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Hi from Belgium!

 
Posts: 15
Location: Limburg, Flanders, Belgium
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Hi folks!

I've been reading these forums for a while and have posted a few times, so I thought I'd introduce myself (and my garden) :-)

I'm a Dutchie living in Flanders, Belgium, married with a son who's 7. I'm a psychologist (well, almost there) and a singer-songwriter and a life-long nature lover. We live in a cabin in a recreational area in a forest, and our garden is across the street from my mother-in-law's house just a 10 minute cycle away. My in-laws have gardened there for 30+ years (rather traditionally, though chemical-free) until they felt they got too old. We've taken over and have been getting more into it since about 4 years. The past three summers have been exceptionally dry and hot (this is an area of Europe known for its grey and wet summers...), and we've been struggling with irrigation. There is no running water in the garden, but we have storage barrels for about 4500 liters (a bit over 1000 gallons I think?). The drought has led me top research permaculture and hugulkultur more intensively, although it always had my interest. I stumbled upon Permies in my quest for Hugulkultur info - and here I am.  

Our whole plot is about 700m2 which is quite large by Belgian standards. The soil is mainly sand (or dust...) so we've been composting and mulching, trying to build good soil. This spring, I made three baby hugels that are doing well (one of them has an enormous tomato and a giant jalapeno pepper on it!).

Here are some pics from this week:
(Edit: the upload messed up the order of my pics, sorry!)

1. Hugel #2 with tomato, jalapeno, nasturtium and chicory... Some marigolds are popping up as well.


2. First hugel I did, with two zucchinis, a tomato, nasturtium and chicory.


3. My attempt at a three sisters-bed, I have been told that our climate is not ideal for it because the beans grow too fast for the corn to keep up. That is why I sowed the corn and pumpkin indoors in april, and have now sowed the beans near the corn stems. They started coming up a few days after I took this pic. I put in some bamboo stalks for the beans to climb, because I realized that this variety goes over 8ft in the air... Oops.


4. An overview - with husband weeding in the back ;-) On the right there is a cover for the tomatoes. Conventional wisdom over here says that you cover them or else they rot. I am learning to question conventional though, so I have planted half of them under a cover and the other half out and about - we'll see what happens. The sunny dry summers are amazing for the tomatoes (last years was a fantastic tomato year!), I imagine they will indeed rot if it rains all summer long like it used to.


5. I have started marking my beds with old branches and little logs. It looks neat, and it keeps the mulch in - this spring I had some birds (pigeons mostly) looking for nesting material messing up my beds. By the way, never mulch with flax. I took the stuff that is used for horse bedding, and it turned out to be full of seed... I have flax growing everywhere now. I suppose the bees will be happy and I could always take up weaving... Did the same with hemp and that worked out great - you win some, you lose some.


6. A couple of years ago I put in three little mountain spinach plants (Atriplex hortensis) and was told they would spread themselves well. They did. I now have 3 million plants every year. I'm okay with it - they look so pretty and I never plant regular spinach anymore (it would go to seed immediately or get eaten by slugs), we just eat this stuff all year.


7. Another one spreading well - Jerusalem artichoke. We call them 'earth pears' in Dutch (because we call potatoes 'earth apples').


8. And some raspberries for the heck of it :-)







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gardener
Posts: 700
Location: Piedmont 7a
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Welcome aboard Sanna!  It is great to have you here!  

Your garden looks amazing - can’t wait to see pictures of your bountiful harvest!
 
Sanna Heijnis
Posts: 15
Location: Limburg, Flanders, Belgium
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Thanks Artie! I'll do that. Looks like I'll soon be buried in zucchinis... Don't know why I planted so many, since my DH is zucchini - intolerant (yes, that's a thing!)... I'll have to put up a booth in the driveway and let my kid sell them or something
 
pollinator
Posts: 199
Location: Italian Alps, Zone 8
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Hi Sanna, welcome to permies!

Fellow Belgian here, but now an expat in Italy. Such a treasure to own a piece of land in Belgium big enough to have a decent garden on it! It’s one of the reasons we moved to Italy. Property prices in Belgium are just getting ridiculous!
In any case, I look forward to seeing and hearing more about your garden. It looks great! I think water management is going to be the biggest challenge for Belgian farmers, as droughts are becoming an increasing problem in Belgium and being usually such a wet country, the Belgian infrastructure is grossly underprepared for dealing with these droughts! I’ve heard this year might be the first where several villages might temporarily be without running drinking water. Can you imagine?!
Good that you are doing your research to be prepared!

I don’t know if you’re familiar with YouTube channel of Edible Acres? They recently did a clip about how they dealt with drought at their permaculture nursery and I found it very inspiring! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crxppjyGCAM
 
Sanna Heijnis
Posts: 15
Location: Limburg, Flanders, Belgium
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Thank you S Bard! Where in Italy are you located? In 2013/2014 we spent the winter in a tiny village about an hour north of Torino. We even looked at some land there and I really loved the area!

We are very lucky to garden on our plot of land. It is not ours, but the neighbor who owns it really doesn't want to garden (he bought the property because the house that's on it has no direct neighbors). So he's happy we keep the place maintained and we're happy too!

Ultimate dream is to have a garden by our home, so we can keep chickens and I can basically be there all the time, haha!
 
Posts: 2
Location: South Burgundy, France (zone 8)
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Hello Sanna,

Like S Bard I am from Belgium, and an expat - I now live in France (Sough Burgundy).
Your account of the dry summers in Belgium amazes me.
We suffered from severe droughts here in Burgundy the last two years but I thought that it was at least a bit better in Belgium!
Catching, storing and using rainwater will be crucial in the future.

I tried a hugelbed but found it disappointing, it is just too dry here - I also had raised beds for a few years but went back to flat beds, easier to manage with very little rain.

Gaby
 
pollinator
Posts: 610
Location: France, Burgundy, parc naturel Morvan
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Hello Sanna,
i'm Dutch and live in France. As Gabriella says, it was very very dry where we are. And my hugel culures failed again. I don't see a lot of succesfull ones, just drawings of hills full of veggies and fruit.. The government is not helping the water situation by making it soooo difficult to retain water. It seems they want farmers off the land, just mega farms with mega traktors and mega debts at the banks.
But ok i am small scale hobby farming, so still doable. At the house garden i've got about 4 cubic meters of water, rain water, it fills a little pond next to the veggie patch, never ran out, even last year no need to fill it with chlorinated water. It's a big problem when you don't have roof at your disposal.
My friend who is into permaculture for years and years has worked around that, he has got thick layers of mulch on no dig beds a bit higher than the surrounding area. He's worked on the soil for a few years on that patch. He only brings two buckets a day with his car. Last year he complained his garden was in a terrible state, i visited and was very surprised his plants seemed less stressed without water then mine with. Mostly perrenials.. On my production land i have say 5000 liters. But the earth was new, so no help from mycelium strains yet. It just didn't matter at some point if i watered or not at all.
Still quite a lot survived and since i save almost all seeds they will be automatically selected for drought resistance. So hopefully i am moving into the direction of a drought resistant garden. Setting up windblocks is going to help achieve that as well. All beds are in line with the height lines so water is blocked time and time again in the wet season.
The friend i mentioned earlier told me he was thinking of covering an area of sloping hill with a huge tarp and leading the rain water into a pond. I thought that was pretty clever. I had proposed to build a hangar with considerable roof space, but he thought that what he has is already big enough. Maybe a hoop house with a channel on the two sides leading into a reservoir. It's all doable if you're handy or you have a handy partner, but finding the time, money and energy is really challenging.
Hope this helps and warm welcome to Permies!!
 
Sanna Heijnis
Posts: 15
Location: Limburg, Flanders, Belgium
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The drought in Belgium surprised me too, Gaby! Last summer temperatures exceeded 40C, which was always deemed impossible here. No rain for two months. My veggies suffered a lot (except for the tomatoes! What a year!) And then enormous downpours, washing everything away. Climate is changing fast. This spring was very dry too, we went from mid March to May without any rain. The water shortage from last year had only just been solved because February was traditionally wet.

Thanks Hugo! You make interesting suggestions. The beds your friend made remind me of our own. The soil is not dead, thankfully, so we can work with it. But because the land is not ours, it is hard to do some serious landscaping. But we can do sunken hugels!
 
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