How to Build a Wicking Bed for Your Garden
Do you want to grow your own vegetables with less water and less maintenance? If so, you might want to try building a wicking bed for your garden.
A wicking bed is a self-watering raised garden bed that uses a reservoir of water at the bottom to provide moisture to the plants from below. This way, you can save water, reduce evaporation, and prevent weeds and pests.
In this blog post, I will show you how to build a simple and affordable wicking bed using a wooden crate, a plastic sheet, and some pipes and gravel. You can also use other materials, such as metal or plastic containers, if they are sturdy and waterproof.
What You Will Need
To build a wicking bed, you will need the following materials and tools:
- A pick, a shovel, spirit level, and wheelbarrow
- Wooden or metal pegs and string long enough to cover the required lengths.
- Tape measure, hack saw
- A plastic sheet, large enough to cover the inside and the edges of the crate. You can use a pond liner, a tarp, or any thick and durable plastic sheet.
- Gravel or plastic containers
- Any thin and permeable fabric, large enough to cover the stone or bottles layer. You can use a plastic sheet, a weed mat, a shade cloth, or any fabric that allows water to pass through but not soil particles.
- A PVC pipe, about 1.5 meters long and 2.5 centimeters (25mm) in diameter. An elbow, and sticking solution or paste. You can also use any rigid and hollow pipe that fits.
- A metal cap, plastic and elastic band, or any solid and waterproof material, to seal one end of the PVC pipe. You can also use a cork, a rubber stopper, or a plastic lid.
- Soil, compost, mulch, seeds, and seedlings, to fill and plant the wicking bed. You can use any good quality potting mix, organic matter, and plants that suit your climate and preferences.
- Water, to fill the reservoir and water the plants.
- Gloves, shovel, rake, scissors, knife, and tape measure, to handle and measure the materials and tools.
HOW TO BUILD A WICKING BED
To build a wicking bed, follow these steps:
- Peg an area of 2m by 1.5m where you want to build your wicking bed.
- Dig a 2m long by 1.5m wide, and 50cm deep pit and put the soil beside the pit. Make sure that your pit base is fairly level. You can use a spirit level to check this.
- Line the inside and the edges of the pit with an overlapping plastic sheet, making sure there are no gaps or holes.
- Backfill to not more than one third of the pit with gravel, or plastic containers/bottles. You can use any coarse and porous gravel, enough to fill about one-third of the pit. You can also use sand, or anything locally available that has favorable drainage and insulation properties but not sharp to damage the plastic lined below.
- Cut one 1.5m and one 75cm long PVC pipe. You can also use any rigid but perforable and hollow pipe with measurements that suit your garden.
- Join the two PVC pipes with an elbow-joint using sticking paste or solution.
- Seal the end of the longer pipe with a plastic and elastic band. Perforate the pipe with a hot wire, use a knife or saw.
- Place the joined PVC pipe with the longer side diagonally cutting across the pit to allow equal water distribution.
- Support the PVC pipe with gravel or plastic bottles and cover the reservoir by folding the overlapping plastic back and perforate.
- Place the piece of carpet, shade cloth, bottles, or any perforated geotextile fabric on top of the plastic sheet, covering the reservoir.
- Fill the reservoir.
- Fill the soil layer.
- Fill the pit with soil, up to about 10 centimeters from the top of the pit. This is the soil layer, where the plants will grow and root. Rake the soil to make it level and smooth.
- Mulch the surface. Cover the soil layer with mulch, such as straw, hay, wood chips, or leaves. This will help retain moisture, prevent weeds, and protect the plants from pests and diseases.
- Plant the vegetables. Plant your seeds or seedlings in the soil layer, following the instructions on the packets or labels. You can plant any vegetables that you like, such as lettuce, spinach, kale, carrots, radishes, beets, onions, garlic, herbs, etc. Leave some space between the plants to allow them to grow and spread.
- Place funnel on top of inlet for easy watering. You can cut a plastic bottle neck and use it as a funnel.
- Fill the reservoir and water the plants. Fill the reservoir with water, until it reaches the level of the hole in the pit. You can check the water level by looking at the PVC pipe, or by inserting a stick or a rod into the reservoir. Then, water the plants from the top, to help them establish and settle. You will need to water the plants from the top only once or twice, until they start wicking water from the reservoir.
Enjoy your wicking bed. Your wicking bed is now ready to grow your own vegetables with less water and less maintenance. You will only need to refill the reservoir every few weeks, depending on the weather and the plants. You can also add some liquid fertiliser to the reservoir every month, to boost the growth and health of the plants. You can also harvest your vegetables as they mature and enjoy fresh and organic produce from your own garden.