Humans Have the Potential to Turn Deserts into a Green Oasis

Humans Have the Potential to Turn Deserts into a Green Oasis


[Narrator] We’ll scan
across the valley here. But there in the sunlight
on the other side, is the Palestinian West Bank. I’ll just try and zoom in, because what we’re looking at there is Jericho. Here we are. Mmhmm. Picking eggplants and there, although these eggplants have come almost right through summer, they’re still going as we
plant the winter crops. As we cool down, we’ve got a
bit of a calmer weather now, tiny spit of rain last night,
little bit of extra cloud. As it cools down, the working beds just
take off on the roof. Our common spinach is going crazy. It’s been a great crop here. Two perennial spinaches
have been working for us. The Ceylon spinach, and we particularly got the
Red Stem Ceylon Spinach. And, come right through summer is Brazil spinach, actually from the Amazon. But here it is in the Dead Sea Valley, in extremely dry landscape. And it’s totally perennialized. Think this one is about
three years old now. It’s an anthurium , growing in a landscape
like this, just because. We’re using wicking beds. I’m watering down below
the soil, in a gravel tank that sits underneath the planting bed. The most efficient watering
system in the world, and that more or less proves it. One of the cheapest ways you
can make your own wicking beds is to purchase a bulk liquid
container, second-hand, so you’re recycling the material. Now, these containers
are available everywhere. You need an angle grinder,
and you can cut through both the plastic and the
frame, at the same time. Giving you two wicking beds,
they’re just the right size, and you have a good, strong support frame. You need to set this up
with an input of water from the top through pipes, which soak in at the
bottom, through gravel. This is simple. We just get a plumbing pipe
and we can either drill it, or we can cut it with an angle grinder. Then, all we need, is a
basic plumbing fit-in. So, a right angle fit-in
and then a filler pipe, which is vertical with no slots in it. We can cover the end of the
pipe with the shade cloth, cause all we need is water to soak in through the gravel at the bottom. If this soakage pipe goes
from corner to corner, it’s covering the whole
bottom of the wicking bed. And that’s enough to fill
and soak all the way across. Next, you need to
half-fill your wicking bed with 10 mil gravel. On top of your soak pipe, level out that gravel,
so it’s nice and even. Then, put in a membrane that’ll
separate the next layer, which is your good quality soil. That can be a good sheet, usually doubled-over
shade cloth does it fine. So, we don’t quite fill it with soil. After you’ve leveled your soil, you leave enough for a good layer of high-quality compost. You level that out. Then, a layer of mulch. You’re literally creating a garden over a gravel tank that soaks your water up
with capillary action. Once you have the whole system mulched, you’ve got your good quality compost, you’ve got your good, thick
layer of mulch on top, it’ll really hold a lot of water. Next, we bore a hole in
the side of the container, just above the gravel, at
the bottom of the soil. We insert an irrigation grommet, which is a water type grommet that fits a small irrigation right angle fit-in. That gives you a bit of a
swivel pipe where you can adjust the depth of water. This allows us to overflow, and swivel that irrigation
fit-in up and down a little bit to change the level. Once we see that overflowing,
we know that the gravel at the bottom is full,
and the capillary action is soaking the soil from underneath. We can water little bit on
top, plant our vegetables, and we’re off and growing. Here, we have a couple of the
ladies from the internship. Heavily stacking the vegetables
in the wicking beds, yeah? Have you ever stacked vegetables so close? Traditionally, no . This one’s actually got a
worm farm induction tube, which is one of our experiments here. We’re going to worm farm
down the water pipe, so we got a bigger water pipe on this one. So, we’re actually watering
through a worm farm. All the rain water from
the bottom kitchen, and the top kitchen. So, we got a double
decker kitchen sink feed into this little reed bed. You’re transplanting the
reed from that corner more evenly across the bed, yeah? Yeah, we’re evening the plants. Cause all the plants are
concentrated in here, so we’re trying to even out. As soon as we see water at the surface, we usually drain it. But right now, keeping it a
little bit flooded is going to make it easy to do the transplant. I’ll just show you the exit point of of this very simple reed
bed, just over here. It’s right next to the nursery. So, it comes out here, and right now, let’s follow this hose. It’s going down here, and it’s been going out
here into this gate palm. I’m right at the bottom of the site. I’m on the bottom western boundary, which we need to keep very
shaded because it helps shade the western sun of our main crop garden. The garden group are on the bottom bed. You can see the amount of
compost we’ve put on the ground. We’ve stacked it pretty thick. Just cause we’re on contour,
we’ve got a modern bed that bows a little bit thin on each end. Okay. Got it? A little bit wide in the
middle, cause we’re on contour. I don’t think they’re
ready. Some of them are, That compost is going
to get covered by mulch, and then planted out. Off it goes. Now this is shade gardening of diversity, in extended season, in dry land systems. All are producing quite well. It’s actually surprised me. Set into summer corn,
and then we swing around the lower western boundary,
on the lowest point up to the side boundary chicken tractor. This is where the engine of fertility is. They’re turning the top
on down to the second one. I’m just looking at our
temperature here, 64. They say 65 is perfect, but
this is the end of the run. One week after this,
it’s more or less ready. This one’s two weeks away, this one’s three weeks. If we get this right, one can– Yeah. Every week. That’s
what we’ve been doing so far. Yeah. Is take one out every week. Now, cubic meter does a
lot of fertility for you. It will easily fertilize
this 3,000 square meter site. Have we got the sprinklers running yet? There’s a hole in the lines,
so it’s not working properly. There’s a leak. I see someone’s tuned the
leak up into the swell there. Every time there’s a leak and
we can’t repair it quickly, on this site, someone
just turns water sideways, and lets it flow down into one of the contour harvesting swells? we’ve got our leak going out on contour, we’ll be fixing that soon. Eric, here, is just distributing some of the accumulated compost, manures. Particularly aiming at citrus, which need a bit of help here. And some papaya too. Some papayas, yeah. Citrus is like a bit of acid, papaya is a little bit
more tropical and moist. We’ll give them a little more compost, and a little bit more old manure. Then, we’re going to mulch
the chop and drop spaces on top of em, which are mostly leucaena. That will boost up a bit of natural fertility here. The temperatures are dropping, and it’s got time to be
taken up by the soil, and transferred to the trees as nutrients. Transferring the forest
growth into soil lot, Stage by stage, a little desert project. It becomes more and more green, more and more shaded, more and more productive, every year.

54 thoughts on “Humans Have the Potential to Turn Deserts into a Green Oasis

  1. It's cool to see so much shade. It looks really comfortable as you walk us through now. I remember the dry, dusty, rock pile you started with. Total transformation.

  2. Can you mark your location on Google Maps! It would be cool to see your garden from a satellite 🛰! Hope it keeps 🌧 raining ☔️!

  3. The most underrated channel in YouTube! What a beautiful job you're doing mr Geoff. Thank you for the videos, keep em coming. Salute from Spain.

  4. Superbe vidéo … From France ^_^

    I think Your compost is too hot … 65°C is like fire !!!
    Direct compost on the floor is better, put your carbage direct contact on soil and under much … Less loose in fire, less carbonisation and more nutriments direct contact on floor …

  5. geof maby u can start up gofund me page fore the water pay ment . also i whas wondering if you could build desalt installation with sun power i mean a black garden hose al ready can get water up to 70 grade celcius then closed green house etc,,

  6. Which vine is it on 50th second purple vine green leaves name? Is it edible i have that in our home but till now we didn't eat it i think it's just decorative vine

  7. Production is growing every year. And are there any estimates on how it is growing? For chop'n'drop or edibles (or both), in figures?

  8. Geoff your inspering to me,love the work you do,like the fact that you share your knowledge,and are on the front line,love to shake
    your hand some day.
    health to you and familly,thank you.

  9. Thanks for demonstrating how to make a wicking bed Geoff! 😀 I love all the recent videos you are making in Jordan. I took your online PDC course in 2015 and have recently purchased 80 acres in Arizona. Loving all these dry land videos to inspire me.

  10. Is it windy on your site? Wind is a massive problem on my rooftop garden in sydney. It blows your mulch away and damages leafy greens. My favourite rooftop plants are ceylon spinach, eggplant and asparagus. I'll have to try out that brazillian spinach!

  11. Are you growing lucerne around the base of your fruit trees? It could probably survive your summers in the shade and provide bit of mulch

  12. I love your work Geoff but I'm a bit shocked by the crudeness of these wicking beds. As someone that people look up to and follow I expected you would've done a much better job here.

    Let me walk the readers through some mistakes that are made here and how to do things properly.

    First off it's best to take the 2 minutes that it takes to take the frame apart and cut the frame and container separately and just measure things out.

    Then put the ends that you cut on the bottom and not let them stick out at the top to prevent people (think of the children!) from hurting themselves.

    Ideally you'd also cut it inside somewhere to at the very least sweep those thousands of microplastics you just created and dispose of them properly rather than have them float through your garden.

    Then instead of using gravel as a reservoir you use drainage pipe wrapped in geotextile. First of all this holds much more water, secondly soil can't end up in your reservoir as is possible with the example in the video. But also not entirely unimportant is that most gravel is some sort of limestone and always full of dust and this might have a negative impact on the pH of your water.

    Then on to the actual wick, for this we are using coarse sand (mixed with raw biochar for even more water holding capacity and also to help keep the water clean if you want to get fancy). This sand is packed in tight to reduce it sinking later on and should be at the very least 1 inch higher than your highest water level two inch is better but also not more than that because water only wicks up a certain distance.

    If you want to prevent your drainage pipe from ever clogging up it's best to connect it into your water reservoir directly, there is no need for elbows to be able to change your highest water level.

    That brings us to the soil mix, this mix needs to be able to wick up the water but also be able to provide excellent drainage so your soil doesn't end up like a swamp in case you get rain. Sand is perfect for this and should be at the very least 1/3 of your mix but 1/2 to 2/3 is fine as well if you are short on compost.

    Biochar is again optional and can be up to 20% of your soil mix, ideally inoculated with microbes and nutrients in this part. Rest of the mix should be compost and ideally wicking beds contain compost worms as well so they break down the compost and poop out those valuable worm castings which are one of the best foods for plants.

    Clay should at all times be avoided in your soil mix because this can become swampy and anaerobic if you get a period of heavy rains, which I guess Geoff never gets in Jordan which is why it hasn't caused any issues for him.

    Finally I'd like to adres the fact that wicking beds are not necessarily a water saving technique. Water is growth and more leaf surface also means more evaporation from those leaves if you grow plants that prefer much higher humidity levels suck as Corchorus olitorius (aka jute or Egyptian spinach) for example.

    If you keep the water reservoir topped up then a plant like this will just excessively transpire to compensate for the lack in atmospheric humidity, at least it did for me here in the hot and dry Summer to the point that just a couple jute plants were drinking 50 liters a day in one of my wicking beds at which point I pulled them out.

    So keep that in mind when you select plants and also in regards to how often you top up your beds.

    That brings me to the one thing they are doing right in the video and that is a thick layer of mulch.

    Which happens to be the point that I'm doing wrong because I really don't like the hassle with mulch during planting and changing over beds from one crop to another but mainly because a good layer of mulch tends to invite both slugs and woodlice.

  13. soooooo awsome you don't tell everyone to use compost all the way through. I have rough time growing compost in Arizona as it gets up to 116 regulary with 12 percent humidity in the summer rotting roots and killing plants. I have one question though: how does the water pull up through the gravel? I have always seen sand used as cohesion and adheason is better with the smaller particles.

  14. Beautiful Geoff! I wonder why you haven't overstacked the system a lot more with pigeon pea. Would help a lot with shading out the place a little more aswell, aside from all that mulch and free peas.
    Much Love from Portugal, Karsten #EcoTopia.LandArt

  15. I was thinking of building a wicking bed on my balcony (a lot smaller: 45L), but I was wondering if I could use biochar instead of the pebbles. For two reasons: I want to save weight in case I have to move (it is a rental house), and I thought that I could activate the biochar with compost tea, to give the whole system an extra boost. Would you recommend doing this?

  16. I want to do this in India. I m in Dubai living a stressful life with nothing but work and I am so inspired by you to leave it all and go do it in India. Have no idea how to go about it though so watching and reading all I can
    Top respect to you! 🙏

  17. A cheap solar air bubbler down the pipe would help aerate the wicking water, promoting plant growth, and prevent anaerobic action occurring.

  18. I love watching these videos, I am moving to what people are calling a hard environment to grow food in soon. Seeing what Geoff can do in the toughest environment in the world gives me incredible hope for what I can do. Thank you for sharing

  19. Multiple layers of crops would conserve moisture & help in transforming sub tropical ambiance to tropical ambiance

  20. @ 1:13 I think that is a woman named Ablaba's (spelling?) narrow small property in the back ground with the green plants and trees. She is/has been a student of this property and Teaching Center and they have helped her green up her small piece of land. There is a video of her somewhere, and I remember her giving a tour of her property.

  21. Very inspiring. Not only are the gardens great but the community is as well. Even people living in difficult circumstances can come together and create an oasis.

  22. Thanks for all you do. We are currently converting our lawns to food production and would like to try out some wicking beds. Have any issues come up where you need to empty and clean the beds or do you just continue to amend and plant, without ever having to empty it?

  23. I would eccomend him that sand:
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2DLQw1K9Ms
    No need to use plastic tank anymore.
    P.S. "Waterproof sand was invented by East Indian magicians. The sand was made by mixing heated sand with melted wax. The wax would repel water when the sand was exposed to water."
    Source: 1915 book The Boy Mechanic Book 2.

     Plus some biochar to:
    https://youtu.be/p0YNFn9Dloc?t=358
    make the soil pernamently fertile, done by ancient:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_preta

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