Sunday, August 05, 2007

Waterwise Garden Competition

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 (not understated) into the garden to make it as ‘waterwise’ as possible. We have spent several thousand dollars on an unsuccessful bore and again several thousand more on water tanks.
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’ (level 2) 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 at least 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 day weekend 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. For watering we use a small portable electric pump attached onto 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.
As a footnote I have researched the ‘Redland Shire’ (presently on level 2 restrictions) web site and have found that in 2006 our home average daily water use was less than 800 litres a day, whereas the Shire average was 617 litres per day. We believe this is pretty good as we are on one acre block with one of the best sub tropical gardens in the country. Basically we only use a few more buckets a day more than the average Shire home situated on blocks 400 to 800 square metres. With all the rainwater tanks now installed our water use should reduce considerably.
We have ordered another 15000 litre tank. This will take 22 weeks to be delivered.
We were a finalist in the competition but did not win. I knew that, as we have a garden that needs water and in the Redlands we do not have as severe water restrictions as Brisbane. I believe the garden that won was at Mout Mee and has no town water just 90,000 litres in two rain water tanks. Sounds like it has also been professionaly landscaped.

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