Seven years ago, we put in the frame of what was to become our grow-house/nursery. It has been, like most projects here, a process of design and redesign as we learned more on our needs within this space.
We have had many people from workshops, courses and open houses come through and learn from and mimic this system as it is useful. While initially was just to be a place to grow the seedings, has actually become the beating heart of our system.
Fixed compost bays are a great way to start. They can be placed in one location on your property making it easy to design around. What we have found is that it also requires us to move the compost around the property using a wheel barrow or buckets which creates an extra layer to our workload
First, we have the worm-farms. These are made from old bathtubs that have been upcycled. We have found that the old bathtubs to be the most effective form of worm farm as they have a more consistent heat over the year. We also can bulk fill them as we acquire the organic material.
We can harvest approx. 2 tonnes of vermicompost a year from these 5 beds (based on volume, not weight)
These bath tube not only act as worm farms, but they also serve as the base for our seedling and propagation stations. Interestingly enough, the old plastic bread baskets fit precisely across the rim of the tubs. Even as the seeds/seedlings are getting the water, the excess is dripping down into the worm farm, keeping it moist. Extra moisture is moving through the system into buckets underneath which, is cycled back to water the seedlings or taken and watered down for the garden or compost making. We no longer use the bread trays as we were able to acquire second hand 98 spaced seedling trays. With the 5 tubs, each holding 5 trays of 98 allows us to propagate just under 2450 seedlings a month equaling 29, 400 a year for ourselves and surround projects and community.
The leachate from the farms drips into 8 litre buckets underneath the worm farms giving us a total of 40 litres of concentrate, or when watered down 1:10 gives us 400 litres a week, or 20, 800 litres a year for us to cycle in the bioponics, in the gardens or compost (soluble to stable)
The vermicompost is then sifted and either used as a side dressing for the kitchen garden or placed into a bin for later use in seed raising mix.
In the middle of the grow-house/nursery are the potting benches and the wet/dry bathtub beds.
The potting benches are old galvanised fencing which has been repurposed into the bench. This allows us to work at height. Any excess soil or nutrient that slips through lands in the beds below helping to feed the system beneath.
The beds beneath create in its own micro-climate so that we can grow plants that would not usually be available to use. One of the bathtubs is being used as a pond which mimics a wetland environment helping to stabilize the temperature and invites beneficial insects to live and breed in the nursery. These beneficial insects, in turn, help keep the parasitic ones in check helping us with our seedling and cutting propagation as we have less predation upon them.
The third section of the nursery is the bioponics units. While the bioponics enable us to produce a huge amount of food, we have found that it helps the success of the propagation of plant cuttings, jumping from 50% success rating to closer to 90%. Well worth the investment in resources saving us a small fortune in plants. We can fit 70 plants per bed, and with 3 beds being used for propagation of cuttings for 210 cuttings per month, equaling 2520 per year for the surrounding community and us
Every stage of our nursery has been made using waste or seconds from other people from the poly pipe, shade cloth, benches, bathtubs, IBC’s etc. etc.
We could have easily spent a small fortune acquiring what we need but keeping in mind the principle “small and slow solution, and, produce no waste” has enabled us to build a cheap, resilient space that has increased the output yield exponentially allowing us great flexibility and capacity.
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