Friday, 23 November 2012

A review of 2012 - the Green Spot in Iceland

It's November in Iceland, and there is no so much to do in the gardening outside or indoors. Actually you can't do nothing else, except to make that extra effort to keep your overwintering plants alive, and shovel the snow in the garden outside (so that you can step outside)

Thus, and because I am such a lazy blogger, I think this is a perfect time to post a review of this summer growing, and what we have tried new.

It was the third year gardening in Iceland, and second summer in Sólheimar community. While in 2011 I was mostly recovering the gravely soil around my house (extremely infertile), in 2012 I had more growth and I was less organized and I basically wanted to maximize both quantity and variety, and I end up with a big green and flowery mix!

I want to follow not only organic principles but also permaculture and Fukuoka principles. Gardening without fighting against nature, valuing diversity and establishing a perennial edible garden (also with as much flowers as possible).  Beautiful in theory, challenging in practice.

Some of greatest achievements of this summer were some of the tropical vegetables I brought from India: amaranth, the bottle and snake gourd, the rainbow sweet corn, the luffa, and a nice variety of colorful tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.

Okra in our indoor garden in Iceland

Growing maize in Iceland! Obviously indoors
The corn cropped two ears indoors! 

Nice tomatoes, at the windowsill. Variety is "Caro Rich", from India
Bell peppers. Variety is "Korosko", from Austria

More peppers. This time "chocolate pepper"

A beautiful bottle gourd! A first time in Iceland!  

Another photo of yellow peppers

Eggplant "rosita", from India

Later in the season I became obsessed with the realization I am not producing enough food. At least not enough staples. So I tried to plant many potatoes and cereals. While the potatoes provide a nice few Kg of tubers (in a really small area), the cereals were sown too late and did not really ripen.

I grow a beautiful patch of rye and barley (after initially struggling with slugs and birds eating the seeds), but by mid August the frosts came and never again stopped. The grain was here but not enough heat to ripen. 

Potatoes, rye and sunchokes. Note the mulching used to protect the soil in each bed

Brussel sprouts, spring onions and squash grow under the protection offered by the sunchokes.

The beans we harvested: cowpeas, chick peas, mung beans, dried beans

The strawberry spinach. Edible fruit and leaves

A snake gourd. Unfortunately the fruit was sterile.

The beautiful flowers of the snake gourd!

Another photo of the bottle gourd.

A close-up of more "caro rich" tomatoes
Besides our home garden, this year I also started other gardens at our community. One was a large herb and native flower garden. The setting was beautiful, on the southern edge of a dense poplar forest, by the nursery and greenhouses of our local community.

General view of the native herb garden

Calendulas growing.

The native chamomile (sea mayweed), matricaria maritima

Back to our home garden, another difference to the season of 2012, it was that we were growing rather in polycultures - mixes of several species together - rather than the organized rows of swiss chard, carrots, beetroots, celery and oriental cabbages from the year before.

Because in Sólheimar we actually started a larger community garden, we were already growing some of those salad easy-to-grow vegetables there. So I preferred to experiment with the more difficult stuff in our home garden!

An example of a polyculture: squash, potatoes, fennel, kale, flowers...

Squash produces well even in the Icelandic summer. I used a sheltered spot (sink bed) and plenty of mulching and compost. And rocks as a heat trap. Everything to create extra heat.
One squash plant was producing 3 fruits at same time.
Another close-up of a squash
Another major achievement was the growing of sunflowers, not only for the beautiful yellow flowers, but also to harvest some seeds, which I did and ate!

Sunflowers growing in the 24 hour daylight of Icelandic summer

Wild strawberries.
In 2012, we wanted to plant as many perennial edible species as possible

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