Wow - what a microfarm

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Wow - what a microfarm

Postby kingofnobbys » Sat Sep 19, 2020 7:16 am

Backyard food bowl of just 500 square metres bountiful enough to feed a family
Biologist James Stanistreet has created a thriving kitchen garden in his back yard in northern New South Wales.

<< looks like he's a guy like me who would rather grow edible stuff than green lawn that needs to mowed and edged regularly 10 months of the year , I can see lot so stuff in containers too .
I don't see any raised bed , but he's blessed with rich volcanic loamy soil on the north coast and being a uni student money raising a young family and having to pay rent will be short + the landlord wouldn't like fixed raised beds in his case.

In the backyard of his 500-square-metre rental property, biologist James Stanistreet has created a garden capable of feeding his family of four — and many more.

Chicken and ducks fertilise and carry out pest control on neat rows of vegetables and fruit trees while native bees set to work on pollination.

Mr Stanistreet said his northern New South Wales garden produces more than enough for his family, the rest he trades with neighbours or sells at the local farmers' market.

He is completing a Bachelor of Science at Southern Cross University in Lismore, focussing on the symbiotic association between fungi and tomato plants, and how advancing that knowledge can help minimise the use of industrial nitrogen.

When not in the laboratory he works his day job — designing, building, and planting 'agroforests' for private landholders that can incorporate everything from cabinet timbers to commercial-scale food production or native revegetation.

He has devoted years to understanding plants and using this knowledge to create his thriving back yard food bowl.

"A lot of what this garden is about is testing out ideas and seeing what can happen when we change what we do and put different things into practice."

Weeds not the enemy
Mr Stanistreet said he uses cover crops, such as clover and other 'weeds', to fix nitrogen to the soil rather than relying on manufactured chemicals.

"You don't see weeding in nature, yet trees grow very strong and healthy and it is because there is that organic matter and each plant has a role to play," he said.

"What humans see as a weed it's not just something trivial, it is something that the environment requires. It has a place and a role and it's been developed over millions of years.

"Unfortunately we just weren't able to see that in the past. Now we are really focussing on them and saying 'okay, what is their role? What do they do?'"

Mr Stanistreet lets many of his crops go to seed, producing flowers that attract bees and hover flies to pollinate the garden, and wasps to eat pests including aphids.

"You have to remember you are looking after a whole ecosystem here," he said.

It also allows him to collect the seed for the next crop, which he does by hanging the plant upside down over a large bowl and shaking it once the plant is dry.

He rotates his crops to deprive a ready food source for parasitic nematodes — bugs that live in the soil and can destroy a plant's root system.

He keeps his garden beds at 70 centimetres wide because a lot of tools are made at that width, with a 30cm walkway between beds.
<< this was along the same line of thought I used when I designed my raised food beds = 3 x 3m x 1.5m x 0.4m H , 1 x 6m x 1.5m x 0.4m H at front ( doubles as a retaining wall 1m deep at back ) , and the hockeystick shaped bed 3m x 1m x 0.2 - 1.4m H ( level top , doubles as a retaining wall next to my new driveway ) + 3m x 1.5m x 0.4 - 0.8m H ( level top , doubles as a retaining wall infront of my double garage's slab that was extended from 6m x 6m to 9m x 9.5m)
- I wanted beds deep enough to make easy to work without kneeling down
6m x 1.5m = 9 sqm
3m x 1.5m x 3 = 13.5 sqm
hockeystick = 3m x 1.5m , 3m x 1m , 3m x 0.5m ( lower bed ) = 9 sqm
gives me a total in my bk yd = 27 sqm

Each bed is topped up annually with woodchips that will decompose and add nutrients to the soil.

Between crops in any one bed he will add 100 litres of manure, 200 litres of compost, along with regular additions of fish and seaweed emulsions.

<< this is a good guide , I plan to follow when I start planting herbs, veg , fruit and berry plants in my bed , was hoping to have started this already , but we are still under water restriction ( was Lev 2 til July , now Lev 1 , so no fixed sprinklers or drip irrigation is allowed , all watering must be by hand held hose at restricted hours per day.

To keep costs down he makes his own compost, collects seaweed from the beach, and has a worm farm to produce castings and tea for the garden.

Fantastic fowl
Ducks and chickens share Mr Stanistreet's backyard coop, but the birds play very different roles in the garden.

When a crop is finished and a bed needs to cleared and fertilised, he fences it off and puts the chickens to work scratching it up.

The ducks are often left to roam the garden, picking off the slugs in the morning and other insects that would otherwise attack the produce.

The chickens are given kitchen scraps and garden trash, while their bedding and manure gets composted and returned to the garden beds.

"It is a closed system in many ways and these animals certainly help with that," he said.

Mr Stanistreet said although his biology degree is helping him with the theory, anyone can use whatever space they have in their yards to grow food.

"Just get a seed of anything and find some soil and just start," he said.

"If you can start with one seed and one plant it will grow from there."

He said he loved everything about gardening.

"It brings you back to nature, it reminds you that you are a part of the Earth with the plants and the animals, and it is a system," he said.

"When you grow your own food you know where it comes from and it just tastes better." ... d=msedgdhp

My wife has become a weed puller , and tells me she's seeing lots or earthworms in the bed now.
I will be asking her to simply cover the pulled weeds with a shallow layer of soil to enrich the soil as they rot and are eaten by the earthworms ( will save filling the green waste bin and having to drag it up the driveway to the greenstrip once a fortnight.

I'm yet to convince her to compost the kitchen food waste.
CBDs: Cleopatra & Caesar born 28Jan19.
Puff (RIP 10Dec15),Rex (RIP 16Mar17),Toothless (RIP 26Nov17).Peppa (RIP 22Mar19).
EBTSs : George & Mildred (born july 2010).
EWSs : , Fluffy (F) rescued injured by lawnwacker 14Nov17, Gutzy (F) rescued 27Sep19 - RIP 3Aug20 (est 12 yo), Wriggles (F) - injured rescue, over 8 yrs old, RIP 2Feb16 old age. Lucky juvenile (M) - cat attack rescue (lost r-eye, broken r-lower jaw), fatal SI RIP 21Jul2010.
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Re: Wow - what a microfarm

Postby Claudiusx » Sat Sep 19, 2020 7:29 am

Composting is a tricky thing, at least if you live in the suburbs. We've wanted to, or at least try, but we also care about our neighbors and don't wanna stink up the place ha. But TBH, i'm not sure that it's really worth the effort for us, when we can go down to the store and pick up a big bag of it for 6 or so bucks.
Although we are going to be stinking up the place since we have planted broccoli... it stinks!

The weed thing is interesting, but I feel you'd need to know a lot about each specific weed to know if it was worth while to keep it in your garden, or not. But I can definitely see how killing the weed and allowing it to decompose would add the nutrients it stole from the soil, back into the soil. At least when compared to just pulling it and tossing it. In that case you're removing the nutrients the weed took.

Wish they went more into exactly what he is growing to feed his family of 4. That's an impressive feat.

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Re: Wow - what a microfarm

Postby kingofnobbys » Wed Sep 30, 2020 3:56 pm

Here's another microfarmer aiming for self sufficiency :

Backyard aquaponics project powered by sun and wind bears veggies
Keith Page from Alton Downs, near Rockhampton, has created an aquaponics project in his backyard.
Central Queensland equine dentist Keith Page won't knock renewable energy and self-sustainability before he tries it, so that's exactly what he's is doing.

The former mine worker is using a wind turbine and solar panel to power an aquaponics operation at his Alton Downs backyard.

The set-up produces fish to eat and uses the filtered water from the tank to grow vegetables.

"I sit in my loungeroom visualising [solutions]," Mr Page said.

"Other times I wake up at two in the morning and think: 'That will work'."

Mr Page said water from the fish tank was processed through two filters before being pumped into the vegetable garden, which was filled with clay pebbles commonly used in hydroponics.

"There's a bell siphon which, when this garden bed gets quite full, has an airlock in it, and the water forces the airlock out of it and there is a continual flow of water [out of the garden bed]," he said.

Every hour 400 litres of water are pumped into the garden bed from the sump tank, a collection reservoir for the run-off.

With the occasional addition of nutrients, such as iron, the filtered fish water has proved fruitful.

Mr Page said he had successfully grown mint, silverbeet, tomatoes and cabbage, although he was yet to have any luck with peas.

Would you like fish with that?
As Mr Page watches the plants thrive, within the 1,200L water tank 60 jade perch fish are growing.

He has three additional tanks to move the fish into as they grow and the project expands.

"At the moment these are only little fellas, sort of 70 millimetres long, and when they develop to the 100mm to 150mm stage I'll separate them up and put half in the next tank," he said.

"With this set-up here, when it's going and it's full production, you can be self-sustainable.

"Probably by the end of the year I'll have to get the other tank and garden bed under operation.

"I think we can have a fish [to eat] a week."

Touch and go process
Mr Page was initially sceptical of the idea of renewable energy, but now he was full of ideas.

Mr Page said his operation could expand to 8 hectares and could easily be adopted by others looking for a more self-sufficient life.

"This is just an experimental exercise," he said.

"It's not big enough to be commercial, but to understand something you've got to go and do the experimental runs and learn things.

"No-one can argue with first-hand knowledge." ... d=msedgdhp

I wish they'd show photos of his setup. I've been thinking of eventually making use of the north side of my south boundary fence above the sleeper retaining wall to set up an hydra/aquaponics system to grow strawberries and herbs and tomatos (maybe) and make use of the dead fence space , once I get the raised drip irrigation system in ( in November ) and start getting some herbs and veg growing in my food beds.

My plan is to use a 12V bilge pump to push water in a recirculated system though 4" PVC water pipes - should be dead easy set up , I happen to have some pipe stashed under the house and a couple of 12V bilge pumps in the shed in my fishing stash (filing cabinet).
Last edited by kingofnobbys on Thu Oct 01, 2020 10:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
CBDs: Cleopatra & Caesar born 28Jan19.
Puff (RIP 10Dec15),Rex (RIP 16Mar17),Toothless (RIP 26Nov17).Peppa (RIP 22Mar19).
EBTSs : George & Mildred (born july 2010).
EWSs : , Fluffy (F) rescued injured by lawnwacker 14Nov17, Gutzy (F) rescued 27Sep19 - RIP 3Aug20 (est 12 yo), Wriggles (F) - injured rescue, over 8 yrs old, RIP 2Feb16 old age. Lucky juvenile (M) - cat attack rescue (lost r-eye, broken r-lower jaw), fatal SI RIP 21Jul2010.
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Re: Wow - what a microfarm

Postby CooperDragon » Thu Oct 01, 2020 9:35 am

Bilge pump is a good idea if you have one on hand. Sounds like a similar setup to what I use for brewing - moving beer between vessels with a pump and circulating the wort through a chiller and back into the kettle after the boil is done. Fairly efficient closed systems.
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