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Our project so far  RSS feed

 
William James
gardener
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Location: Northern Italy
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Here's a pic of what we have going that's the furthest advanced.
I annotated the pic. Some trees are missing because I didn't want to look up their english names (I usually have to know 3 names for plants, so one always runs away when I need it).

There's also a grape vine growing in front of the pond and at the base of the greenhouse.

2 workers, untold hours of work, no income... yet.

William
panorama.jpg
[Thumbnail for panorama.jpg]
 
Mark Thomas
Posts: 23
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
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Looking good William! Is the water in the tanks mains fed or wells? And what sort of income would you like to generate from the plot?
 
William James
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Hi Mark,
The water in the tanks are fed:
1) By the winter and spring rains (off the roof of the greenhouse, and by pumping out the rain pond).
2) By a water tanker at 70 euros for 2K liters. Not the best option, but in an emergency it works.
3) By us hauling 100 liters of water in our car every time we go to the field, which this summer was 2-3 times a day, about half of what we used.

The lack of water is a huge issue that probably won't be resolved, due to it's complicated and expensive nature. We're hoping that we can get the soil more water retentive and get perennial plants living there as soon as possible, which if you saw our soil you would probably think we were crazy.

But...we were able to have fully-covered annual beds growing a lot of vegetables, even with all the limitations we are working under.

As for income, it's really hard to quantify a per-square-meter outcome. At the moment I would be happy if we could cover the costs of seeds, trees, and transplants.

Hopefully, when the whole 1000 square meters is jam-packed with edible plants, annual and perennial alike, we hope to lower our costs to just annual seed -- and our labor to just a little organic-material-cycling. That way whatever it produces that we can sell will be nearly pure profit. We're also hoping that the microgreens will take off and we can have good profit from that (we are building another similar structure on another piece of land just for microgreens).

I'm planning on making a better, more complete diagram than this one. I'm realizing that there is a lot missing.
William
 
Mark Thomas
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Location: Cape Town, South Africa
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70e for 2k? Ouch! Water is also an issue in my area - BUT have a decent size roof to collect rainwater, just need to get tanks. Have one 5k tank but would eventually like to have around 30K. 10k tank costs around 850E - so will try add a new tank every winter as well as drip irrigation and lots of mulch.
 
William James
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Location: Northern Italy
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I did a calculation for this plot and it worked out to 40,000 liters to cover the 4 months of summer with no rain or nearly no rain (as happened this year). That's 10,000 a week and that's 1000 liters a day (700 seemed like the minimum -- we used about 3-400 a day, which means seriously under-watering). It means we're about 25,000 liters short.

We live very close to a major river, but I don't think that would help us much, especially because we don't have a way to haul significant quantities of water to the property. There might also be regulations about using that water as well, as with everything else here. Plus who knows if the water is safe to use.

All the literature regarding water I've read talks about conserving water, but it assumes that you are able to get the minimum water requirement. The only strategies I've heard of that use zero water are the Eden Garden project (constant mulching with wood chips) and an article about zero-water gardens (incorporating wood chips into the soil). Both use heavy amounts a resource that isn't common at all here.

Our general strategy now is woody taproots. Herbaceous taproots don't break up the clay and get down in our soil...yet.

William
 
Mark Thomas
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Location: Cape Town, South Africa
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Hi William - have you looked at aquaponics? Also, like you, have an issue with water - but for some (not all) crops this is a MASSIVE water saving - some are quoting a 98% water saving... Even if you did not want to "farm fish" the system is very interesting. Just started researching myself - but suggest you watch a couple of vids on youtube. Suddenly water is not so much of an issue.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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William - your project is really beautiful - thank you for sharing with us! Right now is your rainy season, right?? (summer is dry?)

Best of luck and keep the pics coming. There's much interest in what you do.
 
William James
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Thanks Jennifer,

I should correct a previous statement, that we have made no income. It's true we haven't earned a euro in all this, but...

We have been able to not buy vegetables for about 5 months. So that's 5 people not spending money on vegetables, and 4 of us are vegetarian. So we're in the ballpark of about 200 euros a month there. Then we did make some sales of vegetables in mixed boxes this summer, and that totaled around 500 euros. And two rounds of microgreens were another 100 euros. And on top of that, we were able to put on vegetable-based 3 dinners this year with 30-50 people attending, all with vegetables from the garden.

So, in many respects, it hasn't been such a horrible first year of farming. Plus, I feel like the land on the whole is benefiting from our presence. It feels more active, the soil is getting darker, there are more niches and more activity generally compared to 3 years ago when we started.

William
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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William - that is a HUGELY SUCCESSFUL first year of farming - especially in your climate. And think of all the good will and interest you've built! Amazing.
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