We started 2013 by planning the first open day of the Master Unit with focus on permaculture and biodynamic agriculture. After the last open days in which we nurtured the soil, cleaned the land… we reached a new stage in Ananda Kalyani, which includes the construction of sustainable infrastructure and cultivation of vegetables, red fruits, plants aromatic, fruit trees … Therefore, in the 2013 first open day of Ananda Kalyani, we planned to build three raised-beds, two capillary-beds and one herbs spiral.
Figure 1 – Schematic of the territory planning for the activities to be undertaken during the open day. Watercolor of Prahlad (Mexican artist).These structures were planned to be implemented on the ground near Ribeira do Paul, which has a a rich soil for agriculture and a great content of organic matter.
Raised- beds are beds for high-growing, full of wood and organic materials, nutrients and air bags beneficial to the roots of what is planted. These beds are quite permanent and demand very low maintenance. Over the years, the the soil in the raised-beds becomes incredibly rich and full of life and activity with high organic content. (…) The woody material helps to keep the excess of nutrients, preventing them from being dragged into the groundwater, and which are available for the plants. Furthermore, this system can hold a lot of water due to a sponge effect which makes it very suitable for warmer and dry climates.
There are several ways to build raised-beds. We chose to make a wooden structure to contain the various layers of the raised-beds.
Figure 2 – Wood structure of raised-bed. The height of the wooden structure is about 50 cm. It should not exceed 1.20m width to allow the access to the interior area of the raised-bed.
Basically a raised-bed consists of:
– A layer of wood.
– A layer of foliage over the previous layer (optional)
– A layer of soil that will cover previous layers. Some people add card (without ink and adhesive tapes).
– A layer of manure compound (if necessary). The vegetables will be planted in these last two layers.
– A final mulch layer. This layer helps to maintain the soil temperature more stable and also prevents water evaporation. Furthermore, its slow decomposition will help to increase soil fertility. When necessary, this layer must be renewed (the only maintenance that will be held in the raised-bed during its useful life).
Once summer temperatures are extremely high and there is little rain in Ananda Kalyani it was decided to build two-capillary beds, which can store water (ground water). This system allows to maintain the vegetables without watering it for 4 to 8 weeks. The procedure for building a raised-capillary bed is very similar to the raised-bed described previously with the exception of the inferior layers:
– Dig up a trench about 20cm deep. Then cover with an impermeable material such as plastic (after a geotextile layer) or relatively impermeable materials, such as clay.
– Fill with gravel (if desired you can also add sand). Simultaneously place a tube with holes, which in the future will allow to fill the capillary-bed and monitor the water level.
– The other layers are identical to the raised-bed.
Figure 3 – Structure of a capillary bed
The spiral of herbs is a classic element of permaculture developed by Bill Mollison in 1978, which creates various climatic conditions that favor each of the plants in its positioning: the plants that like sun should be placed in the south area, the plants that are not so fond of sun exposure should be in the north area.
At the end of the lower end of the spiral is possible to build a small pond, which makes it great for creating a more humid environment and allows the development of animals beneficial to the herbs spiral plants.
There are several ways of constructing a spiral, there are those who choose to build the spiral structure (walls) and then placing the various layers (earth, wood, composite cover end) or vice versa. It is important that the spiral has roughly about 1m in height and not exceeds 1.5m in diameter.
Figure 4 – Our herb spiral