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Property in Greece. Ideas?

 
Alexander Axelsson
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Hey Guys! Here is my first post for you...
I own a property in Greece that I intend to convert into a healthy and productive garden using the permaculture principles of design and I would like you to join me thru the process of turning this deserted piece of land into something one can be proud of. Let's start.

For some reason there's a concrete ditch between the properties and roads there (it used to be wetland before humans moved in and drained it all out) so, I'm thinking of making a hole from the inside and direct the rainwater into the property perhaps to overflow it into a small pond if possible (can you have a pond over there?). Drought is obviously a big issue and water harvesting is one of the first things on my list.

Basically I just need some pointers to get me started and to make sure I don't mess up straight away. Do I try to make swales from the ditch and thru the property? Are sunken beds the best choise for vegetable gardens? If you have any general ideas on what to do with the land I'm open for suggestions. It's quite flat and sterile as it is now but it used to be green and beautiful when I was a kid about twenty years ago.

The pictures were taken during the dry season in August last year and obviously they aren't that good, I will post new pictures once Ive started..
Thank you, I am grateful for any response. Feel free to just send links as well.

I am also interrested in other projects going on in the surrounding area (Korinth).

Take care!
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Front of the house
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Orange trees
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House
 
Alexander Axelsson
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Here are a few more pictures. The last picture is of orange trees that died and were taken down but now they are regrowing. you can't eat the fruit because they were grafted so they need to be removed at some point.

Basically I just want some ideas on what to do first. I'll start around May or June.
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Last section of the property. I would like to block out the houses.
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Old chicken house, ideas on redesign?
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Orange trees that died and are now regrowing. If you zoom in you can see that the neighbors trees have also died.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1356
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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I would leave the grass that is already there. Whatever you do dont leave the ground bare. You can go ahead and pre soak the seed of the new ground cover that you want to have and sow at 30lbs per acre after/during a strom in the wet season. hopefully 1/10th of it will start growing and then you can trim the current grass down to 4inches to give them a fighting chance. And yes you shoud plant in shrunken holes. or at the very least dig down 3ft and only elevate 1ft. That way you will have a basin to hold the water and a hill to keep the root ball dry however in the desert I really doubt that will be a problem. Another really good idea (but one you might not be able to do) is to start from seed and once the seedlings get to a certain height graft them in ground that way they will have a awesome taproot already in place. I am pretty sure you already have a list of plants already too.
 
Alexander Axelsson
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Thank you S Bengi for all the info! I think I'll leave the grass that's already there. As for why they removed it in front of the house (as you can see in the first picture) I don't know, perhaps they think it's a fire hazard but obviously I will keep the ground covered. I might be able to start some from seed. I will check out the list of plants that you sent me, thank you again.
 
Alexander Axelsson
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If I decide to plant a different groundcover with nitro fixers, would the method you describe be able to take over the current grass to some degree?
 
S Bengi
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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They probably cut the grass near the house low so as to tell the insects and reptiles (esp poisonous ones) to stop, and somewhere to lounge/play.
Cutting the current groundcover low and pre-soaking the "new" groundcover seed, will help the new ground cover.
I think that winterrye or winter wheat, will out compete the current "grass".
Because they dont mind the cold instead they grow well in the winter right up to the freezing point. Fava bean(N-fixer) does the same.
Anything in the mint family(thyme, mint, oregano, lavander, etc) would also do well as ground cover. And also Amaranth.
I am not too sure about the carrot family, but I would at least give cilantro a try. Sea kale and a few others from the cabbage family might be worth a try in the winter.

Keep us updated on whats happening on your property.
 
Alexander Axelsson
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Thank you! I will let you guys know how it goes.
 
Miles Flansburg
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The orange trees that are growing back look like they are very healthy. Is there a way you could keep the rootstock growing and regraft different citrus varieties onto them ? I would think that this would give you more trees quicker and help to shade the ground as you begin to grow things underneath them. Then as you get things established over time, you could take out the trees you do not want and put in others.
 
Alexander Axelsson
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I totaly agree, just realised that myself, they used to be really big orange trees so the roots must be huge, right? I'm gonna look into how you go about grafting with citrus, it would probably bring a fast regrowth. Thank you.
 
S Bengi
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Yeah the existing rootstock has deep roots possible 10ft deep allowing it to get deep water even in the drought.
Far superior to the 1ft(30cm) roots that you would get if you bought and transplanted some.
When you do graft. I would graft 3-6 limbs on the rootstock.
That way you can 1. pick the best graft after a year and kill the rest or 2. have a 3in1 citrus tree(orange/lime/tangerine).
Another though is to just keep a few of the rootstock as is, while they might not be sweet, you can still use them to cook with, make juice or some type of vinegar.

I just realiased that I have never heard of orange wine is that because they are too acidic for the yeast and if so could we still make vinegar.
I am pretty sure that to make vinegar(ethanoic acid) we need wine(ethanol) to feed the microbes.
Maybe I will try it out later this year. Uhmmm.
 
Alexander Axelsson
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Grafting doesn't seem too complicated so that's probably what I'll do, would the fact that the roots are old affect the lifespan of the new growth? do you know? would be frustrating if the trees died five or ten years later. I'm not too fond of the original orange plants as they have quite agressive thorns on them but I'm sure there's lots you can do with the fruit. I did find this about making wine out of oranges http://www.ehow.com/how_5108131_make-orange-wine.html , haven't read it though. you should try it out, would be kind of a unique taste I'm sure
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello Alexander and good luck - you are embarking on a very satisfying/life changing journey - have fun enjoy it.
As the late Wangari Maathai said once - the earth is a lady that always likes to be covered in green - or something to that effect. Ground covers that have worked well for me here in Greece, are vetch, beans meant for animal feed (ktinotrofiko bizeli), and alfalfa. You should never plow - scatter the seeds during the rainy season late October/November.

To accelerate the ground cover effort I started planting closely spaced trees such as almonds and apricots - they will be cut back in 5 - 10 years once the earth is totally covered with a thick layer of decomposing leaves and organic matter.
If you have access to rotten hay, buy as much as you can - see ruth stout's work - 20 cm of rotting hay keeps the moisture in the ground and in 3 - 4 years you will be able to grow a lot of stuff using the Stout method with almost no water, even in Greece.

Read Masanobu Fukuoka San - a brilliant mind. Apply the Natural Farming system and you will see a transformation take place - in the land and in you.

You should search out a high school teacher names Giannis Varellas (Γ. Βαρελάς) - he organizes Natural Farming workshops in your area and is a good man.

I hope this helps
Kostas
 
Alexander Axelsson
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Thank you for those inspirational words Konstantinos. I have always been drawn towards nature and I always surround myself with plants where ever I go. When I'm in Greece I feel frustrated because so much needs to be done but no one seems to do anything, hopefully I'm just looking in the wrong places. So I'm hoping to meet people whom are actively working towards regreening the land and not just their land but the entire country. But since I've lived in the north all my life I don't know much about gardening in the mediterranean climate, do you know what high school Giannis Varellas works at? Perhaps I could learn some basic greek as well maybe that would improve my relationship with the locals. I'm half greek but it doesn't look like it and the greeks didn't seem too happy to see a "tourist" down there.
Anyway.. What I'm looking for is a guide for the seasons, so that I know what to do and what time to do it. like you pointed out that I should only scatter the seeds during the rainy season which seems logical.
Everything I do will be closely monitored by neighbors and relatives so it would be nice if I could get most of it right =)

Thank you very much.
It's nice to see how positive people involved with permaculture are, only solutions and no problems

By the way, do you know why there are ditches around all the properties? seems unreasonable to me and I can't get it out of my head.
Is it leading to the ocean or is it stored somewhere? My father told me that nobody wanted to live there when he was a kid because it was so wet and now even the wells are dry.

Thanks again,
Alex
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello Alexander,
I will tell you what I think I know.....
On the ditches - they sound like your typical drainage trenches, interesting that they dried up. I would monitor them, and if they fill up during the winter, spring, or during heavy rains, then you can see if you can reroute the water and use it (I am thinking of a cheap solar pump, and perhaps a pond).

We are lucky here in Greece, we have a strong Natural Farming group - we were taught by Panos Manikis, a student of Fukuoka, and a very good fellow - see www.naturalfarming.eu Panos definitely knows the number for Giannis Varellas - give Panos a call. See also http://www.ekke.gr/estia/Cooper/Mathper.htm - its in Greek, but Google translate may help somewhat -its an excellent report. There is also another fellow near Korinthos that spend many years in the states -Panos knows him - ask him for the contact number.


See also http://www.permies.com/t/14353/plants/Reforestation-Growing-Trees-Arid-barren our discussion in this group for reforestation.

We also have a strong group that organizes, maintains and exchanges native/organic seeds - http://www.peliti.gr/ - great people.

Never mind what some locals say - the land belongs to whoever takes care of it - it definitely does not belong to those who abuse it and neglect it. The locals have degraded the soil and water, and produce mostly chemical/poisoned products. So their level of knowledge is limited to plow/fertilize and spray (not all) - expect and anticipate criticism - ignore it.

Do not worry about getting it "right" - failure is an integral part of learning - in any case Giannis Varellas will help, as will a trip to see Panos at Edessa.

Kostas


 
Alder Burns
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Tall dry grass like I see in your photos is a HUGE FIRE DANGER in your Mediterranean, dry-summer climate (in which I also live). We always mow once at the end of the spring season when grass heads form and active growth is ending, scything if necessary ahead of this if the stuff is too coarse for the mower, and pile the slash for use as mulch, poultry bedding, and composting. The other classical answer is to graze animals on it, reserving some areas to cut for hay so as to keep the animals through the long dry summer. A plan to manage fire danger is imperative though. In California there are state and local guidelines, not always enforced, but still good to be aware of in any case....
 
Alexander Axelsson
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Konstantinos, It would be a great resource if I could reroute that rainwater into the land.

I wont bother you much more I just want you to tell me if you think I have gotten something wrong, if you don't mind.
So here is my plan and please correct me if I'm wrong, the first thing I think I'll do when I get to Greece, around June or July, is to cut the grass, prune the trees and graft the regrowing rootstocks.

The area in front of the house that is pretty much free from ground cover I will make sunken beds and prepare for growing in the autumn (I imagine you can grow some vegetables in the autumn?) or spring.
Do I mix the soil with something like blood and bone or bentonite? Maby I could even get a hold of some Biochar. What local products do you guys use to make the soil hold water? The front will be for larger vegetables and the backside closest to the kitchen will be more for herbs.

I will look up how to make an efficient food compost that doesn't attract rats and other animals.
As I get closer to the rainy season I will look at how the rain flows, where it goes and how I can reroute it. The solar pump was a good idea!

I agree with you about them having degraded the land and just by trying to improve it I'm doing way more than most of them.
I feel much more prepared now and inspired to get things going as fast as possible and I will try to get in touch with Panos when I get down there.
Saw this video of Panos and in it he makes a raised bed, maybe it's a wet area or something? the soil is much darker than what I have. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=VOvYlwIy1Bg

Thank you, you have been really helpful.
 
Alexander Axelsson
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Alder Burns, I know that California has seen it's fair share of fires and there was a fire quite near me in Greece last summer.
So, next spring I will cut the grass when it's still alive and use it for mulch. I will also try to grow some other groundcovers with the grass to attract a larger variety of insects, hopefully that would help the trees fight off some of the "pests". Take care!
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello Alexander,
You do not bother - we all learn by asking , reading, observing and intelligent independent thinking (this is tough) - it takes time - I am not sure I am a good teacher that's why I recommended other people.

We prune and graft trees in the spring time - so I would say wait.

Cut the grass with a scythe or other tool, but do not use a grass cutter - they tend to shred the grass and a lot of it gets lost due to the wind or the sun. The grass is your most valuable resource - it covers the earth and protects the soil from the scorching sun - it then decomposes in place and provides nutrients to the soil. Some of the grass you can use to form raised beds on the ground - cover a section of the farm with 20 -25 cm of packed down grass or hay you may bring from the outside - this can be the start of your garden area. Alder is right about the fire - but we do not want to cut our nose to protect our face - i.e. do not plow in the name of fire protection. You may take steps to reduce your fire hazard such a using a machine - grass cutter, and cut the grass around the perimeter of your farm - create a 1.5 meter zone around you farm for fire protection - more if you like - you may plant cactus pads around the perimeter and over time create a fence with cactus, for protection from fire, intruders, and a source of food.

Herbs such as oregano, lavender and rosemary do well here without watering (John will also guide you on this).

I use heavy heavy mulching to conserve water - I also bring in manure from the outside or organic fertilizer when I am lazy - but I am focused on using green manure crops - I am headed towards no tilling even in raised beds, no weeding, and no manure or fertilizers - I am also hoping to eliminate raised beds (the whole farm should be as rich as a raised bed) and to minimize watering - tall order - but its possible even here in Greece.
Kostas



 
Alexander Axelsson
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Well you have helped me alot so you are absolutely a good teacher

That is good to know, I will wait with the trees and start with improving the soil.
Yes, I'd rather live with the possibility that there might be a fire than live in a desert.
Prickly pear seems like a nice cactus to have so, I'll probably plant some of those if I can get a hold of them but there already are grapes growing around much of the property wich I like so I won't bother them

I will mulch as much as I can. it's a shame that they spray chemicals on the trees and plants because they throw away so much organic "Waste" and I would have used it otherwise.
The property could be really beautiful with a little work and I will get back to you with an update in the summer so you can see how it's going
I might take a PDC course when I'm down there to learn a bit more, if they are in english.
Thank you for all your help!

Kind regards,
Alex
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Keep us posted Alex on your progress - let us know of your successes failures etc
Kostas
 
Jake Parkhurst
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Any updates? I might be helping to design a piece of land east of Corinth.
 
See where your hand is? Not there. It's next to this tiny ad:
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