Permaculturing in Portugal

One family's attempts to live in a more planet-friendly way

Raised beds phase 2

Having completed the raised beds on the yurt terrace, I’ve moved on to the terrace immediately below the larger of the two buildings. This terrace faces southeast and is the other side of the barroco from the main part of the valley around which the terraces on this part of the quinta wind. While it’s separated from the yurt terrace by a linear distance of only a couple of metres, its extra height and aspect takes it out of the flow of cold air which comes down the valley with the stream. This small change in position is enough to create a 5°C or more difference in air temperature between it and the yurt terrace.

Raised beds, top terrace

As well as this, the terrace walls are part solid bedrock, making for substantial thermal mass, and the soil is comparatively shallow. Consequently this terrace warms up much faster in Spring and retains enough heat from the sun during the day to be frost free much earlier than the yurt terrace. So this is where we grow our heat and sun-loving plants like tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, chillis, asparagus, etc.

With the benefit of well aged compost cleared from the animal house above it, we grew a considerably quantity of vegetables here last year. Even some that we never planted. But as with the plantings on the yurt terraces, beds without borders led to a number of casualties and a fair bit of soil compaction from feet carrying hosepipes for daily watering. I wanted to create raised beds here too.

The layout of the beds takes into account the existing plantings of fruit trees and asparagus which, none too cleverly, I planted last year without thinking about creating beds on contour. However, zig-zagging irrigation channels across the narrow terrace is equally possible and shouldn’t compromise our ability to keep the soil moist, especially with a good quantity of mulch which we didn’t have available to use last year.

Raised beds

The asparagus bed, which we’re already harvesting from, is now complete, including bamboo poles (grown on our bottom terrace) ready for tomatoes. We used the native cana (Arundo donax), also growing here, to support tomatoes last year but found that it wasn’t robust enough as a single cane support to last a full season or hold a heavy fruiting tomato plant. Since both asparagus and tomatoes are heavy feeders, I have sown this bed with a cover crop of nitrogen-fixing white clover (Trifolium repens) rather than mulch it at this point in the year. We will likely add mulch later on when the weather becomes much drier and hotter.

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