“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”Francis of Assissi
This is part 3 of an interview with Nick Vercauteren. After losing his Quinta in the firestorm of October 2017, Nick started from scratch, redesigned his vegetable patch and started replanting his orchard. Now he is well on his way to regrowing his little garden of Eden.
HP —Many people come to Portugal and want to grow their own food, but not everyone is as successful as you are. Growing food is a special skill. Some people have called it ‘the greatest of all crafts.’ Did you already have experience with growing food before you came here?
Nick — Growing vegetables can be a challenge for many, as it seems that you need tons of land to do so. But the truth is, you can grow a few crops in a very small space and of course, experience is priceless. As a gardener, every year is different and with every mistake you make, you learn something for next time.
When I lived in Thailand, I started growing peppers, squash and pumpkins, pineapples and papaya trees. There is a big movement in that part of the word of people who are interested in permaculture and even the Thai have there own unique way of growing food. So I learned a lot, also in my years travelling and volunteering on farms in Australia and New-Zealand. I stole with my eyes 😉
But of course, most of my knowledge comes from experience – trial and error in my own garden.
HP — If you were asked to share your expertise with new Quinta owners and novice food growers, what would you tell them. Are there any mistakes you made, that you think could be avoided?
Nick – To be honest, making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn how to grow successfully. I would tell the people who are interested in growing their own food, that the most important thing is the soil. Don’t start plowing and breaking the root system in the soil. Talk to people, search the internet for idea’s, learn from others (by visiting their quinta’s for example) and find out what works for you and what doesn’t.
My first year of growing potatoes for example, I dug in the ground just as my neighbours did. This year, I am growing them in raised beds filled with horse manure and plant materials, and they are thriving! Same story for the carrots: the first year they were short and in the most impossible shapes because of my rocky soil. Now they grow in a raised bed with organic matter.
Have fun experimenting and when you see the result – happy plants and delicious veggies – that’s the reward in itself. There are many facebook groups that you can join to find more about growing stuff in Portugal and in our area, there are some great groups and initiatives (Beira Grass Roots, The Humus Project).
HP — Anything else you’d like to share?
Nick — I only have one more thing to share, and that is my favorite quote by Francis of Assisi: “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
HP — Thank you so much for this interview and for sharing your valuable knowledge and expertise.
And all good wishes for your little garden of Eden.