From Floods to Slugs… Garden challenges on a North Atlantic island


Bill Mollison, the founder of Permaculture, has said to wait a year getting to know your land before you do anything on it. There is a lot of wisdom in this idea. However, I have yet to follow it. It is not that I disagree, but with my current life, I have moved every 2-4 years for the past 17 years! Oh, I am ready to settle down in one place in put down some roots!

So, while I agree with this idea, I have chosen to ignore it for now. I want to get a garden in as soon as possible in each new place I live. Especially when I am only there for two years. There are challenges in doing this though. The biggest challenge is not knowing the weather cycles. In many places, I could look up very accurate weather histories, so I could plan my gardening year. Here in the Azores, and at my previous home in Turkey, well… not so much.


My current case in point is the non-stop rain and wind over the last week and a half. We had a beautiful day here last Saturday. I spent a large chunk of the day in the garden getting some of my seedlings in the ground. The following day, the wind and rain started. It hasn’t really stopped since. We have been extremely fortunate not to be effected by the flooding, but just two villages away, only a few minutes drive, they were not so lucky. You can see in these photos the destruction that took place.

For me to complain about my garden when this is going on so close would be insensitive and frankly ridiculous. It doesn’t mean I am not frustrated about the wind that has decimated about half the seedlings I planted. It doesn’t mean I am not frustrated about the slugs that are active twenty-four hours a day for the last seven days because the sun has not come out and the ground stays perfectly wet for them and has given them the opportunity to eat holes in many of the remaining seedlings that were planted. I am not exagerating when I say I pulled off over fifty slugs from my two small garden beds in ten minutes after I got home from work. I can be frustrated about these things and still not complain… not to be some pious martyr, but because it is possible to be frustrated yet keep things in perspective.

But the entire time I was doing this, I kept thinking to myself two things. First, “this is the reason Bill Mollison says to wait for a year to do anything.” I have spoken with the locals about when Spring really arrives, and I get a different answer from each person with whom I speak. Nothing beats firsthand experience. This is the joy of learning while gardening. Yes it can be frustrating and downright disheartening at times. However, my gardening is an adjuct to my daily meals. My life, and my family’s life doesn’t depend on it now. Let me practice and make as many mistakes as I can right now, so that I can learn. So that if I ever do need to depend on my garden for food, I will have that much more experience.


The second thing I kept thinking was, “why am I the fortunate one who gets to pick slugs off his seedlings, when just one town away, people are picking through the mud to find any of their belongings?” Fortunately, there has been a well-organized relief effort which we have been able to contribute to in a small way. Natural disasters are awful, but when we are not directly effected, they should serve as great tools to remind us of our own blessings.

It is always good to get some perspective.

Original Article Here

Muhammad Ramzan Rafique
Muhammad Ramzan Rafique

I am from a small town Chichawatni, Sahiwal, Punjab , Pakistan, studied from University of Agriculture Faisalabad, on my mission to explore world I am in Denmark these days..

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