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I have found water supply to be an issue this year. It's the first summer in over 10 that I have seen the dam empty. In the past, it's been full/overflow-running by December at the latest.

The banana trees below sit at the base of the small dam (dam out of picture and to the right).

The water tanks which supply the household and gardens have not exceeded 50% with many long gaps between rain events. Every other year, I'm trying to use as much tank water as possible before the next rain event overflows the tanks between the months of December (at the latest) and March/April.

As a result, I've stopped watering the main soil garden 4 weeks ago, co-enciding with a water delivery (which is something I really try to avoid, as it comes at a cost).

Below is a shot of part my main soil garden from last week (moringa & rosella plus some wild chia in shot)

I've been growing? horse compost in place of plants in dry gardens, with random piles being placed in spots.

Below is the old melon and squash garden

The wicking beds and small aquaponics growbed are looking great and place very little load on my water reserves. 

I have kept a water efficient trench garden (running beside the house and aquaponics growbed) watered though, and this has kept me content, in leu of the larger garden.

It has produced nice Okra, lots of beans, a large mini watermelon, strawberries and cucumbers, so not too bad. It's also growing young broad bean plants, pigeon peas and Aibika.

A few small pineapple fruit have developed in other dry small gardens with no additional watering.

The old lime tree which also has had no additional watering is looking a little dry, with a nice (but smaller) crop of limes.

The rain showers (although small) over the past few days have been much welcomed, and I'm looking forward to some more rain during Autumn, hopefully.

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Comment by Susan on March 11, 2016 at 19:27

It's heartbreaking when things are that dry.  I know I shouldn't but I use house water if my tank runs dry to keep my vegies and fruit trees healthy.  your gardens closer to the house look much better.

Comment by Rob Collings on March 10, 2016 at 20:15

LOL, thanks Cres, you've just joined the chorus of some other BLFers who have seen that spot. Swale works in that location are a little down the list, but I'm hopping to get to it sometime this year.

Thank you very much for those links, it will help me to study the subject.

Comment by Cres on March 10, 2016 at 0:11

That's a good looking stream of water. Have you thought about building swales in the areas with poor retention to slow it down and allow it to seep in? I live on a fairly sloped dense clay block so water just runs down and I'm left with concrete. I've dug swales (ditches on contour) that hold enough water along the hillside and gives it time to seep into the ground. It also has the added effect of slowing down water so that whatever topsoil I manage to create isn't constantly eroded away.

Here's an video showing how swales can make a difference in an arid desert.

They've definitely made a difference to slowing my water run off.  I have 4 now, two on each side of my yard. They weren't easy to dig in my clay but it's a long term solution and by doing so when it was wet after rain made it less painful. I used a friend's laser to get the contours the first time but a low tech A-frame for the others. I need to create more biomass to build soil.

Comment by Rob Collings on March 9, 2016 at 18:20

Sorry Cres, I forgot to mention, those banana trees are in the main water drainage course that comes through this property, but the underneath is very poor for water retention or growing in that spot.

Here is a shot from Late Feb 2015 (probably the last time if flowed)

Comment by Rob Collings on March 9, 2016 at 18:05

Yea! got the rain along with everyone else by the looks. Phil, your telemetry is correct, exactly 25mm over 24 hours.

Things are much greener already, I haven't checked my tanks yet.

Cres, the household sewage goes to an on site bio-cycle, which is a 3 main chamber sewage treatment system (with sub-chambers within the 2nd & 3rd). The output is currently going over a previously rock exposed (now lush with grass and shrubs) part of the property. The area were the output goes gets changed every 6 months or so.

Picking up on your suggestion, I can collect the output from the washing machine and use that at the least, so thanks for the pointer mate.

Elaine, I forgot how old Colin is, until I read his writings where WW2 time period was mentioned, your right ... maybe his daughter can take the torch in the future.

Comment by Phil on March 9, 2016 at 16:34

That first photo looks like the desert Rob and your main garden bed is heart breaking to behold after how well it has looked in the past. Still the Moringa will definitely bounce back and probably the other plants too after the 25mm rainfall you got last night at Samford. Grey water is a good solution but I would put it through a reed bed and/or gravel pit before feeding into edibles. The wicking beds are looking like a great investment.

Comment by Christa on March 9, 2016 at 14:01

The period without rain has put a lot of stress on most gardens.  Cres had a good idea about the grey water.  But In our case we would have to pump the grey water up hill. 

If I had not joined this group and listened to Elaine and her wicking bed systems, I doubt if I would have any of my trees still growing.  The older trees like the Jaboticaba and governors plum and nectarine have deep roots and are coping well.  My bananas are feeling the stress. Today I have just rescued some ground plants and put them into pots in the shade house to give them the last rights.

Lets hope that some rain clouds will come your way, Rob and change things back. 

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on March 9, 2016 at 13:31

Somewhere on this site, Scarlett Patrick the originator of BLF and a Permaculturist and Horticulturist, posted a photo of a Banana Circle. There are plenty on the net, too. We couldn't dig down the required metre so the berm is not as it should be, either. Dig that meter if you can it makes the difference between working well and just surviving.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on March 9, 2016 at 13:28

I hope that Colin has someone ready to take over his site at least. He's no chicken and sooner or later we'll lose our local and probably best resource on wicking beds. [edited from an earlier deleted post]

Comment by Cres on March 9, 2016 at 12:55

Are you able to use your bathroom greywater Rob? My bananas looked as miserable as yours do in the photo above. after a year of seeing nothing and my hand watering not proving sufficient, I dug both tiny stunted plants up (they're pretty easy to dig up) from the bottom of my sloping concrete like clay yard and put them up higher right where the greywater comes from my shower/bathroom basin to the yard. I put a drain pipe to redirect bathroom water to the highest convenient point in my garden. It has made a massive difference.

The water drops into what was once a massive hugelkulture pile (has since decomposed to almost nothing due to the constant wet environment) where the bacteria in the high carbon pile begin their work. Then seeps downhill a metre or so to my bananas then down to my first swale.

It was the best thing I've ever done for the bananas. I have a mini banana jungle there now in three years. The ground is constantly moist but the bananas are some of the healthiest plants in my garden.

If that's not an option I'd say put those plants in the path of your yard's natural water ways and make a banana circle (plenty of info on them) to pond water in the middle. Of course this only helps when there's some rain.


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