During June we went undercover in a shopping centre, made compost and swales in the rain, and learned more about IPM.


Undercover operations

It’s 6am, mid winter, a dark, cold morning. We’re at the entrance of Westfield Shopping Centre at Marion with a trailer load of soil.

Yesterday we delivered two new garden beds to the third floor, so this morning we just have to fill the beds with soil, instal irrigation pipes and trellises, and position the trees for children to plant.

Early morning delivery of soil.

Logistics are an important part of installing vegetable gardens:

  • what sequence for delivery of materials (beds, soil, sand, sawdust, compost)?
  • what sequence for construction and installation.
  • coordinating timing of deliveries and installation with weather conditions and client availability.
  • what tools are needed etc...

             and logistics were even more important for this operation.

Soil had to be manually wheelbarrowed up to the third floor and finished by 8am before workers and shoppers started using the lifts.

Hence the 6am start!

Sally shovelled soil from the bulka bag onto the wheelbarrows and Roger took them up the lifts, dumping the soil into the positioned garden beds. Working fast, we warmed up pretty quickly and finished the soil ahead of time.

Connecting up irrigation pipes and installing two trellises took another hour or so, which only left cleaning up to finish the job.

Two lovely little fruit trees and a passionfruit vine were left in place for the children at Rainbow Child Care Centre to plant.

The finished job, and now it’s time for breakfast!

Along this part of the corrugated iron fence, the Centre already has two garden beds (installed last year) with a couple of fruit trees and vines growing wildly up the trellis. With four beds now, the children will be able to enjoy looking out their windows at a green, leafy, forest-like area, and playing amongst a living, breathing, food garden on the third floor of this building. Soon, they’ll be picking and munching excitedly on oranges, peaches, apricots and passionfruit.

Bitumen and corrugated iron are softened by the mass of green foliage at the Child Care Centre.

June composting - making superfood
We’re passionate about compost for SOOOOO many reasons!
Mostly because it recycles all the nutrients from your garden waste back into your garden.
So whenever we install a food garden we encourage the client to think about where the garden waste will go and suggest setting up some form of composting.
Now as you all know, compost is not just throwing green waste into a bin and letting it decompose.
There’s an ART to making really good biodynamic compost and when done properly, it is pure alchemy, like turning water to wine, or lead into gold, or waste into fertiliser!
definition of alchemy
  • the medieval forerunner of chemistry, concerned with the transmutation of matter.
  • seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.
June was a month where we focussed on making biodynamic compost for those clients with composting systems. Storage areas were overflowing with lawn clippings, old plants and waste material from their autumn food gardens.  Ready and ripe for making winter compost!
Lovely Charlotte helped us out at one site, and together we cleaned out chook houses and shredded hard woody materials in the shredder, layering up green waste and shredded material in the compost heaps with coffee grounds, chook poop, cow poop and horse poop. Up to our ears (quite literally) in poop!

Adding bags of manure to a compost heap.

The final step in making extraordinary compost is adding biodynamic preparations, which bring order and balance to the decomposing materials. We dug small holes in the compost heaps and added Yarrow, Chamomile, Nettle and Oak Bark, then sprayed Liquid Valerian over the heaps.

A three bin compost system, full of delicious garden superfood.

Now we must be patient and wait for the alchemy to happen.

In 4 - 6 months, the waste will have turned into fertile, crumbly humus, full of earthworms and microbes – biodynamic superfood that will feed our clients’ gardens over the coming seasons.

 A swale at Heathfield

An ongoing challenge when growing food is working with and managing the elements (wind, rain etc). This is especially true for food gardens built on uneven land where water flow can make or break a garden.

When building food gardens we use permaculture principles to design gardens that work with the elements, so when working with a food garden at Heathfield designed by a landscaper, we are faced with many design faults that compromise the garden’s optimum performance.

To help with one problem where water collects along the side of the garden, we recently built a simple swale to direct the water run off. A swale is basically a depressed contour of the land that catches water.

This is not as simple as just carving a drainage line in the earth. 

For water to flow down the swale, it had to be dug out at a fall of 5mm per metre (1 in 200), so after marking out the vertical swale line, we used the laser leveller to establish the horizontal depth of the swale and dug it out. 

The partly dug out swale.  You can see our laser leveller in the top right hand corner.

A carefully measured ridge of sandy loam was then piled onto one side and contoured, then covered with a layer of hessian to keep it in place while it settles. The ridge will be planted out with comfrey to help maintain the structure of the swale and rubble will be laid in areas where water washes soil into the swale.

To finish the area nicely, we put an extra thick layer of sawdust between the swale and the garden bed running along the fence line. All in all that should keep little seedlings and little feet from getting soaked this winter.

The finished swale line.
An IPM (Integrated Pest Management) workshop
Always on the lookout for new learning opportunities, Roger attended a workshop during June that focused on Integrated Pest Management.
It was primarily for farmers but there were a number of familiar notorieties in Adelaide’s gardening world there. It was cold, wet and windy as we all sat down in the Ngeringa Winery at the base of Mt Barker. The program covered monitoring, identification, availability of beneficial bugs and design of an IPM program.
Here’s what we worked out for the afternoon…

Pest Beneficial Cultural Pesticide/ Spray / Bait
DB Moth
Wasps, Damsel Bugs Seasonal planting
Sour cress
Sequential planting
Control brassica weeds
Snails NA Control weeds
Whitefly Encarsia Wasps
Predatory Bugs- Hoverflies
Weed control
Aphids Lacewing/ladybirds
Broadleaf Weeds
Mulch Layer
Red Legged Earth Mites Predatory mites, beetles and earwigs Weed control Pyrethrum
Cut worm Wasps and predatory bugs   Dipel

When managing pests, we need to understand the place for everything within an ecosystem and just don’t expect killing one pest will solve the problem. Often this exacerbates the problem because it may get rid of the pest but it also gets rid of beneficials as well!
In a more holistic and broader context, we should look at what is going on in the health of the growing medium (soil) that is affecting plant health and consequently attracting pests.
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