Wicking Beds

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Hi Folks

I thought I?d show you a test wicking bed that I made from half a 200 litre plastic drum. I constructed it about 12 months ago and have been testing it during that time. When we got home from our holiday 6 weeks ago, I pulled out some old plants that had gone to seed, added some worm castings to the soil and planted some lettuce seedlings. As you can see from the photo, the plants are coming along really well. We are in drought at the moment and it looks like the upcoming summer will be hot and dry. The garden will take too much water so I will tend to downsize this season. The advantage of the wicking bed is that water is not wasted or lost to the same extent as it is in an open garden bed. The plants draw water from below as it is needed. I might build a couple more over the spring to grow some herbs and vegetables. Is there anyone else out there using this type of garden bed? Would love to learn more about them.

I've never seen anything like that, Les.  That's really interesting. 

I have not either.  Can you explain how you made it and a little more about how it works?  and maybe how it is that you have so much energy  :grin:

Thanks guys. This test bed has worked really well. I didn?t want to build any more until I was satisfied with their viability. Construction is quite simple. I used a 200 litre drum that was cut in half. A jig saw is the safest way to do this. Both halves can be used if bungs are in place to ensure the beds are sealed. In the bottom of the bed you need to add an air space of some kind that will not allow sand or soil to penetrate. It will hold water. 100mm flexible drainage pipe is often twisted into a donut and used. This pipe is covered with a sock which keeps soil out but allows movement of moisture through the slots in the pipe. In this bed I used an old plastic milk crate as my air space to hold water. It was a little too high so I cut it down a bit and then rapped it in some shade cloth to make the air space. This space will eventually fill with water an act as a reservoir which will provide moisture for the plants. A pipe is connected to this air space to allow filling. The crate is then covered with course sand. The sand layer is just over half the depth of the bed. This is where the wicking occurs. The sand layer remains wet all of the time and draws moisture from the storage area. A layer of shade cloth is placed on top of the sand to prevent soil and sand from mixing. A good quality garden soil is then added to fill the bed. I added some manure, compost and a bit of perlite to my soil to make it just right for the plants. An overflow tube is added to the side of the bed just below the soil level. When the bed is filled with water, you can see water flowing out the overflow tube when the correct level is reached. The overflow tube also comes in handy during periods of heavy rain and prevents water logging of the bed. A layer of mulch is critical to prevent the bed from drying out too quickly in hot weather.  When seedlings are planted into the bed, they are watered from above for a week or so until the root system is established. After that, no watering is required. During cool weather the reservoir is filled once a week but in the hotter weather it is topped up every 4 days. The soil always remains moist and plants thrive. What I like about this system is that it?s water efficient, low maintenance, and eliminates overhead watering. I want to make a couple of beds in the next few weeks before the hot weather arrives. Will post some pics of the construction as they explain the process better than the written word.

Pictures would be great.  I live in a place with lots of water, but my parents place is pretty dry and our hideout has a river and a relatively high water table, but a dry climate.  That place especially could use some low maintenance stuff because we are not there often enough to water plants.


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