Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

This time last year I was desperate. Low on water resources. No mulch to be had. Pithy dry beds...
This year, despite a very warm, and a standardly dry, Winter, the garden is thriving.[Click on image for enlarged view]
Why is this?
  • Terracotta pot management has been tweaked so that I know when to top up the clay pots buried in the ground.I've learnt to be ruled by what the plants tell me.
  • Water for the pots comes from the above ground swimming pool, now on bathing hiatus. Its salt content has dissipated so the water can be used on the garden seemingly without consequence.I use a watering can and stagger the top ups.It just requires a bit of too-ing and fro-ing.
  • As required I hand water. But I'm careful to hose the plants that need more attention than others.
  • Urine. My garden is fueled by pee. It is customized fertilization dependent on messaging from the plants ... but the home made stuff works. I haven't killed anything. My routine is impeccable. I guess I've got the results to prove its utility. (See the urine DIY).
  • The most verdant section of my garden are the mounds. Never photogenic but that's because they are a jungle. If the seeming fertility persists into Summer, I'll be converting my whole garden to mounds.
  • Since I take climbers up and over the garden by stringing them to jute twine, the beds below are still open and sun drenched. I can plant climbers almost at any location and as they begin their ascension, I drop twine down to them and navigate them  on a upward route I determine. Best of all: no 'build' issues that can come down in a storm.
The other advantage I've had this time around, is that I've finally improved my seed raising habits.  After playing around with various protocols, I now raise seeds in 9 and 10 cm plastic pots -- the ones you buy seedlings in. I find the depth and width gives me more leeway if my mothering duties are lacking at any time.

I usually plant several seeds in the one pot ( by using tweezers) and separate  the seedlings when I plant out. Each pot becomes its own micro-garden and it is much easier to stagger your plantings to suit your immediate needs. 
The paper pot roller and the shallow seedling trays have been given the flick. ...and I have not lost a plant once it has sprouted. I grow everything in these pots first, then transplant. My handicap is impatience as I wait for the seedling to grow to a transplant stage.
For the moment, my primary gardening input is quality seed raising mixes.  I'm also experimenting with liquid pro-biotics. These are liquid mixes of beneficial microbes that break down organic matter and make nutrients available to the plants. I use this stuff sparingly.

I rely on the chook pen for manured 'soil' (it's really just sand with chook poo) but I have decided that  I should lay down  trenches of horse or cow manure -- a La culture maraîchèr --when I build new mounds.

And that's it. I bury bones and other edibles from the house that the chooks don't eat. Every scrap of paper or cardboard gets thrown on the 'paths' -- the spaces between the beds and mounds. While I'm growing more of my own mulch(cannas, Qld arrowroot, etc) I still rely on grass clippings that professional mower bods dump on my nature strip. However this year, many of my mulching needs have been served by 'green mulch' cover by the growing plants themselves.

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Comment by Phil on August 28, 2015 at 17:59

Thanks for the info Dave. I'll give it a try.

Comment by Dave Riley on August 28, 2015 at 2:25

UN-GLAZED TERRACOTTA POTS: I got 20cm pots from Masters for under $4 each and I prefer to grout the bottom. But placing them in mounds seems the best use of their capacity to water locally. Of course soil type is going to matter too.

Another option are terracotta wine coolers.

However not all pots are going to be porous, I guess because of firing times, grog used and such so you lose some options, maybe 1 in 5.

There is a lot of literature on clay pot irrigation -- and research -- emanating from India. It's all good...and is probably the most water efficient method of irrigation aside from wicking.

But I'd say that the mounds are qualitatively more sustainable than flat beds under a clay pot regime. The plants love the ready access to moisture. On the flat all the watering is victimised by gravity and the fact that the plants are staggered at distances away from the water source.

On the incline there is more room for roots to reach across and drink. That's the tweak.

Indian research has diagrams and stats for seepage under conditions of different variables : soil type, grog, pot diameter and depth, etc....but on the flat, on my sand, 1.3-1.5 metres apart does suit.

Also if you get more growth you also get more shade and less evaporation.

Recent research I've studied confirms my suspicion that water ingress goes both ways. If the soil is inundated, the pots also fill through the clay 'membrane'. So as well as gravity, the system is driven by the hydro static nature of water.

I filled up most of my pots today using 2 watering cans. I was draining the pool -- thus the cans.

Worked a treat. I take off  all the lids first then fill the pots one by one. Then go around replacing the plate lids. Faster with a hose.But you appreciate the wide mouth.

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on August 27, 2015 at 20:13

After today's little fiasco, he has been renamed to 'Kin'Percy. 

Comment by Phil on August 27, 2015 at 17:50

Looks good Dave - some useful advice there. My winter garden beds haven't fared so well - not enough mulch and water I think. Regarding the Terracotta pot watering, where do you source cheap pots suitable for this purpose?

Percy or Alfred - good names for wolves in sheep's clothing...

Comment by Dave Riley on August 27, 2015 at 8:35

There is a something perverse in naming your nemesis, 'Percy'. Like an uninvited guest but one that has come to stay.

Beelzebub would be more apt...or maybe Godzilla...

Comment by Lissa on August 27, 2015 at 5:57

Coming along great guns Dave. You're getting the hang of dealing with that sandy soil.

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on August 26, 2015 at 22:53

Looks great Dave.  You know, I was thinking today that Percy might enjoy a holiday near the beach.  He's ummm... most helpful at spreading your mulch... and ummm.... is desperately seeking a chicken flock to join. 

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on August 26, 2015 at 14:09

Sure the chooks won't go to China via their pen? ;-)

Looks wonderful. The mound idea really is a goer.

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