© Copyright Chris and Kerrie Jones 2018 All rights reserved
It may seem strange to be writing about establishing a garden on a blog called Wandering Australia, a blog that seemingly describes the lives of a couple perpetually travelling around Australia, but the new garden is a significant part of this journey.
You see it was always one of our many dreams that one day, when we had finally found that perfect place to plant our roots for the remainder of our lives, we would reestablish our hydroponics operations.
We loved our experiments with hydroponic gardening at Wurtulla on the Sunshine Coast where we once lived and we knew that one day we would again capture this interest.
On our travels we came across a hydroponic system in Melbourne that we had heard of but never seen in action, the Auto Pot system. We wrote about it here.
It was always something we knew we’d try one day.
Well that day arrived recently when it became obvious that the farm was fast running out of water.
Water, naturally, is the driving factor with most things agricultural and as such the disappearance of the precious commodity from the farm’s massive reservoirs has a major impact on what is planted next season.
Simply put No water = No Planting!
Of course no planting, or the planting of a much reduced crop, could mean no staff on the camp for us to feed.
No firm plans have been announced by the farm’s manager as yet but most of the people realise that they need to be aware of the worst case scenario.
(It’s now been announced to the staff that the farm will close by May.)
So what happens to us if we don’t get the massive amount of rainfall that’s now needed to guarantee a crop next season? We’ve suggested to our boss and the farm‘s management that we could stay on in an unpaid role as caretakers of the camp area. They’ve agreed that this is a possibility if the worst happens.
The camp and the surrounding areas would quickly fall into an overgrown and untidy state if left untouched.
To keep this area clean and tidy as well as be available for any other work the farm may want to use it for. It would be a value add-on for the farm and it would give us a base from where can take our planned road trips, such as the Eyre Peninsular and the WA coast.
Of course, since there would, for the most part, be no one on camp and therefore no Camp Management work, we would need to feed ourselves. Currently, our food is included in our wage.
So here’s where the new hydroponics setup comes in.
We decided that if we were to build a system it would need to be much more manageable and self-sufficient than all of our old systems and certainly more manageable than the large conventional garden we originally created on the farm.
The climate out here is very harsh on gardens and you generally need to cope with a good quantity of heartbreak to see a successful vegetable crop.
We decided that in order to grow vegetables out here we needed to manage 4 main areas:
The system would need to cope with Climate; summer temperatures out here often reach 48-50 degrees with winter temperatures often below zero, killing delicate vegetables from the ensuing frost.
It would need to allow a high level of control – Not eradication – of Creatures; these include bugs of many varieties that very soon chomp through plants as well as rabbits, foxes, kangaroos and birds.
Then we’d need to control Water; the watering system must use a minimum amount of water and must automatically water the plants as they require it without us in attendance for many days.
Lastly, we need to be able to control Weeds easily; the weeds out here are tough and need very little water to sprout and grow rapidly. In the big garden, the control of weeds became a huge drain on our time.
So it’s with these requirements we set about planning our garden.
We opted for a greenhouse which would enable us to easily control the winter temperatures and eradicate the damage from frost and by removing the roof panels and using commercial grade 50% shade cloth we could create the best summer environment and limit humidity while still having an enclosed structure.
We bought the “Maize” 2.5m x 3.5m greenhouse system online from Bunnings and picked it up from our nearest Bunnings Store, which meant a 660km round trip to Warwick.
We erected the greenhouse with the help of Kristjan and Merlin, two of the Estonian backpackers. It was over 40 deg as we assembled it and we are eternally grateful for the help we received from this wonderful couple.
So far we’ve found no fault with the system and we’re very happy with the whole set-up.
The plants are growing rapidly and require almost no work. We’re already eating lettuce.
The tomatoes, beans, cucumber and capsicum are already fruiting 3 weeks after planting.
We also like the fact the greenhouse is clear, so sitting on our “Verandah” looking at our garden is very relaxing. Of course, the best part of it is that it’s all able to be pulled down and moved easily.