Raising beds

I engage my whole being in what I do. This is certainly true for gardening, where the notion that the interaction of gardener and garden forms part of a fluid continuum is never far from my senses.

So it was when I created my first Hügelkultur two and a half months ago. Some of you might remember this image:

New Hügelkultur, 2 April 2019

Time is elastic. We can appreciate this without being able to understands Einstein’s theories on the matter. And now I see that I shall have to read The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli as soon as possible.

The elasticity of time that I know about resides in my imagination at the juncture of my past experience and future possibilities. So while digging the hole to create the mound pictured about a thought such as “Hügelkultur has a lot in common with raised bed gardening” can occur to me. Before I have even finished my present task of digging the hole, I am cognitively aware of the future possibility that I shall surround this mound with pallets.

In my mind’s eye, as I continue to dig, I have already determined that the future raised bed made of pallets will be higher than the one pictured in the background above. Here, you will notice, I have shifted from the realm of possibility into that of probability.

This type of dynamic occurs no matter what gardening task I am performing. My eye is on the future. My present is informed by future possibilities and the probable future as it relates to the task in question.

I don’t generally divulge that I have had these thoughts. Thoughts is too ponderous a word, for they are not real thoughts which require a specific structure that generally and felicitously is aligned to the linguistic structure of whatever language we speak. No, these thoughts that are not thoughts are more like daydreams – but are not daydreams, as such, since that would imply that they are by nature idle.

Whatever label I should give them, the point is that what occurs to me in these moments stays silent. I might utter minimally informative statements such as, “I need to get more pallets for my next raised bed”, but only I am conscious of the source of that notion, and its probable destination.

You thought this post was about gardening. It is.

Here, in stages is the manifestation of the continuum at work. First, you will see from the image below that plants have grown and that I have assembled my materials, gratefully obtained with permission from the nearby carob factory.

Pallets for the job.

Those in more northern climes will notice straight away how dry the soil looks. This is normal in the Algarve for this time of year. The ground is incredibly hard, even once I have broken the surface.

Crude method of measuring before I began digging the necessary trench.

I resorted to the best method of digging a trench when the soil is rock hard: dig as much as you can, then use water to soak into the depression. It gets the job done more quickly and is less of a strain on one’s tools and one’s body. It is also messier. This is satisfying for anyone who loves mud.

Softening the trench.

The clay earth is sticky. It reminds me of cement. For the part of the pallet I am placing in the trench, this is good news. It can solidify and hold the structure firm naturally.

Photographs are excellent for spotting imperfections

I don’t just take photographs to publish on my blog. I take them to look at. The water in the trench made me realise that the ground is on a very slight slope.

While the pallet facing the camera is precisely level with the ground, as evidenced by the first visible strat being parallel with the ground, it is not actually level, so is not flush with the pallets on the long side of the bed. I shall make it level once the trench is dry tomorrow. In any case, the positioning of the pallets is a preliminary test, I shall have to remove the pallet to nail strips of wood to the inside, so that the soil stays inside the bed.

You are probably wondering why the long side is jutting out like that. I am making a two-seater bench at the end of this raised bed. It suddenly occurred to me that is would be marvellous to have a place to sit in the burning noonday sun in the middle of the garden.

Another one of those “thoughts” has formed, but that is definitely for another day.

Eventually – next season, or the one after that, the soil level of this raised bed will be in line with the top of the pallets.

Here is a comparable photo from “the beginning” when I first had the thought about the pallets positioned today:

It is never”the end”.

By the way, I have just realised that the location of the bench I am about to make is on the spot which had the best cellphone signal when I arrived here five years ago. The rock I sat on while one the phone is less than two metres away. Funny, that.

©2019 Allison Wright

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