The Shaster Foundation

Empowerment through Permaculture

WHAT IS AN ARK GARDEN?

An ARK Garden is a raised bed, layered garden, composting, and recycling system all rolled into one. The design creates a garden that uses recycled materials, less water and maintenance, and can also be made handicap-accessible.

Layers of green and brown material form the basis of the bed.


The central basket holds compost and recycled grey water is poured into it ensuring nutrients are filtered down to the plants.

grant received from the Government of Flanders and the Foundation for Human Rights  enabled us to start a project in Zastron (a small town in the Eastern Free State) and to introduce the ARK Garden into the townships where people are suffering from lack of food and water.

This type of garden makes the most efficient use of grey water recycled from the household to use on the food garden. The central compost basket takes kitchen waste, animal manure, and other ingredients used for making compost and the water takes the nutrients to the plants.


Thanks to a kind donation from Australian friends and family the project has 4 Hippo Rollers to make collecting water so much easier.  In addition the Free State Department of Water and Sanitation is giving us two 5,000 litre water tanks to ensure the project doesn't run out of water.

Pontsho with her Hippo Roller.She can now roll 90 litres of water from the municipal tanks over 3 kilometres away instead of hauling 25 litres at a time by hand.

Our permaculturist Nontzikelelo is training 4 people in the ARK garden concept so that they in turn will be able to teach others. We hope to spread these gardens all around the township to improve the health and well being of the residents, as well as to save water and improve the environment.


Recycling compost bags for the walls of the ARK garden


The completed ARK garden ready for planting

Seedlings can be closely planted because of the intense nutrient supply. They are also mulched with straw for added moisture retention and protection from the drying action of the sun on soil.

The frame over the top supports shade cloth that protects young plants from too strong sun and from thick snow in winter.


Plants grow quickly and abundantly.

After 8 weeks we are harvesting already

 

Easiest weeding in the world! And the weeds are recycled into the compost basket.


The old way of growing vegetables means plenty of digging, fertilising  and back-breaking weeding.


ARK gardens produce a variety of benefits: 

  • they are the most water efficient food gardens using only recycled grey water
  • they extend the planting season
  • they reduce weeds
  • they reduce the need to use poor native soil 
  • since the gardener does not walk on the raised beds, the soil is not compacted
  • the close plant spacing and the use of compost generally result in higher yields with ARK gardens in comparison to conventional row gardening 
  • the waist-high raised beds enable the elderly and physically disabled to grow vegetables without having to bend over to tend them
  • a frame over the ARK garden supports protective covering in extreme weather conditions.
  • the layers of organic materials break down over time, adding nutrients to the soil.
  • the central composting basket continuously replenishes the garden's soil nutrients.
  • the layers of organic material soak up and retain moisture, meaning that the garden requires water less frequently and in smaller quantities.
  • the soil re-nourishment and moisture retention properties of the garden reduce the amount of time and care required to maintain the garden.
  • ARK gardens require a small area, a maximum of 2 meters diameter