Our Mission:

Our Mission: To enable individuals and communities to take an active part in the cultivation of systems that provide the highest quality fruits, vegetables, herbs and other yields, in a way that benefits themselves, cares for the land and environment, and provides a surplus to use, share and reinvest into the system.

Friday, July 25, 2014

How to Build a 3-bin Compost System

Improve your soil structure and increase the biodiversity of your soil by making compost.  This week's post includes a video how you can make your own composter.

Use these bins to discard your fruit & vegetable scraps, egg shells and yard waste and keep it from taking up space at the landfill.  Turn the pile often for good aeration and mixing to speed up the process.  Composted organic matter helps your yard and garden soil remain loose and workable.  Earthworms are drawn to it and leave behind castings that are a valuable fertilizer prized by organic growers.

There are many ways to compost your organic waste from just a pile or wire bin to a barrel system with trapdoors and rollers; but these nice looking cedar bins will look great and fit well in any neighborhood backyard.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Rain Barrels are great, but...

"...they're not growing their own food. Like the 55 gallon rain barrel, they deceive themselves by thinking that by toying with inadequately designed rainwater collection systems...
Thirty five thousand gallons of rain falls off my roof but I want to hold fast to the cute idea that a little 55 gallon barrel will hold it all and I can feel like I've saved the world. That’s simply poor design and living through your concepts rather than your observations." 
While not all of us can have a 100+ acre Permaculture farm that utilizes the landscape to harvest rain water, we can gain some insight from Mark's comments.  When you consider the amount of rain we typically get in central Iowa and the surface area of our roofs, you realize that we cannot hope to contain it all in one, or even several, 55 or 75 gallon rain barrels (see calculator).  Ideally you would have several modified 275gal. Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBCs) which can be an eyesore if not properly disguised and take up a large footprint.
What we can do to bridge the gap in our urban/suburban rain water harvesting systems is to utilize the rain barrel as storage for use in our potted plants, etc. that we want to benefit from using rain water over the municipal water supply. More importantly, though, we want to manage the overflow so we can use the rain to maintain soil moisture for longer periods of time. 
There are several ways we can Divert, Disperse & Conserve the overflow to our planting areas:
  • This picture below is of my prototype rain catchment system.  It utilizes a smaller barrel and simple overflow into 4" drainage tile (8' solid to get away from the foundation, then 16' perforated to allow the overflow to slowly drain into our mini-forest garden. 
  • This next system utilizes a more intricate overflow irrigation system.  The overflow drained into a series of PVC pipes that were set-up with multiple junctions, runs and 1/4" drainage holes that allowed the overflow to go to targeted areas of the planting.  The tricky part was running a split under the walking path and back up into the "island".  Make sure your system completely drains all water so the lines will not freeze and burst in winter.

Before hiding the barrel behind a trellis

Dividing the overflow to multiple areas

The lower levels prior to covering PVC with straw 
  •  Another way to enhance water retention is through mulching.  Mulching keeps direct sunlight from heating and drying the soil.  It also holds a layer of moist air that won't blow away in drying breezes and steal moisture away. 
  • "Swales on Contour" will also slow runoff and allow it to sink into the soil.  Typically swales in modern construction flow with the slope of the land to route rainfall quickly to drainage ditches, rivers and streams.  Two days after a rain suburban homeowners are out with the sprinklers trying to keep the grass green.  With swales on contour, the "ditch" runs across the slope where the runoff slows, giving it time to percolate into the soil.
I hope this post gives you ideas for ways you can go beyond the rain barrel.  If you have any questions feel free to post in the comments section below.  Or if you would like to have a rain catchment system installed at your home send me an email!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog,

Rainfall/Rain Barrel Calculator

You can calculate the volume of water your barrel might collect using this simple formula:

V = A² x R x 0.90 x (7.5 gal./ft.³)

V = volume of water in gallons,
A² = surface area of roof in square feet,
R = rainfall in feet

The chart below provides some sample measurements for rough comparison purposes:

   House type
roof area (approx)
area / downspout (approx)
water volume / downspout (approx)
½" rain                    1" rain

2 BR frame
400 sq. ft
200 sq. ft.
   57 gallons 113 gallons
3 BR frame
460 sq. ft
230 sq. ft.
   65 gallons 129 gallons
2 BR masonry
520 sq. ft
260 sq. ft.
   73 gallons 146 gallons
3 BR masonry
560 sq. ft
280 sq. ft.
   79 gallons 158 gallons
larger townhomes
710 sq. ft
355 sq. ft.
   100 gallons 200 gallons
freestanding homes
800 sq. ft
200 sq. ft. (avg. 4 downspouts)
   57 gallons 113 gallons

Des Moines, IA
Average Rainfall for Des Moines, Iowa

Friday, July 11, 2014

Launching the blog!

I am excited to launch this blog for my landscape, garden and ecological design services!!!

I hope to provide a helpful site for individuals concerned about the food they eat and enable them to contribute to their own needs in a "beyond organic" and "beyond sustainable" way!

My future posts may include:
  • seasonal hints for your gardens
  • ways to conserve resources such as rainwater and soil
  • ideas for reducing waste
  • building soil fertility and structure
  • highlights from designs and projects
  • timely recipes for your produce
  • how-to videos
  • and much, much more!
Thanks for stopping by!