Dude…..Where’s my box? (A busy weekend part I)

We’ve been robbed, that’s right we’ve had a box theft. It’s been sitting in our front yard for a couple of weeks but we finally decided that now was the time to put it on L’s nature strip, and it looked great. We were all ready to fill it and bed it down then and there but as is often the way, things got more complicated. Nikki got called in to work, I started getting nervous about just how much shovelling the day could entail and the weather bureau threatened all manner of evil weather. So I got distracted and started doing other nature strips with the intention of returning to bed it and fill it towards the end of the day. I’ll be honest, that process took a little longer than I anticipated (as it always does) but when I went back late that afternoon, no box! Now I should probably take a balanced view of this since we do have an unwritten law around here that things on the nature strip are for casual recycling but this wasn’t a toaster or old kettle, this was a 1.2 metre box made of some seriously solid 35 mm hardwood. It’s not the sort of thing you’d just pick up. So after a little bit of grumpiness and some consolation beers I have had to just let it go. On the up side, there’s not actually too many evil purposes that a planter box can be used for. The thing that irks me though is the chances that whoever took it, is not going to understand what it is (ie a wicking box) and will probably be cursing the idiot who spent ages carefully lining it with plastic, only to put a hole half way up! But most of all, if they had actually come and asked I would have been happy to help them make their own, and in fact if they had waited a little while we could have filled it together, oh well c’est la vie!

Apart from that we’ve had a brilliant (albeit) chaotic weekend. It started (after some early morning stressing about just how much wheelbarrowing 3 cubic metres of filling and mulch would take) with a quick meeting and planning session at ‘Our Apple Tree’. We’ve got a working bee next week (check out https://www.facebook.com/events/449384038493255/?ref=2) and I’ve been struggling with a couple of things about this space. The first is how to engage people in making it their own space. I think this is an ongoing chicken and egg type issue. When things are happening and the space is active, people are attracted. But to get things happening and the space being active you need people who are invested and feel ownership.  I have a couple of ideas about how we can really embrace multiple activities as my most recent foray into mind mapping shows.

mind map

But my thought for the working bee is to focus on just a small part of the space to spark imagination and interest. At this point I’m only looking at about 20% of the space, but if we can get this to a point where people see potential, results and maybe even beauty without the need to be constantly pulling kikuyu grass then I think we have a start.

The second problem that we’ve been grappling with is a lack of water, and generally crap soil. This space has been used a parking lot and work site for some time and the soil (at least the part of it that isn’t rock) is compacted and completely dead. There has been some work on the beds around the edge, but in essence the soil is sterile and with no water on site the potential for anything (particularly anything edible) to grow is limited. So I’ve thought of two potential solutions. The first is to build a food swap and compost shelter. This could be just a small space but the roof could feed into the 1000l tank that is just sitting there. Sadly this takes money, and people and some sort of legal claim on the space neither of which we have so that might have to wait a little. My interim solution is to build an open wicking bed.

I’ve written about wicking beds lots and built many closed wicking beds (where the whole bed is sealed) but this is something different and I’ve got to say, a little bit of an exciting experiment.


The picture shows a top down plan on the right and a side on plan on the left but the basic concept is this; As with all wicking bed there is a lined reservoir that is separated from the growing medium. Unlike the closed system, the lining is all underground (imagine a bowl filled with gravel and buried underground). This means that the water not only wicks up but also over the edge and out. It’s not as efficient as a closed system as there will be some water loss but it means that when the reservoir is full it can also water the areas beside the bed which is a good place for trees and deeper rooted plants. The clever bit about this though is that because it is below ground you can actually channel water to the bed. So part two of this is to line the adjacent space (that will be a path covered in mulch with plastic that then follows a gentle slope in to the bed. In effect this doubles or triples the water supply to the bed with no effort as water that falls on the path will drain in to the bed. I don’t know if this will work, but the concept of a truly passive irrigation system that could potentially provide a fertile bed is quite exciting.