EDITION: April - June '09


Uta Horstmann

Colourful gardens – healthy vegetables
Having just woken up I dreamily wander out of the house and pick a fat, red strawberry – from my own garden. Once it was a stony wasteland but now it looks like paradise: tomatoes, let-tuce, basil, peppers and succulent celery grow out of the dark earth. Not magic, simply permaculture. Dylan Efford has made this transformation of dry, barren land into green, fertile gardens his job. The 34 year-old Englishman tells us in an interview: “On Ibiza there is enough water and fertile soil to feed all those living here with fruit and vegetables. Permaculture can help the island use water efficiently for growing vegetables. We have to learn to use water sparingly. That means for example watering plants at sunset and not when it’s hot.”

What is Permaculture?
Permaculture is a future orientated way of life that uses natural resources without exploiting the earth. Because permaculture doesn’t use any chemical fertilisers or pesticides – on the contrary various techniques are used to enrich the earth – the plants pro-vide us with many important vitamins and minerals. “Perma” means constant, sustainable. In permaculture we look for solutions that don’t harm nature or our fellow humans. Permaculture encompasses the use of renewable energy (solar, wind and water), the regeneration and enrichment of the soil, the minimum use of water and energy, nourishment, health and gardening. The Australian Bill Morrison is the founder of the term Permaculture (derived from permanent agriculture): “Permaculture is the creation of small paradises on earth.” It means the emulation of natural landscapes full of edible fruit, nuts and vegetables with enough space for birds, animals and plants living alongside human beings.

Anyone can integrate permaculture into their life. You can start small: buy regional, natural products, minimise your use of petrol, save water etc. Whoever uses permaculture, learns how to evaluate the consequences of his actions. Every piece of food we eat has a history. The conventional egg for example usually doesn’t come from your own henhouse but from a so-called battery where the hens don’t have enough space to move and antibiotics get mixed into the denaturalised fodder. It is possible to opt out of the paradoxical world of blind consumerism.

More and more people around the world are getting together to realise common projects. Thus communal gardens and schools for permaculture are being created. The most famous permaculture project is the commune Findhorn in Scotland, where art, spirituality and self-sufficiency have been combined. In Ibiza there is an “asociacion de permacultura” and an “academia de permacultura”. There are more and more gardens on the island and people are having whole permaculture designs made for their fincas.

Dylan Efford helps all those who want to have their own garden. He came to the island four and a half years ago and learnt an energy-saving, nature-orientated way of life at Casita Verde. He picked up permaculture techniques as he was working on a permaculture project for an agroturismo with his teacher. According to Dylan the preparation of a garden is the hardest work: all the stones have to be removed from the soil before the gardener rakes the earth and mixes dung under it.

Then the patches are set out and covered with straw. Straw protects the earth from drying out. After that the water saving sweat pipes can be installed. These are later attended to manually or using a timer, that allows an automatic irrigation of the garden. The vegetable patches are protected from rabbits and other intruders with a fence. Then the planting can begin. Dylan has a special method: he takes account of plant families and plants favourable mixed cultures.

“ I make the most of the space and plant onions at a distance of 10 cm for example. In this way water and the soil are used optimally,” says the perma-gardener. Permaculture gardens have a colourful variety of edibles. Also herbs and healing plants find their place between the vegetables. Monocultures are avoided, as they don’t exist in nature and attract parasites. One species helps another. Onions for example drive away snails so we plant them next to lettuce.

Texto: Uta Horstmann