Redesigning the garden in Autumn

We moved into our home in August. Not just any August, the hottest August in years. There was little work I could do in the garden, as uprooting plants in such harsh conditions would be devastating for both the plants as ourselves. But came autumn, came time to redesign.

The garden was previously designed to be low maintenance and little edible or medicinal plants in it whilst I envisioned a bounty full garden with fruits, flowers and loads of vegetables.

Even though I was eager and impatient to start working on the garden, the time waiting was not wasted. Now I could really observe the garden. I got to know which fruittrees were healthy, and which weren’t. It also gave me an idea about how much sun each corner gets, which plants would most benefit of that super sunny spot and which plants would thank me for providing that cooler shady side. ‘Observe & Interact‘ is the first permaculture principle, and that’s for good a reason.

Citrus garden

Old anti-root cloth

The first thing I had to tackle was eliminating the anti-root cloth. What I found beneath it had nothing to do with soil, it was stone dry, compact and felt like an artefact rather than nice black soil which make my heart jump from joy.

The garden is surrounded by an old oak forest, so it receives a nice quantity of leaves each year. But, since worms can’t pass the barrier between the soil and the surface due to the fabric they had no chance of eating and converting all this wonderful organic matter.

After removing the cloth it was time to sieve the volcanic rock, which was old-fashioned hard work done by hand with an old crate. I decided to put the volcanic rock back, as it does do a good job protecting the earth against evaporation. I used it because that’s what I had at hand. Otherwise, I would have chosen an organic mulch that slowly breaks down.

Young clementine tree with fresh new leaves

This side of the garden is sunny and well protected from the wind with the added benefit that the stonewall will keep radiating heat long after the sun has set making the perfect spot for my citrus trees.

I am now the proud caretaker of a lemon tree, buddha’s hand citron and a clementine tree. A little further down the line, I’ve also planted a feijoa, some lavender and a blueberry bush.

Ornamental garden

The entrance of the house was covered with a huge conifer, which was blocking the light of the growing space behind it and didn’t add a real value to the garden. The conifer was chopped down and added to the raised beds. It’s task is now to slowly decompose and provide nutrients for the many, many vegetables to come.

The growing spaces are now used to relocate some of the ornamentales that had to make place for the citrus trees and some extra flowers to come.

Before & after of the entrance

Vegetable garden

In front of the house there’s a small area with some fruittrees and a huge concrete slab. In one corner there’s also an old septic tank hidden. The former owner couldn’t tell us in which corner, but by observing the ground I think I know where. Not the ideal circumstances to start your veggie beds.

I finally opted for some 40 cm high raised beds on the concrete slab. Considering all the cons and pros of wood, brick and steel I opted for aluzinc steel. They should last twice as long as wooden beds, will protect the roots from excessive heat and aren’t a preferred spot to hide out for slugs and other pests. I bought mine from Blumfeldt as they have the same specifics as the bigger names, for half the price. They only offer super high 80 cm beds, but they’re build with 40 cm high sheets so I figured I could make two beds out of one.

One filled raised bed

To fill the beds we followed the principles from the Hugelkultur. Filling the beds with the logs from the rotten fruit trees we cut down and the conifer, twigs from the hard pruned peach tree, old horse manure, compost and a top layer of leaves from the nearby forest. 50 liters manure, 100 liters compost and 50 liter of leaves per bed to be more precise.

I’ve planted some potatoes, onions, garlic and spinach – and so far it all came up and is looking healthy which makes me a happy person.

Food forest

The rest of the space will be used for bigger plants, like pumpkins, and fruit trees. We already had two olive trees and a peach tree. The olive trees aren’t producing anymore and the peach tree produces unripe fruits by the bucket loads. I hope to be able to restore them by careful pruning, lots of love and just patience. We’ve also planted a hardy kiwi, pomegranate and persimmon. I haven’t decided yet were to plant my aromatic herbs, but they’ll get the spot they deserve as well.

All these beautiful-looking peaches fell off the tree unripe, not the tastiest fruit to eat raw. I found that when I poach them a couple of minutes they’d become soft and sweet, so that’s what I did. I made a dozen jars of poached peaches with cinnamon, clover, ginger and star anise to be eaten this winter.

Soil care

I’ve already talked about how all things start with the soil, and this soil didn’t looked too happy to me. A couple of years ago I came to know about Korean Natural Farming, but didn’t put it to practice yet. For this garden, which I felt to be so sterile, I brew myself a nice drum of JADAM IMO. JADAM is short for ‘Jayonul Damun Saramdul’ which could be translated as ‘People that resemble nature’. IMO stand for ‘Indigenous microorganisms’ that is, microorganisms found in your local area.


I am no expert and have very little experience and can’t compare any results, but let me explain what I did.

I’ve collected some leaf mold from the nearby forest. which contains microorganisms. Since I wanted to apply to this to the whole garden I’ve multiplied these organism by letting them swim around in a drum of unchlorinated water mixed with blended boiled potatoes for them to eat.

After half a day I could already see foam building up on the surface — a sign that the microorganism are eating, farting and multiplying!

You can check out the micro-farm guide for more exact instructions.

Or, check out Spicy Moustache’s great video about the subject.

And now we wait

I will be harvesting some spinach soon, but for the fruits I might have to wait a couple of years. But, it’s not only the yield that counts. Having started the garden grounded and connected me to the place I live now. It allows me to get rooted, much needed after two decades of nomadic living.

One disadvantage of redesigning the garden in autumn is that it requieres more patience then usual to see results. And one advantage of starting out in autumn is that you have extra time to correct any mistakes, which brings me back to the first principle of ‘Observe & Interact’.

Final thoughts

There are many ways to design and manage a garden, and as mentioned before, I am no expert. I’ve done quite some research and have some experience, but mostly I follow my intuition. I hope this post will give you some ideas and inspiration and will help you in your garden decisiones.

Happy gardening & ‘Till then lovelies!

4 thoughts on “Redesigning the garden in Autumn

  1. Hi Marita, or rather Eva?

    Well, a lot of positivity shines/sounds forth from this post. I like it. I sense no hardship (not that you did not work hard! I can see that you did) nor complaning nor having too much work to do, something that I felt very much the first year (and that was not even a fully blooming one, like now). In time I wil check some links of yours, the brewing JADAM IMO sounds interesting.

    I can also sense that you, like me, are very happy with the results. And indeed, as a bio gardener, or permacultural ome, a lot of work is to be done but the results are just TREMENDOUS and the taste is as not as in the local shops, not even the bio shops. So fresh and so beautiful. It really is a wonder.

    What I found also interesting is that after two decades, you too have a base, which you felt was needed, welcome, time to be.

    I don’t know with you but I often felt, where ever I was, that I did things that I rather would do for my own place, my own garden, instead for the camp spot ; ) It looks like you got a nice home going there. Well done!

    Greetings from Cindy

    1. Hi Cindy,

      Glad the good vibes of our work reached you!

      Gardening is so rewarding. Yes, sieving the volcanic rock with an old crate and biting dust for days wasn’t so much fun. But, now seeing the weeds emerging from the ground made all the work well worth it. Even though these are just ‘weeds’ that I eventually don’t want in my garden, it’s a sign the earth is alive. And those weeds will decompact the soil for me. I’m a happy being.

      The biggest difference between having a base and being constantly on the move is that we are now able to start long-term projects like planting trees, rather than very short-term projects of sprouting grains for lunch. The years fly by so fast, patience for long-term projects is easy to cultivate.

      Here’s to many more years to come of fresh, healthy and delicious food from our gardens!

      Groetjes Eva Marita (nowadays mostly only Marita)

  2. Oh my goodness, Marita (is that right, not Eva? Have I been wrong all along? 😬), you’ve done so much in a a short time ~ your garden is already looking very organised and extremely loved. I agree there is no better way of connecting with a piece of land then nurturing it into a productive, bountiful and beautiful ecosystem. Isn’t it amazing how the principles of permaculture work so well? I smiled at your conifer being ‘repurposed’ into a Hugel bed, we did just the same here with great results and there’s another conifer to be used the same way this winter. The JADAM IMO is fascinating, I am definitely going to try it . . . how can I resist the prospect of happily farting micro-organisms? 🤣

    1. Hi Lis,

      Both Eva and Marita are correct. I always liked Marita better, and since Eva is pronounced in Spanish so differently it didn’t feel like my own name anyways so I started presenting myself as Marita years back. In Latin countries, it’s also very common to use the second name, rather than the first one. But no worries, my family and friends in the Netherlands still call me Eva. I am both 🙂

      I am always amazed by the amount of work one can do with a little consistency and how much gratitude one can get out of your work. It’s time well spent.

      Just give the JADAM a try, it might seem a bit daunting, but it’s actually very easy. It would also be great to make a comparison bed… but I’m afraid I don’t have the space for that (yet). And yes, what’s not to like about farting micro-organisms 🙂

Anything to add? I'd love to hear it!

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