Our land is mostly sloping with clay “soil” and big Gum Trees dominate so keeping garden beds adequately watered throughout Summer is impossible without using a lot of water. We soon use up all the water in the rainwater tanks, mains water is costly and in our state needs to be conserved as much as possible but I want to grow fruit and vegetables. I have been successful using wine barrels but water is wasted through evaporation and runoff so I’m trying some “wicking beds”. (More basinettes than beds) Last year I used half a plastic barrel and put sand in the reservoir section but it is so heavy I can never move it so this year I’m trying a light-weight option. I hope the Slideshow will show clearly how I’m doing it.
I’m using foam Broccoli boxes which I’m able to get free from a local Greengrocer. I have seen bigger foam boxes which might be from Fish Markets but I’m not sure. They need to be boxes with no holes in them. The viewing tube is made from a 13mm irrigation pipe elbow and some plastic tubing.
I’ve learnt a lot already.
The plastic tubing comes in a roll so is curved, I was too impatient to leave the tubing in the sun to soften and straighten so I used the microwave method. I put a little water inside the tubing then put it in the microwave, I watched it and when I saw it was straight I took it out. You need to be very careful because the water in the tubing boils and the tube is straight so the boiling water can easily spill onto your hand. I run cold water straight through it to cool it & set the shape.
Although it was fiddly fitting the “viewing tube” and making sure it didn’t leak I like it because I can see at a glance how much water is in the box. Apparently it’s a good idea to let the water level go right down before refilling otherwise the water goes smelly.
I found that it was more practical if the filling pipe and viewing tube were on the same end.
To prevent mosquitos, spiders and lizards getting into the filling pipe I cover it. The mosquitos and spiders are able to get out but the lizards can’t. If you can’t find a suitable lid put a stick down into the filling pipe. Lizards will be able to climb up the stick, hopefully after they’ve eaten all the mozzies.
A few weeks ago I had just planted some Spring Onion seeds in a wicking box when we had a record number of days over 40 deg. The nights didn’t cool down much and I just stayed inside wishing the heat wave would end. I was absolutely delighted to see tiny little Spring Onion seedlings when I did eventually get back out into the garden so the wicking action must be working. I know some people advocate just putting gravel in the base but I can’t understand how the water can make its way up to the potting mix if it’s not in physical contact so I prefer to use the wicking strips.
There is a lot of information online about Wicking Beds, the site I like best is Scarecrows Garden, it has much more information than I’ve given here.