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Garden Wicking Beds = Water Wise Gardening for Dry Lands & Summer Droughts

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Garden Wicking Beds = Water Wise Gardening for Dry Lands & Summer Droughts

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Intelligently Designed Urban Foodscapes 
High Yield, Water and Nutrient wise, gardening systems. 
Wicking Beds 
Presentation from HMA WA - By Charles Otway
Why Wick ? 
• Thousands of Perth residents want to and need 
to grow food in their own homes and yards. 
• However, Perth garden soils are: 
– Highly leaching sand 
– With little to no TOC and mineralisation 
– Subjected to long hot dry summers 
• Evaporation rates exceed Rainfall 9 months of the 
year. So for only 3 months of the year you can 
grow veggies in the soil without wasting water.
What is a Wicking Bed 
– A garden bed that has a water holding reservoir 
directly underneath the growing medium/soil. 
– No more sophisticated than a self watering pot. 
– Colin Austin in the mid 90’s coined the term and 
idea of the wicking beds. His designs extend to 
carbon sequestering and producing in broader 
scale inground wicking row agricultuural systems. 
See www.waterright.com.au 
– Many commercial examples – Nics Veggie Pots, 
Self watering Pots, Ross Mars wicking corro beds.
How does it work 
• Water and Nutrients leaching/draining below the 
vegetables roots are caught by the reservoir. 
• This reservoir of water and nutrients then feeds the 
‘liquid fertiliser’ back to the soil/plants via capillary 
(wicking) and evaporation and condensation. 
• Mulching of the surface in warm months keeps water 
losses to bare minimum making wicking beds extremely 
water efficient. 
• Similarly as all nutrients stay in the soil/bed the systems 
have low fertiliser needs and extremely low wastage. It 
also encourages organic management due to the risk of 
accumulating salts and other toxins.
DIY Design – Levels, Depths and Drains
Garden Wicking Beds = Water Wise Gardening for Dry Lands & Summer Droughts

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Garden Wicking Beds = Water Wise Gardening for Dry Lands & Summer Droughts

  • 1. Intelligently Designed Urban Foodscapes High Yield, Water and Nutrient wise, gardening systems. Wicking Beds Presentation from HMA WA - By Charles Otway
  • 2. Why Wick ? • Thousands of Perth residents want to and need to grow food in their own homes and yards. • However, Perth garden soils are: – Highly leaching sand – With little to no TOC and mineralisation – Subjected to long hot dry summers • Evaporation rates exceed Rainfall 9 months of the year. So for only 3 months of the year you can grow veggies in the soil without wasting water.
  • 3. What is a Wicking Bed – A garden bed that has a water holding reservoir directly underneath the growing medium/soil. – No more sophisticated than a self watering pot. – Colin Austin in the mid 90’s coined the term and idea of the wicking beds. His designs extend to carbon sequestering and producing in broader scale inground wicking row agricultuural systems. See www.waterright.com.au – Many commercial examples – Nics Veggie Pots, Self watering Pots, Ross Mars wicking corro beds.
  • 4. How does it work • Water and Nutrients leaching/draining below the vegetables roots are caught by the reservoir. • This reservoir of water and nutrients then feeds the ‘liquid fertiliser’ back to the soil/plants via capillary (wicking) and evaporation and condensation. • Mulching of the surface in warm months keeps water losses to bare minimum making wicking beds extremely water efficient. • Similarly as all nutrients stay in the soil/bed the systems have low fertiliser needs and extremely low wastage. It also encourages organic management due to the risk of accumulating salts and other toxins.
  • 5. DIY Design – Levels, Depths and Drains
  • 7. DIY Design – The Liner • The key principle is to created a level closed bottom garden bed with what ever material is cheap, available and lest toxic. • Small Beds - Bathtubs, Broccoli (Poly)boxes, ½ olive and wine barrels. • Larger Beds -Plastic lined in-ground beds with 200 micro builders plastic or pond liner. • Cost vs Strength and Cost vs Timeframe
  • 8. DIY DESIGN – The Reservoir Filler • What you use as your reservoir filler is the most ‘argued’ part of wicking beds. Gravel, Sand, Vol Clay, woodchips or simply a structural void and wick. • While the wicking or capillary water movement mechanism is the most discussed (and coins the name) I have found that evaporation and condensation is also a effective water transporter within the reservoir zone. • This means that the medium does not need to wick for the system to work, as long as your bed is fairly airtight the water reservoir will evaporate water up and condense on to the soil surface above.
  • 9. DIY DESIGN – The Reservoir Filler • Eitherway one of the best free mediums is waste/broken maxi bricks. These are highly porous like vol clay, wick well, have a huge surface area and are free at any building site. Old style bricks are not as effective. • The filler can be anything with the structural strength to hold the soil up, and enough void space between each particle to allow a decent volume of water in-between is suitable. • Woodchips/mulch breaks down so needs yearly maintenance to rebuild the reservoir.
  • 10. Absolutely Organic Cafe Garden 60 + Poly Wicking Boxes
  • 12. Limitations • Deep rooted perennial and root crops are not suited to a 30cm deep soil with water beneath. • Ensure your drain is between the layers and works and can be checked/observed. • Only use organic low strength fertiliser and soil amendments. No strong artificial salt fertilisers. • The beds will get and stay very damp in winter so crops like fennel, dill, sage etc that prefer good drainage soil will struggle in winter.
  • 13. DIY Design – Optional Extras • Add a small worm farm or feeding station to above ground closed wicking beds. • You can manifold multiple wicking beds. • Link up a liquid nutrient source to supply the ‘water’. Aquaponics, pond, rainwater tank. • Installing a float valve and gravity feeding bed reservoirs ‘on demand’.
  • 14. Multiple poly box and bathtub gardens can be joined together
  • 15. The longer term perennial option - Clay lined mulch filled beds
  • 16. Clay lined Wicking Hugel Vergy Beds
  • 18. Rinse and Repeat – 1 year on
  • 19. Integrating Wicking beds into a Edible Polyculture
  • 20. Three Year Old School Garden Wicking beds