BACKYARD BLISS | Utilising fertigation in the vegie garden

PROBLEM SOLVED: In permaculture, fertigation is one example of a problem often being the solution. Here nutrient-dense, watered-down duck poo goes back into the garden soil using an irrigation set up. Pictures: Hannah Moloney.
PROBLEM SOLVED: In permaculture, fertigation is one example of a problem often being the solution. Here nutrient-dense, watered-down duck poo goes back into the garden soil using an irrigation set up. Pictures: Hannah Moloney.

Good Life Permaculture

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.

We do this in our garden with our ducks, who's main purpose in life seems to be poo, specifically in their pond (an old bathtub).

As you can see from the photos, 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.

At least once a week, we flush the pond out to keep it fresh. Recently we 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 simple yet important design considerations with the pipe and hose system.

A lot of poo and muck builds up, which can very quickly clog a pipe. So we chose a 50 millimetre 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.

We made the black marine hose around five metres 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 or don't fertigate your annual crops.

Our happy duck family relishes in fresh water, which turns a dark poo coloured brown in around, oh, five minutes.

As we're on a steep slope, we're able to simply use gravity to empty the bath, so no pump needed - one of the perks of living on a crazy hillside.

  • Hannah Moloney and Anton Vikstrom are the founders of Good Life Permaculture, a permaculture landscape design and education enterprise that creates resilient and regenerative lives and landscapes.