We're delighted to have Tony Buckle visiting and helping us at the Village. Tony has been here for the last few weeks and has brought his skills in creating a ‘Wicking Garden Bed’. It’s an ideal workaround for our sandy soils. Here’s what Tony has to say - with detailed instructions on how to make a Wicking Bed if you’re interested in creating one yourself...
Written by Tony Buckle Feb 2018
Sandy soil really does suck! I spent eight years in Mordialloc, Melbourne trying to improve beach sand until I decided I needed another solution.
Do you have to water morning and night each summer day just to keep your plants alive? Are you a slave to your garden? Do you go away for a week or long weekends and have to rely on friend to water to your plants satisfaction? Do you have hydrophobic soil where water beads and actively runs away from your plants? Do you continuously feed your plants with compost, manure, seaweed solution, worm wee and blood & bone, only to wash it away with each watering?
Well, let me introduce you to The Wicking Bed System... Wicking beds (if you don’t know already) are a self-contained, water wise, nutrient wise, time saving system that will give you back the time and money to spend on yourself, your family and friends.
So what is a wicking bed and how do we make one?
The great thing about this system is that it is completely scalable. It can be applied to pot plants, raised garden beds and straight into the ground. I have done single pots of eggplants/tomatoes, raised garden beds and 10m x 5m (x2 beds) in ground/tiered and the basic principles remain the same.
When I first researched water wise gardening solutions, I was blown away by how much contradictory information there was. So I decide to grab the common principles and adapt them for my conditions and over the years have developed a robust system. I will never look back at that hydrophobic sand again.
The basic premise is that you provide your garden bed with a cool reservoir of water which “wicks” its’ way up to you plant roots through capillary action through the soil. This helps to minimise loses through evaporation (assuming a suitable layer of mulch is applied).
Not only will your plants appreciate the constant, cool, moist soil condition but they will be healthier for it and help them cope with the extremes of the weather. You can also plant out more densely as they are not fighting for the same resources. Yields are higher and you don’t waste water, nutrients, time or money.
The photo is a classic example of a neglected veggie patch due to inconvenient access to water.
Step 1: Dig out bed to a depth of 650mm from the top lip of the bed (200mm for reservoir; 200mm wet zone; 200mm root zone; 50mm mulch zone.
Step 2: Improve soil with chicken manure and compost.
Step 3: Source sand & scoria/limestone or other porous stone/rock for the reservoir zone with sufficient volume to fill to 200mm.
Step 4: Source cardboard, PVC down pipe with 90 degree elbow and a length of Agi-pipe sufficient to distribute water around the base.
Step 5: Ensure the base and sides are free from sharp stones/roots etc. and place cardboard or old carpet around the base and cover with 30mm of sieved sand. Fill with water to the same depth to aid levelling and check for leaks.
Step 6: Position PVC downpipe, elbow, cap and Agi-pipe.
Step 7: Cover Agi-pipe with geotech fabric or newspaper to prevent clogging and cover with scoria/limestone to 200mm thick.
Step 8: Cover scoria base with geotech fabric.
Step 9: Drill a hole 250mm from the top lip of the bed for the overflow pipe.
Step 10: At the same depth lay a length of Agi-pipe wrapped in Geotech material across the length of the bed and connect with the overflow pipe.
Step 11: Backfill bed with improved soil and top dress with compost.
Step 12: Fill bed with water through down pipe until it runs out of the overflow pipe. Water from the top to ensure the root zone is also saturated. Capture overflow water and pour back into the bed.
Step 13: Plant out and cover with mulch to a depth of 50mm, cover with bird netting and enjoy your new water-wise organic growing.
Step 14: (Optional) Make a float (water level indicator) and place inside the inlet pipe.
A much appreciated and delicious add-on to the Fat Beets weekly pick ups has recently been established by Tasman Ecovillage's very own human dynamo, Deb Mill.
Realising that people are dropping in to collect their food orders on Saturday mornings - and are also very keen to enjoy a cuppa at that time of the day - Deb set up 'Coffee & Cake' to coincide with the pick ups. Serving delicious home made treats, great coffee and organic teas, Deb's micro business is open from 10am to 12noon on Saturday mornings. If you're quick, you'll get to try some of Sarah's amazing raw food creations!
Planning and building has recently taken off at the Village. Several new homes are now ready for occupation: Sarah and Neil's 3-bedroom house was constructed off site, relocated a few months ago and already has a beautiful garden growing around it - Sarah has a very green thumb!. Deb's home is progressing well, thanks to Pete Deegan's input, and Alan's tiny house is now ready for the final touches :-)
Two of our long-term TEVA members, sisters Karen and Susie, recently bought the old cafe/motel reception building from Ilan and have opened 'Kelp & Co', a new Cafe/Bar/Community Kitchen venture.
This revamped space at the heart of our village provides a friendly meeting place for residents, locals and visitors to the Tasman Peninsula and offers an opportunity to enjoy a tasty evening meal and a drink without having to cook or wash up - unless you’re on the roster :-)
Kelp & Co is a community-based initiative that is reducing its environmental footprint and aiming for zero waste.
The bar is open from 5pm Wednesday to Saturday, when a simple evening meal is served between 6 and 7.30pm.
Bookings are essential!
Several very happy customers picked up their very first fresh veggie boxes and wholefood orders from our community kitchen this month! Hannah (with wee Otis snuggled in) and Jack from the Fat Beets crew were on hand to double check that all was in order.
After a successful trial run with ecovillage residents, Fat Beets Food Hub online store is now open to the broader Tasman community. Orders need to be in each Thursday by 8pm. Pick ups can be collected from Fat Beets new home in the old Southern storeroom at the ecovillage next to Unit 2. Look for the Beetroot-coloured door!!
Fat Beets Food Hub online store operates through the Open Food Network and is delightfully easy to navigate. It features fantastically fresh organic veggies grown lovingly onsite in the Village gardens, free range eggs from Fat Beets chickens and a selection of frequently used dry store wholefoods.
Most people told us before we moved to Tasmania that it would be too cold!
Contrary to popular belief, it's warm enough to grow bananas!
The banana plants started off in pots in the recreation room complex and were recently moved into the hot house.
It took over a year to get to the stage where we can now harvest our first crop of bananas!
Tasman Ecovillage is committed to providing affordable housing, now and for future generations. To this end, we have included the possibility for a Community Land Trust (CLT) in our Vision for the village.
The vision came a little closer to reality when we were recently invited to partner with a research team led by Dr Louise Crabtree at the University of Western Sydney (UWS). We will be one of four Case Studies for the “Community Land Trust Research Project – Phase 2”
A community land trust is a not-for-profit entity that holds title to property in perpetuity, for the dual purposes of creating and stewarding perpetually affordable housing and community benefit. It gives access to stable and affordable housing to people who are normally priced out of the housing market by way of either a long term lease or a shared equity arrangement. Residents own their home, can resell it and leave it as an inheritance for their children. They maintain equity in their property, although this is capped on resale to prevent speculation and maintain affordability.
There are currently over 200 CLTs in America and over 100 in the UK but, as yet, none in Australia. This is a very exciting opportunity not only for Tasman Ecovillage but for the wider Tasmanian and Australian community, as the information that is gathered from the Case Studies will inform future projects.
The UWS team have already done extensive research into the establishment of CLTs in Australia, the result of which was published in 2013 as “The Australian Community Land Trust Manual”. Phase 2 is the next stage of this research.
You have probably noticed it covering the surface of a dam as you drive by. It’s often a pinkish colour, but can be green when shaded from direct sunlight. It can grow so thickly and cover the water so completely, that you might be tempted to walk upon it! We are talking about an aquatic fern, Azolla filiculoides. It floats on the surface, with its roots hanging down into the water about 4-5 cm. It is native to all countries around the Pacific rim, including Tasmania, with several different species of it flourishing, depending primarily on the climate and temperatures. Azolla has become prominent in rice-growing areas because it can help as a natural fertiliser. At TEVA we are well aware of this plant’s benefits. It is able to “fix” nitrogen from the air, rather like legumes (peas and beans, for example), but Azolla is 3 times more efficient than the legumes in doing this. Azolla also takes up nitrogen from the water of the dam, at the same time as removing phosphates which are dissolved in the water. So, as well as producing an excellent slow-release fertiliser, the Azolla can help to prevent pollution and eutrification - damaging the ecosystem with excess nutrients. Deb, Dave and Alan (who wrote this article) recently harvested Azolla from one of our dams at TEVA and placed it on garden beds, helping to rejuvenate our sandy soil. For more information on Azolla, visit the website: www.azollafoundation.org
Scott Hansen, a local apple and pear grower, kindly donated his time and grafted 7 varieties of pears on to an old pear tree we have by the creek. This pear tree was too tall and its fruit very small after years of neglect. Last year, on advice from Scott, we cut it with a chainsaw and recently Scott grafted new shoots onto the wood. You can see the result in the second picture. All the grafts have taken and the tree should bear fruit very soon, giving it a new, long lease on life. Pear varieties that were grafted:
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