2013 Index, Summary and Notes:

Diary Entries for 2013:

Visual link
          to January 2013 Garden Diary January:         February: link to Heritage
          Garden Diary Feb/March 2013

Visual link to
          March 2013 Garden Diary March:        April: Visual link to
          April Garden Dairy Page

Visual link to
              May 2013 Diary pageMay:        June: Visual link to
          june diary

Visual link to July DiaryJuly:             August:Visual link to
          August Diary Entry

            link to September Garden DiarySeptember:        October: Visual
            link to October Garden Diary

          link to November Garden Diary pageNovember:       December:Visual
            link to Decewmber Diary entry



A. What's it all about?

A few people have commented that they find the Garden Diary nice. I generally respond that I'd like to go beyond "nice".  However, I have to admit that I cannot define clear intentions regarding what that "beyond" might be.

Originally, I was hoping to create a high-yield, low-effort, supply of food -without fertilizer of  pesticides. I felt certain that various plants could help each other to grow, rather than be in constant competition with each other as standard doctrine dictates. Initially, I thought this was entirely my own idea -but then I discovered that others had similar ideas (particularly Masanobu Fukuoka -who invented "Natural Farming" in Japan).

Although we have had a few snacks from the garden -it is obvious that we would starve if we relied upon it for our food production. However, this does not signal a failure -it is still early days: I've been told that it can take from 5-10 years to create a productive "Natural Garden".  It is also difficult to define exactly how long we have been working of the garden. The Deed of Sale was signed early May 2010. Then we had to build the house. November 2010 we moved in permanently.  In January and February 2011 there was intensive rain (perhaps the result of volcanic action in the region) which wiped out the first attempts. The first priority was also to develop hedges around the perimeter to replace the temporary bamboo fence. This wasn't too easy either: May is usually a very hot and dry month, and plants that are not well established will suffer. Also some areas of the hedge are in the shade, directly under trees (which may drop branches or even coconuts) -are around bamboo clumps or tree stumps, in stony areas or next to Mahogany trees (which tends to poison other plants). At the same time, several attempts to grow seeds under the prevailing conditions failed completely. A serious attempt to develop an edible garden didn't really start until February 2013 -with the start of the Diary (and the purchase of "Heritage" seeds from the US.

The motivation for all this work is perhaps threefold:

1. A belief that rural poverty can be relieved by "homesteading" -i.e. the production of plants and animals for domestic consumption -outside a cash economy. It is my belief that it is the cash economy (particularly in cities) that causes poverty. It seems to me that many (local) people suffer because they have lost the rural life-style of their parents -while having no real function (other than consumer) within the current global socio-economic system. This is socially relevant.

2. An interest in the interactions between the elements of natural systems. I see plants and animals (and maybe even people) as being analogous with the "autonomous" elements found in my programmed art works. This is of more personal relevance -but not entirely -because both the garden and my art-works can also be seen as studies for social  models.

3. Promote more serious interest and understanding for rural systems: Not only to prevent their destruction in order to satisfy the needs of city folks dependent on the global socio-economic system -but also to give a sense of pride to local people, plus a feeling of what can be achieved at low cost with a little concentrated effort.

Regarding the last case -it is encouraging if people do find the results nice - although, I still hope we can move beyond that into some practical interest and understanding of the dynamic interactions implicit in natural processes -by non-professionals.

-It is time to stop seeing the world only in terms of exploitable resources: Bio-diversity, shouldn't just be a handy euphemism for continued economic exploitation!

B. Notes on the basic practice:

The most important point is that the entire project is an experiment. I have almost no previous experience in gardening -only programming "Computer Art".

When we arrived, the "garden" was rather more like a jungle than a garden. Early attempts to grow crops in a small part of the land failed -when the area got flooded and almost all the "crop" destroyed. Our first priority was to encourage plants (grass -but also taro) that would absorb the run-off and help prevent flooding.

Generally, the land seemed either full of stones -or clay. Neither of which seemed very fertile. The stones obviously provided insufficient nutrients and were too dense to allow a healthy root growth. The clay retained excess water which (literally) swamped young plants -or else it quickly dried out to become a natural version of cracked concrete.

Basic Strategy:

My basic strategy was simple:

1. Try to get something (anything) to grow (somewhere).

2. Try to get something that I wanted to grow, growing somewhere.

3. Try to see under what conditions the various plants liked to grow  -and what liked to grow where (and with which other plants).

4. See if I could get what I wanted to grow, to grow in the places that I wanted them.

I guess that at the moment (December 2013), I am now at stage 3.

C. Notes on the Four types of planting Areas:

Types of Planting Area
1. Garden Plot                                                                        2. Mini-garden
Images of four types of garden plots
3. Compost Area                                                                           4. Wild Area

1.  Garden Plot: Normal planting area. Originally dug up to remove weeds and then coconut husk mixed in with soil to provide a composted planting area.

2. Mini-garden: After defining the area with some kind of boundary, fresh earth (mixed with coconut husks) is dumped upon stony earth and planted.

3. Compost Area: Generally, but not always, around existing trees. Organic waste is dumped and left to rot. As the material decomposes, various seeds, seedlings or cuttings are planted in the area. These areas are often slow to develop, not only because of the time it takes for the material to rot -but also because of destruction caused by chickens rooting for grubs -and sometimes humans continuing to dump waste on newly planted, or growing, areas.

4. Wild Area: These are areas that are not prepared for planting -but have been planted with seeds or cuttings directly. Weeds and various other plants are basically left to look after themselves.

D. Two (Slightly out of date) Maps of the main Garden Areas:

Map of Northern section of garden

Image of Southern
        garden Area

E. Future Suggestions:

Focus more on results of processes: Look at plots to decide seeds -rather than seeds to decide plots.....

Build up complexity in layers. First sow one type (group) of plants thinly, then later (when established) sow others that fit in into available space (more maintenance ?)


 -(tropical) cover plants
 -(tropical) green manure
 -(tropical) herbs (in pots)?
 -tropical grains
 -tropical root crops
 -Pioneer plants
 -Crop Rotation


Trevor Batten
 <trevor at tebatt dot net>
 Baclayon 2013