Summer in Sweden

Just came across this picture when I was looking for something else and thought I’d share it. A typical Swedish cottage in a typical Swedish allotment garden! In a typical Swedish summer. And even though it’s hard to believe things will ever be green again for at least half of the year here, when it does come it suddenly seems all worthwhile.

Midsummer is coming up in three weeks or so and that’s about when spring starts to feel more like summer. Just now the ditches are full of wildflowers and lupins are starting to sprout pink and blue everywhere. The grass grows as you watch it (good or bad depending on how much grass you have to cut.) And the fresh new deer are in seventh heaven jumping around all over the fresh new fields.

Kind of nice. Makes you feel privileged.

Bokashi in the greenhouse.

Did a big clean out in the greenhouse in the weekend and cleared out everything. Felt so wonderful to get rid of all the bits and pieces and do a restart. I’ve been growing tomatoes and cucumbers in big black buckets for years (the greenhouse itself has no soil) and that’s always been ok but it felt like time for a new approach.

So. Now it’s like this. I brought home 10 big bricklayers tubs from the local hardware store and lined them up in the greenhouse. Four on one side, six on the other (side-by-side rather than end-to-end). Then the fun started…

The tubs are 90 liters each (there are small ones available here too, 65 liters). Cost was some 13 euro each for the big, 8-9 for the small. And they’re really sturdy and nice! 900 liters in total to fill…

First up I put in a layer of drainage, the small clay balls that are called lecakulor in Swedish. Some 5 to 10 cm worth. So far I haven’t drilled any drainage holes, I’m thinking of not having any and using the drainage layer as a water reservoir if I’m careful and don’t overwater. But if I do go for holes I’ll drill them on the sides, at the same height as the drainage material. In a perfect world that means none of the valuable nutrients would be lost.

Next step was a layer of soil, just the cheap potting mix you buy at the supermarket this time of year. I thought a bit about putting a felt layer between the drainage and the soil but decided not to, if the roots want to make their way down into the reservoir it’s all theirs!

Then came the Bokashi! Some 20-30 liters ready fermented food waste from the kitchen. I happened to have a lot of biobags on hand so I used those, but obviously you take whatever you’ve got. But I did hack them open and spread out the goo reasonably evenly.

Then I added a couple of buckets of “real soil” from my soil factory in the garden, normal topsoil drenched in nutrients from last summer’s Bokashi. And the most ridiculous amount of worms! If they like it in their new home it’ll be just great to have them in on the operation.

Then topped up the tubs with more “sack soil”, the cheapest of potting mixes. I cut up the bags and tucked one over each tub to prevent evaporation until it’s time to plant. But now I’m even thinking I might plant my tomatoes and cucumbers in a hole in the plastic to reduce watering. What do you think?

Needless to say I deserved a beer at the end of all this! Just now the whole project looks like a workplace but I’m really excited about it. In my mind it’s already green and luscious with endless perfect tomatoes and cucumbers, maybe even kiwifruit, passionfruit or even a whole vineyard… Anyhow, I think it will be great and I’m dead curious to see how it works out.

One of the big benefits (I think) will be that come autumn I can dig down a new batch of Bokashi in all the tubs and renovate the soil ready for the spring. Maybe replace some of it if needed. It would be such a luxury to come out to the greenhouse in the spring and just wash it down and plant — having let the microbes and worms do all the hard stuff in the meanwhile.

Dreams are free! But I’ll let you know how the tomatoes work out!

…and in the old tomato buckets I’ve planted potatoes, all going well we’ll get a nice early batch in time for midsummer (and anyone who’s been to Sweden will know how important that is!). Fingers crossed.