“Thanks to lovely friends and the people from Beira Grass Roots, I soon had more plants than I could have dreamed.”Nick Vercauteren
This is an interview with Nick Vercauteren. Nick and Kim bought a Quinta in Central Portugal 3 years ago. They have 1,5 acres of land which they cultivate with vegetables and fruit trees. Like most Quintas in this area, the land is divided into several terraces. There are mature olive trees, vines and some fruit trees which have been planted by the previous owner.
HP — Nick, your Quinta burnt completely in the firestorm last October. This has been a huge setback for you, since you spend most of your time looking after your land. This has been your main job over the past 3 years. You have been cultivating a productive vegetable garden, grown a new orchard and produced your own food. What did you lose in the fire?
Nick — Well, I lost a lot of fruit trees, young ones planted by myself and old ones that were already there. Many olive trees were completely burned or they needed to be pruned all the way back. I also lost all of my vines and the most important thing was that I lost the top layer of beautiful, organic rich soil due to the extreme heat from the fire.
HP — What did you do to rebuild your garden? Where did you start?
Nick — First of all, I started to clean all the mess: remove the broken poles and wires that supported the vines and luckily I still had some spares in my garage (that luckily didn’t burn down), cut down the remains of some completely burned out trees and melted plastic watering tubes and storage containers.
Then, I started thinking what I wanted to do differently, now that I had a clean slate to start from – it is very different after the fire, everything is bare and you can easily see the structure of the land, not like when we first bought the quinta and I needed to cut lots of overgrown stuff.
Nick — So I decided that I wanted raised beds instead of digging in the ground , different kinds of raised beds. After some research online, I decided on Hugelkultur beds, raised beds from horse manure, raised beds from plants and trees that burned in the fire and I even used the frame from my 1000 liter water tank that got completely burned to make two raised beds.
There was one thing I needed the most, and that was organic matter. Together with my friend Josh I made regular trips to collect horse manure on a nearby quinta, which could be turned into lovely organic matter in less than one month. I also did some research on what I wanted to plant this year to get the most out of my garden. And thanks to lovely friends and the people from Beira Grass Roots, I soon had more plants than I could have dreamed.
… to be continued