Home » Growing Food, Water

Wicking Beds – Water Efficient Gardening

1 May 2009 8 Comments

In our never-ending quest for more gardening space, I’m thinking of building some raised beds on top of the concrete in our backyard. A 2-foot-deep bed around the edge of the area wouldn’t impact our usable space much (we already have pots etc all around the edges), but would give us a fair bit of extra growing space.

While I’m in the mood for building stuff, I thought water-efficient wicking beds might be a great way to go. It’ll be an interesting winter project anyway!

A wicking garden bed uses a waterproof container or layer of plastic below the soil surface to form an underground reservoir of water. There is enough soil above the reservoir so that the plants don’t get “wet feet”. Plant roots then draw up this sub-surface water via capillary action.

Because they are watered from below, wicking beds lose very little water to evaporation. They are reportedly extremely water-efficient, and so are very well suited to low-rainfall areas. You can also leave them for a week or two without any watering, and your established plants will be fine. It’s only really seedlings that need additional watering from above.

Here are some links to information on wicking beds. Feel free to add more to the comments below!

Wicking boxes are an adaptation of the wicking bed design to container gardening. I’ve built some of these (photos soon!) and have been very happy with the results. Here are some links:

Have you used wicking beds? How did they work for you? Let us know in the comments!


  • Wicking Beds | The Pool Room said:

    […] NOTE: I have moved this post to my other blog, Green-Change.com, as it fits in better with that blog’s theme of suburban sustainability. For futher updates check out Wicking Beds – Water Efficient Gardening. […]

  • Kirsten Bradley said:

    Hi there! We have a ‘How to make a Wicking Bed’ article based on a wicking bed constructed as part of one of our Permaculture Design Courses in Alice Springs – it was a great success and is working beautifully: http://www.milkwood.net/content/view/103/49/

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Kirsten: Great post! I’ve added it to the list above. Your post is very clear and well-described, and does a great job of communicating a simple and effective construction method. I can see that it could easily translate to other bed shapes (rectangular, keyhole) and construction materials (sleepers, timber, logs, brick, rock).

  • Jay D said:

    Hey, nice stuff! keep it up! 😀

  • Sam said:

    What I just learned from my wicking bed: You can’t stake up a wild tomato bush in a wicking bed because of the weed matting barrier between the growing medium and the reservoir medium. Luckily, I made mine with exterior posts holding up zincalume sheeting as the walls of the bed. I’m going to erect a frame over it for next summer to a) support shade cloth and b) to tie up tomatoes that are hell-bent on garden domination 🙂

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Sam: Good point! When I’ve had wicking beds I’ve stuck the posts in the ground outside the bed.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @dixibelle: Thanks for the link – it looks great!