News from the ‘Mews’ – October 2015

We’ve just celebrated the 1st anniversary of our ‘tree change!’ It has been a great year, full of challenges, but also one of learning and productivity. No regrets at all. Since we moved here 12 months ago, we have spent our time setting the property up just the way we wanted it, with a greenhouse, veggie beds, fruit trees, aquaponics system and our own bee hive! All of the set up work has now been done, so we can consolidate and work on increasing our productivity as the trees and systems mature.

Highlights for me this past year have been: Establishing our first beehive and harvesting our first batch of honey and setting up the aquaponics system to grow fresh veggies and fish.

A little bee update: In late September we were fortunate enough to have a swarm of bees (thankfully they weren’t from my 1st hive!) set up camp in our backyard. I was able to house them in a new hive box and now we have two beehives on the go – so rest assured there will be plenty of fresh honey to follow!

bee hive, bee keeping

New Bee Hive

bee hive, bee keeping

Bee Swarm

Efficient Use of Water in the Garden

With the approaching warmer weather I’d like to share some ways to conserve and use water efficiently in your garden.

Fresh, clean water is essential to life on earth, yet it is a precious resource, comprising approximately 3 per cent of the world’s total water (not much!) The majority of fresh water is stored in polar ice caps, glaciers and in underground aquifers. Despite the scarcity, consumption of water in developed countries continues to rise. It is estimated that Australians use about 1/3 of their household water consumption on their gardens. The cost of water, also continues to rise each year ($0.78 per kilolitre in 2005 and $2.50 per kilolitre in 2015.)

In light of this I’m sharing a few water saving tips so that you can still maintain (and enjoy) your garden BUT use less water doing it!

My Water Saving Tips

  • Mulch: The use of mulch is essential. It acts like a blanket over the soil, significantly reducing evaporation and water run-off. It keeps the root zone cooler and provides a habitat for soil microorganisms and worms; eventually breaking down to humus, which puts nutrients back into the soil. Mulch also reduces weed growth and their competition for water.
mulching, using mulch

Mulch around Pumpkin seedling

  • Compost: Adding organic matter and compost to the soil increases its ability to hold water, keeping the water in the soil, where it is best utilised by plants.
  • Water efficiently: Only water when necessary. If the soil under the mulch layer is damp you don’t need to water. Avoid watering during the hottest part of the day. Best times to water are early morning or in the evening. Apply water to the root zones, slow drip watering is more effective than spraying water over the leaves and reduces sunburn damage to foliage. Longer, deep watering less frequently is more efficient than a light sprinkle every day. Deep watering puts more moisture into the soil and encourages plant roots to penetrate the soil. Frequent, light watering tends to encourage surface roots.
  • Harvest rainwater: Consider installing a water tank to collect rainwater. Runoff from the house, garage roof or a shed can collect good quantities of fresh water for use in the garden. As an example, a 4 metre square garage roof will collect 240 litres of water for every 15mm of rainfall. This water would otherwise end up flowing into the stormwater drains. (PS. Government rebates may be available for certain tank installations!)

Harvesting rainwater from Greenhouse roof

  • Re-Use Grey water: Another often overlooked source of water for the home garden is “greywater” from the laundry. Set up a diverter to re-direct the waste water into the garden. You may seek the advice of a plumber to assist with this, if required. If using greywater, it is advisable to use low phosphate washing powders or biodegradable soaps.
  • Plant selection & Placement: Where possible choose plants that have lower water requirements. Your local nursery can advise on suitable choices. Situate plants with similar water needs in close proximity to each other. This ensures you’re not unnecessarily watering some plants just because of their proximity to a thirsty plant or tree. Not all plants need watering, and some may only need a little occasionally. For your existing plants, try watering them a little less often. In many cases they will adapt to less frequent watering. Make sure you situate your plants in a suitable location in terms of sun exposure and radiated heat, as this can increase their water requirements (ie. plan before you plant if you can!)
grouped planting

Grouped Planting of Herbs

So, I hope you find these tips practical and it’d be awesome if you can implement a few ideas at your own place (if you haven’t already of course!). Enjoy your garden, just remember to be aware of how you use our precious water!

Till next time.

Cheers, Pete

Have you got your own water savings tips you can share with us? The more the merrier! Add them in the comments below.