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Wicking beds April; Chooks and watering systems

Well, I think I'm really getting into this "farmer" groove thing even though I only have about 600 sq m of land.  Went to visit my family in the country these school holidays and they all have chickens.  Watching my kids collect the eggs, I suddenly had the urge to grow my own.  It was something that I had always wanted to do but seemed like too  much effort and not enough space.  With those awful hibiscuses gone from down the side, I now have enough space and the holidays have rejuvenated me so also have the energy.  Was going to attempt to convert my daughters old cubby house but - having limited space - wanted it to be beautiful and secure so went with a purchased chicken coop.  It should be delivered next week and me and the kids will enjoy the long weekend of setting up and painting.  I wanted things to be as low maintenance as possible so have also ordered automatic feeders and waterers from Dine-a-chook.

Next is to obviously get my chickens.  And I don't want any old scabby chickens.  If I've gone to all this effort I want something a bit unique but friendly with kids as they are also going to be much loved family pets (I grew up on a farm where we killed our own -> my mother thinks I'm nuts).  The breeds I've narrowed down are Araucana's -> blue eggs and very pretty chickens;  Barnelveder; -> dark brown eggs and beautiful chickens.  I've sourced those 2 but I would also like to get Ancona chickens for white eggs but can't seem to find any just now.  I can't wait to have my 3-4 chickens roaming around the place :)

Next step in terms of lower maintenance gardening is the installation of watering systems for my other garden beds -> the blueberry/asparagus patch and the herb/flower patch.  I have 2 different systems setup.  In the herb/flower patch, I have 10 olla pots that I made from terracotta pots connected to a blue drum.  Notice I had to put cement mesh over the flower bed and stakes in the herb bed as my dog and cat seem to think that this is their own personal digging around area.  Not much in there now but I've planted a whole bunch of zinnia's, pansies, carnations & rannunculis seeds.   I hope that soon I'll have some very pretty flowers.  

I don't know if I would recommend anyone doing these as they were a lot of effort however, they are working well for now.  When I visited my Uncle (who also loves to garden and lives in north qld), we talked about my abhorrence of watering,  he gave me some Iriso watering spikes to try.  So my other blue drum got connected to these and my blueberry/asparagus are now watered  by this system.  Now these only cost about $39 for the whole kit and the water flow is adjustable for EACH spike.   They will also be easy to clean out should they get blocked up as they completely pull apart and they are much easier than the olla pots to move around.

  If you look real close at the second image, you can see the drop as its about to fall.  If anything happens to the olla pots, I will definitely purchase more of these spikes to replace that system.

On to my wicking beds.  They are still going great except I've got one problem bed.  The one I've tried to get brassicas to grow in is just not co-operating.  This is the one where I originally planted beans but they got some kind of virus/bacterial disease that caused rotting stems and curled leaves.  The brassica's have never thrived and only 2 have survived after numerous attempts at planting.  The pawpaw seeds I chucked into it seem to be doing great though?  I thought it might be a problem with the bean seeds so put them in a styrofoam wicking bed and they are doing fine so that seems to indicate something wrong with the soil.

This is in comparison to my newest bed which was only planted out at the end of Feb.  It is completely overgrown with the tomato's, cucumbers and peas.  It looks amazingly healthy, have been harvesting cucumbers for 2 weeks now and my first pea and tomato flowers have appeared.  BLISS! :)

Well that's it from me for this month.  Will check back in next month when I get my new babies :) 

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Comment by Elaine de Saxe on April 25, 2014 at 7:21

During the last drought, I bought dozens of these things. Some were made in Australia and $1 each, other made elsewhere and around the same money. Not being a drinker of soft drinks, I did not have those bottles to use. I bought a whole coil - 10 metres perhaps - of a black corrugated pipe. The cut pieces of pipe slipped over the end and held about 1L of water. They worked quite well although it was not a slow empty but  a way of delivering the water to the plant's roots.

Once I had the wicking beds established, I no longer needed so many and gave the bulk of them to Life Line. Tip: Life Line accept surplus gardening supplies.

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on April 24, 2014 at 22:08

I'm a bit wary of that one Valerie.  Olas sweat their water.  It seems to me that using a hole would use the water in a very short time. 

Comment by Valerie on April 24, 2014 at 21:52

I would not advise near you bedroom window unless you like to be woken up at the crack of dawn. Sometimes I think our girls are making up for the lack of a rooster. 

With drip irrigation I once saw a youtube clip on how to make a system with plastic bottles like olla pots but cannot find it anymore. Basically you just puncture a bottle and burry them in the soil. I have not tried it yet. I like the look of the Iriso system.

Comment by Susan on April 24, 2014 at 18:51

Thanks for that feedback Lucas.  I was considering Ancona's because of the fact that they lay white eggs and I think that would offset my blues and dark browns nicely.  Where the chicken coop is going is near our bedroom window so I might have to reconsider those.  

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on April 20, 2014 at 19:45

Here you go.  Chickens  and chicks

Comment by Susan on April 20, 2014 at 19:34

Thanks Andrew -> I have that very same problem - the not being handy part.  :) Thats why I chose to buy the pen.Do you have any photos of your chickens?  I'm chicken mad at the moment, can't get enough of looking at photos and reading about them.

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on April 20, 2014 at 18:45

It's all looking wonderful Susan.  I just got three little girls last week.  Crikey, they grow fast.  I'm re-purposing my dog kennel to be a roost.  Jeez, I wish I was handy - but it's getting there. . 

Comment by Susan on April 20, 2014 at 16:11

Hi David, good to know.  My chickens are going to be smaller breeds so 4 will not be a problem.  Thanks for offering advice re construction; knowing me, I'll probably need it.  How long have you had your chicken pen for?  Definitely giving them extra space.  I'm thinking that I will set up a chicken wire fence and have the large door permanently open so that they can access a 2x3 meter run space.  I've also got my daughters old cubby house that I can chuck in there for extra shelter if needed.  I can only have a max of 6 chickens anyway so am only starting with 4 and will keep my other 2 spots to introduce new hens in the future when my layers slow down.

The drippers are completely gravity driven.  No pressure system needed.  I bought 2x 100 L barrels off ebay for $10 and have elevated them about 20cm off the ground with bricks and that's it.  My style of watering :) 

Comment by Susan on April 20, 2014 at 14:14

Hi Elaine, with the chooks, I'm planning on having a permanent run that they can access during the day once my dog and cat have adjusted and realised "friends" not "food".  They will also be partially free ranged as I plan to let them roam the yard most afternoons before dusk to do their bit as bug collectors and walking fertilizer machines. 

The beds have me stumped -> I may end up dumping out the soil for that one and starting again.

The spikes do have websites, just type in Iriso and they will come up.  They were very specific about being above the soil line as I think that would block the dripper.  I've only had them in for a week but seem to be doing a great job.  I'll let you know if I come across any problems with them 

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on April 20, 2014 at 12:00

Thank you for this update, Susan. Good to observe progress month by month :-)

Chooks - right, never owned them but always been interested and have read up a bit on them, just for interest.

Would the pen you are buying be a bit small for constant occupation? They scratch a lot and dust bathe.

There are a number of chook books around using natural methods. Try your Library first, it's surprising what local Libraries keep on their shelves.

I've had mixed results with some wicking beds more than others. Some deficiencies I have blamed Searles 5-in-1 for whether that's true or not, it's an observation not a trial.

The wicking bins I made first, the overflow hole is lower down than I reckoned (in hindsight) it should be. When I retro-fitted the wicking beds, I made the overflow further up and I'm not convinced I've done the right thing.

The bought wicking beds (from Watersaver Gardens) have the reservoir about slightly less than half of the bed. The beds are quite wet despite the overflows - more overflows than I give the bins. Most plants are growing alright in them except for the Tomatoes and their deficiency of Calcium. Not necessarily related to the wicking bed though, more of what's missing from the mix.

Now, these spikes: I still have several trees in the ground and need to water them. The spikes look interesting, hooked onto a drum. Now, I am surprised that there's water droplets above the soil surface. I figured a spike would deliver water into the soil. I'd like to know more about them and hope they have a website to investigate.

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