Permaculturing in Portugal

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


Since the beginning of October, we – or, more precisely, Duncan with the occasional help of Wayne – have been working hard in the woods above the terraces. These steep slopes of predominantly Maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) have been neglected for a number of years and were overcrowded with self-seeded saplings, wind-blown fallen trees and sparse but flammable understory of Carqueja (Genista tridentata), tree heath (Erica arborea) and bracken (Pteridium aquilinum).

Woodland management

The woods before clearing began

Woodland management

The initial objective has been to remove trees affected by pine wilt nematode (Bursaphelenchus xylophilus). We lost some fine trees to the disease this year, including the 3 below on the edge of the track below the forest.

Maritime pines affected by pine wilt nematode

We’ve also worked to open out the woods, particularly removing crowds of pines from around young indigenous hardwoods like sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa), Portuguese oaks (Quercus faginea) and cork oaks (Quercus suber) which still, amazingly, are managing to germinate in the acidified soil and struggle up through the dense canopy of pines.

Young oak seedlings

I also wanted to make clearings to begin the process of diversification, planting a much wider range of hardwoods and shrubs – some indigenous species and many more edibles ones – which will be able to grow with the benefit of some shelter from the remaining pines, but without overcrowding.

Clearings emerging amongst the pines

Clearings emerging amongst the pines

A cork oak sapling (Quercus suber) sees the light of day again

A cork oak or sobreiro sapling (Quercus suber) sees the light of day again

Thinned pines

The woods after clearing

The last objective was to get ahead of ourselves with firewood harvesting so the wood would have a good couple of years to thoroughly dry before use instead of just a few months. We now have about 3-4 years’ supply cut and awaiting processing. Huge thanks to Duncan for all his hard work.

Thinned pines and stacked firewood

Thinned pines and stacked firewood

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  1. Andrea January 8, 2012

    What a lot of hard work!

    Very pleased to now have the Latin name for Carqueja. I’ve been wanting to learn a little more about this plant which features so strongly here.

  2. Quinta do Vale January 8, 2012

    Well just to confuse matters, it’s also known as …

    Pterospartum cantabricum (Spach) Willk.
    Genista cantabrica Spach
    Genista tridentata L. subsp. cantabrica (Spach) Nyman
    Chamaespartium tridentatum (L.) P.E. Gibbs. subsp. cantabricum (Spach)
    Genistella tridentata Samp. var. scolopendrica (Spach) Samp.
    Pterospartum tridentatum (L.) Willk


  3. Andrea January 8, 2012

    That´ll keep me busy then! I can´t imagine the goats give a hoot one way or the other what their dinner is called mind …

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