The creation of soil biology and composting and the generation of soil health and fertility as the foundation of regenerative agriculture is a major part of any organic or permaculture design gardening process. It is no different at the Gold Coast Permaculture site at 270 Ferry Road where the creation of soil is a major priority for the group as we expand our operations to include a large community garden and double the size of our urban agriculture demonstration block.
In order to achieve this, Gold Coast Permaculture has decided it really should walk the talk. So, some of our members with both the organisational and “do” capability have been out connecting with different businesses in the community and tapping into waste streams. As a result, over 40 cubic metres of compost has progressively been started over the last three months with the first five metres being ready for use by mid-October. This is no mean accomplishment given that the only inputs outside of the composting materials are minimal numbers of bodies and compost forks.
Two of the four compost windrows built solely from local waste streams
Waste streams on the Gold Coast are many and varied and we have successfully diverted loads of wood chips, provided by two different lopping contractors and the Council, water weed from the City Council contractor, newspaper from Jupiter’s Newsagency, horse manure and sawdust from the Benowa Racecourse, and beautiful, pure horse manure from Arundel Riding for the Disabled. Much of this material would normally be dumped at the Staplyton or Norwell rubbish dumps (the newspaper into the Jupiter’s bin) which is some 50 kilometres to the north. We have saved the contractors anything between 15 and 40 kilometres of transport cost per load of material (approximately 12 to date) and dump fees as well as mitigating that all important associated carbon impact. This is of great importance as we are attempting to be a carbon neutral project and we do have a requirement for deliveries of composted blood and bone, horse manure and mushroom compost that we are able to offset. These deliveries are minimal in terms of kilometres. We are and will continue to be, very much in credit.
Will with one of the Langstroff ‘top bar’ frames
All labour required has been volunteered and we have a regular Monday working bee for willing workers. Normally, we have up to five people on Mondays including two people who are on community service orders. Both individuals have expressed their gratitude at having been provided with the opportunity to participate in the Gold Coast Permaculture project and both have stated they intend to continue to come to the site when their mandated hours are up. One of our volunteers (see photograph), Will, is just a whiz on fixing anything and everything — from broken wheelbarrows to washing machines — and is about to go into bees together with two other GCP members!
One of the first jobs on Monday is to turn the compost heaps. Two of the more “athletic” members have been known to turn one of the approximately 15 cubic metre windrows with no other assistance than a garden fork. However, we hope that will not happen very often. Turning that aquatic weed is said to be a real pain in the back! While the scale of this composting effort is probably not one that Joe and Julie Citizen can implement in their back yard, the materials for doing it are available in every yard or can be easily accessed either by visiting the producers of this waste or, by coming down to Gold Coast Permaculture where any material we have obtained gratis is provided to community organisations on the same basis.
As an urban agricultural demonstration project and in addition to providing “how to” workshops every Saturday morning, it is the desire of all GCP members to also provide the community with every assistance so that they may also easily involve themselves in growing their own food and making their own soil. To this end, we also must heartily thank the local Divisional Gold Coast City Councillor, Cr. Susie Douglas and the Mayor, Cr. Ron Clarke who have provided us with a grant each from their Divisional and Mayoral funds respectively for the purpose of purchasing inputs and tools. These grants are the first we have had. All inputs to date have been funded by GCP and its members. These most generous grants from Mayor Clarke and Cr. Douglas will go far in making the demonstration project and the community garden that much better in terms of the ability to serve the community as a whole. We are also currently seeking funds to finance a ute and a trailer for teaching permaculture design to schools on the Gold Coast and Sth. Tweed.
Almost completely harvested, the soon to be expanded urban
demonstration project – Thank you Mayor Clarke
The urban agriculture demonstration project on the Gold Coast is going from strength to strength and is about to be doubled in size. All members are working solidly together and the vision of a group of very capable and innovative people is quickly becoming a reality. We also continue to reach out to the disadvantaged and marginalised in the community and are conducting a permablitz at Federation House (mental health) in Southport on 26 October. All are welcome to come and assist.
The community garden before the generosity of Cr. Susie Douglas
The community garden after the grant from Cr Douglas – The Monday
working-bee extending and capping some of the beds with newly acquired blood
and bone compost, horse manure and mushroom compost.
The community gardens are now almost ready to be utilised with approximately 70% of all beds completed. The soil base for these beds came from across the road when a water main blowout was being repaired – taking the initiative saved this earth from being carted away to waste. Anyone could initiate a similar “grab” in their local area. Members of GCP have just kept an eye on what is going on around them; observation being a basic prerequisite of permaculture design. This soil has been then topped with mushroom compost, water weed, more mushroom compost, horse manure, composted blood and bone, compost and a topping off layer of mushroom compost.
This will be followed by a spray of compost tea from Greg Plevey of Wormtec to inject soil biology into the gardens. Greg is a master soil biology provider. He provides targeted soil biology via extracts made from vermipost. He has a unique system that creates biology that then is ‘put to sleep’ in his compost teas. His tea is inherently more stable than standard compost teas and does not need to be sprayed on within six hours to maintain the biological life. The word is that once sprayed, it will grow babies. We are experimenting with different techniques to ascertain which are the most efficient and productive and the results of this will be passed on to the community. The results of our last crop and high brix readings are due in no small part to Greg’s insight. Wormtec’s products have been tested by the SFI (Soil Food Institute) and Southern Cross University and are used widely on the Gold Coast’s sporting, bowling, school and racing grounds as well as wineries, private residences and also larger broad acre farms locally and interstate.
Greg also has rigorous quality control for each batch; 10 years in front of a microscope and the passion to constantly improve the products mean that home gardens can also benefit from what is often considered a broad acre application.
The reason we are building beds on top of the soil is basic. There is little to no carbon in the soil. The aquatic weeds we are using both in the compost and directly on to the beds include salvinia molesta, water hyacinth, azolla, cambomba, primrose, Mexican lily and alligator weed — all of which provide minerals and nutrients as well as bio mass. We work these up to the Australian composting standard.
As a result of the efforts of the GCP compost team, it appears that the Gold Coast City Council Waste Management Section have undertaken to also compost this material instead of directing it to the tip. This is a massive carbon saving to the GC City Council of about 60 cubic meters a week and a credit to GCP for initiating this program. It is also a credit to the particular council officer who allowed this ‘experiment’ to take place at GCP by diverting weed deliveries to us. Thank you Heath.
After the Monday working bee. We are almost ready with the community garden
though some extensions to the left of the photo are yet to be made. Aquatic weed,
horse manure and more mushroom compost are yet to go on to the extensions.
Finally, we express our thanks to:
- the Arundel Riding for the Disabled Organisation — our most heartfelt thanks go for providing as much horse manure as we need for the gardens;
- Mike the Slab Man, our erstwhile neighbour from down the road who provides his two metre truck to collect the manure. He never complains of the farm smells that sometimes waft through his shop and home. He makes some beautiful products from local and sustainably sourced timber;
- Scott Godfredson, who has provided his trailer and has been instrumental in assisting with numerous liaison issues and finding us wood chips and mulch;
- all our wonderful volunteers and other GCP members not specifically mentioned here and again Mayor Clarke and Cr Susie Douglas.
These are all extremely generous people.