How does my garden grow?

Sustainable watering

Lately I have been very busy with my job at the holiday programme. I had forgotten how tiring it is to get up with an alarm at 6:00 and then work the day. I know that most of you do it every week day for much of the year, but it is a few years since I have done it full time, and I enjoy my leisurely mornings. I enjoy my holiday programme work too and it is a great way to keep a connection to kids. We do fun things. Last Friday we had Butterfly Adventures come to visit. The kids were able to feed monarch butterflies and see them close up.

I was able to find out something about monarch butterflies that had been niggling away in my mind. Were they the same species as the monarchs in North America? Apparently they are. Sam, the Butterfly Man, told me that in the 1800’s individuals were blown across the Pacific during huge storms, and colonised here in Australia. Of course this would have been happening over the millennia. The difference was that Australia had recently been colonised by the British who also brought plants that the monarchs need to feed on. So when they were blown across in the 1800’s they had food sources and multiplied here. As they  haven’t adapted to feed from native plants, they have not displaced native butterflies. [Do you know any more? Have I got this right? Happy to discuss with you.]

When I haven’t been at work or recovering, I have been busy with new ink feather drawings in my Etsy shop, and then all the attendant social media that goes with it. (Sorry that I haven’t been dropping by your blog to see what you have been up to.)

So, it was great to do something completely different on Saturday. The Fella and I went to a sustainable watering workshop.

I am lucky because my local council takes sustainability seriously. It supports a programme aimed at gardeners who want to grow their own food, create water wise gardens and attract wild life. I found out about the workshop through their My Smart Garden Programme website.

The Workshop was held at the Avondale Heights Community Garden. Avondale Heights is a suburb about 20 minutes from me, and is perched on the edge of the Maribrynong River. Apparently the area was designed by Walter Burley Griffin and his intention was to have community spaces, where the houses faced inward to these reserves. Unfortunately this didn’t happen and the houses were built to face outward to the road. However behind some of the back fences are open spaces, including the one that the community gardeners use. It is a lively space, with a number of flourishing garden beds.

After an introduction we were spit into two groups. One went with Karen to see a hands on demonstration of setting up a drip watering system. She was using piping that had holes along it in 30 cm intervals. Apparently this product doesn’t clog up with dirt, and you don’t have to physically punch the holes. It does mean that plants need to be planted close to the holes. Each hole allows 2 litres of water though in an hour. That is a good amount for most vegetables. You would need a longer time for fruit trees.

Scroll over each photo to read the caption

The second group was with Scott, a passionate permaculturalist, who uses many permaculture principles in his garden. He was talking to us about using ‘free water’, such as the water that usually runs off drives when it rains or the overflow from the air conditioner. He advocated creating swales. A swale is a mound created to slow down the movement of water. Usually it is a mound of earth, but can also be branches or small rocks. The idea is that as the water is held behind the swale it soaks into the ground. It is stored there where you want it, rather than racing off into the storm water. They can be as simple or as complicated as you need. Suburban backyards probably only need simple designs. The trick is to understand where and how the water flows on your land.

A large soak was created at the end of the reserve. Scott explained how the depression and reed bed absorbed the water that would have run off down the drain behind. It had been planted it with plants indigenous to the area.


I left with lots of information and lots to think about, especially how to preserve as much water as we can on our property. Grey water is something to consider. However there are health and safety issues involved with using this water, both for humans and the soil. While not the only issue for humans, it is important to remember to keep children and pets away from grey water. This link to lanfax labs has a lot of information.

Also it reminded me of watery habits I learnt and did during our long drought. There is still a need for those habits, such as using a bucket under taps for catching second hand water. We still do this in the kitchen to catch rinsing water, water from cooking vegetables etc. However I had stopped doing it in the shower. There is a good amount to catch while the water warms up.

What do you do to help keep your water on your property? Let the rest of us know in the comments.

Not only did we have two interesting speakers who willingly shared their knowledge and expertise, but we also got morning tea, with home made biscuits (!) and a BBQ at the end. As well we got a showbag to take home. Look at the goodies that were in the bag….


10 replies on “Sustainable watering”

I think aircon condensate is a very underused resource. Ours goes to Frogtopia every day, with a large slug of it to the bird bath for the native birds to drink and bathe in. On very hot days, we have water to spare, and that then goes on our fruit trees. Sounds like you had a really enjoyable and interesting day!

Liked by 1 person

We don’t have air con, so I don’t really know how much condensation it produces. However, I do see it dripping from air cons above shop doors, so it looks like a lot. It is a great idea to send it to Frogtopia and the bird bath. Lots of creatures enjoying it!


Anne, this is a subject near and dear to my heart. We just replaced our irrigation with Netafim and removed the grass in favor of all-native plants. I’m meeting this week with a second company regarding rain catchment. We get precious few drops, and I want to capture what I can.

How nice to be able to attend a program like this.

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I remember the photos of your garden make over. Personally I think not having a lawn is a positive thing for a number of reasons. We only have the nature strip, which never gets watered. That’s enough to satisfy the Fella’s need to mow and edge. He does a fine job, and our nature strip is the best in the street!


Great post, Anne. Keeping water in the soil is something very close to my heart as Warrandyte is in a bit of a rain shadow, plus half my block is very steep.

My own journey began about a year after building my house. The builders had cut a ‘shelf’ into the slope for the house itself, which wasn’t too bad, but I soon discovered that digging up the lower slope for the septic lines had created a wasteland. Not only did the clay soil exposed by the digging blow into dust clouds in summer, it turned into deep runnels during the winter rains. Erosion channels were forming almost before my eyes.

Inspired by Peter Andrews’ ‘Back from the Brink’, I hire a bobcat [plus driver!] for the day and had him create shallow earth berms along the contours of the back block. They were just low fences of clay and rock [the basic soil of Warrandyte] but they were enough to catch and slow down the winter rains so they would actually do the soil some good. Those berms eventually became the backbone of my ‘terraces’.

Grey water too, is an important part of life out here. I doubt I’d have any green at all if the water from the laundry and two showers was not sent straight out onto the grass. This water is mostly clean, and as it soaks into the ground straight away, any bacteria it may harbour have no chance to do any harm. So it’s a win-win. I get to keep at least a small section of the north facing garden greenish [which the alpacas love] and that, in turn, gives me a slight moisture barrier in case a bushfire comes through.

Gah…sorry, I get kind of carried away on the subject of water. 😀

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Nothing to apologise for. Water is such a big issue and to often taken fro granted. If Peter Andrews is the chap I am thinking about (on Australia Story?), he is very inspirational. I was thinking of him as Scott was talking. It makes so much sense to slow down the water and give it time to soak in. Soil is an efficient way of storing water.
Do you find that the grey water is affecting the soil at all? raising the Soil PH or saltiness?


Yes, I first saw Peter Andrews on Australia Story as well and went out and bought his books [he has 2].

During the long drought that ended with Black Saturday, I had to use the greywater on the fruit trees because it was almost impossible to water with mains. They survived but didn’t thrive. These days I only run the grey water onto grass. I think if you only used the rinse water from the washing machine and/or showers it would be okay but that would take more organization than I have the time for. The grass doesn’t seem to care how much soap it gets [I do use garden friendly soap though so that helps].


The info re the Monarchs was fascinating, we often see Monarchs in our garden. I love community gardens 🙂
We’re about to add 2 more tanks… because we have rainwater tanks only we’re very water aware, although I’m needing to practice better water collection in the house… changing my city habits. Rather than as so many do creating a new garden, we’ve maintained the existing longstanding hardy garden which gets watered only via rain, and for the few bird attracting trees or edible plants we’ve selected accordingly and only ever watered for a few days until they settle in. Our WiP vege garden will be hand watered. The swales are a great idea, and we leave depressions around new trees similarly. Like Meeks we channel grey water to the yard. Only the toilets & shower go through the septic. We have no problems with the grey water or septic because we only use eco-friendly/natural cleaning agents.


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