My current existence as a quazi-economic refugee takes me from place to place, and in some of those places I repay the nice peoples by setting up gardens for them. I find myself back at one of those places again (hence my current return to teh interwebz) and in addition to the thriving garden and internet connection I also find... a digital camera!
Internet Connection + Digital Camera + Zombie Squad = Picture Thread!
Therefore without any further ado - behold, a survivor no-dig/raised bed garden in words and pictures.
^ Here it is with a standard issue zombie-slaying watering can in the foreground for a sense of scale.
Please note: Retaining wall constructed of brick flails .
Constructed and Planted Out on Australia Day Jan 26th. Photos taken today March 6th.
As some of you may know, I have a background in permaculture and permaculture design so I guess I should go into the thought process behind this sucker.
The area you see in the pictures was basically a fenced zombie-proof unused courtyard area - brickpaved, with full sun and an interesting feature: namely, the evaporative airconditioner on the roof of the house spills it's watery guts onto this area once a day by way of a downpipe (white pvc pipe in pic below). A tank to collect this runoff is economically unfeasible right now for the good folks here so applying some permaculture principles, a little outside the box thinking and zombocalyptic perspective I came up with the following.
>The aforementioned area, brick paved and in full sun.
>The aforementioned flooding.
>The pavers (brick-flails) you see in the pictures, which were piled against the fence originally.
>A small pile of cardboard and newspaper that I dragged out of thier recycling bin.
>Some large sheeting plastic I also dug out of the same recycling bin.
>4 x 20L Buckets of Clean Fill/Sand I liberated from slavery from some evil despot's landfill empire.
>A budget of about $100 dollars Australian. Spent as follows...
...1 x bale of Straw.
...1 x bale of Pea Hay.
...1 x large bag of DPM (Densified Poultry Manure - pellets).
...2 x bags of Mixed Manure (Cow/Horse/Sheep/Poultry).
...1 x large bag of Spent Mushroom Compost.
...1 x bag of Seed Raising Blend Potting Mix.
...1 x bottle of Seaweed Extract/Fish Emulsion Liquid.
I wish I'd got to take step by step photos when I was laying it in but beggars and choosers and all that. lol
I've always used variations on the raised bed layered no-dig <---clicky approach when going about this sort of gardening and in this situation it was pretty much the perfect fit. The desire of the good folks in question to have as much good food goodness as possible and kitchen herbs mixed in with the scant amount of decent biomass onhand to apply to the task pretty much demanded it.
We settled on gross feeders to meet most of thier expectations - Butternut Pumpkins, Large Candy Watermelons, Round Sweet Watermelons and Rockmelons. Gross feeders love no-digs and thier expansive spreading habit suits the small compact nature of this particular garden. That may sound counter-intuitive but it's not. The gross feeder's roots stay nicely contained and are therefore easy to keep fed and watered. The bulk of the plant, especially when faced with the close (read as: competitive) company of it's kith and kin grows outside the raised bed.
^ Gross feeders sallying forth to discover new worlds and subdue the couchgrass barbarians who dwell there; to populate those same new worlds, multiply and be fruitful.
Things like Cherry Tomatoes, Chillies, Capsicums, Telephone Peas, Mexican Tarragon, Chives, Basils and Mints would tough it out in the bed growing amongst the grossfeeder's initial leaf sprawl.
^ Common Mint "toughing it out" amongst the comparative ZPAW luxury of the leaves of a Round Watermelon.
^ Capsicums, Columnar Basil and Cherry Tomatoes "toughing it out" amongst the comparative ZPAW luxury of the leaves of a Butternut Pumpkin.
^ Cherry Tomatoes, Capsicums and Chillies "toughing it out" amongst the comparative ZPAW luxury of the leaves of a Rockmelon and a wall of Telephone and Field Peas.
The flooding thing was going to be interesting, obviously I wanted to harness the water but didn't want to create a steenky anerobic mess. I could have pulled out some pavers to allow for drainage but quite frankly, the gutless sand that underlies the area would have caused more problems that way - drawing away any benefits and giving the incredibly invasive couchgrass an opening into the growing area. So drawing on previous knowledge and experiences I settled on harnessing the miracle of capillary action which I'll go into shortly.
First I built the retaining wall bar the top two courses, then I lined the "floor" with the cardboard and newspaper as a weed mat. I then lined the walls with the plastic sheeting which normally I wouldn't do but the threat of couch making it's insidious way into the bed was worse than any downsides to the plastic lining. The final two courses kept down the plastic. A healthy layer of the liberated clean fill sand then evenly covered the cardboard/paper floor. Due to the almost hydroponic flood and drain nature of what was going to happen with the aircon water I wanted to make sure that any initial nutrient loss due to this was going to be minimal so the clean sand acts as a sandfilter of sorts keeping the good stuff in.
Now the trick to no-dig gardening if you didn't click on the above clicky is to create layers of nitrogenous and carbon materials much the same as you would an aerobic compost. Then you use your hands to push holes into the top or so layer, throw some compost and/or soil into those holes, plant your stuff in them and then mulch the lot with more straw. However, with the aircon water daily deluge and my plans for it in mind I screwed around with the system somewhat.
The first layer (besides the aforementioned cardboard, paper and sand) was a carbon layer (in this case straw) but I made it much, much thicker than the normal single pat o' hay layer would be and compressed the hell out of it. Basically I wanted as much medium for capilliary action as I could get so the garden would draw much of it's water from below rather than relying on humans to water it from above (in the long-term).
After that I pretty much followed my SOP for this sort of thing and added layers in the following order (shown below graphically)...
Carbon (thin layer of Manure & Mushroom Compost only where the plant holes were going to be)
....................................... ___ ___ ___
Nitrogen (thin layer of DPM)......_____________
Nitrogen (Pea Hay)................+++++++++++++
Repeated ad nauseum, treading in for compaction action.
Then, as noted I used my licensed weapons (hands, hahaha) to push holes into the top or so layer, threw in a mix of spent mushroom compost and seed raising potting mix into those holes, planted out seeds and seedlings into them and then mulched the lot with more straw.
after action report:
The capilliary thing worked (I wasn't surprised - honest ) with the bed drawing up water as high as five courses. Great Success!
The flood and drain nutrient loss thing I was concerned about did come to pass, discoloured water coming out with the retreating fluids. I covered the areas affected with fresh straw and instructed the peaceful villagers to keep this up until the colour went out of the discharge (sounds mucho ewww, but not so much). My intent was that any nutrients lost to the initial flood and drain as the bed moved towards some sort of balance could be captured with the straw with the intention of using it in the bed's first top dressing/relayering. Since I'm about to do that tommorrow (w more pics) I too count this as a victory from a designing-on-the-run point of view. Great Success!
^ Photo taken from rooftop zombie sniping position.
Thanks for reading! Questions, etc - welcome.