Renting and gardening… what are you supposed to do? Pour all your love (and hours of work) into the garden, only to leave it all behind when the lease ends? Or, you can get creative! Make a portable and productive garden (even in a courtyard) that provides loads of herbs, salad and vegies… with leftover space for a prolific compost system.
That’s what Steve and Rabea North from Melbourne did, but with the added innovation of a water-saving collection of up-cycled, DIY wicking buckets and tubs.
The criteria for their garden was simple – sustainable, portable, cost-effective and productive – so it was off to the local Indian takeaway for some alternatives to store-bought pots. “They had loads of 10 litre food grade buckets and polystyrene broccoli boxes that were destined for landfill, so we bought as many of those home as we could” Steve says. This is where the next level of innovation and ideas comes in. “Where appropriate for the plants, these have been converted into mini wicking beds” says Steve. Rabea explains that “A wicking bed is a self-watering container, and any renter can build these simple, portable wicking beds for $5-$10 each. They’re perfect for growing fruit and vegies using half the water (and effort) when compared to conventional pots”.
Check out http://smartrenting.org/portable-composting/ for all Steve and Rabea’s composting tips, as well as lots of info about how to reduce your carbon footprint as a renter.
04:04 Portable Wicking Bed
A recycled polystyrene container or food grade bucket (10-20 litres, depending on the plant size)
1m x 25mm poly pipe
25mm poly elbow joiner
Drill & 8mm drill bit
One square metre of geo textile weed mat
A bag of scoria
Some good quality soil mixed in with compost.
Pea straw or an alternative organic mulch.
Measure and cut a poly pipe so that it sits 3 above lip of the container
Attach elbow joiner to bottom of poly pipe
Measure and cut a piece of poly pipe from the elbow joiner to extend two thirds of the way across the wicking box or bucket and attach to elbow joiner
Heating the polypipe ends in hot water can make it easier to attach to the joiner
Drill a hole each inch of the poly pipe at the bottom of the box
Drill or force a 23mm hole about two inches from the base of the bed, and insert a 5cm length of polypipe
This will become the overflow/drainage hole
Fill base of the bed with scoria, to the level of the drainage hole
Place square of geotextile over the scoria, so that it lines the entire bed
Fill the bed a mix of 2 parts soil to one-part compost, plant out and mulch
Water lightly from the top, and then fill the reservoir with water
The top watering is a one-off, to initiate the wicking process
02:50 Portable Compost System
5 recycled food grade 20 litre buckets with lids (for outside)
2 recycled 10 litre food grade buckets (for the kitchen)
1 x compost screw
Drill, 8mm drill bit and 2mm drill bit
Drill four drain holes on the side at the very bottom of each of the 20L outdoor buckets
This is small enough to stop rodents from getting in but will allow worms access to help the composting process along.
Drill lots of ventilation holes in each lid (~20) using a small drill bit (2-3mm).
Store large compost buckets outdoors and undercover, and the two smaller buckets in the kitchen
They can leach a little, so sit them on soil, or plastic mat to prevent staining
Fill one of your kitchen buckets with a mixture of a carbon source (sawdust, shredded newspaper, leaves, etc.) and some dirt or finished compost for microbes.
Fill your other kitchen bucket with food scraps as you produce them. When you have a layer of food waste, add a few cups of your carbon source to cover your food waste and then add a half cup of water.
Continue this layering process for a week (max), or until the bucket is full
Empty the kitchen bucket into the outdoor compost bucket with the newest compost or start a new bucket if the others are full.
Give your compost a turn with the compost screw each week.
This system has worked beautifully for Steve and Rabea, with Rabea saying “Once properly set up, the above composting system is a set and forget system that can produce half a ton of compost a year or more for just 15 minutes of your time each week and should cut the amount of waste your household sends to landfill in half”.
For most Australians, renting can be made to feel like you’re putting your dreams on hold, but as Steve and Rabea have shown, renting doesn’t need to be a barrier to good growing and great gardening.