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Experimenting at Our Biological Farm: Navigating Farming in a New Climate

Here on our finca, we’re on a mission to merge a food forest with an ecological farm. Within the lush canopy of our food forest, we nurture fruits, nuts, and perennial delights for the long haul. Meanwhile, our farm bustles with the cultivation of annual veggies and steadfast herbs. This dual approach not only caters to our needs but also lays the groundwork for a flourishing agricultural venture. But before we can revel in success, we must tackle a myriad of challenges. In this blog, I’ll walk you through our trials, triumphs, and the fascinating experiments shaping our journey. Enjoy the ride!

Table of Contents

CHALLENGES

Confronting the Unfamiliar

Moving to a new country, especially one with a subtropical climate like Gran Canaria, presents its own set of hurdles. But diving into the realm of biological farming adds another layer of complexity.

New Climate Zone

Gran Canaria’s weather couldn’t be more different from our native Holland. The temperature soars, the winters are mild, and the summers stretch long and dry. Rainy days are scarce compared to the drenched seasons back home. This drastically alters our growing seasons, rendering our Dutch planting calendars obsolete. Crafting a new sowing and planting calendar tailored to our subtropical reality became our first challenge.

pre-sowing area
Our pre-planting sowing area.
Sweet pepper
Gatherting and storing seeds of a sweet pepper

Biological Plants & Seeds

Gran Canaria’s weather couldn’t be more different from our native Holland. The temperature soars, the winters are mild, and the summers stretch long and dry. Rainy days are scarce compared to the drenched seasons back home. This drastically alters our growing seasons, rendering our Dutch planting calendars obsolete. Crafting a new sowing and planting calendar tailored to our subtropical reality became our first challenge.

Terror Rabbits

Last summer, we encountered an unexpected adversary: the terror rabbit. Introduced to the Canary Islands by Spanish settlers for hunting purposes, these fluffy invaders wreak havoc on our crops during the scorching summers. With a relentless appetite, they devour everything in sight, posing a threat to our plants and vegetables. They even ate the almost impenetrable pineapples. Thankfully, our feline friends, coupled with the natural predators like buzzards, have helped mitigate this pest problem. For now…

terror rabbit
Our cats solve the terror rabbit problem
empty water cave
Our water cave completely dried out

Lack of Rain

Water scarcity, worsened by climate change, presents yet another challenge. Despite having caves that collect rainwater, the island’s dwindling rainfall left us high and dry. A scorching summer and 75% less rainfall this winter led to our water caves drying up—a phenomenon unseen in over two decades. While we’ve tapped into the island’s agricultural water network as a temporary solution, unpredictable weather patterns have taken a toll on our crops. For example, the Australian waxflowers we are harvesting now, produce only a third of their normal yield.

EXPERIMENTS

Navigating the Uncharted

In the realm of biological farming, conventional methods take a back seat as we embark on experimental journeys to optimize yields and sustainability.

Growing in Circles

We kicked off our experiments with the concept of keyhole garden beds—a circular garden bed with a central hole and surrounding pathway. While touted for its space-efficient design, we found it challenging to maintain, especially for our diverse crop combinations. Instead, we repurposed these beds for our herb garden, where they proved to be a better fit.

Crops Everywhere

While the notion of interplanting vegetables amidst our food forest’s trees sounded idyllic, the harsh climate posed a challenge. Daily irrigation, a necessity for sun-loving veggies, clashed with our limited irrigation practices within the food forest. We hope to revisit this concept once our trees provide more shade, offering protection from the relentless sun.

The Diversity Garden

Armed with lessons learned, we established a diversity garden—a haven for rotating crops and perpetual experimentation. Adjacent to it, we carved out two growing fields for staple crops, like potatoes, corn, oats, green beans etc. Sowing them side-by-side in rows will optimize their growth.

INTERESTING CROPS

Celebrating Nature's Bounty

As we navigate the trials and tribulations, we revel in the joy of harvesting a diverse array of crops from our fields every week. Self-grown food is so much tastier that we can’t stop eating it!

Giant Zucchinis

Our zucchini plants, thriving in the abundant sunlight and water, surprised us with their prodigious growth, yielding massive, delicious fruits weighing almost 3 kilograms each.

Ever-growing Lettuce

Contrary to Dutch wisdom, lettuce flourishes year-round under Gran Canaria's blazing sun—a testament to nature's resilience and adaptability.

Strong Chinese Cabbage

Chinese cabbage, a rare sight on the island, thrived in our garden beds, growing bigger and tastier with each passing year.

Hibernating Sweet Peppers

Last summer's sweet pepper plants, left to their own devices through the winter, surprised us with a bountiful second harvest, signaling their resilience and adaptability to our climate.
GETTING THINGS ORGANIZED

Cultivating Success

As our farm grows, so does the need for organization and efficiency.

notion gardening dashboard
Our sowing calendar in Notion

The Notion Experience

In our desire to keep an overview, we stumbled onto Notion —an all-in-one online tool that revolutionized our organization efforts. With databases, project management features, and customizable calendars at our fingertips, we streamline our tasks and track our progress seamlessly. It’s basically running our lives now. 

seed bank
Storing our seeds dry and organised

Our Own Seed Bank

To safeguard our seeds and ensure their biological integrity, we established our own seed bank. Seed are stored in a plastic bag and meticulously labeled with harvest date and biological status. Within a assortment cabinet in one of our caves they are stored in optimal conditions. We also track our seeds digitally to ensure a steady supply of quality seeds for years to come.

batman hoverfly
A batman hoverfly
winfred and mother
Winfred and his mother
mushroom
A mushroom after the rain

As we navigate the twists and turns of farming in a new climate, we’re fueled by curiosity, resilience, and a deep-rooted passion for sustainable agriculture. Join us on this exciting journey as we nurture our farm, one experiment at a time.

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