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PostPosted: Jan 20th, '14, 07:54 
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'bout time I got my act together and did this...

I live in Darwin and work remotely a lot so wanted to set something up that was low maintenance but provided a fair amount of fresh fruit and veges for the family (myself, my wife Felicity, and the two minions Lachlan (3) and Nicholas (2)). There were a couple of reasons for this, but mainly the quality of produce in Darwin leaves a lot to be desired (markets excepted, but they do know how to charge!) and the cost of living can be a little out of hand

We eat a lot of fish which is mainly caught by myself and Lachy, but we wanted a more regular supply so decided a small AP set-up would be a good thing. Having trawled the pages of BYAP i've opted for a full IBC as a fish tank (900 litres), another IBC as a buried sump (750 litres), and a grow bed of about 400 litres capacity, making a system size of a twitch over 2,000 litres. hoping to run barra in the fish tank and cherabin or redclaw in the sump.

I also wanted to run a few wicking beds. I love them because of their low maintenance and productivity over traditional dirt gardens. I've got a couple of WB's in the garden at the moment which are in the throws of being repaired (one leaked badly, the other was okay but too wide to be practical and wasted a lot of space in the middle).

I gave myself a crash course on Google Sketch-Up and came up with this design. The idea is to cover the whole garden with shade cloth as we lost most of our garden last dry season with sunburn, and the few plants under shademesh went bonkers.

The space at the right side and the rear of the shed has been neglected in previous years, so a path has been paved (free paving stones from a work mate! Woohoo!) down the side and the rear of the shed. Along the boundary fence to the right of the sheds are a series of four wicking beds; two at the rear that measure 300cm long x 90cm wide x 40cm deep, and a further two at the front that measure 300cm long x 95cm wide x 20cm deep. about one thrid of that is covered by shade mesh, so the parts that get full sun will have the tougher plants (tomato, corn, beetroot, beans, cauli, broccoli) whilst the parts under shade mesh will have zuccini, cucumber, peas, vanilla bean vines etc under it. The shallower beds at the front will have the shallower plants in there, so herbs, melons and the like.

At the rear of the shed i've got two blue barrel wicking pots which have a dwarf lime and a mandarin tree which are loving their new home. There will be a shallow wicking bed (about 350cm long x20cm deep, with width being 20cm wide one end and 35cm wide the other as the block isnt quite square) running behind the shed against the fence line with asian greens

more wicking beds will surround the AP system, which will give me approximately 22 square metres of planting space in the wicking beds at surface level - i'm also hoping to run some towers to utilise vertical space as well, though must admit i havent committed too many brain cells to that particular thought just yet.

Scattered around the block we have pawpaw trees, chilli bushes, a banana palm, sapote, passionfruit (reds, and golds) and three chooks (hy-lines - got them because they are family friendly and dont run away when you pick them up - didnt think about the two year old boy when we got them, he loves nothing more than to pick the chooks up to give them a cuddle!). Also got a BSF pod running - funnily enough the chooks are forever lurking there for a quick fix!

Its a work in progress (arent they all! lol), but will add pics and updates as the system progresses!


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PostPosted: Jan 21st, '14, 12:31 
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just ordered the liner for the 6m wicking bed to the right of the shed along the boundary fence. Ended up with the LDPE liner that Kitacooch is using for his DWC, so fingers crossed that it works... will be putting sand under, then the LDPE, then geotextile material over it to offer some protection from the sharp bits of gravel. Fittings are all sitting at home ready to be installed when the liner arrives.

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PostPosted: Jan 21st, '14, 12:50 
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What do you mean by wicking bed? I dont think Ive heard of that.

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PostPosted: Jan 21st, '14, 13:00 
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Sounds like a good plan.

I used sand/soil and created cavities in the base of my wicking beds so that there is always are above part of the water (helps stop if go stinky).

For more info on wicking beds Tlrobb...
http://lmgtfy.com/?q=wicking+bed ;)

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PostPosted: Jan 23rd, '14, 07:45 
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Thanks mattyoga, thats not a bad idea. Have run wicking beds last year but didnt have that problem with stinky beds, but they were only in for a year. Might have to try that!

Managed to find the bulkhead fittings i needed to run the drainage out the side of the beds. They are made from 50mm treated pine sleepers so the normal ones were too thin. Managed to get some that would work on walls up to 100mm thick, so have gotten four for these beds, and will get more down the track when the other beds are put in.

Made a bit more progress, the area around the back and side of the shed is paved now, and the sleepers for the beds to the right of the shed are all in. Rain seems to be the constant dampner at the moment (pun intended, boom boom!), but managing to make progress around it. I'm in the process of setting up a 4x4 for touring at the moment too, so when tools down for the wicking beds, its tools on for the ute!

I forgot to mention i've also got some Rosella bushes on the go in blue barrel wicking pots. The fruit seems quite bitter by itself but makes fantastic chutneys! Couldnt find the bushes anywhere in nursery's up here but found some seeds online and got five from five germinate.

Spoke to the lovely lady at Practical Aquaponics yesterday and my liner is on the way! All seems to be coming together slowly!

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PostPosted: Mar 2nd, '14, 18:21 
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Managed to get some progress in the last few weeks.... Area at the back and side of the shed is paved, long wicking beds are in along the side and part filled, and some wicking pots sorted from a heap of blue drums I have

Image

The long wicking beds, two 3m x 60cm x 40cm deep, and two 3m x 60cm x 20cm beds.

Image

Looking back towards the house... Still got some final touches to the framing but you get the idea

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The old wicking beds being dug out for gravel and soil

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PostPosted: Mar 5th, '14, 05:37 
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Woohoo! More progress, to the point that i could plant one of the long wicking garden beds out. Now to decide what to grow!

Got the gravel in on Sunday and filled the bed to make sure its water tight. Thankfully, it is!

Working permanent day shift, i get an hour or so before the kidlings get home to 'help', so got one of four beds finished with geotextile material and soil/ composted chook poo/ sugarcane mulch, with a healthy layer of mulch on top to keep the moisture in. I'll let that settle for a couple of days and then plant it out. Its a partially sunny spot (about four hours of full sun) so i was thinking some tomatos, beetroot, asian greens, brocoli, cauli and carrots.

Got four blue barrel pots squared away now too, half gravel and half soil/poo/mulch, so have given a patio lime, dwarf orange, star apple, and two passionfruit (red and gold) homes in them.

Next on the agenga is to finish the other rearmost bed in the long beds, put the capping on the frames, finish both front beds in the long beds, and clear & level the old garden beds for the new wicking beds & IBC AP set up.

Am rapidly figuring i need more hours in the day, a clone, or to win the lotto!

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PostPosted: Mar 5th, '14, 05:52 
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Looking good, all takes time and patience. Keep your eyes open as Rosella bushes grow wild around the area and down the track. Cheers

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PostPosted: Mar 5th, '14, 06:18 
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G'day CCB, yeah thanks mate, i do a lot of photography and hunting around the Adelaide River area and quite often find them on my travels. Makes a nice little bush treat! Got some seeds from last years fruit o have four little Rosella bushes ready to make their home in a blue barrel pot, right next to my little fig tree when it goes in!

Did you have much success with fruit trees or bushes when you were up here mate?

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PostPosted: Mar 5th, '14, 07:17 
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Did not do AP when I was there, that was 19 years ago we left. Still tossing around about moving to Adelaide River. Much better life style although it may be more expensive. Certainly would build a couple of systems if we do as well as the wicking beds.

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PostPosted: Mar 5th, '14, 08:39 
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It is expensive to live up here, but you can offset the costs a lot by how you live... use natural ventilation instead of A/C, grow as much food as possible, etc etc etc... I do a lot of hunting and fishing, so we eat a lot of pork, buffalo, beef, cherabin, redclaw, crab and fish - that saves us a small fortune!

Adelaide River is lovely, if it werent for the commute i'd be there in a flash!

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PostPosted: Mar 6th, '14, 05:33 
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second of the rear long wicking beds has all its gravel after sustained efforts from the kids last night - they are only 2 and 3 1/2 and decided to help by emptying the wheelbarrow one stone at a time! Bless their little socks!

Took up a bucket and finished the rest while they (slowly) emptied the wheelbarrow. Got the gravel to the right level and filled with water to test for holes in the liner overnight. Hoping to get geotex and soil in tonight so that both beds can have the edges capped and get them planted over the weekend!

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PostPosted: Mar 6th, '14, 15:54 
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aaah nuts... seems there is a significant leak in the liner of the second wicking bed... pulled some gravel out and drained it and re-silaconed around the bulkhead fitting, see if that works... if not, guess whos digging out all the gravel!

Happy days!

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PostPosted: Mar 6th, '14, 16:08 
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Carton beer and you will be right.

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PostPosted: Mar 6th, '14, 17:42 
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lol you'd think so, being in Darwin... must be the only bloke in the NT that doesn't! Nup, nice cup of harden up and I'll be right!!

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