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Planting up the raised beds

The rehabilitation of the raised beds is proceeding. And, just as gardeners in more northerly regions are clearing up ahead of the winter – all that pruning, leaf collecting and cleaning out of greenhouses to be done – I’m gearing up to sowing a new season of crops.

The best time of the year is just around the corner. I can’t afford to slack. Now is the moment to get on with preparing the raised beds or I’ll miss the optimal time for sowing.

Before we went away in late September, the hugelkultur treatment of bed 4, originally begun in the spring, was completed, followed by a sowing of rocket, coriander and flat leaf parsley. We left them to their own devices while we were away and were pleasantly surprised to find a good rate of germination, except for the parsley – never an easy seed.

This week, we finished the hugelkultur treatment of bed 1. By “we” I mean the very sturdy gardening assistant, who has the unenviable task of digging out all the soil and sand, with assistance from me. My more fun role is to throw in the infill of dried stems, branches and leaves sourced from the huge basil, severely cut back in September (and now happily thriving once again), honeysuckle, rosemary and plumbago. The important thing is to make sure the cuttings really  are well dried and won’t sprout from under the surface.

Extracted from the trench were large roots from the nearby hedge of Indian laurel trees. Although they proved less generally invasive than I feared, it’s a problem best dealt with before planting up the beds.

We finished the filled-in bed with a top dressing of home-made compost, bought-in compost, and horse manure from stables in Heliopolis. Still nowhere near enough home-produced compost: I can see how these beds should be treated but we can’t possibly make enough compost to add a deep layer of beautiful, rich, crumbly compost to cosset our seedlings… I think I’ll soon be making compost in my dreams!

Seeds planted this week: salad leaves (“Emerald Oak” oakleaf lettuce, “Claytonia” winter purslane, leaf chicory “Zuccherina di Trieste”); spinach “Amazon”; rocket; dill; coriander – all three sourced from Egypt; early dwarf pea “Charmette”; dwarf French bean “Cupidon”; dwarf bean “Bellini”; and a few Anaheim chili peppers.

This was done according to what I hope is the appropriate template from the Maria Thun biodynamic calendar. I am slightly confused about the applicability of the calendar, bought in London, to gardening in Egypt. True, we need a calendar for the northern hemisphere, and I guess we share the same broad lunar and planetary influences. But is it right to sow seeds of leaf/fruit plants in a descending moon? (I can see why one might plant roots at this time). And I’m thrown by another biodynamic calendar with a schedule one day behind Thun’s, making October 24th a leaf, not a fruit, day.

I have also been a lot more careful about how I source seeds this time around, obtaining some organic seeds in Italy, and others from the Botanic Gardens at Kew. For the first time we are trying heritage seeds. I was so appalled to find a previous gardener had planted Seminis (i.e. Monsanto) courgette/zucchini seeds last spring, that I decided to handle the matter differently.

So I placed an online order with the UK’s Real Seed Company, specialists in heritage (heirloom) seeds. Brilliantly, they delivered in record time and I brought the seeds back from London in the summer. The move towards heritage varieties may or may not work, but it’s worth a try if we are to garden organically, safely and respectfully towards the earth.

Out with the genetically engineered, tasteless monsters; in with the age-old, tasty, well-adapted vegetables bringing new colours and flavours to our table… I hope!


Back to basics: biodynamic calendar and responsibly sourced seeds


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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. That looks so interesting. I shall follow your blog to find out how you get on. We’ve bought organic seeds in the past. Really good quality and worth growing. Made a mistake last year when I bought some “grow sure” seed- coated in insecticides! I was so cross with myself for not reading the small print. Just like in the past I have bought pest killers. They don’t say in big letters : ” also kills ladybirds and beneficial predators.” Thanks for sharing

    October 25, 2016
  2. Yes, it’s a problem making sure you are buying the supplies you need for an organic garden, all the more so in Egypt when gardeners bring seeds, plants etc without labels! I’ll be watching how our kitchen garden progresses with interest too: I haven’t had good results with organic seeds in the past, so I’m interested in your experience. On the whole we have a healthy insect population in the garden, and plenty of birds, not bad for a very small oasis in the desert east of Cairo.

    October 27, 2016

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