Thursday, 16 February 2017

Biological methods of PEST CONTROL

I have spent years practicing organic gardening and I know how important is companion planting to prevent pests. I have faced common pests like cabbage worms and cabbage white butterflies are prevented by planting thyme, garlic and tagete around. Or slugs, which are disencouraged by garlic and mints too, but most effectively by reducing mulching and their access to sensitive plants.

Spider mites, mildew and aphids are common glasshouse pests, as ventillation is the best prevention against them. I notice that neem may prevent spider mites. But overall, moving plants outdoors is the best solution. The same goes for mildew.

Yarrow, lemon balm, garlic, artemisias are excellent species to include in your garden.

Recently I found onion scarlet lily beetles, potato beetles and squash bugs. They are prevented by planting respectively carrot-family species, ground ivy, and tansy.

Slugs: protect plants with plastic bottle rings or even half-cut plastic bottles, surrounded by sand, ash and/or coffee, removing any mulch, and then surrounding the area with a second plastic slug barrier. You still need to cut grass around to keep slugs under control. Inverted plastic bottles work well with lettuce and with seedlings of pumpkins and zucchini. Mints, garlics and carnation repels them, to some degree. Perhaps fennel. Some suggest spraying with chili. Go slug hunting in early morning or in rainy weather. Use ducks until all slugs are gone (before they start eating your garden). Using chicken tunnels (fenced) around your garden, and they will clean all slugs that could move towards your gardens. I haven´t tried sawdust which is also suggested. Planting in greenhouses is also a good solution. Finally you might avoid sensitive crops like lettuce and carrots, and instead plant more resistant crops like kale or spinach. Plant the sensitive crops in well-sheltered beds.

Slug fences work! But remember to trim grass around them!

Inside the fence, protect plants by using plastic bottles or plastic rings. Be creative! But remember to remove these, when hot weather is forecast.

Cabbage pests: spray compost tea. Plant in polyculture! Plant: garlic-family plants, thyme, sage?, nasturtium?, artemisia and tansy repels them; mustard, radish, tagetes, borage, eucalyptus, sage, mints and dill also potencially good. Carrot family plants attract predatory wasps and zinnias attract ladybugs. Hyssop is a trap crop.

Potato beetles: vetches, ground ivy and tansy repels them. also coriander, flax. Plant early, in raised beds, to allow good growth before plants are defoliated by them, to reduce crop losses. Remove them by hand.

Squash bugs: nasturtium, tagete, and tansy repels, catnip and dill also, radish might work.

Mice and moles: artemisia, garlics, euphorbia, rue, fritilary, bury an inverted bottle (wind noise scares them). Cats are also effective.

Onion scarlet lily beetles: carrot-family plants attract predatory pests as well as catnip or mints, also goldenrod and milkweed, nasturtium (repels them). Remove them by hand. Plant onions in raised beds and well separated from each other, possibly in polyculture.

Scarlet lily beetles attack onions

Corn earworm larvae/moth: geranium, thyme, cosmos. Store corn grain in glass jars, and preferably in duplicate, to avoid losing seed.

Ants: coffee, mints and pennyroyal, lemon skins, sugar mixed with borax (not so ethical and healthy)

Codling moths (fruit trees like apples and pears): nasturtium, chives, lavender (but not so effective). More effective: in winter, clear all fallen fruit. In early spring (15°C), setup moth traps and solar lamps with oil, to capture them (this is just to indicate you that they are there, it does not remove the problem). In late spring, when petals fall, spray fruit with organic bacillus thuringiensis, garlic spray or other organic products, before larvae enters the fruit. Repeat every week for a month, until no more moths are trapped. Alternatively, use nematodes against the catterpillars. Place grease bands around the trunk to prevent creeping catterpillars. Keeping chicken under the trees during winter also works quite good.

Citrus worms: use neem oil


Aphids: Very frequent indoors. Keep plants healthy and not water-stressed or too much nitrogen. Use good ventillation, washing them (rain or a jet of water or with soapy water). Plant mints, garlic, nasturtiums

Spider mites: devastating pest indoors. Use mostly good ventillation; good watering and rain (Expose plant outdoors if possible). Keep plants healthy and not water-stressed. Plant perhaps neem and coriander/dill. Ensure plants are under bright light, and not water-stressed. If necessary, keep plants in isolation and wash them frequently, immersing them in soapy water.

Mildew: ensure good ventillation, expose plant outdoors if possible.

Gnats (small mosquitos): an indoor pest. Avoid organic matter. Cover with a layer of sand over the soil. Keep soil dry. Use vinegar to attract and drown them. Use oil on surfaces or sticky surfaces. Expose plants outdoors or repot plants in sterile new soil.

Root rot: use fine organic matter, use peat, use sterile soil, avoid irregular watering or too moist, do not add too much sand or clay to the soil mix. Keep plants healthy and under good light.


Deer: Use fencing, both high and with vegetation. Setup obstacles. Protect young trees. Plant sensitive crops further away from the edges of property. Floating row cover. Spread hair around crops (this might work against other pests too). Some suggest hanging scented soap bars. Another method might involve placing rottening eggs or spraying eggs diluted in water over your crops. If necessary, setup electric fences.

Wild boar: Dogs can provide some prevention. Wild boar is probably more of a problem in early spring when wild food is scarse. It can also be a problem with you have, for instance, a monoculture of corn. Setup fences. Setup obstacles like sticks or branches around sensitive crops like root vegetables.

Birds: Floating row cover. Cats are effective control. Protect young seedlings with inverted bottles. Place baloons, cds, scarecrows around the garden (though this might not be as effective as you think). Buy birdbusters (make artificial noise). Nevertheless, in my experience I haven´t had much damaged from birds, as I see them as beneficial against other smaller pests such as slugs.

Rabbits: Setup fences (60cm high). Remove habitat where they could hide and cover from predators like shrubs. Cats and dogs scare them. Garlic, garlic clips or fish emulsion. Plant alfalfa and clover just for them. Floating row cover.

I decided to include a few other gardening problems.

Forest fires: plant rows of cypress or poplars, at angle, to stir the fire away from your property. Plant ice plant barriers. Clean vegetation in the edges, or setup water lines.

Drought: add a pond. Thick mulching! Beds filled with organic matter or even hugelkultur! Sunken beds. Dense planting. Plant under a tree. Shrub edges to create shade. In desert areas, create an oasis, by creating depressions, swales, and planting desert species like date palms, olives, carobs, mesquites, honey locust and acacias.

Frost: Thick mulching, by adding thick insulating layers of leaves, grass, straw and peatmoss. This way, one can insulate down to -15°C. Use plastic wrapfoam during minor freezes (with straw inside). This can even protect small trees. Use fleece covers during minor frosts.

Cool summers: Plant against a south-oriented wall. Raised beds sloped towards south. Sandy soil, with plenty fluffy organic matter (like straw), to warm rapidly. Add some fresh compost to generate warmth. Setup windbreaks! Use well-adapted varieties from cold countries in the Arctic. Start seedlings indoors. The easiest solution is of course to grow under a polytunnel.

Tomato fruit drop-off. Add calcium to the ground. Avoid irregular watering, too wet or too dry. Add compost tea. Reduce dew moisture in morning, by growing them under a polytunnel, in raised beds or in containers. Use locally adapted varieties.

Plant around: phacelia, lemon balm, tagete, calendula, broad beans, yarrow, chamomile, valerian, dandelion, nettle, horsetail, mugworts and wormwood, aster-family flowers, clovers and lupins.

Also see my previous post in 2011:

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Guide to how to live moneyless! (in the spirit of Gift Economy and Self-sufficiency)

Inspired in the "Moneyless" book of Mark Boyle, which I really recommend!

Moneyless guide Gift Economy / Living sustainable / Self-sufficiency

- you can grow even in small places like windowsills (for those in cities; see my posts from 2009)
- renting or borrowing land (for instance a friend or relative) / landshare
- using urban wastelands
- join an existing ecovillage (see, and eurotopia book)
- occupying ghost towns (especially if you have a good of friends)
- buy land (which is not a moneyless option)

- home sitting / boat sitting
- house exchange
- living in house of friends (or borrowed for free)
- squatting
- caves
- abandoned blackhouses, farmhouses and ruins
- living in a caravan
- yurts and tipis (or even wild camping)
- natural constructed homes (earthships, strawbale, earthbags, roundhouses, subterranean, benders)

3-  FOOD
- grow your own (the easiest option for most; very easy to grow potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, corn, kale, onions, turnips, mustard greens, tomatoes, bush beans and amaranth)
- wild food and forage (see
- catch roadkill
- guerrila gardening (especially in cities)
- skipping and dumpster diving (especially in cities)
- community orchards and gardens
    - seed saving and swap (
    - swapping produce with friends
    - food forests, perennial vegetables (low maintainance) like berries, wild greens or fruit trees
    - leafcurf (from nettles, ramps, linden, alexanders, groudn elder and charlock)
    - growing eggs, honey and mushrooms
    - permaculture design (,
    - start your own compost, fertilizing with liquid comfrey or nettles
    - sheet mulching using dead tree leaves instead of digging, dense growing instead of weeding
    - cooking from scratch / become a vegetarian
    - use simple ingredients / buy in bulk (rice, cereals, vegetables, pulses are very cheap) 

- rainwater harvest
- well, boreholes and rivers
- solar shower
     - soapwort as natural cleanser (or mock orange or new jersey tea)
     - hyssop as natural deodorant
     - nurture skin with aloe vera
     - clean hair and skin: herbs soaked overnight (sage, yarrow, mint, rosemary)
     - hair cleaner: rye flour and boiled nettles (or rice flour or boiled linseeds)
     - soap: make lye out of rainwater and hardwood ashes, and add fats
     - toothpaste made of fennel seeds, cuddlefish bone, salt or baking soda
     - toothbrush made out of marshmallow roots, liquorice, neem or eucalyptus
     - mouthwash: boiled mint, anise, thyme, rosemary or lavender
     - cleaning your bum: water rising, newspaper, leaves, or even rocks
     - cut your own hair (or ask a friend)
     - cleaning the house: vinegar (make your own apple cider), baking soda, boiled herbs or salt
     - cleaning the dishes: wood ashes /  scrubber: luffa, a ball of dried grass or pine cones
     - wash your clothes: nearby sink or even river; use sun to dry, a mangle or wear them wet!
     - compost WCs (very easy to build) (see also my post in building your own greywater system)

- barefoot or moneyless shoes (made of recycled tires, plastic bags and carpet)
- hitchhiking (
- liftsharing
- biking
- and trusting fate (people offering you accomodation)
- wild camping or bushcrafting (see "outdoor survival handbook" by Raw Mear)

- project
- solar charger
       - rapeseed oil candles or beeswax (storytelling, singing, games)
       - start a campire (keyhole fire)
       - rocket stove (elbowed flue pipe, 15kg olive cans, insulating material)
       - hay box (slow cooking)
       - earth ovens (for baking) (see "build your own earth oven" by Kiko Denzer)
    HEATING - putting extra jumpers or clothes
       - gas bottle wood burner
       - mansory oven (more complex)
       - solar heater

- homeschooling
- alternative schools (barefoot college, steiner schools, montessori, small school, , sudbury, summerhill) (see "alternative approaches to education, a guide for parents" by Fiona Carme)
- freeskilling groups
- get a used mobile phone from friends/ get a computer through freecycle, trash or through friends
- use linux, skype, openoffice, hushmail, duckduckgo, truecrypt

      - Localised healthcare (herbalism)
      - Menstruation (mooncup, reusable pads)
      - Natural contraception (withdrawal method, combined with understanding of a woman cycle)
      - cloth swapping (see, get from friends, go to a second hand shop
      - make your own, mend, knit your own clothes
      - freeshopping
      - make clothes out of hemp or nettles (but this requires skills)
      - pillows, out of reedmaces / duvets, out of wool
      - make and play an instrument (for example make out of wood logs and roadkill skin)
      - painting (made out of marigolds, blackberries, poppies, clays, charcoal, chalk, rocks) / mushroom paper
      - street parties, games, performances, debate evenings, local groups, sports, movies...

- breastfeeding instead of bottles
- no baby food, at six months combine breastfeeding with some cooked food
- get baby clothes from previous parents, friends or relatives
- co-sleeping with the baby (no extra bed)
- diapers (second hand, rewashable) / diaper-free (by understanding the clues of the baby)
- consider skipping non-essential healthcare and vaccinations (inform yourself, at your own risk)

(but then you will be part of the system and not truly moneyless)
- unemployment benefits
- woofing, volunteering
- organizing workshops, teaching yoga
- making and selling handcrafts in local markets
- giving massages
- selling in ebay
- writting a blog and adding adsense
- writting and selling ebooks
- local garden work
- seasonal jobs (like fruit harvest)

Get rid of your debts! Potencially get rid of your TV or car!

- Mark Boyle
- Daniel Suelo
- Peace pilgrim
- Heidemarie Schwermer
- Elf Pavlik
- Tomi Astikainen
- Jurgen Wagner
.... (links to be added)

- Freeconomy groups, Freegle (, (second hand stuff and toolsharing)
- GIFT CIRCLES and GIFT ECONOMY (information in soon)
- HelpX, Woofing, Volunteering
- LETS and Timebanks
- and
- Street freecycling (there are a lot of stuff that people put out in the streets for free to take)
- Book Swap ( and, booksharing clubs, Bookcrossing
- Papers and pens: inkcap mushrooms; molted wing feather; birch polypores or polyporus squamosus along with a mesh to make the paper / making recycling paper
- (more links to be added in soon)

Monday, 26 September 2016

Millets, a list of different varieties

Foxtail millet (Setaria italica)
Japanese Foxtail millet 02.jpgThis is a millet, very easy to grow, very tolerant of drought and very fast growing (can be grown in 2.5 to 3 months). It tolerates slightly cooler conditions than other millets. Native to east Asia, widely cultivated as fodder and hay; domesticated since old times. Consumed as food only in poor regions of China and India.

Seed is tiny, and with orange hull, difficult to remove! Conflictive reports, apparently some varieties are easy to remove papery husk but it´s not the case with the variety I cultivated.

Quite productive. I harvested 400g/m2 in Austria.
Very beautiful when ripe. Bright-brown seed heads, quite heavy when ripe. Susceptive to molds.
Less than 1 meter high. Can be grown quite densely. High biomass. Can be grown in containers.

Japanese millet or Banyard millet (Echinochloa esculenta)
Japanese barnyard millet.jpgThis is a millet, very easy to grow and very fast (grown in 2.5 to 3.5 months). Grown in the far East as fooder and also as food, now less popular as rice took over its place.

Seeds are also tiny. Light brown hull is very difficult to remove!

Not as productive as foxtail millet, but it will produce lateral seed heads.
Dries very easily after harvesting.
Taller than 1 meter. Can be grown also densely. Can be grown in containers.

Proso millet (Panicum milliaceum)
Panicum miliaceum0.jpgThis millet thrives with warmer conditions than the two former millets, and a slightly longer growing season (about 3-4 months). This is the most widely grown millet in the US, usually just as birdseed but also as common millet. Best protein profile than wheat but poor in lysine. Highly alkaline. Irritant leaves make not the best fodder.

Best flavour but hull is slightly difficult to remove.
Seeds are large, inverted heads with many gold yellow seeds. Quite beautiful.

Moderately productive.
About 1 meter tall. Requires more space in the soil.

Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum)

Grain millet, early grain fill, Tifton, 7-3-02.jpgThis millet requires warmer conditions and a bit longer growing season (about 4 months). This is the most widely grown millet in the world, more than 50%. Native to Mali, then spread eastwards to India. A staple in Nigeria and Namibia. Stands harsh soil conditions, including salinity and drought.

Easiest hull to remove! :)
Seeds are large, with a whitish grey color.

Not as productive. Enjoys more watering. Goes dormant in drought.
Taller than 1 meter high. Requires more space in the soil. Sensitive to wind.

Finger millet or Ragi (Eleusine coracana)
Finger millet 3 11-21-02.jpg
Also relatively easy to grow, slower growing (about 4 months).
Adaptable to high altitudes. Native to east Africa and spread to India, where is quite popular and consumed as food. Grows also in the Himalayans.

No information in hull

No information in how productive it is.
Can be smaller than 1 meter. Smal sized plants, quite peculiar the shape of its seed heads.

Kodo millet (Paspalum scrobiculatum)
Image result for kodo milletPrimarily grown in India. Quite drought tolerant but not widely grown. Or only as famine food.

Seeds are very small!
And hulls are very difficult to remove!!

Smaller than 1 meter high.


Teff (Eragrostis tef)
Extremely tiny seeds, easy to remove husk but due to small sized grains the process is somewhat labour intensive. Harvested within 3-4 months. Very small sized plants, like grass. Plants are very dry tolerant, but require warmth. Native to Ethiopia. Sold sometimes as an expensive new healthy flour.

Sorghum (sorghum bicolor)
A common crop, often used as hay, fodder crop or to produce syrup. Rarely consumed as food. Similar to corn in requirements but more tolerant of dry and poor conditions. Needs warmth and a long growing season.

Fonio millet or Acha (Digitaria exilis and Digitaria iburua)
Native to west Africa and as a famine food. Very small seeds and very difficult to remove husk. Available in two species, white fonio and black fonio (the last is less common). Digitalis compacta, known as Raishan is cultivated in Indochina.


Polish millet or crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis)
A common European weed, rarely cultivated as grain, but harvested by hand.

Job´s tears (Coix lacryma-jobi)
Cultivated usually only as ornamental.

Browntop millet or signalgrass (Brachiaria spp. or Urochloa spp)
A common forage grass, usually in the tropics or subtropics. Brachiaria deflexa is known as Guinea millet.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Giant pumpkins! The beasts of our garden!

It´s early August and the garden is thriving.

It has been a very rainy summer, and recently with more cool and even chilly weather.

Nevertheless the giant pumpkins, which have been growing since August, are now of a massive size.
They measure about 1 meter wide and I wonder how heavy they are.

We will have to make a large community pumpkin soup event!

For buying seed, go to

This is just one of our giant pumpkins!

The SECRET for getting giant pumpkins is liquid comfrey and plenty of rainfall. But of course the seed counts, the right variety (I sell some of this seed if you are interested)

Now I cut the leaves to stop the pumpkin of growing more and force it to ripe. I don´t want so large fruits!

We have 3 giant pumpkins, coming from two plants.

Overview of our small food forest, with (from left to right) kiwi, beans, corn, amaranth, millets and sunchokes in the background

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Bountiful gardens in north Austria!

It has been a very thunderstormy summer, with heat mixed with plenty of rain and at times large hail and windgusts. 

We continue our harvest of salads, spinach, kales, turnip greens, radish, and peas, that started in May. Since the beginning of July, we harvest some carrots, swiss chard, and plenty of zucchini and cucumbers. Recently, we began harvesting the first tomatoes, broad beans and bush beans, and ocasionally raspberries. We also harvested our first potatoes and barley. 

In soon we will be harvesting our first pumpkins! In the garden we also have green peppers, runner beans, corn, millets and amaranths, leeks, beets, a few broccoli, sunchokes, chinese artichokes, ocas, mashua, chufas, groundnuts, sweet potatoes and peanuts.

So what has grown fantastically this year and what were the failures? This summer has been prolific for all cucurbits due to the combination of frequent rain and warmth. Other plants grow fast but are also frequently eaten by slugs. Potatoes suffered due to excessive moisture and the Colorado beetle. We had our crop failure with onions, also due to excessive rainfall and the scarlet lily beetle. 

Every week we harvest peas, carrots, plenty of zucchini, cucumbers, and flower for salads. All organic and for free.

We will have a giant pumpkin soup festival in the autumn! Fingers crossed! 
Here is a preview of the largest garden. Watch the height of those jerusalem artichokes on the left edge!

Br growing such massive fast-growing plants locally, we produce our own compost and organic matter. Therefore not depending in external inputs of fertility. Think sustainable!

This week harvest. We can make several meals from this!

And this is one of our two gardens (the small one), which was severely damaged by a large hailstorm last weekend!

The hail stones were insane, as large as eggs! Damage here was large (not just gardens but cars, trees and houses), but thankfully our largest gardens, a few kms away, were left untouched.

Diversity is key.

Lemon cucumber. Looks like a lemon, Tastes like a cucumber!

If you are interested in seeds of any of things we grow, please feel free to buy them from me at

And here the gardener is harvesting some barley. Yes, we also grow our own cereal.

This is local economy. Our own locally grown resources, out of thin air, bedrock and soil, sunshine and water. 

Fully Sustainable as there are no external inputs other than my own work, my own seeds, rain and sunshine.

And the surrounding countryside and moutains...

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

What can you grow in your climate? How much heat does each vegetable requires?

Many of our crops grow accordingly to temperature, some requiring night temperature above a certain limit, in order not to stall in their growth, orders requiring the heat of the day to thrive quicker.

Consider global warming, and experiment with growing crops that grow more south than you live.

If you live in such kind of landscape, with cool summers, stick to most leaf and root vegetables (kales, turnips, potatoes, peas and broad beans, salads), barley and perhaps try siberian tomatoes, quinoa and zucchini

  • COOL SUMMERS These crops grow happily with temperatures between 5-15°C - the spring in most temperate climates and arctic summers: peas, broad beans, potatoes, kales, mustard, rocket, pak choi, radish, oats and barley, swedes, turnips, cabbages and broccoli sprout. As the temperature is above 10°C, then try lettuce and spinach, and with a longer growing season: rye, leeks, fennel, parsley, celery, parsley, carrots, onions, kohlrabi, parsnips and beets. 
  • COOL TEMPERATE CLIMATES Crops that do not need very warm summers and tolerate cool evenings (10 to 20°C) - this includes most of the UK, Scandinavia, perhaps a warm summer in Iceland: wheat, quinoa, zucchini and siberian tomatoes! If the summer temperatures reaches >20°C, then try corn and rocoto peppers. This climate also allows to grow apple and cherry trees. See my past posts in Icelandic gardening.
If you live in a temperate climate, like most of Europe and North America, then you can grow pumpkins, beans, corn, wheat, millets, amaranth and even try peppers and sweet potatoes. You can also try figs and almond trees.
  • TEMPERATE CLIMATES Crops that need warm summers (28-30°C) but they tolerate cool evenings around 10°C - this is the climate of most continental Europe and North America, and the warmer regions of UK: pumpkins, most types of beans, runner beans, amaranth, foxtail and japanese millet, rocoto pepper, and corn. Many more fruit trees grow with this climate, chestnuts and pears.
  • WARM TEMPERATE CLIMATES These crops also grow in a temperate climate with warm summer days (28-30°C), but need milder nights (15°C) - such as France, north Spain, southeast Europe, perhaps the warmer regions of UK and central Europe: peppers, lima beans and sweet potatoes.  Figs (zone 6), Almond (zone 6-7), Pomegranates (zone 6-7), Guava trees (zone 7-8)
In a Mediterranean climate, you can easily grow peppers, eggplant, cucumber, and watermelon (perhaps peanuts and rice). Experiment also with tropical fruits if you have no frosts
  • MEDITERRANEAN CLIMATES Tolerating not-warm evenings (15°C) but require reliable hot summer days (30-35°C) - southeast Europe, Italy, Spain and Portugal: watermelon, pearl and proso millet, cucamelon, sorghum and winged beans. Peanuts, requiring a longer growing season. Olive trees (zone 7-8), Avocado trees (zone 8-9). Carob trees (zone 8-9). Bananas (zone 9)
  • WARM MEDITERRANEAN CLIMATES These crops require warm nights (20°C), even if summers are not too hot (30°C) - coastal and southern regions in Italy, Portugal and Spain, Azores: cucumber, eggplant, rice and okra. Jackfruit, Mango, Papaya trees (in frost free locations). 
In tropical and subtropical climates, you can grow almost everything, and some crops like moringa, coconuts and cacao, can only be grown in such climate
  • SUBTROPICAL CLIMATES Crops that need hot climates, requiring both warm nights (20°C) and hot days (35°C) - such as tropical or subtropical climates (south Spain, south Italy, Canary Islands, Florida, south California): moringa tree, pigeon pea, bitter gourd. Rambutan tree. 
  • TROPICAL CLIMATES Crops that do not tolerate any cool temperatures, prefering year round tropical weather: coconuts, cacao, black pepper, vanilla.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Garden in north Austria, update June 2016 - daily harvests and plants thrive!

In our two gardens in north Austria, as of end of June. Photos and written update.

We have a small garden, 2 square meters, where we grow everything from salad, beets, carrots, bush beans, corn, amaranth, millets, kales, onions and broccoli.
In our larger (community) garden, we had to protect against slugs, with plastic fences. Here you see zucchini, and further behind broad beans and potatoes. A small wheat bed to the right.. 
Kale, with corn and amaranth further behind 

Peppers and okra, planted against a tile, to create a microclimate

Two pumpkins, also protected against slugs. And potatoes behind.

Some perennial vegetables: ocas and chufas, surrounded by spinach.

  • Corn is about 40cm tall and beginning to tassel. I grow 4 different varieties
  • Foxtail millet is about 30cm tall. Other millets (pearl, proso, japanese) are about 15cm tall.
  • Amaranths are about 20-40cm tall, and growing fast (three varieties). Quinoa, some seedlings, some 30-50cm tall begin to spike. Barley has been flowering for a month, while wheat (spelt, emmer, kamut) since two weeks.
  • Tomatoes have been flowering. They are about 50cm tall. 
  • Squash begins flowering, and it has a large size 30-100cm wide. Pumpkins are around 1 meter long and began to flower (giant atlantic and hokkaido). Cucumber produced 1 fruit last week, 1 meter tall, others setting buds have 30cm tall (three varieties)
  • Carrot in seedling stage, eaten often by slugs. Beets as large seedlings. Some heirlooms of both. In community garden, these have been harvested.
  • Peas have been producing pods for about 3 weeks (green and purple). Broad beans are just recently flowering, and around 1 meter high.
  • Bean seedlings are around 20cm high (several types: bush beans, french beans, black beans, runner beans). 
  • Spinach flowering, has been harvested for a month. Lettuce has been harvested for 3 weeks, full size begins to bolt, others are still growing. Valerian salad harvested for second week. Kales harvested since two months. Miner lettuce and minutina now of a fine size and start to be harvested.
  • We failed to grow most brassicas due to slugs and temperature extremes. I have sown some broccoli and cabbages, and in one of smaller gardens, we have some 10cm broccoli seedlings.
  • Eggplant and sweet pepper planted flowering at 35cm tall, peanuts at 15cm high. Okra planted while setting pods. Rocoto planted 30cm tall.
  • Lima beans setting pods indoors. Winged bean just growing. Malabar spinach setting seed indoors, while outdoors remains at 20cm high.
  • Potatoes have began flowering. Its a nice thick patch, combined with onions, which has been damaged by lilly scarlet beetle. Sweet potato vines are between 15cm to 1.5 meter, now under plastic cover. 
  • Mashua vine is just around 30cn tall but healthy. One growing indoors, of around 2m tall begin wiltering. Oca plants are bushy around 30cm wide. Yacon planted with 10cm. Groundnut vines 1meter long. One skirret plant of 15cm high. Chufas remain similar to last month, about 10-15cm high.
  • Other perennials: sea beets, scotish lovage, perennial kales, 

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Self-sufficiency in Austria!! (Garden in north Austria)


Now I live in Gmunden, upper Austria (zone 7) and working on a repeat of my self-sufficiency research study.

Having arrived in Austria with my companion, I met this fabulous community garden group of young people, with whom I join forces in growing food and a future food forest.

I wonder how much food can I grow in a small area 40m2.
They kindly borrowed me a piece of land to experiment with this. And we hope to grow some crops like quinoa, millets and amaranth in Austria, besides perennials like rocoto chili pepper, good king henry, oca, skirret, and others!

Exciting times!
Here goes my "simple" plan of annual vegetables, for self-sufficiency:
  • Garlic (60 pieces planted) (estimated yield 365 pieces, one per day, full year) 
  • Pumpkins (2 seelings planted, planned more 5 seedlings) (estimated yield 10-20 pumpkins, two per month, for half a year or more) 
  • Onions (60 pieces planted, in 4m2) (estimated yield 60 onions, one every 3 days, for half a year) 
  • Corn (50 seedlings planted over 3m2) (estimated yield 50 ears, one per week, for half a year) 
  • Potatoes (currently 4m2, planned more 3m2) (estimated yield 2kg/m2), 15kg of potatoes for about half a year 
  • Beans and peas (72 seeds planted over 2m2) (estimated yield 1.5 kg/m2), 3 kg for 30 meals of 100g, twice a week for 3 months (planned more 3m2 of beans), then enough for half a year 
  • Sweet potatoes (area planned 2m2) (estimated yield 1.5kg/m2), 3kg of sweet potatoes for about 4 months 
  • Barley and wheat (planted area 4m2 barley and 2m2 wheat) (estimated yield 0.5kg/m2), 3 kg (two meals a day, for a month) 
  • Quinoa (planted area 3m2) (estimated yield 0.1kg/m2), 300g (about six meals) for a month 
  • Amaranth (planted 3m2) (estimated yield 0.1kg/m2), 300g (about six meals) for a month 
  • Millet (area planned 2m2) (estimated yield 0.2kg/m2), 400g (two meals a week) for a month 
  • Tiger Nuts (to plant 0.5m2, about 40 pieces) (estimated yield 1kg/m2), 500g for a month 
  • Scorzonera, Skirret, Burdock to plant 0.5-1m2 of each (estimated yield 1-2kg/m2 
I hope to experiment with small plots of Salsify, Oca, Ulluco, Yacon, Malabar Spinach, Sea Beets, Miner Lettuce, Groundnut, Buckwheat and possibly Peanuts.

Yeah, it could be peanuts, but slugs are a major challenge in the rainy Austrian summer. Let's see!

More updates in soon!

If you are iterested in buying some of my seeds, please go to :)

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The impermanence of a Permaculturist

This year, 2015, has been a year with plenty of life changes.

Earlier in the year, I left Iceland, and the 4 year Icelandic Permaculture project I was developing at the Sólheimar intentional community. The two food forests I had there, were left behind, mostly to nature, without a caretaker. Some species were moved to a friend's property, a permaculture devotee, located in south Iceland, that was also starting a food forest.

Permaculture garden, located in Sólheimar, Iceland (2014)

In spring, I eagerly started a new project - the Permaculture Food Forest at Vale do Carvalho, in Mortágua, central Portugal. I was excited!

Food forest project, located in Mortágua, central Portugal (2015)

The project was going well for the first months, and quickly reached a staggering number of planted edible species of 230, in a short period of time! I worked there full-time and had a large collection of fruit trees, and other permaculture perennial vegetables, besides the common annual vegetables, including grains, millets, amaranths and quinoas, many types of beans and salads, medicinal herbs, Andean root crops, flowers, nuts, etc

In June however, I had a breakup with my partner. I had to abandon the new project, as it was located in my ex's family property. The project only lasted 4 months! Again, it was left to nature, as no one would take care of it in the times to follow.

I moved (again) many species to a friend's property - that lives south of Porto - and there we quickly started together a new food forest project, that already reached a total of 100 species. We call it the Food Forest of Paulo and Benjamim.

The start of a new food forest project, south of Porto, Portugal (2015)

During the summer, my motivation was mostly to travel. I was tired of such dramatic changes. I began searching for a place where I could settle down, buy some land, and meet like-minded people.

As of now, the abovementioned 3 food forests projects remain in spot, but only the last one, has the care of a friend. In the months ahead, I will travel to explore permaculture and community projects worldwide.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Permaculture workshop in Vienna, Austria

Last weekend, the Friday 13th November, I did a permaculture workshop for a group of people, located in a new cohousing project, in Vienna, Austria.

The workshop was named "PermaCityCulture"

The workshop flyer...

As a small group of enthusiastic gardeners gathered, I was enthusiastic to talk on how to do permaculture in the city, from urban balconies to raised beds in outdoors gardens.

The workshop started outdoors, in a quite philosophical manner...

 I talked about how to build good soil, in the raised beds of their cohousing project

For about an hour, I talked on using good principles of Permaculture, such as observing and inspiring ourselves from nature, be it in keeping the soil always with a green cover, or growing perennials, as a source of food.
Talking about comfrey, borage and nettles, as soil builders
Afterwards, the evening came, and we all continued with a presentation and a round talk indoors, with a beautiful view over the skyline of Vienna, in a cozy library room.

Vienna, Austria. 
In the end, we all had a good time, and I was offered a delicious dinner!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

An edible food forest in Portugal - "Benjamim garden"

Over the past few months, changed have happened, and I have left the life I had in Iceland and moved back to Portugal.

Much warmer climate, much better possibilities to grow my own food smile emoticon

Five days of work and we have created our swale, raised bed, with about 30 species of edible plants, some aromatic or medicinal, many of them perennial, some are nitrogen fixing trees, some are less known edible roots, plus some species in risk of extinction (part of our conservation work, part of our food forest). Abundance and sustainability!
  • medicinals like angelica, valerian, marshmallow, burdock, comfrey and berberis
  • aromatics like scots lovage, wormwood, wild garlic and calamus root
  • annuals like miners lettuce, siberian kale, chioggia beets, durum wheat and quinoa
  • permaculture trees like leucaena, honey locust, eleagnus, casuarina, date palm or princess tree,
  • endangered species like jubaea chilensis, clianthus puniceus and dendroseris litoralis, 
  • edible perennials like good king henry, yacon, chinese artichokes, skirret, perennial rye and perennial leeks.

Swale and raised bed. Many edible species planted. An edge of garlic and wormwood will deter any pests. Comfrey nearby. Also many nitrogen fixing species. Perennials like good king henry, chinese artichokes, yacon, perennial leeks and perennial rye. Medicinal herbs too. Hopefully abundance will follow

Happy smiles after half of this bed/swale completed. More to follow smile emo
If you are iterested in buying some of my seeds, please go to :)

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Pest repellent plants


Several plants are known to repel moles. Daffodils, frittalary, scilla flowers, castor bean, garlics, and caper spurge.

To deter mice: peppermint, perennial sweet peas, muscaris, and again daffodils and scillas. Also wormwood and garlics.

To deter cats, besides laying barriers with thorny sticks, rue is a good herbal option. For deer, russian sage is said to repel them, but nothing is as effective as tall fences. For rabbits, garlics and mexican marigolds. For racoons, try placing cucumber near corn, but best is to use old nets or thorny shrubs. For squirrels, frittilary seems to work.


For brassica clubroot: your soil is probably wet and anaerobic, hence acidic. Correct pH to 7.2 or higher, add calcium. Build hugelbeds to attract fungi that controls clubroot.

For tomato and cucurbit mildew, have plants in well-composted beds near swales, to have plants very healthy and non-stressed. Keep good ventillation and avoid damp conditions. Avoid lack of calcium. For strawberries, grow alpine varieties.

For cabbage worm, plant borage nearby. Cabbage maggot is repelled by thyme. Cabbage looper (caused by larvae of a butterfly) is repelled by catnip, dill and garlic, hyssop and mint, nasturtium. Cabbage white butterfly is also repelled by tansy, wormwood in addition to many of the others. Wormwood is an excellent companion for cabbages. As are garlics, tansy and thyme.

Slugs. Plant fennel nearby.

Carrot fly is repelled by garlic family, chives for example.

For mosquitoes, plant lantana, citronella, lavender and basil. Have ducks or fish in the standing water.

To repel moths: wormwood, lavender and spearmint,

Some herbs deter really many pests! Examples include wormwood, chrysanthemus, dill and garlic, but also mint, nasturtium, thyme, and tansy.

Spider mites are said to be repelled by coriander and dill. Neem is definitively an excellent repellent. This pest appears when plants are stressed; give them the best conditions! Ventillation, air moisture and good plant health are essential.

Aphids are repelled by chives and garlic, fennel and mints, nasturtiums. Wind and washing plants also work.

In SUMMARY, a fence of garlics, frittilary and daffodils, wormwood and thyme. Fennel for slugs. Lavender for moths and mosquitoes. Possibly tansy, dill, borage and mints.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

A new food forest in Portugal...

In January I moved from 4 years in Iceland, back to Portugal.

A new start for my permaculture dreams!

It's March, a beautiful spring sun, full moon, and together with Benjamim Fontes we are making on countour a raised bed and swale, and so far we planted out 30 species part of our future "forest garden".

We included medicinals like angelica, valerian, marshmallow, burdock, comfrey and berberis, aromatics like scots lovage, wormwood, wild garlic and calamus root, annuals like miners lettuce, siberian kale, chioggia beets, durum wheat and quinoa, permaculture trees like leucaena, honey locust, eleagnus, casuarina, date palm or princess tree, endangered species like jubaea chilensis, clianthus puniceus and dendroseris litoralis, and edible perennials like good king henry, yacon, chinese artichokes, skirret, perennial rye and perennial leeks.

Pics to follow in soon.

A glimpse of our "food forest" in progress

In the next weeks, I will also hopefully join other people to start similar projects. Next food forest will be started with Pami Sami in central Portugal, this month. It has a lot to do with experimentation towards creating exciting permanent food sustainability, ecological care and lots of fun, on practice.

Whoever is interested, please let me know so we start similar projects.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

List of my endangered plants

Let's hope the world's endangered plants.
These are some of them I have been growing and seeking to propagate.

I have a few of these:
  • Cabbage tree - Dendroseris litoralis, critically endangered, due to very small habitat and destruction by goats, quite rarely cultivated, sensitive to aphids, monocarpic growth makes it hard to propagate (a single stem which flowers only after decades then dies), but very easy from seed, likes mild temperature and air moisture, well-drained rich soil, strong indirect light, could be grown in oceanic climates with frost-free mild climates (Robinson Crusoe island)
  • Deppea splendens, extinct in the wild, rarely cultivated and usually only in California, can be propagated by cuttings or seeds, seedlings need careful handling, especially moisture, then it is rather easy to grow, strong indirect light, could be grown in mild to warm frost-free climates, and slightly moist (Mexico cloud forest)
Deppea splendens, an astonishing plant, and yet extremely rare

I have perhaps a couple of these:
  • Kakabeak Clianthus puniceus, critically endangered, ocasionally cultivated locally, easy from seed after scarification, can be propagated by cuttings, dry tolerant, a bit prone to thrips, perhaps could be grown in frost-free Mediterranean climates or semi-moist climates (New Zealand)
  • Bauhinia bowkeri, endangered, possibly rarely cultivated, seed is easy to germinate after scarification (seedlings are prone to fungi), easy to growth, have tried cuttings but failed, perhaps could be grown in nearly frost-free Mediterranean climates or similar (South Africa)
  • Pinus torreyana, critically endangered, but somewhat cultivated locally, well-drained soil, germination improved after cold stratification (California), could be grow in Mediterranean climates
  • Pinus maximartenzii, endangered (Mexico), perhaps could be grown in Mediterranean climates
  • Aloe peglerae, critically endangered, but somewhat cultivated, easy to germinate
  • Aloe flexifolia, critically endangered, but somewhat cultivated, easy to germinate
  • Aloe dichotoma, vulnerable, but rarely cultivated
I have only one exemplar of these, and somewhat struggling growing:
  • Moringa hildebrandtii, extinct in the wild, kept from extinction by the local people, very sensitive to spider mites and thrips, seed germinate at hot temperatures, keep it rather dry, have tried cuttings but failed (Madagascar), a semi-dry tropical climate
  • Matelea orthoneura, critically endangered, non cultivated, very sensitive to spider mites and thrips, seed easy to germinate at hot temperatures, a tropical climate (Ecuator)
  • Lavatera  phoenica, endangered, very rarely cultivated, sensitive to spider mites, short-lived, seed somewhat easy to germinate after scarification, possibly propagated by cuttings, polination is apparent difficult which makes it hard to propagate (Canary Islands, on rock crevises, at altitude), perhaps could be grown in frost-free Mediterranean climates or nearby semi-dry oceanic islands
  • Impatiens paucidentata, possibly endangered, rarely cultivated, needs a mild and moist tropical climate, possibly can be propagated by cuttings (central Africa rainforest, Gabon and Uganda)
  • Parajubaea torayii, endangered, but somewhat rarely cultivated, could be grown in Mediterraenan climates in rather dry and sunny climates, can be grown in California, tolerates mild frost but prefers mild winters, one of the few edible coconut for temperate climates (Bolivia altiplano steep rock slopes)
  • Boswellia sacra, vulnerable, ocasionally cultivated but very rarely outdoors, seed expensive and difficult to germinate, needs gravel and limestone mix, light and hot temperatures, can be propagated by cuttings but slow growth, keep it rather dry, needs hot desert climate (Yemen, Somalia)
  • Jubaea chilensis, vulnerable, ocasionally cultivated, slow growing, could be grown in Mediterranean climates in semi-dry mild to warm climate, can be grown in large parts of southwest US, can stand hard frosts but needs mild winters, and dislikes hot moist summers, edible fruit (central Chile, in steep ravines)
I have seedlings of this:
  • Dendroseris micrantha, critically endangered, non cultivated, germination is delicate, needs critical control of moisture, then it has monocarpic growth which makes propagation difficult (Juan Fernandez islands, off coast Chile)
  • Coccothrynax borhidiana, critically endangered, rarely cultivated, difficult to germinate but in limestone and gravel at mild temperatures and irregular watering, keep it dry, very slow growing, could be grown in semi-dry frost-free climates, possibly oceanic (Cuba)
  • Nesocodon mauritianus, endangered, very rarely cultivated, seed needs careful moisture, fine soil and mild temperatures to germinate, as well as growth, temperate moist tropical climate (Mauritius islands, on cliffs)
  • Cedrus atlantica, Atlas Cedarwood, endangered, but widely cultivated, could be introduced to Mediterranean climates (Morroco)
Got seed (several of them critically endangered), but need to germinate:
- Robinsonia gayana (a seedling died, they need careful moisture control), Paulownia kawakamii (from China, adapted to temperate climates, yet critically endangered, sometimes cultivated), Gladiolus griseus, Ixia viridiflora, Araucaria angustifolia, Herrania umbratica, Franklia (extinct in the wild, somewhat cultivated), Metasequoia,  Abies pinsapo (Spain), Agathosma gonadensis (a seedling died), Aloe ramosissima, Baobab suarenzensis, Leucadendron chamalea, Leucadendron argenteum (beautiful endangered shrub from South Africa), Leucadendron discolor (seedling died), Sandalwood (vulnerable, highly prized from its scented wood)

Tried germination often, without success:
- Odontocarya perforata (critically endangered and very rare), Quercus acerifolia (Maple Oak, endangered oak native to US), Betula Tianschanica (endangered birch native to central Asia), Dracaena draco (from Canary Islands, can be grown in Mediterranean climates), Lebanese cedarwood, Athrotaxis latifolia

Seeking to find the following species:
- Wollemia pine (Australia New South Wales, critically endangered became somewhat cultivated in recent years), Kokia cookei (critically endangered from Hawaii, very rare to find), Salvia herbanica, Gomorteca keule, Key tree cactus (critically endangered from Florida, very rarely cultivated), Puyas, Araucarias, Rosewood

You can buy seed from me, on our shop at:

I have information on companies, in where to buy seed for some of these plants

Please contact us!

Also if you are open to collaborate in our project, please contact us! We want people living in climates, committed to plant growing and with land, which can be adequate for some of these species, so that they can be grown outdoors and propagate on their own. 

If you live in places like California, Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands, Spain, Australia and New Zealand, South America, or other tropical climates, please get in touch.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Barley harvest 2014


Our grain experiment in Iceland, in its second year, proved a few conclusions.

First it is much better to go for already established Icelandic varieties, which seem to produce significantly earlier. I noticed this in a nearby barley farmer, which had its grain ready one month earlier than me. I also had two varieties of oats, and the icelandic one was the only harvested.

This week, I had a harvest of Himalayan BarleyIn a small 0.5m2 bed, I harvested 50g of grain. It's about 1 ton/ha yield, or one fifth of the 5ton/ha yield of commercial barley. This grain was harvested mid September, so right on time, before the start of the Icelandic winter.

Some of the harvested barley, before threshing and winnowing.

I grew only 1 square meter bed of it. So at most it's only enough for a loaf of bread, with 10 slices.

I also have another variety of barley, which was harvested by early October, called Schrene Barley. I harvested 150g of grain per 0.5 m2 (3 ton/ha yield) which is near the organic yield for barley.

We also had a small harvest of rye (a grain which never produces well in Iceland), a small harvest of Triticale ´Shade´, a small harvest of Tim Peters Wheat (all by early October) and Maris Widgeon Wheat and Durum Wheat by mid October. It remains to be see whether these grain seeds are viable. 

I failed to harvest other several varieties of wheat (April Awned Wheat, Spelt Wheat, Kamut Wheat) and Perennial Wheat, but I will bring those plants indoors, to see if I can get seed from them. I had harvested a few seeds of Perennial Rye, from Tim Peters. That's a rare perennial type of rye, which multitillers and comes back again, every year, after harvest.

At least I found out that barley is the easiest grain to grow in Iceland. And that growing wheat is possible in Iceland, provived the right variety!

However it is rather challenging to get a nice ripe harvest of grain in Iceland. Except perhaps for some selected varieties of oats, barley or wheat. Better to invest the space with starchy roots like potatoes, swedes and parsnips. Unless you have a nice size of land, and luck with the summer.

Growing grain in Iceland. I tried many types, but the only harvested was barley, a local variety of oats, and a bit of wheat.