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experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

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experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  walshevak on 3/21/2011, 6:10 pm

My son's house is built on a sand hill. You water the ground and 5 minutes later it is dry. Last year he tried having a garden but the water bills were prohibitive. I was checking out threads about wicking boxes and we decided to try an experiment.

space being reclaimed into sg ft gardens


building the base


3 bases and starting to line with pond liner


one bed. 3 are actually put together


base and bed together without the pond and landscape fabric liners


pond base filled, bed filled with MM and planted with cool crops, some plants and some seed.


We are going to wait for 2 weeks before filling and planting the other beds to see if the wicking is sufficient. There are nine 3" diameter holes through the mesh with long fabric bags filled with MM attached and dangling in the water. Wish us luck!

Kay

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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  boffer on 3/21/2011, 6:26 pm

I LIKE IT! If you find that it works for you, a few pictures focused on the wicking part, would complete a good pictorial that most everyone could follow. I look forward to seeing your progress.
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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  elliephant on 3/21/2011, 6:52 pm

Very, very nice! I would definitely do something like this if I were in a permanent location!

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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  Furbalsmom on 3/21/2011, 6:58 pm

What a great concept. There are lots of areas where they have such sandy soil, gardening is almost impossible.

Best wishes on a truly successful outcome. As Boffer said, hope you did take photos of the wicking bags, this would make a great tutorial.
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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  FarmerValerie on 3/21/2011, 7:00 pm

What an AWESOME idea!!! Keep us posted!
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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  walshevak on 3/21/2011, 7:14 pm

I'm waiting to see if the wicking is sufficient before posting how I did it. May have to adjust. I put in both plants and seed to see how they would survive/germinate. Bed has lettuce plants and seeds, kale plants, bok choy seed, chard plants and seed, spinach plants and seed, mustard greens seed, turnips seed, and onion transplants. I thought that would give me a good gauge. Guess I could go out and put a thin planting of carrots under some of the string grids. It's only seeds.

I'm returning to MY house tomorrow and checking out if any of my plantings survived my two weeks away. I put a sprinkler on a timer and just hoped.

I'll be back here the weekend of Apr 6 to check out/make adjustments. My son is under orders to water the beds tomorrow and then not again, just keep the "pond" filled.

Kay

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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  boffer on 3/21/2011, 7:37 pm

@walshevak wrote:I'll be back here the weekend of Apr 6 to check out/make adjustments. My son is under orders to water the beds tomorrow and then not again, just keep the "pond" filled.

Kay
AAAAYK!

What I found is that the wicking is going to be active and effective in the bottom 1/3 of the MM, and it will keep that part nicely damp. The top 1/3 of the MM will be fairly dry. The middle third is transitional.

I would water/mist your seeds, as you normally would, in order to keep them damp for germination. 1-3 times per day-whatever the weather dictates. Water as you normally would until they get established as baby plants, and they can send roots looking for the damp MM on the bottom 1/3.

At that point, your son can visit you without worrying about watering! Wink
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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  walshevak on 3/21/2011, 7:46 pm

Boffer, thanks for the information. I'll tell him to lightly water the seeded areas over the next 2 weeks. The real test will come this summer in the 90-100* weather. Last year he had to let the garden go because the water bills went well over $300 a month. I have hopes this will reduce that figure significantly.

Additional note. My son is a student in the Architectural Autocad program at the local community college. The students are doing a competition involving the reclaimation of an area in Raleigh, NC. They have to recycle, reuse, reclaim, add to and plan for housing 20 families using "green" technology. His team is planning to incorporate a community square foot garden in their presentation AND recommending that a copy of Mel's book be included with the sale of every house. The plan at this time if for twenty 4x8 boxes. He is building a 1x1 bed (with mels mix) for the competition judging.

I think I have him converted.


Last edited by walshevak on 3/21/2011, 7:58 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : additional info)

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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  boffer on 3/21/2011, 8:24 pm

How fun for your son! Easy for me to say since I"m not worried about the grade!

Just a thought...is he experimenting with mulching as well, on the top side of his MM? Every little bit helps in a tough environment.

I was thinking just today of the reduced environmental impact that Mel's Mix incurs. If one were to take a soil supplement like blood meal or bone meal: there are the processing energy costs to make them, package them, ship them, stock them in a store, your transportation costs and time to purchase them. That needs to be done once a year, every year?

Compare that to the environmental costs of procuring Mel's Mix ingredients: vermiculite and peat, purchase once in a lifetime. Compost: purchase once at the beginning; the need to purchase may be reduced the next year; it may never again need to be purchased if a reasonable compost system is developed at home.

Seems to me that Mel's Mix fits nicely into the objectives of the competition.
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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  FarmerValerie on 3/21/2011, 8:42 pm

Very true Boffer, but what about all those unemployed people who used to pack and ship that stuff??? Sorry, just had to comment-ignore me.
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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  boffer on 3/21/2011, 9:04 pm

@FarmerValerie wrote:Very true Boffer, but what about all those unemployed people who used to pack and ship that stuff??? Sorry, just had to comment-ignore me.

I would like to post a picture suggesting that you have 'opened a can of worms'. But most of those pictures that I have found are a bit gross! I am going to follow your suggestion and hope that everyone else does too. But, I hear ya...

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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  elliephant on 3/21/2011, 10:26 pm

$300 for water?! Ugh. I see you're in NC. I've heard things from my family members in Charlotte about high water bills as well. I was quite relieved last summer to find that our water bill never really budged, even with watering the garden and filling/dumping the kids' pool a few times a week. We're always between $40-50. Now our electric bill, on the other hand... What a Face

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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  Old Hippie on 3/22/2011, 1:24 am

Is there any reason why they couldn't include water reclaimation for this as well? What about the use of rainbarrels to collect rain for gardening. Helps cut down on the use of city water, saves money. My house is not very big..868 sqft. and in half an hour of steady rain, not even a downpour, I have four 45 gal. drums full of water that would normally just run out on the grass and then into the storm drain. Last summer, I didn't use any water from the tap to water the garden.

Gwynn
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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  middlemamma on 3/22/2011, 2:03 am

Ok....WOW hippie...I would have never guessed...I may have to get a rain barrel. Hubby will love to hear that!

Water bills are something I grew up with in Southern Cali and then experienced in Arizona...still never had a $300 one. YIPES! In Phoenix in a drought year I think the most I ever paid was $100 ish and that was not with a garden.

Here I am so so so blessed to have free water. Where we live we get free irrigation water from the river. It is $144 a year on my landlords yearly tax bill...I pay the $12 with our rent.

However...the downside is from October to April I have no water to my garden...the town shuts the irrigation water off for freezes. So anything I need to water in early spring or late fall I have to hand carry. But the downside is nowhere near balancing out the upside...that I have all the water my garden can drink during the growing season!

I hope your wicking boxes work! There is no way anyone should miss out on a garden because of a water bill...that is stinky!

Good luck!
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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  kimbertangleknot on 3/22/2011, 2:12 am

Wowzers. $300 bucks, I could not even imagine. I live in Charlotte, I pay $50 every month regardless of how much we actually owe, because it's always less than that. We don't have sandy soil though, so I can only imagine.
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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  walshevak on 3/22/2011, 2:27 am

Rainwater collection is already being included in the school project. Here at home we are discussing rain barrels as well. Sources of free food grade barrels have dried up and the purchased one's are pricey. The plan is to try and buy one every other month after we finished getting the boxes constructed and planted. In the meantime on another thread, i mentioned the sale on 18 qt plastic bins that I found at Walmart. $2 each. I made a potato planter out of one and we have set 4 under the eaves. Haven't had any rain to collect any water in the past two weeks. Plan is to keep the lids on the bins between rains to prevent mosquitos and other stuff from getting into the water and scoop water for flower pots and other containers.

Kay

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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  CindiLou on 4/2/2011, 11:50 pm

One thing to keep in mind about rainwater collection, it is actually illegal in some areas. Please check with your state and city before installing a rain barrel.

At the bottom of the page is a state by state link. I am sure there are more sites but this is the first I found.
http://www.harvesth2o.com/statues_regulations.shtml
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update on the experiment

Post  walshevak on 4/13/2011, 1:59 pm

Here is the wicking garden after 3 weeks. All the seeds sprouted and the transplants are harvest size. This is not a good indication of how well it is working because we had to water from the top for the seed AND there was plenty of rain. From now on, it will only be watered from the tube.



another view. I cut enough lettuce, spinach and chard leaves today for a nice salad tonight.



Here is a view of the bags sewn onto the hardware cloth using fishing line.



Side view. Bags are made from the sleeving used to cover french drain pipes



The bags floating in the pond. Now come the problem I had with the first bed. When I filled the bags with MM for wicking, they stretched out so big ( I mean watermelon size) that I was wasting MM. In the original bed I tied twine around the bags that were already filled and wet to keep them more compact, but that didn't satisfy me. I was looking or something else. Everything I found was either too short, too wide or too expensive.





Until I sat my glass of southern wine (thanks farmervalerie for the new name for iced tea) down on the bed. There is was staring me in the face. Took the grandkids out to McDonalds for a treat for 2 days (and raiding the trash can). Made points and collected 16 cups.



Poked holes in the cups, packed them full of soppy wet MM and slipped them into the sleeves just like I had planned it all along. The cups kept the the bags from expanding and went all the way to the bottom of the "pond".


The bed is now filled with MM and watered in. Later today I will attach the grids and plant some more kale, 4 tomatos, some asian gourd, and CARROTS. Plus whatever else I can find in my seed packs or my DIL finds in the way of plants. I have some asian eggplants and cukes started, but don't want to put them in the tomato bed. May be able to do one go round of bok choy transplants before the weather turns too hot.

Tomorrow starts the last bed for this phase. If all goes well, we eventually will have 3 more wicking beds.

Kay

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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  dizzygardener on 4/13/2011, 4:45 pm

I really love this idea. I'm sure it will work out great!
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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  Furbalsmom on 4/13/2011, 5:25 pm

Walshevak, This experiment seems to be going well. Please keep us posted.

Love that you already have harvest from your SFG. I'm jealous. Laughing
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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  FarmerValerie on 4/13/2011, 7:36 pm

And I raise my glass of "The House Wine of the South" to you!!!!
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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  ashort on 4/13/2011, 10:54 pm

@FarmerValerie wrote:And I raise my glass of "The House Wine of the South" to you!!!!

and here I thought that was made from muscadine grapes...
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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  middlemamma on 4/13/2011, 11:00 pm

Great idea with the cups! Please keep us posted on this! We especially love that you give us photos. Smile
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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  FarmerValerie on 4/14/2011, 7:56 am

Thanks ashort, I had forgotten about those, we have honey bees and I want to start making honey wine (mead) and grapes are a bit expensive (even plants) right now, muskadines are all over the place, I'll have to find someone with some and trade them some honey for them.
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Re: experiment to deal with pure sand and high water bills

Post  Barkie on 4/14/2011, 12:22 pm

Ingenious! I'm liking seeing all the photos too.

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