The history of the vegetable garden
We asked ourselves how to build a vegetable garden that guaranteed productivity and efficiency in compliance with the crop cycles and without soil exploitation, that is extremely harmful from an environmental point of view. It couldn't be an organic garden only, because banning synthetic pesticides and fertilizers is only one of the fundamental requirements to succeed. So, we started to find information about the most successful techniques for growing vegetables, developed around the world, and we learned a lot.
One of our problems was making our clay soil fertile. During the research on the topic we have known a series of agricultural techniques, called No Till farming, that drastically reduce the tillage with mechanical tools, to limit the most common damages caused by them, such as compaction, the progressive loss of organic matter and erosion. In fact, it is necessary to work in the opposite direction, in other words, increasing the organic matter and fertility in the soil year after year. With the No Till technique it is easier to do, because, it teaches to safeguard the action of those microorganisms and insects which, by processing organic substances, make the soil porous, ventilated and rich in humus.
Afterwards, we got to know Biodynamics and put in place a good part of its method, because we liked the way it teaches to approach agriculture: all the work in the garden is set up starting from a careful observation of the soil and of the plants, so as to act promptly if imbalances are caught. You can learn how to work on several fronts to create conditions that safeguard the health and strength of plants, with great results in terms of disease reduction. You can imagine how important this form of "prevention" is in a context of organic agriculture, where the "cure" with the chemical products of conventional agriculture is prohibited. As an example of how you can work in Biodynamics , we cite an agronomic technique of fertilization, here widely applied, called green manure, which consists in sowing a mix of plants set to be broken up and buried on permanent beds, in order to enrich the soil of organic substance and improve its porosity thanks to the work of their roots. But beyond the technical aspects, the most useful indication that can be drawn is precisely this invitation to refine one's spirit of observation and to put man's sensitivity and responsibility at the center.
On this point we like to remember that, in addition to the many books we read and the many contacts with farms that apply Market Gardening and Biodynamics like us, in Italy and in the world, with which we have constant contacts and profitable exchanges, also the tradition of our grandparents has been an important source of knowledge on good growing practices. We have learned from them too that a careful and constant gaze is the key to build a healthy and vital agricultural organism.
The garden today
Our garden has about one hectare of extension and during the year, following the seasonality, we grow about forty vegetable crops, some of which are not easy to find in the surroundings: for example, in the Brassicae family, we grow kale, kohlrabi and salads of Asian origin, with a slightly spicy taste.
Next to the garden there is also a garden of aromatic herbs and edible flowers, with many varieties available to the most creative cooking enthusiasts.
In the last year we have built two large greenhouses, mainly intended for the cultivation of fruit vegetables and the extension of the production season, and we are constantly studying how to make improvements to our farm and our productions.
As a natural consequence, we then approached Market gardening, which is a practical example of No till agriculture and studies how to optimize all aspects of the work - the extension of the garden, the techniques applied, the time taken - to make the management of the organic garden efficient and sustainable, even economically. Thanks to Market gardening we learned how to work our garden by hand, through the creation of the so-called permanent beds: the strips of land where sowing and transplants are carried out are first raised above the ground level, moving the soli and adding organic fertilizer, then they are always worked by hand, superficially, without overturning the soil, because this way fertility can increase over time.