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One of the reasons we do what we do – grow organic fruit and teach other people how to do the same – is because we reckon it’s time that we all re-learn how to grow food. It’s a practical solution to the problem of food security we think our kids might be facing in the future.

Oil is getting scarce (and expensive), soil fertility is going down, food is getting more expensive, and we’re so reliant on global food systems (and factory farming) that we’re very vulnerable to global problems, like oil shortages, transport problems or disease outbreaks. Did you know that it would probably only take our supermarkets 3 or 4 days to run out of food in an emergency? Doesn’t sound very secure to us.

We want our kids (and everyone else’s!) to have access to affordable organic food, so growing vegies is the obvious answer – as well as growing your own fruit, of course!

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Taking vegie growing to the street – a wicking bed outside the ‘Hub Plot’ garden, on Templeton Street in Castlemaine

However, though we’ve always had a vegie garden at home, we’re not very experienced vegie growers (we’ve never grown enough to sell, for example). So we just love community resources like the ‘Hub Plot’ garden in Castlemaine, a demonstration garden set up to teach people simple techniques for growing their own food in the backyard.

We dropped in for a visit the other day. It’s a gorgeous garden, full of good ideas. Want a virtual tour?

The garden has lots of different types of garden beds, with a big emphasis on wicking beds, which are lined garden beds with a refillable reservoir of water underneath the soil (the white pipe you can see sticking up is where you put the hose in to refill the bed). The water ‘wicks’ up into the soil (like wax moving up a candle wick), so the plants get watered from below. They save heaps of water, so they’re a great idea for dry climates like ours.

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Square foot garden wicking bed (made in an old apple bin, a perfect size and height for the purpose).

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A mini-wicking bed, perfect for a small space or balcony, and an easy way to keep yourself in herbs and greens for salads.

And here’s a board explaining how a wicking bed is made (if you click on the photo you’ll get an enlarged copy):

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Here’s two more wicking beds – the corrugated iron bed in the background, and a converted wine barrel in front.

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Here’s the wine barrel from above, with a healthy citrus tree. We’ve had a similar wicking bed for years in our garden with a lime tree, in a sheltered spot, and it absolutely thrives with very minimal attention from us!20131102_111237

Of course one of the most important part of any garden is the compost, because that’s where a lot of the natural fertility comes from, and it’s also the easiest way to recycle all your garden waste (it’s so crazy taking garden waste to the tip). The Hub Plot has a few different systems on display, including a ‘bay’ system, with pipes inserted into one of the bays to make sure plenty of air can get in to stop it turning into a sludgy mess:20131102_110309

Worms are (in effect) another type of composting system, and we loved this innovative idea, using a simple plastic perforated basket that you’d pick up anywhere for a couple of dollars. You bury the basket in your vegie bed so the top is just above the soil level. Pop some food scraps inside and voila! An instant on-the-spot fertiliser factory. Brilliant!

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An in-bed worm farm. Put the food in the basket, and keep it covered with a tile to keep most of the rain out (worms don’t like too much water).

Of course, we couldn’t resist taking a look inside the worm basket, and this is what we found….some half eaten food scraps, and loads of worms, munching their way through them (you can see the worms if you enlarge the photo). The holes in the side of the basket let the worms come and go into the soil, so they visit the basket for lunch, then go back to the vegie bed and distribute the goodies!

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The beauty of worm farms is they can be whatever size you like, from this tiny basket up to a bathtub, or even bigger. On the farm we use an old apple bin, because we generate lots of organic waste, and we use lots of worm castings to make compost tea.

Of course another great way to convert waste to productivity is to have a few chooks, and we thought the ‘Chook Mahal’ was completely gorgeous…

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It particularly appealed that the laying boxes have an externally opening door, so you can collect the eggs without having to go into the chook shed. The golf ball was a pretty cute idea too, just to remind the girls of where to do their business!

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The chooks do a brilliant job of converting food scraps and garden waste into eggs, as well as manure, which then gets added to the compost system. This way all the nutrients stay within the garden and get re-used, over and over again. The chooks look pretty healthy and happy with the system….

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One of the things we don’t have in our garden at the farm, but would love, is a greenhouse, so we made sure to get a photo of these instructions for how the Hub Plot greenhouse was built. It’s definitely on our ‘to-do’ list….

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A fantastic space-saving idea, this herb spiral is an example of vertical gardening, and also rather beautiful, don’t you think?

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An espaliered apple tree, another way of getting more productivity out of a small space.

It was late spring when we visited the garden, and most of the beds were full of lush herbs and vegies….divine!

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Plump broad beans ready to harvest, with borage in the background

 

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Healthy, green parsley just begging to be eaten!

 

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Leeks and a variety of other greens in one of the wicking beds.

The Hub Plot is part of the Mt Alexander Sustainability Group, and we think they’re fantastic. They have a Monday morning gardening group where you can join in and get some practical skills, and they run all sorts of interesting workshops and activities. Click here to go to their website if you want more of a look.