22nd Mar 2021 @ 12:15 pm

Garden design is not only vital for a thriving green space, It’s also fascinating, and there’s no better place to see how it works than Lanzarote.

Lanzarote is home to at least two unique forms of cultivation. The first has become world famous for the odd alien landscapes it has created in the wine-growing volcanic areas of the island. But it always starts the same way – with a man digging a hole with a shovel.

This back-breaking work starts early in the morning, before the heat comes, and the aim is to create a hoyo (pit) that serves three purposes. First, it allows the roots of the vine that will be planted at the bottom of the pit to reach the soil that was there before the volcanic eruptions covered the island with ash and picón. Secondly; the walls of the pit protect the vine from the worst desiccating effects of the wind, which is the farmer’s worst enemy on Lanzarote. Finally, the walls of the pit channel moisture to the bottom, where the vine can make the most of it.

A horseshoe-shaped dry-stone wall called a zoco is then built around the north-eastern rim of the pit, which offers more protection against the alisio wind, allowing the morning dew to soak in just a little longer. The result is a perfectly-designed system for vine cultivation that is unique in the world and has been developed in fewer than 300 years.

Desert Culture

Another example of perfect design can be seen at the Jable region of the island, where farmers have developed a different way of farming on the sandy soil. This involves planting in trenches, whose walls protect the crops, and which are themselves protected by well-situated windbreaks. The resulting corrugated landscape is every bit as representative of Lanzarote as the vineyards, and produces the island’s finest sweet potatoes, sweet white onions and tomatoes.

Then there are the terraces of Los Valles and elsewhere – this method, which involves building stone wall “steps” on hillsides, is found around the globe because it’s the perfect way of making the most of rainfall and difficult terrain.

Design Principles

What can you learn from these applications of design on Lanzarote? Well, they teach us a few basic lessons that apply to any green area on Lanzarote.

Use Gravity

Water is a heavy liquid and will always end up settling as low as it can go. Do your best to delay this happening, or maximise every drop of it before it does.

Conserve Moisture

Every drop of water that doesn’t evaporate is valuable. Use mulches, straw, wood waste and picón to keep water in place.

Build Windbreaks

Wind doesn’t always come from the north[1]east on Lanzarote – so find out where your prevailing breezes come from, and work out the best, most efficient ways to block them. Using other, tougher plants as protection can be a real achievement.

Use What Is Close To Hand

It’s sad to see local farmers building with ugly concrete or wire netting, when local materials can be far more effective and ecological. Stone structures, picón, sand, clay, fertile earth, plant matter – these are the building blocks of a greener Lanzarote.

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