Thursday, March 22, 2007

Being Waterwise during a drought

Would we still be avid gardeners if we had known the drought would be so bad? I think we would of, but perhaps not gone as far as we have done.
I know now that gardening is a highly stressful hobby, all this checking the weather and looking into the sky praying for rain gives us a sore neck and a headache.
Judy and I feel we should enter the ‘Green Thumbs’ garden competition as we struggle to maintain a beautiful one acre sub tropical garden against all odds and have put a real effort both financial and physical into the garden to make it as ‘waterwise’ as possible.
There is not much else we can do to make our garden any more ‘waterwise’ other than to destroy the garden and plant natives.
We will not do that as we believe native plants also need water, and we would destroy the present ‘micro climate’, which has taken years to achieve.
We believe we have risen to the drought challenge and work very hard to maintain our beautiful garden without wasting a drop of water.
Admittedly we are not in as bad a position as residents of Brisbane as we in the ‘Redlands’ are allowed some hose watering and we do of course take advantage of that.
Admittedly not all our plants are ‘waterwise’ but they do survive on minimal watering, our philosophy is to give each plant only enough water for it to survive, we hand water only, sprinklers, water systems ect were all mothballed several years ago.
I am a mad composter and have large ‘Greenfield’ petrol driven shredder, which is used to put all green waste through which then, is composted along with all the lawn clippings. I mix into the compost ‘blood and bone’, ‘hydrated lime’, ‘dolomite’ ‘urea’ and animal manure this accelerates my compost.
Bales of coarse Sugar Cane mulch are laid throughout the garden twice a year or wherever necessary. We would use well over 150 bales every year; this in turn decomposes and improves the soil and water retention. Compost is also added to the garden as well as trailer loads of animal manure. Mulch plays a very important part in our garden and on our open days I make sure that my shredder and finished compost is on display during our ‘Open Garden’ for visitors to see, we also make sure we are available to answer any questions relating to ‘waterwise’ gardening.

We have reduced our lawn area but it’s still a big area, I can assure you that the lawn survives totally from rain from the sky, it is never watered either from the tap or tank.
Bromeliads are a passion, we have 1000s of these and they are of course a ‘waterwise’ plant.
We now have three 15,000-litre water tanks and one 5000-litre tank, totalling 50,000 litres of rainwater. We have a small portable pump on a hand trolley, which we move between tanks.
The swimming pool is always topped up from a rainwater tank.
Due to the heavy mulching our gardens are weed free and also with the heavy use of seaweed liquid ‘natrakelp’ the plants are healthy and disease free, this of course strengthens the plant and helps it survive on minimal water.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Creating a new Garden

I usually have a picture in my mind of how it’s going to look.
The first job is to get out the garden hose a lay it on the ground approximately the shape and size of your new garden.
You can then give it a nudge here and there with your foot until you think the garden is the right shape and most importantly has the right ‘curves’.
Then go around the edge of the hose with a can of marking paint (Bunning’s sell for about $6.00), now you can see your future garden.
Next is to run a spade around the outer perimeter of the garden, take about 100mm depth of grass /soil out and enough width for the pavers and rocks.
I usually lay the pavers first, I use a 50mm paver, and my preference is the ‘Black and Tan’ paver. I lay these pavers on a 50mm bed of wet cement; it does not have to be deep as they all bond together. For tools I use a rubber mallet and a small line level, this makes sure all the pavers are level. It is a fairly easy task to lay the pavers once you get going. The beauty of the pavers is that they make a great mowing strip.
Next comes the rocks, these sit about 50mm back from the pavers, again these sit on a small layer of wet cement, don’t worry about gaps between the rocks as later you will fill these with a strong mix of black coloured cement.
Now fill the gap between the pavers and rocks, just run a trowel along the wet cement and smooth over. Any run off can be cleaned off with a bucket of water and a wet rag.
I then point in-between the rocks using black coloured cement and a ‘pointing tool’, this is important as it gives the garden a great finish.
Now, inside your new garden you have either poisoned the grassed area with Roundup or removed the grass. The first new layer is usually compost or manure, then the soil; it does not have to be great soil because with a bit of work ‘YOU CAN MAKE IT GREAT SOIL’ then another layer of compost/manure on the top followed by mulch. You will be surprised how quickly the soil improves, don’t forget the seaweed liquid it’s a great soil conditioner. Do not use a soil or organic mix which has less than 70% soil. A pure organic or low soil mix will shrink and eventually reduce to virtually nothing over time.
All that’s left is to dig your plants in, and again don’t forget to liquid seaweed them in after planting as the seaweed prevents transplant shock.
Hope this is of some help.