Archive for September, 2008

Wicking Beds

NOTE: I have moved this post to my other blog,, as it fits in better with that blog’s theme of suburban sustainability. For futher updates check out Wicking Beds – Water Efficient Gardening.

A wicking garden bed uses a waterproof container or layer below the soil surface to form an underground reservoir of water. There is enough soil above the reservoir so that the plants don’t get “wet feet”. Plant roots then draw up this sub-surface water via capillary action.

Because they are watered from below, wicking beds lose very little water to evaporation. They are reportedly extremely water-efficient, and so are very well suited to low-rainfall areas (isn’t that most of Australia?!). You can also leave them for a week or two without any watering, and your plants will be fine.

This page aims to collect links to information on wicking beds:

Wicking boxes are an adaptation of the wicking bed design to container gardening. Here are some links:

3 comments September 8th, 2008

Magic In The Garden

What I love most about this photo is that Sarah actually disappeared into her bedroom to get dressed for gardening, and this is what she came out in. Click to embiggen.

1 comment September 7th, 2008

Growing Mushrooms From Mushroom Compost

In July I took my trailer up to the mushroom farm to get a load of mushroom compost. It was $2.60/bag, and I got 16 bags for $40. I was really just thinking of using it on the garden as a mulch layer at that stage.

When I got home, though, I realised there were actually a lot of mushrooms on top of the bags. I picked them off and put them in the fridge. I wasn’t really ready to use the bags just yet, so I thought I’d put them under the house and see if any more mushrooms might sprout.

And sprout they did!

I kept a tally of how much mushrooms I got from the bags. All weights are after trimming stems for use:

  • 25-07-2008: picked approx 750g of mushrooms off the top of the compost bags after picking them up in the trailer
  • 28-07-2008: picked 150 g (total 900 g)
  • 30-07-2008: picked 235 g (total 1.135 kg)
  • 31-07-2008: picked 348 g (total 1.483 kg)
  • 02-08-2008: picked 482 g (total 1.965 kg)
  • 03-08-2008: picked 649 g (total 2.614 kg)
  • 04-08-2008: picked 1703 g (total 4.317 kg)
  • 05-08-2008: picked 699 g (total 5.016 kg)
  • 06-08-2008: picked 841 g (total 5.857 kg)
  • 07-08-2008: picked 442 g (total 6.299 kg)
  • 08-08-2008: picked 177 g (total 6.476 kg)
  • 09-08-2008: picked 660 g (total 7.136 kg)
  • 10-08-2008: picked 326 g (total 7.462 kg)
  • 14-08-2008: picked 348 g (total 7.810 kg)
  • 16-08-2008: picked 407 g (total 8.217 kg)
  • 17-08-2008: picked 369 g (total 8.586 kg)
  • 20-08-2008: picked 510 g (total 9.096 kg)
  • 21-08-2008: picked 540 g (total 9.636 kg)
  • 23-08-2008: picked 415 g (total 10.051 kg)
  • 24-08-2008: picked 275 g (total 10.326 kg)
  • 30-08-2008: picked 206 g (total 10.532 kg)

The mushroom compost bags are now starting to be overrun by some kind of fluffy white fungus. It’s killing the mushrooms, so I think that’s pretty much the end of the harvest. Time to get the bags out from under the house and into the compost heap.

So, 10.5 kg of mushrooms plus 16 bags of compost for the garden. Not bad for $40!

2 comments September 6th, 2008

Soil Blockers

Note: Updated and expanded versions of the information in this post are available at my other site,

Soil blocker toolI recently bought a soil blocker from Peddler’s Wagon with some birthday money. It was way cheaper to get it sent from the US than to buy it in Australia – like 40% cheaper. Aussie sellers need to learn to be less of a rip-off now that we have access to a world-wide market.

By the way, the Peddler’s Wagon people are great to deal with. Highly recommended. You can read more about their Little Homestead In The City, where they’re growing 6000+ lbs of food per year on 1/10th of an acre of land. Incredible!

It’s been a few weeks, but today I finally got around to making up some blocks.

But first, some resources for making soil blocks:

Using the above recipes as guidance, I made up a mix from what I had lying around in the garage and yard. I used:

  • 2 compressed coir bricks, expanded in 10 L water (made ~20 L volume)
  • 5 L worm castings from the worm farm
  • 10 L sieved compost from my compost heap
  • 5 L clean sharp sand
  • 2 handfuls of garden lime
  • 2 handfuls of rock dust

I mixed it all up thoroughly in the wheelbarrow, adding water to keep the mix nice and moist. It really needs to be fairly wet to form nice blocks.

Then you just plunge the block maker into the mix and squeeze the blocks out. I laid the blocks out on wooden boards in potting trays.

From these quantities I got 88 blocks, and I only used slightly more than half of the soil mix. I’ve put the rest in a container to make up some more blocks next week.

Later tonight I’ll plant out some seeds into the blocks. I’m not sure yet what will go in!

September 4th, 2008


September 2008
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