1) Integrate hydroponics and/or aquaponics
At the moment I use a small hydroponics system to grow tomatoes as they just don't thrive in my garden. We have an aquaponics system that we bought around the same time as the farm and have not had time to set up. This will be an opportunity to try aquaponics/hydroponics on a larger scale and grow more than just tomatoes. I think we will grow capsicum, eggplant, beans, peas, lettuce, silverbeet, kale, zucchini, squash, cucumber, celery and other fruiting and leafy veges in the aquaponics system, as well as fish. The compost worm farm and mealworms will also be key to feeding the fish (which feed the plants), and may need to be scaled up as well.
|My herb garden currently consists of pots dug into the ground in my main garden.|
3) The larger spreading plants need their own area too
|This pumpkin vine is trying to take over the garden|
|and so far only one pumpkin|
And the rabbits, the wallabies and the bandicoots and probably possums and king parrots! The garden is surrounded by chicken mesh and shade cloth. The shade cloth is also needed to stop the chickens from pecking at anything they can reach through the mesh. I think we are going to need a fence to keep chickens out or we will use electric fencing to keep chickens in their own area.
|this chicken has been eating all the pumpkin leaves that she can reach!|
5) Shade is vital in our hot summers
When it gets over 35degC with a hot wind the moisture is sucked from the soil so quickly and the poor plants are wilting and dying. The only thing you can do it provide as much shade as possible at strategic angles. This garden has shade cloth on three sides and above, which I roll up in winter. It does make a huge difference, I noticed when we added the sides that the plants grew better. I will be taking most of that shade cloth to the new garden. I also try to grow beans up the side of the garden to provide shade, but if they don't get going in time, the garden still suffers.
|See all the shade cloth?|
We cannot rely on rainfall in summer, and even with all our grey water on the garden, it is not enough. We have been looking at raised beds and wicking beds as concepts to more easily and effectively irrigate gardens. We have plenty of rainwater storage and bore water, so providing water shouldn't be a problem, but it would be nice to be able to automate it and provide the water efficiently. Currently I have to hand water every couple of days if it doesn't rain and that takes about an hour.
|Grey water for the garden|
Our new garden plan has four components:
- Aquaponics system for most fruiting and leafy veges
- Raised/wicking beds for root veges - carrots, beets, radish, turnips, onions, potatoes - we can provide irrigation, fencing/chicken protection and shade to individual beds without having to build a large structure again.
- Food forest for spreading veges like pumpkin and sweet potato
- Herb garden and bee forage for culinary and medicinal herbs
As Pete and I cannot agree on how to set up the raised beds, we have decided to set up two each and fill our own beds as we please, then we will test the different set ups to see who was right! I am keen to do one of mine as a hybrid wicking bed with wood logs/hugelkultur. Pete wants to use lots of lucerne mulch. This will be an interesting experiment!
The raised beds themselves - I can't decide what to make them out of! Wood doesn't last unless its treated (yuck!) and even the corrugated iron options will eventually rust. Plastic definitely doesn't last in the sun. I have seen some lovely stone/concrete gardens, but these seem too permanent and difficult to change if we want to move them or the position is wrong. I think we will start with corrugated iron beds and change them to stone when we are happy with the position and want something permanent. I am also pretty keen on keyhole gardens with the compost bin in the middle, so that is another shape to consider for my second bed.
This will be our third vege garden and I hope we have learnt enough from the first and second gardens and observing other people's gardens, to do a good job this time. So if you were to start a garden again from scratch what would you do?