Hi everyone, it great that you have joined us, so let’s get started with part 2 of our 3 part series of ‘What exactly is a Smart Garden’.
In part one, we looked at some of the aspects of the physical structure of a Smart Garden. The easiest way to explain it is to see it as simply a structure that protects your garden from the worst of the weather. We don’t want it to disconnect you from your local environmental conditions, like, say, a proper greenhouse might.
While a well-run greenhouse may give you the ability to grow pineapples in a cool climate zone, you will not have a lot of fellow pineapple growers in your area. You want to have the best, most consistent conditions for your garden for the area that you live. That way, you are still part of your local garden community. You can still swap and trade seeds, plants and information, which we see as vital to long-term food security. If your garden environment is radically different from your local environment (by using something like a greenhouse), the more energy-intensive it becomes and the more problems you will face.
To show you just one aspect of how we manage this with our garden is with water harvesting. As our garden has a roof, we capture and harvest all the rain from the roof. It then goes into a holding tank for use in the irrigation system. Now the average annual rainfall in our area is about 600mm per year. There is a slight rise in monthly rainfall in winter and a reduction in rainfall amounts in summer, which is pretty standard. So, because we have an abundance of free water we have harvested from the garden roof, we don’t then deliver the equivalent of 1200mm a year to our garden via the irrigation system. We have set it to still only deliver 600mm, which is the average rainfall that everyone in our areas garden will also receive.
The difference is that when there is a dry year and it actually only rains, say 350mm for the year in our area, our garden will still get 600mm. Then when we have a really wet year, and it rains 1200mm of rain in the year, our garden will still get 600mm. This consistency is key to creating a reliable food production system. A traditional outdoor garden, by comparison, is really going to struggle in the years when it is really dry with only 350mm and when it is too wet with 1200mm.
The same goes for protecting your garden from the wind. We still have mesh panels that allow wind and air into our garden. This protects it from the worst of the wind, but our plants are still getting airflow through the garden. This air will be at the outside ambient temperature. So if the air blowing into the garden is hot, then our garden will be hot, and when it is cold, our garden will be cold. The structure will create a situation where it is not too windy and damage plants, and because we have fans, it will never be too still. We also have misting systems as part of the irrigation system, so on sweltering days, the fans and misting systems manage to ambient temps in the garden and ensure enough humidity for the plants to thrive.
Again, an outdoor garden will have no such protection from strong winds or the ability to create extra air movement or humidity on hot days. We have found this concept of creating the best protected growing space for your plants, based on your local conditions, as key to having a garden that is firstly easy to manage and maintain. Secondly, we can produce a large amount of produce consistently for our family and us.
While there can be no doubt there is an extra level of initial cost and setup in creating a Smart Garden structure, you have to ask yourself why you want to create a garden in the first place? For us, it was about creating an easy, reliable, nutritious food supply. After many years of trying to achieve this outdoors, we realised it would never happen as we had envisioned. We didn’t have hours and days to devote to maintain and managed the garden. We couldn’t control the variable (and getting more variable!) weather patterns or the hungry pest that seemed to be getting more out of our garden than we were.
Next, in part 3, we will look at some of the technology and science that we incorporate in our Smart Garden that helps us create our vision of the homegrown future of food security.
And remember it’s our food - our responsibility, so let’s get Smart about it!
See you for part 3 soon.
Take care, Terry