- When the Path Is Blocked
- Lower Your Food Bill With Wicking Beds
- Competition Winners: Save-O-Meter
- New Competition: What Would You Plant?
How are you doing? I hope you are well. Before we go any further; thank you for your support, your patience and your kindness. Sometimes being a mum and being a business woman is bloody hard. Thank you for sticking with us through our ups and downs. I'm very sorry we didn't send a newsletter in March, and April's newsletter arrived in May.
This month my family did something really cool: They helped me build two IBC wicking garden beds. If you would like to grow vegies but it always seemed too hard, you are going to love this newsletter!
All the best,
Our planner theme for March was 'Get Moving' and I had great plans. Not far from the dojo where my kids do karate is the Buderim Rainforest Park. It is beautiful. My goal for 'Get Moving Month' was to run this path four times a week while my kids were at Karate.
Sadly, this was not to be. The path is being upgraded:
So instead, I started gardening...
Many years ago when life started throwing us curve balls, we let our garden die. The only produce coming out of our yard for the last few years has been edible weeds.
Edible weeds are food plants that keep producing even when neglected. They grow and grow and grow like weeds. In our yard, these are bananas, mulberries, paw paw, comfrey, pumpkins and cherry tomatoes.
While edible weeds are tasty, they aren't enough to make a dent in our food bill. It was time to turn that around and morph our neglected, weed filled yard into an oasis of free food.
Our first step towards this oasis was to build two 1x1m wicking beds.
Wicking beds are sort of like really big, self-watering plant pots. They have a large reservoir of water and gravel in the bottom. The water wicks up through the gravel to the soil, creating a perfect growing environment for thirsty plants and healthy soil.
This drawing from Little Veggie Patch shows how they work.
They are a simple way to create an oasis of vegies. The cheapest way to make one is with recycled intermediate bulk containers (IBC). IBCs are used to transport chemicals and food by farmers and manufacturers. When they are empty they are disposed or recycled.
IBCs are popular for re-use as wicking beds, aquaponic systems and small water tanks. Even if you've never heard of them, you've almost certainly seen one:
Many people recommend buying your IBC on Gumtree or Facebook. The cost ranges from free to about $180. This depends on what was stored in the IBC, the ease of cleaning it, and and why it's being sold.
The first rule for buying an IBC is to ask what was stored in it and how easy it will be to clean. If the container was used to store hazardous or difficult to clean chemicals, don't buy it.
You can find a good deal on second hand IBCs on Gumtree or Facebook, but I found it was easier to ring around some local factories. I found one who sells their old IBCs for $60.
Here are two good videos showing how to build IBC wicking beds. The first is by our beloved Rob Bob. The second by Sophie from Gardening Australia. These videos are a great place to start.
Step 1: Choose your spot and level it.
Your wicking bed needs to be fairly level. Choose a sunny spot and level it. An IBC is pallet-sized, so a pair of 1.2m square areas is about right (one IBC is cut in half to make two beds.)
Step 2: Go shopping
Here is a list of everything we bought for our new wicking beds. We were building our vegie garden from scratch so our expenses are a bit high.
Making the wicking beds:
|1 roll||Weed mat (1.8 x 5m)||$9.97|
|10m||50mm ag pipe (plenty spare for a few more beds)||$18.45|
|2||15mm tank outlets to go through side of IBC||$7.60|
|2||Grey water hose adaptor||$8.80|
|2||Threaded to barbed elbows from tank outlet to overflow/sight tubes||$2.90|
|2||19mm barbed polypipe elbows for fill tubes||$3.40|
|1||Length of 19mm clear PVC tube for overflow/sight tubes||$7.90|
|2||Grey water hose adaptors||$8.80|
Filling the beds:
|1||½m3 5-7 mm screenings||$40|
|1||½m3 soil mixed by nursery; 30% compost, 70% loam||$40|
|1||1 Litre Grow organic fertiliser/microrobes||$15.95|
|1||Dr Worms 500 live worms||$30.00|
|1||Sugar Cane Mulch||$12.00|
Planting the beds:
|1||Gourmet 4 cell||$4.69|
|1||Sugar Snap Dwarf Seedlings||$2.99|
|1||Beetroot Crimson Seeds||$2.90|
|1||Snow pea Seeds||$4.63|
Step 3: Cutting the IBC
Separate the cage from the tank by unscrewing the cage and pulling them apart.
Mark the half way point with a marker and electrical tape.
Use a saw to cut the tank and an angle grinder to cut the cage.
Hammer the cut ends of the cage flat. These will be stuck into the ground.
Place the container and cage in position. Then install the plumbing...
Step 4: The plumbing
Here you can see the fill tube and the overflow pipe.
The fill tube is a vertical piece of polypipe with an elbow to another piece which is fed into a 1 metre length of ag pipe. It's just sitting in the ag pipe, not in any kind of adaptor or fitting. The purpose is to allow the incoming water to disperse faster. It can accept a fast-running hose in the top and not have water backing up out of the fill tube.
The overflow pipe is a length of 50mm ag drain with the end stuffed with some weed mat (because caps are absurdly expensive for a little piece of plastic).
A tank outlet goes through a hole drilled in the side of the bed near the bottom. The ag pipe is connected to this with a 50 -> 25mm 'grey water adaptor', chosen because it happens to be a snug push-fit onto the tank outlet. These are all just pushed together then buried carefully in gravel so the gravel holds them. All of the ag pipe is laid flat along the bottom of the tank.
Here is how it looks from the outside before we add the elbow and clear pipe.
Then the outlet receives an elbow and a short piece of clear tube. This tube should be a bit over half the height of the bed initially, but is later trimmed so it sets the water level exactly right for the level of gravel in the bed.
There is more detail about this in the links further down. This level is crucial, as it decides whether or not the wicking bed works properly, and it prevents the bed flooding (killing all your plants) when it get too much water, such as during heavy rain.
Next we added ½ cubic metre of screening 7mm or under. Do not use aggregate larger than 7mm. For more info about that, read this article.
Then level out the gravel. Fill it with water up to almost the gravel level, then walk around in there and pack the gravel down until it is exactly at the water level all around. Compacting the gravel and then trimming the overflow tube is how you accurately set the water level.
Add woven weed mat.
Fill with soil.
Add mulch, and it's ready for planting!
How to Make a Wicking Bed - We mostly followed this system, but we're using two IBC halves instead of raised timber-framed garden beds.
Water-Right is Colin Austin's site. Colin is the man who started the whole wicking bed thing.
The winners from our 'Criticise and Win' competition are Lyndall, Natasha, Alessandra and Corajean. Each have won $50
Thank you to everyone who sent in suggestions. The Save-O-Meter has some upgrades in its future!
I think the Save-O-Meter looks amazing at first glance and would really inspire people because it puts a concrete dollar value on the savings achievement, which is very satisfying, and allows you to track how you're going. It could be improved by adding functions to allow you to compare different time periods and/or place it in a visual graph against a target to see how close you are to your goal.
However, the biggest problem I see is how to actually define what counts as a 'saving' - as in, how strongly do you have to intend to buy something before 'not buying it' can count? Obviously, if I walk past a car dealer and have a fleeting thought about buying a new car, it would be too easy and meaningless to add the price of a new car into my Save-O-Meter just because I resisted the temptation to buy. As extreme as it sounds, that is one of the reasons it wouldn't work for me because I make a habit of almost never buying groceries when they're not on special or at a good price so it's hard to tell how much I 'save' if I rarely buy full price.
For people who don't have these kinds of habits, I think it's a great first step to creating thrifty practices. In order for the Save-O-Meter to be more meaningful, perhaps the criteria needs to be something like: you can only count savings against already-established practices, e.g. you cancelled an existing subscription or switched to a cheaper brand of something you regularly buy.
I don't think this really reflects your saving, because, lets be honest, you wouldn't really have gone out and spent all that money ie buying books. As exciting as it is to see how much you saved, it would be easy to save more than you actually earn as it's not realistic.
I would like to know "more"! So when someone say they saved money by making a weekly snack OR with Supermarket Savings, I'd like to know more details. Perhaps under the name you could add a "more" button to click on and read a short explanation of how they achieved this win.
Great to save BUT it needs to be 'What I Spent' rather than 'What I Saved.' You need to have an idea of what it should cost per week - ideally for a family the size of yours and keep within that amount.You could go way over budget by arguing that you "saved" so much but it cost you more than it should. Love your site and follow every month
You have seen our new wicking beds. If those wicking beds were yours, what would you plant in them and why?
We are awarding four prizes of $50.
Send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 31st to be in the competition.
After our last newsletter, some more experienced soap makers helped improve my novice recipe.
I hope we've inspired you to have a go at growing some of your vegies. As always, stay in touch and tell us how you're going.
All the best,