Wicking Beds – Water Efficient Gardening
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!
- WaterRight Australia: Lots of really good info on wicking beds.
- Easy-Grow Vegetables: A spin-off site of WaterRight specifically about wicking bed technology.
- Scarecrow’s Garden: Documents one person’s experience and experiments with wicking worm beds in very dry inland Australia. There are several follow-up stories here documenting some great results.
- ALS Wicking Beds Forum Thread: Scarecrow (from the post above) answers lots of questions about wicking worm beds.
- Another ALS Thread: More info from Scarecrow.
- AusGarden Wicking Bed Forum Thread: Some more info and personal accounts.
- GardenGuides Photos: A good series of photos showing the construction of some wicking beds.
- CosmicConnection Forum Thread: Yet another forum thread, with some more good questions and answers by Scarecrow.
- Hills And Plains Seed Savers: Another post by Scarecrow, with some good photos and comparisons.
- Milkwood’s Wicking Bed: A great photo-essay on the construction of a simple round wicking bed – they make it look so easy!
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:
- Easy-Grow Boxes: A really good explanation of how to build wicking boxes from common materials like broccoli boxes, and getting worms to help you fertilise them.
- Scarecrow on Wicking Boxes: Again, using broccoli boxes.
- FoodNStuff: Another personal account, with follow-ups here and here.
Have you used wicking beds? How did they work for you? Let us know in the comments!