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  • How to Build Raised Garden Beds using Pallets A step by step guide

    Introduction What are Garden Raised Beds? Raised beds are garden plots above ground level and can be made either by mounding soil into a bed 30 to 35cm high without side supports or by buying or building a frame out of wood, plastic planks, or other materials. These beds are typically small enough that the gardener can walk around outside the bed and tend to all the plants without stepping into the garden bed. The ideal size for a raised bed is 100 t0 120 c, wide with the length to suit the space available. It is most often rectangular in shape and generally 140 to 160 feet long. The bed may be as much as a foot deep, depending on the type of plants being grown. The History of Garden Raised Beds The practice of using raised beds dates to medieval times when farmers used wattle fences (walls of woven limbs and branches) to contain their gardens. In the 18th century, the Parisian market gardeners grew vegetables in raised beds, using the plentiful horse manure of the time as fertilizer. The concept gained popularity again in the early 1970s when gardeners built raised beds with freestanding frames to encourage higher crop yields on smaller house lots. With healthy soil and proper care, raised beds can produce a large harvest in a small space. What is this Guide about? The following Guide is dedicated to describing step-by-step how can someone build simply their own raised garden beds, using everyday tools and principally (old/used) wooden pallets. Pallets are widely used by individuals and companies but have a small life cycle. They are shortly discarded in landfills, even though they can be used for several purposes. But are pallets recycled? One of the main reasons it is difficult to recycle wood pallets is the nails. Wood pallets are generally made with wood boards, which need to be held together somehow. Nails are the obvious solution, but they are difficult to remove from the pallets. If the nails are not removed properly, the wood can’t be turned into mulch or kindling, because the metal will mess with either the machines cutting wood or the purpose of the chopped-up wood. So, pallets with difficult-to-remove nails often go straight to landfills, because removing the nails is too much of a hassle to be worth doing. Thus, building your own raised garden beds, using old or used pallets is a great way to give a second chance to wooden pallets before they will be thrown away and contribute towards the circular economy and 3Rs (recycle, reuse, reduce) incentives. A step-by-step photograph illustration The following steps are indicative and they are concerning the building of parallelogram-shaped raised garden beds, whose dimensions are 120 x 240 x 30 cm. you can use these steps, as guidance for creating your own raised garden beds of the desired size and shape. You can also use alternative materials instead of used wooden pallets, such as concrete blocks, galvanized metal, tires, liners, composite, raw or treated wood, and others. nevertheless, this Guide suggests the use of old/used wooden pallets, as a simple way to contribute to a circular economy. STEP 1 Use the adze to dismantle the wooden pallets into parts. Keep the old nails to reuse them for assembling the garden beds. Alternatively, you can use new nails for substituting the unshaped/defective ones. STEP 2 Use three wooden pieces and put them together. Use the hacksaw to cut bigger wood pieces into smaller parts, approximately 30 cm each. Their size depends on the length of the pallet used. Use the hammer and the nails extracted and hammer the smaller pieces on the 3 wooden parts, to compound them together Use two wood pieces -in our case will be 60 cm in length- in the corners of the wooden structure. STEP 3 Use the sledgehammer to wedge the wood corner pieces in the soil. In our case, 30 cm will be wedged inside the ground and 30 cm will be outside. Use nails and a hammer to assemble the two sides of the structure. STEP 4 Use the cord across the structures in order to bring them into alignment. You can tie the cord to a stable place, such as a wall or tree to calculate the distance between the structures and their right location. STEP 5 Use the spirit level to align the wooden pieces with each other as well as with the ground level. Wedge the corner wood pieces deeper in the ground when needed. STEP 6 Use a paperboard to cover the bottom of the structure. In that way, you will protect the roots of the plants from weeds and pests. Use paperboard from old, or used carton boxes. In case you have priory used a non-woven degradable gardening weeding cloth cover, you can skip this step. STEP 7 Use small pieces of tree trunks and logs above the paperboard and put them evenly across the structure. Tree trunks and logs will decompose gradually offering rich ingredients to your soil, thus to your plants. STEP 8 Use the shovel in order to transfer soil inside the structure. Use as much as the soil is needed so that the tree trunks and logs are utterly covered. STEP 9 Use compost/compost manure in order to fill the upper part of the bed. You can alternatively use plant-based fertilizers like mulch, "green" manure, vegetable compost, and chipped branch wood. STEP 10 You can use a rake in order to spread the compost/compost manure smoothly across the structure. Diagram 1.0 can be used as an example of filling in layers of your raised garden bed. Diagram 1.0 STEP 11 Use a wood handle accessory or a tile shovel or a clamshell digger in order to make a hole in the soil ( 5-7 cm and embed your plant inside the soil, as indicated in the photos following. STEP 12 Water your fresh embedded plants. Keep the flow of the water low, so that you do not hurt the new plants. Conclusion Raised beds are a great option for pretty much any garden situation, especially if you only have a small amount of space. Raised beds are often more productive than beds in the ground because the soil is less compacted, has better drainage, and warms earlier in the spring, meaning that plants will start to grow earlier in the season. Raised beds are also often easier to maintain, particularly for people with limited mobility, and generally have less perennial weed pressure. For gardeners intent on growing their own food, the appeal of increasing vegetable and produce yields through intensive plantings is a real plus. Raised beds are the perfect setups for much closer-clustered plantings, as in the styles of square foot gardening, bio-intensive planting, and more. Instead of having a traditional garden where much of the space is dedicated to paths or spaces for conventional row planting, you use up all your space in a much smaller container garden, and can thus grow a whole lot more in only a fraction of the space. This Guide offers a step-by-step illustrated description of how to make your own raised garden beds. In that way, anyone can easily build their own garden beds, in any preferable shape and size. Readers are encouraged to use used wooden pallets, boosting in that way materials circularity. Find the entire guide: Useful links

  • The miracle

    There is no question that Earth has been a giving planet. Everything humans have needed to survive, and thrive, was provided by the natural world around us: food, water, medicine, materials for shelter, and even natural cycles such as climate and nutrients. Yet we have so disconnected ourselves from the natural world that it is easy—and often convenient—to forget that nature remains as giving as ever, even as it vanishes bit-by-bit. The rise of technology and industry may have distanced us superficially from nature, but it has not changed our reliance on the natural world: most of what we use and consume on a daily basis remains the product of multitudes of interactions within nature, and many of those interactions are imperiled. Beyond such physical goods, the natural world provides less tangible, but just as important, gifts in terms of beauty, art, and spirituality. Here then is a selective sampling of nature’s importance to our lives: Fresh water: There is no physical substance humans require more than freshwater. While pollution and overuse has menaced many of the world’s drinking water sources, nature has an old-fashiosned solution to pollution. Healthy freshwater ecosystems-watersheds, wetlands, and forests- naturally clean pollution and toxins from water. Soils, microorganisms, and plant roots all play a role in filtering and recycling out pollutants with a price far cheaper than building a water filtration plant. The more biodiverse the ecosystem, the faster and more efficient water is purified. Climate regulation: The natural world helps regulate the Earth’s climate. Ecosystems such as rainforests, peatlands, and mangroves store significant amounts of carbon, while the ocean captures massive amounts of carbon through phytoplankton. While regulating greenhouse gases are imperative in the age of climate change, new research is showing that the world’s ecosystems may also play a role in weather. A recent study found that the Amazon rainforest acted as its own ‘bioreactor’, producing clouds and precipitation through the abundance of plant materials in the forest. Pest control: A recent study found that bats save US agriculture billions of dollars a year simply by doing what they do naturally: eating insects, many of which are potentially harmful to US crops. Almost all agricultural pests have natural enemies, along with bats, these include birds, spiders, parasitic wasps and flies, fungi, and viral diseases. The loss, or even decline, of such pest-eating predators can have massive impacts on agriculture and ecosystems. For instance, habitat shrinkage and uncontrolled use of chemical poisons are the main causes of locust population proliferation. This is because they lead to the extinction of their natural predators. Pesticides kill not only crop weeds or pests but also beneficial insects. At the same time, the destruction of natural ecosystems (forests, wetlands, etc.) has removed from many areas many valuable insectivorous species such as birds, frogs, flies, laconia, etc. Medicine: Nature is our greatest medicine cabinet: to date it has provided humankind with a multitude of life-saving medicines from quinine to aspirin, and from morphine to numerous cancer and HIV-fighting drugs. There is no question that additionally important medications—perhaps even miracle cures—lie untapped in the world’s ecosystems. In fact, researchers estimate that less than 1% of the world’s known species have been fully examined for their medicinal value. However the ecosystems that have yielded some of the world’s most important and promising drugs—such as rainforests, peat swamps, and coral reefs—are also among the most endangered. Preserving ecosystems and species today may benefit, or even save, millions of lives tomorrow. Pollination: Imagine trying to pollinate every apple blossom in an orchard: this is what nature does for us. Insects, birds, and even some mammals, pollinate the world’s plants, including much of human agriculture. Around 80% of the world’s plants require a different species to act as pollinator. In agriculture, pollinators are required for everything from tomatoes to cocoa, and almonds to buckwheat, among hundreds of other crops. Globally, agricultural pollination has been estimated to be worth around $216 billion a year. However large such monetary estimates don’t include pollination for crops consumed by livestock, biofuels, ornamental flowers, or the massive importance of wild plant pollination. Art: Imagine poetry without flowers, painting without landscapes, or film without scenery. Imagine if Shakespeare had no rose to compare Juliet to, or if William Blake had no Tyger to set alight. Imagine if Van Gogh lacked crows to paint or Durer a rhinoceros to cut. What would the Jungle Book be without Baloo or the Wind in the Willows without Mr. Badger? Imagine My Antonia without the red grass of the American prairie or Wuthering Heights without the bleak moors. How would The Lord of the Rings film series appear without the stunning mountain ranges of New Zealand, or Lawrence of Arabia without the desert of North Africa? There is no question that the natural world has provided global arts with some of its greatest subjects. What we lose in nature, we also lose in art. We need to look at the value of nature in economic and social terms to help us better understand the full implications of the choices we make. Instead of making decisions based on short-term financial interests, we can look at the longer-term benefits for people and the economy – and of course nature itself. Resources: 1. 2. 3. Photos by: Anna Papaioannou, Theodoros Stomachopoulos

  • The boy amongst the stars

    The boy who was counting the stars grew up into a traveler. He saw the world evolving and embraced the unknown in every new step. The sky his never ended map, the air his fuel. The small village and the nearby city he once housed his dreams were long gone, lost in the ocean of urban development. The world was changing throughout his life and these changes met no borders. Neither did his dreams, his fears. How many nights did the man; who was still a boy spend in confusion and distress? For years he was fighting for education, for survival only to learn that this was not enough. The day has finally arrived when the boy met his closest friends. He laid down among the stars and embraced their light. " I never counted you all but I was always counting on you". The stars laughed and their laughter was heard on earth by another child looking to find its place on earth.

  • Burning summer

    It was calm at first Then the dawn rippled with sunbeams Finally the sun has show her face And illuminated the cyan stream Birds were chirping Flying around frantically The deers, the squirrels Were hopping away without looking You see, this might sound nice If the sun wasn't created by a man That decided to get rid of a few extra leaves With an oil can Some matchsticks later The fiery blade was too hot to control It shone oh so brightly And left nothing after itself Nothing at all...

  • Mini-farming: a healthy, tasty and fun road towards sustainability

    One of the main goals from UN Agenda 2030 is Zero Hunger (SDG 2). But when going into the depths of the relation between food and hunger, it is easy to see how it is tightly knit with different sustainability issues as well as connected to other Sustainable Development goals, like SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being), 9 (Industries, Innovation and Infrastructure), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 13 (Climate Action) and 15 (Life on Land). To achieve these goals, having sustainable agricultural practices all around the world is of utmost importance, and the idea of Eco-Agriculture shows a lot of potential. In this article, IRIS Sustainable Development aims to create awareness about: What Eco-Agriculture is How it can impact climate and other sustainability issues Why should people think of starting their own sustainable mini-farming Image credits: 1. Understanding Eco-Agriculture: Eco-agriculture or ecological agriculture is a fairly recent concept which started growing during the 1970’s, but now it is also starting to become widely accepted on a global scale (Ganzel, 2007). According to Greenpeace (2022), “[Eco-agriculture] is a vision of sustainability and food sovereignty in which food is grown with health and safety first, and where control over food and farming rests with local communities, rather than transnational corporations.” Eco-agriculture focuses on resilience and adaptability, converting small individual farms into sustainable ecozones that focus on environment, society and economy (Brodt et al., 2011). According to the researcher Kiley Worthington (1981), the main aspects of eco-agriculture are: Eco-agriculture has a circular and self-sustaining production, which utilize byproducts for future productions, for example, manure. It is an ecosystem of its own: diverse in species and crops, stable and having high biomass production in a small land. It is local, mini-sized and has high yields and produced in a way that it gives out profits to the farmer. Eco-agricultural production and work should be ethical. 2. Why Eco-agriculture is better: Eco-agriculture effectively helps with biodiversity conservation, poverty alleviation and reduction in carbon emissions, while providing the ecosystem services of pollination, decreased soil erosion and water purification (Buck et al., 2006). By improving agricultural practices on current production land, forest areas can be protected from destruction, which is a huge environmental problem when it comes to climate change and biodiversity. This is possible because as productivity increases, less and less land is used to produce more, which leaves more space for the wilderness to thrive (Gould, 2014). Also, Eco-agricultural practices decrease the use of inorganic fertilizers as well as overuse of fertilizers, which is another growing concern globally (Gould, 2014). 3. Why should one think of creating a sustainable mini-farm: Image credits: Elemental Green Apart from having immense scope of sustainability and profitability for farmers, eco-agriculture also promotes growing food in house lawns and gardens, which in turn: (Elemental Green, 2021) Decrease the cost of living Increase intake of healthy, organic and safe food Help the environment. As of now, a huge amount of fertile land that can be used for food production is used for house lawns, which is not just a waste of land but also increases emissions over time (Elemental Green, 2021). This unused land can be productively utilized by turning them into easy to operate mini-farms. For those who are further interested in turning their backyards into sustainable mini-farms, can refer to the book, “Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre” by Brett L. Markham, which will guide one through everything they should know to get started: Buying and saving seeds, starting seedlings Establishing raised beds Inculcating soil fertility practices Composting Dealing with pest and disease problems Explanation and guidance on crop rotation Sustainable farm planning. Today’s world is developing at the expense of our environment, but we need to create a world that grows with the environment itself, like a part of the ecosystem itself. Initiatives and creative innovations like this eco-agriculture are a key to this kind of future and we all should encourage as well as inculcate such behavior into our daily lives. References: Buck, L., Milder, J., Gavin, T., & Mukherjee, I. (2006). UNDERSTANDING ECOAGRICULTURE: A FRAMEWORK FOR MEASURING LANDSCAPE PERFORMANCE. (2015). 11 Facts About Sustainable Agriculture. DoSomething.Org. Elemental Green. (2021). Why You Should Turn Your Yard Into a Mini-Farm. Ganzel, B. (2007). The Sustainable Agriculture Movement Begins during the 1950s and 60s. Gould, H. (2014, July 1). 10 things you need to know about sustainable agriculture. The Guardian. GreenPeace. (2022). An Eco-Farming Revolution. Greenpeace USA. Kiley-Worthington, M. (1981). Ecological agriculture. What it is and how it works. Agriculture and Environment, 6(4), 349–381. Occidental Arts & Ecology Center. (2019). Organics & Ecological Agriculture. Occidental Arts & Ecology Center. Sonja, B., Johan, S., Gail, F., Chuck, I., & David, C. (2011). Impact of Sustainable Agriculture and Farming Practices [Educational]. World Wildlife Fund. An article written by Anisha Tibdewal I am a 23 year old masters student at Lund University, studying environmental studies and sustainability sciences. I am also currently working as a sustainability communications intern for Lund University where I exclusively work with UNOPS S3i Innovation Centre in Sweden. I found myself interested in environment and sustainability as I grew more aware about environmental issues and having affinity towards nature inspired me to work on and off field to solve these issues.

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