Wicking beds are extremely water efficient and time efficient compared to other forms of garden beds. They require very little watering, except 5 – 10 minutes filling up the water reservoir once a week in summer.
They can be any size from a broccoli box on a balcony to a 6 metre raised bed in a sunny place in your garden. The critical component is that the water reservoir is levelled.
As the wicking bed is self-contained the growing bed can be adapted for any plant requirement, alkaline, acid or neutral, depending on what you want to plant.
The only thing you can’t plant in a wicking bed is large trees as you can’t get the depth required for them.
In a wicking bed water moves from a reservoir at the bottom of the garden bed through the soil to the top, watering the roots of the plants from below.
The water moves by capillary action’–just like fuel moving up the wick of a kerosene lamp. The plants don’t need overhead watering -you just keep the water in the bottom topped up by filling the white pipe coming out the top of the garden bed. Fill it just until water starts to flow out the overflow pipe on the side– this means the reservoir is full.
Wicking beds use up to 50% less water than conventional vegie gardens as less water is lost through evaporation. They are low maintenance and plants have less risk of over-watering or under-watering.
As your wicking bed is isolated from the ground you will have less trouble with tree roots or any contaminants that may be in the ground.
To start build a raised garden bed. If you need some help with this see http://wheeloflifeblog.com/environment/how-to-build-a-raised-garden-bed/
Level out the garden bed; make sure you take out all sticks and stones that could make a hole in the liner. For added safety you can put down layers of newspaper or shadecloth or carpet to protect the liner from any sticks or stones you may have missed.
Make an outlet hole at one end to allow excess water to flow out, roughly 10cm from the level base. This is usually placed at the opposite end from the down pipe. You can put a bucket underneath the hole to collect the overflow which will be full of nutrients and throw it back onto the garden. You can cover the inlet and outlet holes with flywire to prevent mossies from collecting or soil/ gravel from clogging up the holes if you like.
Lay a black plastic liner inside the bed carefully. You can leave it going right up the sides of the bed to trim later, and you can staple the liner to the inside walls so long as the staples are higher than the dirt. Make a hole in the plastic at the position of the outlet pipe.
Lay a thick layer of newspaper or shadecloth to protect the plastic from the gravel or scoria.
Lay slotted pipe along the length of the bed. You will need an elbow at one end and a downpipe to fill the reservoir after the bed is filled. You may need to hold this in place with duct tape until the bed is filled.
Add gravel or scoria to just cover the slotted pipes, roughly 10 cm.
Fill the bed with water to the level of the top of the gravel and check the outlet pipe is working properly. Add a layer of shadecloth on the top of the gravel to protect it from being clogged with the soil.
Add your growing medium. Soil/ Manure/ compost. As the wicking bed is a sealed bed you will need to add your own worms to aerate the soil.
- Cover the bed with newspaper; again, making sure the sheets overlap. This will help to keep the moisture in the soil.
- Cover the bed with mulch or pine bark. Again this helps to keep the moisture in the soil.
- Water the garden bed to settle everything down.
Once your garden bed is ready just create a small hole through the newspaper and plant your seedlings straight into the compost/soil mix below.
As always don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.
John and Linda Ballis
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