that someone had cut one of these into chunks and dumped them. We triumphantly stopped the jeep and leapt out to rescue them, knowing that if you plant them the right way up and water them a bit they’ll start to grow again. I was happily putting one lump into the back while my other half was struggling with a great big log, when a lorry full of Portuguese council officials stopped and got out to tell me off for dumping stuff. It was kind of awkward, as I couldn’t understand a word he said and he couldn’t seem to get his head around the fact that English immigrants were stealing their rubbish. He rather dumbfoundedly allowed me to load up as much ‘rubbish’ as I wanted (we got six live trees out of it in the end!!) and the next time we went into town we noticed that the entire area had been bulldozed clear. I think we must have completely befuddled their system and they had to take precautions against having their rubbish stolen by foreigners…:confused:


    BM, if you cut the tops off the euc trees (depending on the species) they may resprout from the trunks and give bushier shade for the van. If nothing else, the tops will give you some firewood for a while :shrug:


    Thanks again for another great read…. Merry Christmas….


    Burra MalucaBurra Maluca

    Those eucalyptus are finally going! My son is at that wonderful age when he’s just got taller than either of his parents and is busy testing his strength on everything he can find, so to keep him amused in the afternoons we tend to give him a machete and point him in the direction of the eucalypts.

    He’s got through two machetes, but he’s feeling very pleased with himself. After we’ve tidied them up a bit we’ll move the caravans and take the rest of them down. They’ll probably resprout for a while but we’ll keep hacking away at them as I’d like to be able to grow other things in the area.

    Here’s one of the new additions – a rustic pergola, and a new cabbage bed.

    We bought the main poles, but the smaller ones are thinnings from the eucalyptus plantation next door. They resprout after they are cut and after a year or two the smaller stems are cut away to leave the straightest one to grow. We finally managed to find somewhere that sells straw all year round so the new cabbage bed has some nice mulch. We’ve found that if we water it with diluted pee after putting the mulch down, the hare tends to keep away instead of nibbling them all down one by one.

    This is a branch from my apricot tree, weighed down with all the fruit. Last year the fruits would fall off overnight as they ripened, so I’ve put a nice big circle of straw mulch around the tree to catch them. They’ll be a few more weeks yet though. We also found grape hyacinth growing around the tree in the mulch.

    They grow wild, but not in any great abundance. The bulbs are edible, supposedly like a rather bitter onion, so we are going to save seed from these and plant them around the place so we can harvest them.

    These are three little peach trees grown from seed. We tried to grow some from some flat peaches we bought from the supermarket. They were really sweet, really juicy, and uncle could bite them without getting a face full of juice, but unfortunately only one grew and then it died. We’ll try again next time we find the right fruit, but in the meantime we have three baby ‘ordinary’ peaches to practice with.

    This is the view from inside the bee area. There is a bale of straw for sitting on and watching the bees, and that green box thing is a solar extractor for melting and collecting wax using heat from the sun.

    And just to prove there’s really bees in there, here’s a close up…

    This is my other half with his head in the bees’ drinking water (it’s too hot now to use the cold frame so he’s improvising). The little white things floating on the water are bits of a polystyrene coffee cup which the bees can use as landing platforms to drink from.

    We’ve just finished eating the beans in this area, so we’ve cut the stems down and mulched it over. There’s still a row of potatoes growing along the back, planted in the trench my other half made when he was posing for the photo of him and his precious jalo.

    This is the base of one of the new trees with nitrogen fixing lupins growing in the mulch to help improve the soil. The seed for these was saved from some lupins that were already growing wild when we bought the farm. The only other ground cover we’ve had much luck with is bee’s friend, or phacelia tanecetifolia.

    It’s not nitrogen fixing, and the seed is a bit pricey (especially as we have to import it, like almost everything else…) but it seems happy here and it covers and shades the ground nicely. We have a nice little patch of it going and will keep seed from it this year and plant more for next year.

    Here’s a close up…

    There’s even a bee on it, posing specially for the camera. I’m not sure what sort of bee it is – it’s not one of our honey bees. There do seem to be a lot of different types of native bees around here. This one was a big, hairy, silver one, but we also have loads of tiny little solitary mining bees and a few giant fluffy ones like teddy bears.

    This is yet another cabbage patch. This one is doing quite well as it is where we had the chickens last year, *and* it has some mulch. We are definitely converts to this mulch business!!!

    The raised beds haven’t worked as we’d hoped, at least not yet.

    The compost we used was too fresh and too rich in sawdust so nothing will grow in them except peas this year. Everything else just withers as all the nitrogen is still locked up. The peas are doing well though…

    And this is our current major project, an aquaponics system!

    We bought a used tank, cut it to make a fish tank and a grow tank, bought some expanded clay pebble things and set the system up with some ornamental carp, which do well in the little ponds we have around the place. We have a solar panel on order to power the thing, the boys spent a week playing with the pump and siphon system to get it perfect, and then we finally got around to testing the water and discovered a huge problem.

    The water was free of nitrates, ultra soft, but the pH was through the roof!!! We couldn’t understand it as the fish always did ok in the little pond. We tested the well water, which turned out to be neutral, so we broke open one of the expanded ‘clay’ pebbles and discovered that it wasn’t clay after all. We’re not sure what it is, but it’s black inside and it’s turning the water seriously alkaline. We immediately stopped pumping water through the system and changed most of the water in the tank but we still lost two of the fish.

    So now it’s back to the drawing board. We have found a shop which claims to be able to get us some tilapia, but from experience the Portuguese will say anything to keep you happy so I’m not sure they actually *can* get them. We’d like tilapia as they can be fed on stuff we grow ourselves and we don’t want to be buying pellets full of either fish meal (I’m not happy with the ethics of it, and my son has forbidden it) or land animal protein (just doesn’t feel healthy to me to feed cows to fish). And now we have to find a new substrate for the plants that won’t be too heavy for the frame. And the solar panel isn’t here yet, either. I guess we can forget the grow tanks for a while and just take dirty water out of the tank, use it on the garden and then replace with fresh, but my other half has rather set his heart on a ‘proper’ system. I’d rather have a big pond for fish, but he likes fiddling with his gadgets. Oh well, it’s a good excuse to get a solar panel I guess.

    I’ll let you all know when it arrives and we’ve got the system up and running.


    Goodness you have been busy – nice to see the signs of emergent spring where you are!


    You have certainly done a lot since the last time I visited this thread!! I love the bees and the viewing seat!! :tup::tup: :clap:

    sewing ladysewing lady

    you are doing wonders. what a fabulous place you have!!!:tup:



    You’re firing away quite well… thats amazing progress you all have done.

    Made me feel bad about my own place – very green and not much work done on it! :shy: The fruit trees will arrive in a couple of months time so gotta be patient here.

    So you have not got a wicking bed set up? Thought it would be perfect for your area?

    Cheers! :hug:


    Hi Burra Maluca – I made your ‘castella’ soap. Turned out good for a first attempt:tup:

    Would something like perlite held in place with a sand layer work for your aquaponics system d’you think?

    Or pumice? Or soaking your current substrate in vinegar, for a month say. maybe?

    Great thread:)

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