Well over the years I have been very interested in alternative methods of gardening particularly in methods that are both easy care and efficient when it comes to using and saving the limited amount of water we have on our property (we rely entirely on rainwater not having any access to scheme water). I currently have 3 large polystyrene boxes that were saved from a local IGA store that have been set up as wicking beds and currently house or hold my saved and transplanted Moses bushes and in all 3 beds the Moses are thriving.
For those of you who may be reading this and not know what a wicking bed is, well it is a system of gardening which is easy to build and was developed in Australia by a chap called Colin Austin who was looking at solutions for growing food systems in desert communitie, sorry I can't quite remember when this was but think it was some years ago now.
Wicking beds are essentially an enclosed water reservoir that allows what ever you have planted in there to be watered from below the plants root zone. I don't have a picture of a wicking garden set up though I am sure if your interested in them and search online your bound to find a few good examples.
We have 8 large garden beds in my designated vegetable garden, they are raised beds which have met my needs these past 7 yrs reasonably well but I have gradually become frustrated with both the limited water we have on hand to use for gardening and with my impatience to get a garden going, I didn't level the sloping ground prior to building the beds which has meant that some (well quite a bit actually) of our precious water ends up running away and hence not being available to my garden plants when it should be. As a result last week I pulled the first of my empty beds apart and DH leveled the ground then re built the bed for me while at the same time increasing the height of the bed by another 250mm high.
We used eco bricks which are light weight though very porous still they fit the bill at the time and I like to use what I have on hand or is readily available so we decided to reuse these after patching a few of them up. As they are porous we have decided that this time we will also render the them to ensure they don't bread down now we are sure the garden is in the right place. Eventually I might even become a bit more adventurous and use some of our left over tiles from various houses we've lived in to both decorate and cover the outside walls for interest as well.
Anyway I diverse here, as we have decided to re do the current beds we put in our first 'wicking bed'. To do this we covered the base of the new raised bed with plastic (hopefully this will not only help with keeping the water where I want it but will help cut down those darn weeds) . We used heavy duty builders plastic this time because although I would have liked to use pond liner, it wasn't in our budget. So after making sure the interior of the bed was clear of any sharp debris or anything else that could penetrate the lining we placed a long piece of 90mm poly pipe (the stuff you use for water pipe drains etc.) along the length of our garden bed and using an elbow joint we then placed another piece of 90mm poly pipe protruding up above the height of the garden bed. This pipe is used to fill the water reservoir usually once a week. I should mention here as well that you also need to put in a drainage hole about 90mm above the base of the bed so that when it rains excess water will drain away otherwise you will flood the bed. DH was going to drill some holes at intervals along the length of the larger pipe that sits along the floor bed but his drill batteries were both flat so he cut slits instead. This was done to enable the water to leak out.
Once the pipe was in place we started layering, first a mixture of vermiculite and coconut coir (we used both because vermiculite on its own was again out of our budget for the length of our bed) 90mm depth combined . This was followed by a spreading of hay raked up from the sheep pen and then we filled in the rest with good quality compost & garden soil mix. When researching wicking beds several years ago I read that you need to use a good quality potting mix or soil mix because hard compacted soil mixes from your garden don't act as a good enough wick and so this is what we have done. Our gardens are 3m x 1.5m so I am experimenting at this stage. I shall probably use something entirely different with the next bed for the fill however, this is what we have done for now.
One bed down another 7 to go. I shall endeavour to remember to take my camera out with us when we build the next bed.
Happy Gardening All
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.
- John Lennon