Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thai Orphanage garden, powered by Permaculture

Ginger beer, passionfruit drink, Watermelon, and a place to enjoy it all

Like a lot of people in Sydney, when I heard of the work Detective Inspector Baines was doing for orphans in Thailand, I wanted to do something myself. 
So I did what my skill is, and I drew up a pretty and useful garden. 

Now I have to work out how to make it real.

Its a permaculture garden, designed to catch its own water, and attract the love and harvesting it needs.

Most of all its designed as a 'best self' garden. 
While these children are creating and tending it, enjoying it, and watching others admire and enjoy it, they are saying to themselves 'Im pretty amazing, to have made all that'.

And it will be true.

Wicking bed design: Dr. Ross Mars. Artwork: Cecilia

There are now a long list of things that must be found, before this drawing becomes a real garden.
To Find
Someone expert, or about to become expert, who will build it.
Another reason to go to Thailand, so I can help.
Some corporate types who will donate us their frequent flyer miles to go .
Someone to source suitable, beautiful plants that the children will love.
And ways to overcome 100 other challenges, so that the children actually spend time there. 
Designing for bare feet. 
Designing so HIV affected children don't get wet. 
Designing so that fruit doesn't go unharvested - in Yasothon, when fruit rots, it really 'goes bad' attracting snakes and scorpions.  We want sweetness and light.
Designing so that willpower is not needed to keep things going. 

Curving, 3D garden for children to clamber in. Click to enlarge.

Please give me your ideas.
I sent out a request for ideas a few weeks ago. The water design below just turned up from Dr Mars, in Perth.
I nearly cried, I was so happy. 
Then I started drawing.
Dont do things alone. It won't work, and its not Permaculture.
Don't let me try to do things alone either. Thats my problem, you know.

Permaculture Design Strategies 
for Yasothon Orphanage Thailand    
by Ross Mars
The following ideas solely examine the use of rainfall as a method of irrigation of annual vegetables, small herbs and other shallow rooted crops.


•    Buildings do not have gutters 
•    Local materials such as small stone, soil, timber or larger rocks are available 
•    Plastic sheeting can be purchased, donated or sourced

Rainfall patterns
The following data was used in the design process:
•    Yasothon in NE Thailand has the annual rainfall of 1350 mm, much of this in the ‘wet’ (winter months).

•    There are two extremes – drought in the ‘dry’ from November to March (worst in December and January) and floods in the rainy season April to September.

•    Pan evaporation is high in some months. e.g. April, the hottest month, has a daily evaporation of 7mm (220 mm for the month).

•    Daily rainfall events typically are less than 10 mm. (If this amount fell in April then only 30% of the water is available as 70% evaporates away).

•    The monthly rainfall patterns are in table below.

•    There is a high degree of variation in rainfall – both what falls each month and yearly. •    There are about 68 rainy days and 297 non-rainy days (historical data since 1952).

Conclusions from data
It is essential to capture rainfall and store it. As evaporation can be high, rainfall events are infrequent and precipitation typically low when it does rain, trapping water in a reservoir that allows plants to pull some of the water as required is an important strategy for irrigation of food plants.
Some variation of a wicking bed is proposed. Essentially, this is:

•    Garden bed, with water reservoir built above-ground or below-ground, is lined with water-proof plastic sheeting to hold water. Capillary action enables water to slowly move towards the surface where plant roots can absorb and use effectively.

•    A piece of plastic pipe, or other, enables a person to examine water level and top-up as necessary (assuming some water is available from elsewhere).

•    Bed retaining by timber or rocks, which ever is available.

•    Large stone used to direct rainwater into reservoir, and prevent splash against building walls.

•    Small stone placed on bottom of bed to enable spread of water quickly across to all bed. Slotted piping would also help.

•    An overflow pipe (or more for large beds) is required to allow excess water to move from the reservoir. Water could be directed by piping or channel to a sump elsewhere where it could be used by other plants.

•    Bed will naturally fill with rainfall, as well as from the roof.

1 comment:

Funktionhouse Urban Lumber and Furnishings said...


I am interested in how the Thia Garden is working. I love the attempt at building a relatively "hands off" garden. Our busy and unpredictable schedule requires a garden that could go a few days unchecked. The wicking set up seems to be ideal for us. We have plenty of mulch and log pieces available from our urban lumber and finishings operation (funktionhouse.com)