Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rain water harvesting year 3

We've had a pretty good year of rainfall, with 691mm. This is about the average for Perth these days. Last year we had 515mm, the year before 757mm. We harvested and used 77,000L of rain water with our 14,000L rain water tank, which is the most to date.

29% of our water use was rain water this year, which is way up on the 21% of the previous two years.The chart below shows the weekly figures for rainfall (right axis) and water consumption (left axis), with the proportions of tank water (green) and scheme water (red) used. Rainfall in September and November to January allowed us to harvest more in this period than in previous years. Also, the pump broke down less often this year, which always helps.

This next chart is a new one and shows the level of the tank (left axis) and weekly rainfall (right axis). As you would expect the tank is fairly full in winter (june-august) and still has water right through spring. Then as rainfall drops off the tank empties as we turn on the retic to water our vegies and productive trees. Through most of summer the tank was empty until the return of rain in April. Since then we've had water in the tank most of the time. In May we had a warm, dry spell and turned the retic back on. This emptied the tank, but soon after the tank refilled. This shows the value of having the tank plumbed into everything (house and garden) since we're using as much of the rain water when it's available. If we had a few appliances (eg toilet and washing machine) running on tank water and the rest on scheme as is common, then we wouldn't have used much of the water in May. When it rained again a lot of that rain water would have been lost to overflow. I estimate that we would use about half or a third the tank water we currently use if we only plumbed in a few appliances. This highlights the need for people to plumb tanks properly to maximise the benefits to themselves and the broader community.

Best of all, we cut our water usage by 100L a day this year. We did this despite adding yet more retic (out the front on our productive trees). I can't really explain this. It could just be that we had less dry spells when we needed to turn the retic on (about 70% of our water usage goes on the garden). 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

July 2012: Garden goings on

I've been thinking recently that I haven't written about the garden much lately, so I'm going to try to post once a month on what's going on in the garden. I'll just grab the camera and walk around taking pictures of things which grab my attention. Hopefully over time you'll get to know the garden a bit more and see its ups and downs.

Winter is here and it's the best time for us to make compost. This is because we can get much more scraps from the vege shops and it's cooler and easier to do the hard yakka that turning compost is. My plan is to make compost every 5 weeks in the cooler months from now on. It will give me between 4-6 turns of the first batch before I need to leave it to rest and start turning the next batch. Then I'll have another 5 weeks to use up the mature lot before I do the next batch. This load is about a third dry leaves I raked up at work. It has halved in size after 5 days so it may end up being quite small, but the leaves will break down to quality humus with great water holding capacity.

This is Quin's patch. We had a nightmare with this patch (poor germination, pests) so we turned it over to Quin. He's done a great job, with flowers, spinach, peas, lettuce and brocoli all doing well.

Beets and lettuce, with onions and garlic in the background.

The apple trees still haven't lost their leaves and may not. Sabrina Hahn says rip all the leaves off if this happens, but I don't have the heart or energy. If you're wondering what all the string is for I'm training the trees. This involves spreading the branches to achieve the right angle and pruning to allow sun and air to penetrate the crown. I love it, it satisfies my need for control in a healthy way I think!

The broad beans are up. I love them, Amy's not so keen. Old inner tubes make good supports for these.

We have a decent crop of Valencia oranges which should ripen in a few months. Hopefully I can keep on top of the fruit fly this year.

This straggly looking vine is a boysenberry. I've got on top of a bad infestation of scale and this should bear beautiful berries in summer. Unlike our Loganberry which died last year, it unfortunately has really nasty thorns. On second thoughts maybe this is a good thing, I might be able to eat a few before Quin gets them all...

Many of the productive trees are bear branched now. This is the almond tree (beautiful branch structure don't you think?).

Banana disaster! Amy kept telling me we should start harvesting the bananas, but no I told her it was too cold for them to ripen. Then I looked under the bunch bag and saw that over half the bunch of 150 were over ripe and splitting. This will teach me to listen to my woman more often. We've given some away, frozen some and banana and chop chip cake is on the menu, yum.

There aren't many flowers out the front, but the ones that are there are stunning. Here's a Banksia menziesii and Hakea laurinia.


The luffas are finally ripe (ish). They would be a lot easier to peel if they were drier but we can't wait to pull down the vine to get some more light into the back of the house. I think we got about a dozen this year. Amy's put them in the sun oven to dry out a bit and the plan is to use them in soap and as sponges.

That's all for now folks.