Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

It grows and rises up!

I've been converting the 'beds' into mounds of various sizes.

Thus the growing space has grown significantly and the photosynthesistic joy is self evident. I use fewer pots per area and since the garden comes up to meet me, I don't have to bend down so far.

I find I can hose fill uncovered pots even when standing at some distance from them.

Note the paving --old woollen carpets -- and new potting work station.

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Comment by Christa on October 20, 2015 at 14:45

Thank you, Dave for explaining so clearly with words.  Garden builds and diggings have always made me think.  As I grew up on a large strawberry farm, our beds were long built up rows in a straight line with a double row of plants covered with sawdust.  My question to my father was why they were not in spirals and heaps.  He had no answer.

Your garden reminds me of ancients gardens where the people had large buried terracotta pots holding quite a bit of water, and allowing it to seep into the ground and surrounding plants.

You have taken it one step further. Great work.

Comment by Dave Riley on October 20, 2015 at 13:30

 Christa: Are the mounds in different widths and heights?

Yes. I'm experimenting with size, but different plants suggest different heights. I cannot say for sure one size fits all. The question is the reach of the moisture from the pot or the ability of the plants' roots to travel toward the pot's damp zone. A lot of research done in India on this with stats on depth and circumference of water reach varying per soil type.

They appear to be in rows in the photo's.

They appear in rows only because I'm converting beds into mounds.I've got them every which way in the main. When you change the sizes one from the other you end up with mounds growing without a pattern. But I also experiment with pattern and batches:

Two together;

00 -- the camel.

The five'o

0 0


0 0 the valleys are as important as the hills.

But generally I make my sand castles where impulse dictates as I can always move them about later. And, true to the beach  tradition, I use a hand trowel to do itHow many perches of land would you have as mounds.

How many perches of land would you have as mounds?

I'm converting the whole veg garden to mounds...and it's a big garden.  Some 'flats' still remain while I wait out those spots to harvest. Generally though the garden is a succession of hillocks. Looking at the mounds in the beds , I thought yesterday I'd start taking out some of the path and insert a few mounds half way along that, like a cul de sac.  The ruling element -- methinks as I pondered this prospect -- was the reach of the  hose and the filling of the pot. 

All the main corners on the paths have poles -- flexi tent poles --  around which the hose drags as I water the garden. So if I can get a hose to within cooee of a pot I can fill it so long as I have line of fire.

In this image below, the area in focus  has maybe 10-12 mounds. So it's very space efficient.There are pole beans, cucumbers, tomatoes , zucchini, potatoes, spring onions, huauzontle, kale, chicory, endive...and other plants in all that jungle. Thats' one section which happens to be defined as a square. You need to know whats' in there and when it is ready to harvest of course. Stepping between the mounds and navigating the valleys is the way to traverse the area. 

Compared to what it used to be -- 3 beds, traversed by two paths -- it is stunningly more productive with much better growth and irrigation.

You cannot afford to be anal I guess. 

In this image below -- of a particular bed conversion -- I've created smaller mounds both as an experiment and because I'm  growing spring onions along with other stuff. In the valleys there,between the mounds, I've planted out pigeon peas for Summer shading.

The naked tree is a frangipani...

But there's also some creepers in the mix -- to harness the railing (which I have repaired since maybe a possum and dog urtication pulled it down). 

The smaller mounds seem -- touch wood -- to handle root veg too -- carrots, radishes, turnips -- but I cannot rule on that. That's  a work in progress. The root veg need a pretty consistent water supply so I'd not expect big mounding would suit them. I hope to plant out a few mounds to root veg to see what gives.

The trick being -- I'm hypothesising -- that you plant our your root veg at the top of the mound around the pot...and other plants down the slope.

Thats' still a work in progress: plant what veg at what contour as I have deep valley, mound sides, crests, sunny sides, shaded choose from. 

 But the main thing is that, thus far, i'm getting better harvests form these hills than flat land gardening. I did raise up the beds a tad originally, as we all do, but when you mound you bump the soil skywards keenly. I also dig down when I build the mounds and shovel out that dirt too with the plan that I lay down paper, plants cuttings and other mulches in those trenches to hold water and, in time break down to add to soil fertility.

I'm  also planting those trenches with pigeon peas, cannas, some spinach creepers  like Warrigal Greens and Brazil Spinach, Dog Bane, Pigface (although I locate them up the hills a bit), aloe vera....

Just on the Pigface (and it should also apply to the aloe vera) with all this active conversion I'm engaged in, I'm harvesting the pigface, chopping it up and adding it to the soil I build the new mounds with. It will be interesting to see if the desiccated pigface adds to the sandy soils' water holding capacity.

Comment by Dave Riley on October 19, 2015 at 21:03

Go to the top page here and under SITE TIPS  in  the side panel to the left, search 'mounds' or 'garden mounds' .

I also had a bush turkey problem...but I cannot say if they are reproductively  aroused by readymade mounds.

However, the question is why would you want to create a mound-- with a pot on top --  if your current habits worked? 

All roads lead to Rome...

The question is productivity vs water usage vs space under cultivation.

Comment by Christa on October 19, 2015 at 18:46

Mound gardening sounds very interesting. Are the mounds in different widths and heights.   They appear to be in rows in the photo's.   How many perches of land would you have as mounds.

My problem would be our local bush turkeys that go around putting their beak in the heaps of soil in my backyard and checking the temperature for a suitable residence.

Comment by Dave Riley on October 19, 2015 at 12:55

I'm just musing really -- trying to explain why what seems to be happening, does occur.

But the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

But for background, here is an original inspiration that I adapted. It relies on water rising up from the valleys between sculpted ridges. Although the example coats the ridges with lots of stuff like hessian  bags and newspapers as well as straw mulch. 

When I came to experiment I could not make it work at all because my sandy soil was so friable. 

After using the pots for a few years I kept worrying about how best to place them for improved efficiencies. After studying Polynesian, Melanesian and North American Indian gardening design, building  mounds -- as they do traditionally --  began to make a lot of sense.

However, there is one rider: after years of mulching and fretting over my soil, what I'm doing is mounding up the best of what I've created into singular piles. So I'm not starting from scratch.  That means instead of having to put up with a shallow layer of DIY loam sitting atop the sand underneath, I've deepened the 'beds' by layering the good stuff into a series of hills.

And every time I replenish  the mounds , each year or whenever, by digging at the base and shovelling the soil uphill, I'm moving good loam back up to work for me.

Comment by Dave Riley on October 19, 2015 at 12:26

Yes -- thats' the trick, Florence; the 'ollas' (aka terracotta pots with dinner plate lids)

...and the mulch coating holds moisture on the surface as the plants establish their roots. So you gotta plant out the whole knoll preferably. But then 'run off' isn't that much of an issue if at the base you have mulches(and clays?) that slow down and hold the water at the level of the bottom of the hill. So like a 'wiking' bed that moisture is (hypothetically says I)  available further up the hill by hydroscopic cohesion processes that are married with water reservoir in the embedded pot.

You could do the whole thing just by irrigating the base of the mounds -- and not using the pots --if you could ensure that your soil would hold onto the moisture there.

An occasional splash of water  over the mound keeps the process working as it would keep seedlings alive..

I do get settling -- as it is sand afterall and with the build the sand gets fluffed up, but there isn't much erosion despite the weathering.

I think tahts' due to

  1. the slope : 35-45 degrees to suit the material. There is a sweet oblique.
  2. the mulch:  I think the lawn clippings allow water ingress while locking onto the slope without tumbling.They also present a pitted surface that cups the water as it falls.They serve as a mesh coating.
  3. the sand: just like a wave onto a beach ahead of an incoming tide the water engorges the sand rather than sharply undermine it. If my soil was heavy i'm sure that the water would  not seep in so well nor so easily.
Comment by Florence on October 19, 2015 at 11:59

Bet you young locals wouldn't know what referdex is either :P There's GPS in cars, and smart devices so prevalent, I wonder could the new generation still read street directories any more ^^"

I think the moulds work well with your ollas ~ moulding didn't work well for me before with water run off

Comment by Dave Riley on October 19, 2015 at 10:19

Sure, Lissa...But who knows what may happen outback in way of gardening developments? You can indeed make a mountain out of a mole hill. Every fiddle here or there suggests some other possibility.

Very plastic is sand. And with me being a frustrated sculptor ... it's all an excuse to be  hands on.

Only yesterday I targeted a spot for another extra big Sweet P mound...and since I've taken more carpet out of the house my wool pathed thoroughfares are looking like a 'Referdex' (huh! Bet that term will test anyone's local roots!)

Just follow the woolly brick road...

Follow the woolly brick road, follow the woolly brick road 
Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow the woolly-brick road 

Follow the woolly-brick, follow the woolly-brick
Follow the woolly-brick road...
Comment by Lissa on October 19, 2015 at 5:29

Looking good Dave. When you're ready you might like to have the group back to show them your efforts first hand? Many people would be interested to see what you are doing.

Comment by Roger Clark on October 18, 2015 at 8:33

I will also try to plant sweet potato in my Trad/compost mounds. I am a little worried about the rabbits and wallabies at my place though as I'd imagine that the leaves will be quite appealing to these critters especially as the grass around is very dry and almost crunches as you walk around at the moment. I guess the constant nibbling will keep rampant growth at bay and may help with tuber formation. I dream a lot!

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