Organic Gardening for the Future

This garden is designed to cope with drought, high winds and other extreme climatic events.  It is designed to provide high soil fertility and structure and plant protection against pests and diseases without resorting to the use of synthetic chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides.

Vegetables are grown in self watering beds in three different sizes.  

The smallest are the 8 Garden Ecobins, 6 of which are growing capsicum and tomatoes in the photo.  They are made from cheap polypropylene bins and painted light colours to keep them cool in summer.  They are useful in small spaces and on balconies etc.  

I have 2 Small Ecobeds which are the next size up and were designed originally to grow a Meyer Lemon tree and a Hamlin Orange tree.  They were not a success in that role, but they are providing a useful addition to my vegetable beds.  These beds are less agricultural looking than the others, and would not look out of place in much grander environs growing herbs or flowers.  I'm using mine to grow tomatoes and basil in the warmer months and broad beans and brassicas in winter.

There are 4 Garden Ecobeds and each has 6.8 times the growing area of a Small Ecobeds.  One of them can be seen in the left half of the photo growing climbing beans.  They are in a 4 year crop rotation and are provided with pest exclusion devices and built-in worm farms.  They grow the bulkier higher volume crops like potatoes, peas, beans, onions, carrots, cabbage and lettuce etc.

I aim to keep the soil busy growing vegetables all year round in my warm temperate location.
In my very compact food farm of a back yard, I also grow drip line irrigated espaliered dwarf apples, pears, peaches, olives, hybrid blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb and a wide range of herbs and insect attracting flowers.

I am fully organic, and use only homemade compost for fertility.  I buy organic sugar cane straw to keep my plants mulched and work away the used mulch after every harvest in my compost.  I minimise soil disturbance (no dig) so microbes can build soil structure and fertility without disruption.
My EcoPropagators are self watering (built-in water tank) and with moist homemade compost surrounding the pots and punnets, the seedlings and cuttings are kept supplied with water and nutrients at all timesGermination rates are extremely high, and growth to maturity hardly ever interrupted.

Seeds are sown in plastic mini pots where several seedlings are required and when in 4th leaf, transplanted singly into fibre jiffy pots.  Larger seeds are usually sown directly into jiffy pots one at a time to avoid this disruptive stage.  When the plants are ready to go into the vegetable bed, they are planted without removing them from their jiffy pots.  This significantly reduces planting shock, and they hardly miss a beat in their growth trajectory. 

The plants in these units are protected in the warmer months from flying pests and fierce sunshine using a pest exclusion net with a 20% shade factor.  The middle unit in the photograph is set up for warmer weather.

In the cooler months, the netting is replaced with polycarbonate sheeting, and the inside of the rear wall is covered with black plastic, to trap the suns energy and keep the growing area warmer than the ambient temperatures.  The 2 smaller units in the photo are set up this way for cooler weather.

The larger unit can handle up to 90 mini pots and jiffy (fibre) pots in the spring peak of the propagating program.
I make homemade compost by a modified version of the Berkeley (University of California) method of hot composting.

Because of the size of my garden and the limited availability of composting ingredients (organic waste), I use this custom designed insulated unit (above photo) to process 418 litres of organic waste in 14 days.  Breakdown of all this waste is very fast because it gets very hot in there reaching temperatures of around 60 to 70 degrees centigrade during each 2 day cycle.

Air needs to be incorporated into the compost heap every 2 days so aerobic and heat generating microbes are kept well fed and active.  Compost breaks down very rapidly at these temperatures and kills off unwanted (weed) seeds and plant pathogens.

The compost bin is made in two pieces.  Each piece is made from 2 equally sized panels joined to make 2 adjacent sides of the finished bin (each piece is half the bin).  The two halves of the bin are hooked together using hooks and eyes (at the top and bottom of each joint) to make the bin completeTo help keep the heat in, 2 tarpaulins folded to make 8 layers are placed over the open top of the bin and weighed down using half bricks.

Its easy to split the 2 halves of the compost heap and move them separately to a new position without disturbing the heap.  The bin is reassembled close to the heap and the compost transferred back the bin in its new location.  The compost is thrown into the air during this transfer to maximise the uptake of air in the compost.  The walls of the bin are 120mm thick and are made mainly from rigid polystyrene foam for insulation and lightness.

After the 7th aeration, the heap is left to rest for a further 5 days.  The resulting compost is high in humus and beneficial microorganisms and produces strong healthy vegetables very quickly when a 60mm layer is spread on the soil they are to be grown in.  I add this compost covered with fresh straw mulch after every harvest and no time is lost planting the next crop.
Every month I make three 15 litre batches of aerated compost tea.  The unit above bubbles air through a batch of tea for 24 hours.  The tea contains 15 litres of rainwater, 150 grams of sieved compost, 25 mils of liquid fish extract and 45 mils of seaweed extract.  The brew is kept at a minimum temperature of 24 degrees centigrade by heating it when necessary using a fish tank water heater.

Microbes are stripped off the compost by air bubbles and turbulence in the rainwater and fed by the other ingredients.  The object is to quadruple the numbers of aerobic microbes in the tea and eliminate or deactivate the anaerobic microbes (includes plant pathogens).

After filtering the tea, I spray it on the foliage of my vegetables to boost their immunity from airborne pests and diseases, and boost their uptake of nitrogen through their leaves.

Every six months (early spring and early autumn) I make up several batches of a special brew of tea dominated by aerobic fungal microbes which I spray onto or drench the soil surrounding my perennial plants (including trees and lawns).  
Surpluses are preserved in zip lock freezer bags while the produce is still fresh at harvest time.  This small chest freezer is full by autumn and will last my wife and I through the winter and well into spring.
Fruit and some vegies like tomatoes are preserved for use during the less productive cooler months of the year by bottling them and sterilising them in a pressure cooker.

Note***  The highlighted links on this page are there to provide further information on the subject being covered and will take you to the relevant pages of my web site "Garden Ecobeds".

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