Fertigation

Have you heard about fertigation yet? It’s the happy coupling of fertilising and irrigating, where you harness a nutrient dense element, mix it with water and then spread it as one across your garden. It’s pretty cool. We do this in our garden with our ducks, who’s main purpose in life seems to poo, specifically in their pond (an old bathtub). As you can see from the photo below, it can get pretty manky really quickly, so it’s important to know what to do with it, otherwise it can turn into a very smelly problem. But as the famous permaculture saying goes “the problem is the solution”. Fertigation is a beautiful, elegant example of this saying – turning excess polluting poo into a valuable resource for the garden.

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IMG_1895The ‘dregs’ of the bath, thick, slimy, nutrient dense poo

At least once a week, we flush the pond out to keep it fresh and have recently installed a pipe/hose combination so that this fertilised  water can be directed to various parts of our young edible forest garden, rather than only one spot which would get problematic very quickly. There are some simply yet important design considerations with the pipe and hose system. As you can see from the photo above, a lot of poo and muck builds up which can very quickly clog a pipe. So we chose a 50mm pvc pipe to ensure that poo and other stuff (feathers, twigs etc) can be flushed through easily.

Up until this point we’d scrounged all the materials from our local tip shop and were keeping an eye out for the ‘right’ hose and pipe connections. But my impatience got the better of me and I went and splurged at the local plumbing shop for brand new bits to finish off the job. These bits included a couple of threaded convertor ‘things’ so that we could connect the pipe to the hose properly. I chose a hose called ‘black marine hose’ which is super heavy duty, UV stablised and flexible.

IMG_1877Using ‘blue glue’ (a plumber’s glue) we attached a threaded convertor directly onto the 50m pvc pipe.

IMG_1879This photo’s actually taken upside down, but you get the idea…

IMG_1876All the bits fitting together to make sure the duck poo gets where it needs to go

IMG_1888The black marine hose is strong and flexible so we can direct it anywhere we like

We made the black marine hose around 5m long (choose the length that’s right for your garden) which allows us to fertigate a range of spaces in our edible forest garden as well as some of the beds below this area. If you decide to fertigate annual vegetables, be really careful about getting any poo water on the leaves and only direct it at the soil to eliminate risk of sickness, i.e. you manage to eat lettuce leaf with duck poo on it. This is a minor risk and one which we’re completely fine with, but a risk nonetheless – simply wash your vegies well before eating and if concerned, don’t fertigate your annual crops.

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Above you can see the happy recipients of the poo/water combo – a baby feijoa fruit tree, current bush, comfrey and clover ground cover. Below the happy duck family relish in fresh water, which turns a dark poo coloured brown in around, oh, 5 mintues. As we’re on a steep slope, we’re able to simply use gravity to empty the bath, so no pump needed which is one of the perks of living on a crazy hillside.

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Wanna see it all in action?

You can watch a little tour of me (Hannah) talking and showing you through the process of emptying the pond here. 

2 Responses to “Fertigation”

  1. Tracey Kretschmer

    we have been unwittingly ‘fertigating’ for some time now with both chook poo tea but more recently with our aquaponics system. Whenever we want to flush out one of the tanks to change over fish or clean up excess poo we attach a pipe similar to yours and direct it to needy parts of the garden. Our tank holds around 6000 liters so we can spread it far and wide! Love your posts!:-)

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