David Axon

David Axon

Building a quirky Mediterranean garden on a challenging site...

Location Andalucia, Spain

Achievements

Activity

  • I’ve been collecting temperature data here in Andalucia for several years and we are now working on that! Soil moisture would present a challenge as the conditions in my garden range from a vegetable patch with an irritation system (no, that’s not a typo) to Death Valley and everything in between. Also, any sensors would have to be extremely durable - and...

  • Gerid, I did some research and found an official weather site that holds historic temperature data in the Málaga province. The nearest station is 27km from here, but that’s as good as it will get; no one close by is doing this sort of thing. In fact I’m considered a little eccentric by the local populace. Long may that continue.
    I have a web site and FaceAche...

  • Linda, Thanks, now I understand, I think. I performed all those steps on my iPad, including downloading the two data sets (for Spain) in my profile. It’s just that there didn’t appear to be any information beyond that - and I still can’t see any data files on my iPad, even though they are marked (with a X) as downloaded in the app. Maybe I need to get out...

  • David Axon made a comment

    This part of the course has given me the encouragement to make use of the data I have already collected and to continue taking readings on a daily basis.

  • I’m looking at temperature data at a single location over a relatively long time period, so the use of a spreadsheet and simple annual graphs, allowing year on year comparisons to be made, seems to be the obvious choice

  • I’m tending toward a one man band operation, so keeping myself engaged is not a problem as the reason I came to Spain was, and still is, to build a garden that would improve the local environment and leave a lasting legacy. 15 years on, I still get up with a sense of purpose and enthusiasm, even at the age of 71. The fact that I am writing this note at 05:36...

  • David Axon made a comment

    I keep returning to the temperature data I’ve collected, almost casually, but maybe not, over the last 15 years. I’ve used the same max/min thermometer in the same position, shaded from direct sunlight and used consistently. Now I’m thinking of ways in which that data could be analysed or interpreted given that over the same period I have (slowly) planted over...

  • Tried to download information for Spain in the Natura Alert app on my iPad. The download(s) appeared to work and are marked as such, but I can’t access the data, or to put it another way, I can’t find the data. It must be me, but I have tried all the obvious places.

  • I’ve been recording max/min temperatures where I live in southern Spain for the past 15 years. The data set is not contiguous, but is enough to provide an insight into trends and changes over that period. I am in the process of tabulating the data in a spreadsheet so that it can be graphed and comparisons made year on year. The same type of instrument was used...

  • Not so much; the crops near me are carobs (used for animal feed and chocolate substitute) and olives. Both are fairly critical in terms of harvesting, so crop readiness determines the timing. My Spanish neighbours have just finished carefully knocking the carobs from my two (very) old trees with sticks, using a huge net to catch the pods and protect my prize...

  • The Spanish campo (countryside) where I live, could not be further removed from academia. Little has changed here in hundreds of years and local farmers are understandably suspicious of and unwilling to try new practices. It has taken me years to persuade my Spanish neighbours, who tend the land nearby, to let me have olive and carob tree prunings to shred and...

  • @DrRaquelAjates Thanks! Yes, I took part in the GROW Observatory Course "From Soil To Sky" amongst others. Very informative.
    I tried your link, but the Water Planner fails at the "Select your growing location" stage - on two different machines and operating systems: Google Maps does not load correctly. Is it geographically challenged for Spanish residents? If...

  • Drought, high temperatures, soil erosion, mono cultures, insecticide and herbicide use. Apart from that, everything’s fine.
    One thing I have recorded here in Andalucia are max/min temperatures over a period of 15 years, using the same instrument in the same place, so comparisons and trends are valid. The readings are not contiguous, but they do cover several...

  • For the past 15 years I’ve been building a garden in the mountainous inland region of Andalucia called the Axarquia. The 2000m plot sits 400m above sea level, faces south and started life as a dry, dusty, rock-filled, pernicious weed-infested area sloping at up to 50 degrees, which, coincidently, is the unshaded temperature in July and August. I like a...

  • My plot is a 2m wide, 3m long east - west running strip of fairly uniform loamy soil with a regularly spaced irrigation system with each spur separately controlled. It is therefore ideal for testing my hypothesis that watering during the day may have benefits for crop production, instead of the received wisdom that watering at either end of the day is best....

  • Full sun (probably too full), good soil and also protected by a wall on the north side. No risk of frost; winter temperatures average 9 degrees, but it can get windy, especially if growing beans.

  • David Axon made a comment

    40mm, sandy loam.

  • I would recruit a fellow gardener to run the control while I ran the experiment. This might eliminate unintentional bias.

  • I have another question - one I have been wanting to explore for some time. Does watering vegetables in the heat of the day increase growth and improve yields compared to watering in the early morning or late evening? I ask this question for several reasons: first, to dispel the myth that water drops cause leaf burn - apparently this does not happen because...

  • I collect rain water from the roof in the winter months and can store around 2000 litres, but that doesn't last long in the dry season. I use a similar watering regime to you, but it would be useful to know the optmimum timing and quantity. I am considering fitting an automated timer with several settings. @KimAlexisWilliams

  • It's called Mediterranean Garden Plants by Lorraine Cavanagh. Her garden centre, Viveros Florena, is near Cómpeta in Andalucia. A long way from Portugal, but worth a visit if you are passing by! https://www.viverosflorena.com

  • What are the most effective means (method, timing, frequency) of delivering precious water to my crops without compromising yields?

  • How to conserve precious water without compromising crop yields.

  • The author of one of my favourite books on Mediterranean gardening runs a garden centre nearby (nearby in Spain means about an hour's drive). She came to visit my garden and advised on planting and design. Priceless.

  • When I moved form the UK to Spain I had to throw away most of my gardening ideas and start again. The seasons are virtually reversed in that winter can be very productive and the summer a barren desert. I learnt in a number of ways, mostly trial and error, but also from a couple of excellent books on Mediterranean gardening, local garden centres and gardening...

  • I compost everything I can lay my hands on, which means visitors have to keep moving. Here in Andalucia, summer time temperatures can reach 50 degrees, so maybe that is why the compost is relatively seed free, rich and dark - because the compost bins (32 and counting) are already hot enough to sterilise the contents even before the compost process starts.

  • I've planted hundreds of grasses in the lower centre of the garden, mostly Stipa tenuissima (Mexican feather grass), but on the steeper side, vetiver ( Chrysopogon zizanioides), to anchor the soil. The grasses are already forming seed heads, so it will be interesting to see if they attract wild life.

  • David Axon made a comment

    My vegetable plot is part of a large garden next to the house - inland from the Costa Del Sol and 400m above sea level. I grow typical Mediterranean vegetables, but over the years have adapted to those that grow well - and that I like to eat! The plot is long and narrow, faces south and has room for around 200 plants at any one time. No pesticides or...

  • I stopped eating beef several years ago, but still eat chicken, fish and pork. In Spain (Andalucia) it is not easy to identify sustainable produce, so I grow as many vegetables as I can and buy the rest from local, organic (I hope) markets. Awareness of the issues addressed here is gradually increasing, but this is a traditional, conservative country.

  • Is Parrot still in the frame? Their soil sensor is no longer available and I assumed this was the prime reason for their involvement in the GROW project.

  • Los Perros Garden is in the Axarquia, a region of Andalucia to the east of Málaga. The 2000m site, 400m above sea level, faces and slopes south, in places at up to 50 degrees, which is similar to the full sun temperature in the summer. The soil is poor and extremely stoney, rocky and bouldery, however, weeds, especially invasive varieties, grow well. It is...

  • Thanks for the link - I did have a look at the Gardena sensor, but there was very little (i.e. no) information about it and at 119€ it seemed risky. Let's see what the rest of the course reveals. BTW, I'm not in the Alpurras, but further west - and it's hotter in the winter (frosts are very rare). I'm near Comares in the Axarquia, 30km inland and east of...

  • I had been saving up for a Parrot Flower Power, so it was disappointing to hear they had ceased production. They are still available on Amazon, but if you read the reviews it's not a pretty sight. The two main issues were poor customer service and lack of reliability, an unfortunate combination.
    My location is 30 km inland from the Costa del Sol in Andalucia...

  • Just found a FabLab in Málaga, which is only 40km away. Never heard of them before.

  • Grow Organic in the UK runs annual experiments and trials which are UK-centric but open to international contributors. Current experiments include soil health evaluation, beneficial insect observations and plants which encourage pest predators.

  • I took part in the GROW Observatory "From Soil To Sky" MOOC last year and I've been involved with the trials and experiments run by Garden Organic (formerly the Henry Doubleday Research Association) for more years than I care to admit. This year's trials include an evaluation of soil health using two different methodologies, which bear similarities to the GROW...

  • I've been building a quirky Mediterranean garden here in Andalucia for 12 years - and counting. The site consists of 2000 sq m. of dust and rocks facing south and sloping at up to 50 degrees, with a temperature to match in high summer. It's a challenge.

  • David Axon made a comment

    No sensor, but most of the time it's painfully obvious what the moisture content of the soil is here. It's bone dry. The plot is south facing, downward sloping at up to 50 degrees, which coincidentally is the sun temperature in the summer months. Usually no or very little rain from May to September. Welcome to the Axarquia in southern Spain!

  • Well, I hope it has been calibrated...

  • Picky, I know, but "spatial revolution"?

  • Many thanks to Dundee University!

  • Signed up for the next course - Sensing The World.

  • I did find a worm the other day, in the middle of 500 litres of damp compost as I emptied one of my bins (no smell, btw). It has been wet recently and temperatures are low - down to 8 degrees overnight, so that's when the odd worm can appear. But from Spring on wards it is too hot and dry for them to survive in the garden.

  • Signed up!

  • I've only measured soil moisture or potential using the soak away technique on the last course, but our local weather station reports soil moisture as "CP in 10cm" - currently 31.0 and falling. I have no idea what CP means, and nor does Google.

  • Very few earthworms here in Andalucia, probably down to the sandy soil and summer temperatures around 50 degrees in the open. Plenty of other insects and wildlife including snails, wood lice, ants (by the million), centipedes, spiders, praying mantises, beetles, caterpillars (deadly ones called processional) and bugs various.

  • David Axon made a comment

    In this part of southern Spain it's either a feast or a famine. We've recently had up to 30cm of rain in a few days, but that was after one of the driest winters I can remember. I have rainwater guttering on the house and a couple of storage tanks which hold around 2,000 litres each. In theory, the local council can levy a charge per meter for fitting...

  • David Axon made a comment

    The garden is large enough to warrant quite a few compost bins - 30 at the last count plus at least two compost "piles" or as I call them, mountains, of shredded material. Very few worms in Andalucia, but other creatures, like woodlice and ants, take over their role. You can see some of the designs here:...

  • Oops, I think I just completed the same survey twice. That will play havoc with the statistics...

  • No clay detected in the soil test, which I guess is born out by the loamy sand result in the touch test, but I was still surprised by the (apparent) lack of clay.

  • Not sure if I'm interpreting the Soil Test correctly, but there does not appear to be a discernible clay layer, just sand and silt (62.5% / 37.5%). The sand settled quickly and has distinct particles whereas the silt does not - it appears as a homogeneous pale brown mass. Does this sound about right? I'll record the results anyway - and I'm definitely on stony...

  • @LesleyMackinnon The worms have sub-contracted their work to woodlice and ants - both seem to thrive here, in fact my garden seems like one big ant-hill at times. No smells, but remember, Andalucia is very hot and dry most of the time - and no single material type dominates, except shreddies - shredded woody material from olives, oleander, Spanish Broom,...

  • Not exactly soily, but I remember the one about weeds: "One year's seeding makes seven years' weeding."

  • The agroforestry section was interesting and prompted me to revisit a book I bought some time ago called "Creating A Forest Garden". If only...

  • I compost anything that once lived. So - eggshells, tea bags, coffee grounds, ALL kitchen waste including left over meat, fish and bones (I have rat-proof bins in my collection), fruit pulp, banana skins, avocado stones, olives, carob pods, wood ash from the log burner, vacuum cleaner contents, newspaper, shredded cardboard, tissues, perennial and all other...

  • When I moved here (southern Spain) in 2006, the first things I unpacked were two compost bins. I now have 30 (it's a large plot with poor soil) and have trained my neighbours and friends to bring me any material suitable for composting or shredding. I break every rule in the Compost Book but the result is rich earthy loam which is a vast improvement on the...

  • Managed to dig some mud and stones for my pickle jar test yesterday, between showers. Now it needs to dry out. There are so many rocks below the surface that it's difficult to establish an average or representative picture, but we are definitely on stoney ground.

  • Desperately needed rain, but it's buggered the course. If it stops later today I'll try the soil test in my Hunters wellingtons. As for stone content: 90%: it's like building a rockery - on a rockery. The big stones have little stones, upon their backs to bite 'em - and little stones have smaller stones, and so on, ad infinitum...

  • We've just had 48 hours of rain - a complete winter's worth for Andalucia. So the garden has gone from desert to quagmire. Any soil tests would be meaningless, if they were even possible. I'll catch up in a few days, but more rain is forecast. I may have even lost some gnomes.

  • David Axon made a comment

    We've had over 4 inches of rain in the last 24 hours and there's more to come. This is highly unusual in Andalucia and particularly in this area, east of Málaga in the hills (400m). Normally the "soil" in my chosen plot is dry, very dry, with no smell. It's called dust.

  • Difficult to access the plot at the moment as we are experiencing the effects of Storm Emma and the forecast is for 6 months worth of rain in the next six days. Welcome to Global Warming, Mediterranean style. However, I know from bitter experience that the plot has virtually no soil horizons; it consists of stones, rocks and boulders at all levels,...