Posted: 23rd December 2020 by Eric Sturman and Ian Collins

We are very pleased that Eric Sturman has joined the WaterUps® team. With his training in both landscape architecture and horticulture, he has greatly complemented our existing skill base. Over the coming months he will be writing a series of posts entitled “What to do in your wicking bed this month”. The first introductory issue will be published before Christmas.

 Read his story below.

Eric Sturman’s story

My name is Eric Sturman and growing fresh healthy food is my passion.

Straight out of high school I studied Horticulture at the University of Western Sydney at the North Richmond agricultural campus. More from a point of necessity, I began growing my food as a way of surviving on little money. It’s one thing to learn about battling mildew on peas and another thing altogether to actually grow pest and disease-free food you needed to eat to live. Soon after University, I landed a job managing a 5 acre show garden in the Dural area. With an enormous vegetable garden and fruit orchard, my love of growing food blossomed.

Coming back to Sydney I continued my career as a horticulturist working for garden designer Michele Shennen at her beautiful nurseries in Willoughby and Balmain. I went back to study part-time at Ryde TAFE to begin my path in garden design. On completing the course, I left the shelter of the nurseries and started my own business, The Living Room Outdoor Design. 

For the next 12 years, with the help of my wife, we grew the business into a company, designing, building, and maintaining gardens in and around Sydney. In 2009 I went back to New South Wales University to study Landscape Architecture. Armed with a new set of skills I took The Living Room in a new design direction. About that time, I made the move from apartment living to a quarter acre block in the suburbs, giving me the opportunity to expand my own fruit and vegetable growing capabilities. With this came a large composting area, chickens, aquaponics, water tanks, solar panels, and ‘the works’.

With the birth of our first child, I realized that the business was competing with the time we wanted to spend parenting, so I made the tough decision to leave self-employment and look for a job. I then joined North Sydney Council managing their Streets Alive program, a volunteer gardening program that supported its residents to garden on public open spaces. This included the Community Gardening program too. Whilst at North Sydney Council I had the honour of designing two community gardens, one at Anzac Park, Cammeray, and a one in Brightmore Reserve, Neutral Bay. My role, once these gardens were constructed, was to coordinate the new gardening groups and educate them in their journey to become Urban Farmers. I ran regular workshops with the volunteers, and as the years progressed, local school students joined my list of eager students as part of their school curriculum.

Whilst at North Sydney Council I met Ian from WaterUps®. I knew the theory of wicking beds, and one of the community gardens at the Coal Loader I managed had a wicking bed system already installed. Unfortunately, the wicking beds were also connected to an automatic watering system that was plagued with problems, somewhat clouding my opinion of wicking beds. Ian listened to my concerns and took the time to allow me to test the WaterUps® wicking system, even helping me set it up at the back of a carpark. I was amazed at the results, true to Ian’s claims, I didn’t water the WaterUps® bed once in the 6-week trial. In contrast, the control bed directly next to it required almost daily attention to keep it watered. Even with all the attention I gave the control bed, the WaterUps® bed outperformed it by at least 50%. I immediately began to employ the wicking beds wherever suitable.

As CoVid19 hit and our world changed I noticed a great interest in backyard vegetable growing. There was not a seedling or seed to be found on the shelves anywhere. After a post on Facebook, some friends started to contact me for advice on how to get the best results from their vegetable garden. During Sydney’s lockdown, I consulted about a dozen gardens and it didn’t take long for the referrals from those first few consults to start rolling in. With an opportunity to good to miss, I left the council to once again to start my own design and consultation business. 

When the news of my departure got out, Ian asked if I would like to join WaterUps® Loving the system and seeing its amazing impact on plant health and growth I jumped at the opportunity to be part of something so important.

I have since converted half of my vegetable garden to WaterUps® wicking beds and can honestly say that I have never spent less time and water growing better vegetables. As time permits, I will continue to change my entire garden to wicking. I will write monthly blogs on various topics to help you grow the vegetables that you always dreamed of as I document my own journey bringing all my garden beds into the wicking world.