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Autumn days

November is usually a beautiful month in Egypt. Bright and sunny by day, with temperatures in the low 20s C (around 70F); chilly but pleasant by night. Mists and fog roll up out of the countryside and heavy dew settles on the grass in the mornings. It’s my favourite season of the year.

Right now, the raised beds are in better shape after the hard work of the past few weeks:


Today, I finished planting up RB 1 with the addition of a final row of rocket (Rucola selvatica, seeds from Italy) and mustard greens “Golden Frill” from the UK’s Real Seed Co. I’m planting more of these crops this year with a view to boost the immune system and protect against some types of cancer. Besides, we enjoy them!

Heritage seeds sown in RB1 in October are doing well: I’ve installed plastic netting for the “Charmette” peas, and put an extra protective cover over the “Cupidon” green beans as advised by a friend who farms organic fruit and veg in Sinai. Rocket and spinach are up – though the latter isn’t doing  well. The beetroot are struggling to germinate: This may not have been a good time to sow them.

I’ve almost finished the hugelkultur treatment of RB2, but the final leg is a slow process as I’m obsessively sifting soil and sand to make a fine ground for sowing all sorts of seeds in a mini nursery in one corner. This may be a futile activity, but I’m really into it!

I’ve started one small section by planting wild chamomile (Matricaria recutita) from Suffolk Herbs, and have already spotted a few tiny seedlings.

Heritage “Early mizuna” and mixed lettuce from Italy have germinated, as have Thompson & Morgan “Early Nantes” carrots. The carrots are appearing in all sorts of places around the drill, so either my hands were shaking like mad or the seeds have wandered. However, in my experience, outlier plants – rather like people – can be of exceptional quality, so I will watch them with interest…

The broad beans, sourced from the bizarre household supplies shop I wrote about in             Rearranging the borders are looking robust. May they live up to their early promise!

To answer readers who have queried our water usage – and the sustainability of the model we follow – I’m watering the raised beds on a rotational basis, using kitchen waste water (e.g. from washing veg) whenever possible. This isn’t enough, so the drip irrigation system is operated once a week; the hose pipe is needed occasionally.

I’m also covering the beds using lengths of irrigation piping, secured in the soil by wooden or wire stakes, to support plastic netting brought from the UK. (Netting may be available in Egypt, but I haven’t found any). It provides protection from cats and greatly reduces the impact from insects, slugs and snails. Above all, we avoid using any form of poison.


Mixed and self-seeded plants in RB3

RB3 is only half rehabilitated. The untreated half has a serendipitous mix of self-seeded mizuna, borage, nasturtiums and dill.

Locally bought dill and coriander, scattered across the other half of the bed, have germinated and are progressing reasonably well. Here and there, rocket descended from previous years’ sowings is also appearing, while a basil plant towers over them all.

RB4 is likewise a mixed bag of recent sowings intermingled with self-seeded borage, rocket, and watercress that is now spreading like topsy all over the place.

It’s such an attractive aspect of gardening naturally: All sorts of plants, and their descendants, put in an appearance when you least expect them – even after major work has been done to overhaul a bed. I wonder at the capacity of nature to regenerate, and I just go  with the flow.

Among the seeds sown, September’s rocket, coriander and flat leaf parsley have done well, and we are harvesting them regularly. The heritage Oakleaf lettuce has struggled, whereas Italian Cicoria “Zuccherina di Trieste” is looking good. It looks as if the Anaheim chili peppers are coming up now, but Kew’s dwarf beans “Bellini” are a failure – again.

We have been a lot more adventurous this autumn: so far, it’s looking good.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Your raised beds are being very productive; interesting that you aren’t having much success with heritage Oak Leaf lettuce, it is something I’ve tried on numerous occasions but I only had good germination the first time I sowed them, maybe as with many things fresh seed is the key.

    November 24, 2016
  2. Hello Christina – I’d say the beds are on the way to being productive, doing well for now but hopefully with much more to come in the early spring. All the heritage seeds except the lettuce have germinated well and the seedlings look quite robust, so fingers crossed that the crops will be good. The winter purslane isn’t so impressive but that may be owing to yet another bout of shaky hand as I sowed it: there’s a thick group in one part of the drill, and not much elsewhere. All the seeds were bought this year. Maybe I need to buy a seed spreader too! Or find a gardener with a steady hand… Sylvia

    November 24, 2016

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