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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.

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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.

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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….

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