Well, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting as they say.
So, you’re probably wondering, how did the design come up in terms of an actual garden?
See for yourself!
Here are the October 2008 pictures after the work has been completed.
Now that you’ve seen the garden from all angles, here’s a few little extras.
Firstly, the water garden. It’s built in a 100 litre plastic liner for a half wine barrel, which is strong enough to stand alone without the barrel. The black plastic tub on the right is a 60 litre container with more aquatic plants. There’s a variety of aquatic plants here across several containers – Dwarf water lily, dwarf papyrus, aquatic mint, milfoil, elodea, water buttercup, duckweed, azolla, purple loosestrife, and vietnamese mint.
Here’s a closer look at the inhabitants, they’re two goldfish, comets (named because of their large flowing tails). I bought from the local aquarium for $2 each, now they’ve grown quite large.
And here’s a bigger view of the watergarden, with a tub of aquatic plants to the right, and carnivorous plants immediately behind it. If you’re wondering, the little blue pot at the from is a bonsai willow group planting!
It appears that all the companion plants (more on this concept later) are working well and attracting beneficial insects.
Here are bees swarming over a Sage plant.
Here’s a tiny little beneficial wasp, a hoverfly. Hoverfly larvae feed on aphids, with each larva consuming
almost 400 aphids before they pupate. The adults pollinate flowers too. This little hoverfly is resting on a strawberry flower.
The water garden also attract other beneficial predatory insects, such as dragonflies, which catch mosquitos in mid air. This one is sunning itself on a nearby Sage plant.
Having filled the garden, and seeing there was a unused space on the concrete paths around the house walls, which retain the warmth from the north sun (southern hemisphere), I decided to conduct an experiment to see how well a hydroponic system will fare against the organic garden. Yes, the hydroponic setup is NOT sustainable, because it uses chemical nutrient, which is derived by mining and chemical processing. The nutrient is just made up of mineral salts, so there’s nothing "synthetic" there, no nasty petrochemical compounds thankfully.
The benefit of the system I am testing out here (the Autopot hydroponic system), is that there is no waste or run off, plants use as much water as they need, and the whole thing can be converted to an organic container garden system that is self watering. To do this, it’s just a matter of replacing the perlite (an inert expanded mineral that anchors the roots and absorbs water) with organic potting mix, and the water wicks up from the bottom to the plant’s roots.
The hydroponic system is being tested with a variety of plants, which are all growing well at this point. There’s snow peas, lettuce, aloe vera, spinach and ashwaghandha.
I figured I’m going to need all the water I can get to water all of this, and I decided to collect rainwater to supplement my water sources. I’m unable to tap into the downpipes of the house because I can’t cut into them, and also, the roof has lead flashings, which would contaminate the water. The garage has a nice brand new Colourbond roof, and I can cut into the downpipe to collect water there.
To keep the water clean I’ve used a first-flush diverter which dumps the first ten litres of water it collects, and has several coarse and fine mesh strainers to keep larger and smaller particles out of the water. Each mm of rain yields a litre of water per square metre of area. I have around 30 square metres of roof space to collect from, and in Melbourne, Australia, the average annual rainfall is approximately 700mm, so over a year, I can potentially capture 700×30=21,000 litres of water just from the garage. It could be better, but it counts for something!
Obviously, if I’m collecting rainwater, I’ll need to store it in a suitable container. My first attemp at building something appropriate is a converted 220 litre wheelie bin, which is fitted with a mesh inlet, a tap, and an overflow pipe. The bin cost $80, and the fittings another $20. This amont of water won’t go far, so I’ll need to find a more cost effective way of expanding my water storage.
This is what the completed system looks like:
It’s the green bin on the far left, the bin with the yellow lid is the regular council recycle bin. There is a flexible hose running from the diverter into the bins inlet. More on this soon!
Now it’s all in place, it’s a matter of seeing how the garden goes in the following months. The aim is to grow this into an aesthetically pleasing garden that is highly functional and productive, without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, that takes minimal maintenance! Quite ambitious, we’ll see how this grows over this Spring season and survives the coming Summer.