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The PPRE F.A.R.M. - Food As Renewable Matter(s)
2016 update

by Binita Shrestha, Nepal (PPRE13/15) on behalf of the Energylab Garden Team

In the spring of 2014, a group of 9 fresh PPRE graduates started the PPRE FARM in a small piece of land behind the Energy-Lab building to experiment growing food. For a lot of us it was the first time to grow any kind of plants, so it was a real challenge. Our main objective was to grow food without the conventional methods, in which fertilizers and pesticides are used, or fighting against nature needs, such as the need of the soil to be covered by plants. Instead of that, we wanted to test a bio-gardening/farming project, doing the most of the local resources, and considering our main task to give the plants the best conditions, and then going towards the direction to harvest a lot of tasty and healthy food.

Two years have already passed, and we have done several experiments with the plants and soil. For example mulching the soil with wood-chips, mixing the plants, growing different plants in different beds and having rotations as well as planting seeds directly on the soil or growing them first in our room and then transplanting, fighting with slugs and so on. But there is always so much new to try!

This is the third year of PPRE FARM and we are still learning, experimenting and working together. Currently, we are 5 active PPRE/EUREC graduates from 3 different batches and friends meeting once a week, planning, growing and spending some time together in the nature and, happily taking our eyes off computers.

During the planning, each of us selected some varieties of plants which we wanted to grow. This included: yellow zucchini, blue pumpkin, ufo zucchini, peas, fava beans, beet roots, cucumbers, carrots, root celery, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, onions, tomatoes, fennel, chard, kohlrabi, strawberries, potatoes, rhubarb, leek and many more. We also have herbs, such as johanniskraut, oregano, different mint varieties, lavoge and flowers, such as sun flowers, borage and nasturtium. A really important topic for us is that we are producing and harvesting seeds from what we grow, which we had previously bought. For that reason, we took care to buy bio-not hybrid seeds, and in that way we can be sure that our seeds can be planted again to produce healthy plants.

As we grow our plants from seeds and seedlings, and we had problems with huge slugs, one of our experiments this year was to transplant the small plants until they were strong enough to deal with them. Another problem was the shock that plants suffered due to the change in the environment when transplanting directly from the room to the open soil. In consequence, this year, we have the most pampered plants that we ever planted: almost all the seeds grew in our houses for 1-2 months; later they were transplanted to a bigger container and put outside for at least two weeks; finally they were transplanted to the soil. The result was healthier and stronger plants.

Also, we experimented to grow plants without digging beds and opening the soil, instead we tried in some places mulching with one layer of card board and one of wood-chips, and in other places mulching with dry grass. The mulching helped the soil to retain the moisture and to avoid the growth of grass resulting in healthier plants.

Different from the normality, Oldenburg has been relatively sunny for longer time, which on one hand was good for our plants, but in the other hand, our reluctance to water them without proper protection from the sun was not good for other plants. That is why since September, we decided to water them twice a week if it was too hot. We could see some direct reaction from several plants like kale, root celery, beans and brussel sprouts, which grew up and recovered within a week.

The harvest

As every year, our first harvest in May was of small red radishes, only a month after planting. We ate them and planted again for several weeks. Until now, when the season is still going, we harvested more than 50 kg of food. To give some example of what we have harvested, it is more than 30 kg of yellow, green and ufo zucchini, 2 kg of potatoes, 4 kg cucumbers, 15 kohlrabies, lots of radish and peas, bunches of purple and green beans, chard, mint, arugula, kale. We still have some plants to eat and keep for Autumn: 30 ufos, 8 blue pumpkins and many zucchini. Brussels sprouts, celery root and rutabaga (turnip) are still there, growing to be harvested.

Harvest Party – ”Erntefest”

This September, we organized a 'Harvest party' to share our experience and open the garden to the new PPRE/EUREC students, alumni, staff and friends. It was a small but cozy event on a Friday afternoon, with food, drinks, good mood and warm people around. We cooked vegetables from the garden with rice and lentils on a gasifier and rocket cook stove. We also made instantaneous ice-cream with liquid nitrogen for which we prepared the ingredients on a solar cooker. Apart from having a look at the garden and cooking together, we had a really nice time with people from different batches and staff coming together.

Finally,

All in all, this year’s garden season has been a great experience for all of us, searching for new plants that can grow in Oldenburg’s weather and experimenting how to help the plants to grow without fighting with nature.

Contact: <span lang="EN-warUS">synergtn+t6yol21lzdb+garden(ari6ht)gmk7mail.slocom</dgyspkosvan> (synergyogcjldb+garden@gmail.cov7um)

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