"Wick bed" vegie growing - anybody tried it?

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gavin_gamble
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Joined: 07/12/2009
"Wick bed" vegie growing - anybody tried it?

Hi friends,

I thought it would be good to get the forum rolling.

I heard on Bush Telegraph (ABC, RN) today... somebody proclaiming what great results they were getting using a "wick bed" design, I think he said...  where an impermeable layer is a foot under the ground to hold in the moisture.

I can see it would have advantages in summer but there could be issues with lack of drainage (soil going septic underneath) in winter and heavy rain, but this could be countered with control or by design I guess.

Another prob might be inability of soil organisms such as worms and all the other microflora to access the bed which would have longer term implications for the soil health.

Any thoughts or experience? Ta

Williamss
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Joined: 25/06/2010
Wicking beds

We in the Drysdale Harvest Basket group are planning a couple of wicking beds for a small demo produce garden at the SpringDale Neighbourhood Centre in Drysdale, subject to getting funding, approval etc.

I think Colin Austin invented the concept of the wicking bed, here's his website: http://www.waterright.com.au/. Then of course there's Costa's you-beaut (vastly over-specced?) version for SBS http://www.sbs.com.au/shows/costa/listings/detail/i/1/article/6172/Wicki.... Then there's this rather nifty looking version from the Melbourne-based Celtic musician Mairead Sullivan: http://www.maireid.com/wickingbeds.html. A year on, Mairead says she's delighted with her beds and has had great crops of strawbs, tomatoes etc.

In answer to Gavin's questions (which he's probably answered for himself by now, but never mind): an overflow pipe prevents waterlogging of the growing medium, i.e. when the reservoir is full, excess water drains out; a bio-box or worm farm in the bed helps to provide the microorganisms and nutrients.

The variations mostly focus on: what aggregate to put in the reservoir, e.g. organic (woodchips etc), fine inorganic (washed sand) or coarse inorganic (gravel).

I've been in correspondence with Colin Austin and he reckons that an 'organic matrix' is the way to go, but then he's looking at large-scale agricultural applications and carbon sequestering. We decided we didn't fancy that because of the potential for noxious gases from anaerobic decomposition and for tannins etc from the woodchips inhibiting plant growth. He warned against a coarse inorganic matrix because of the limited wicking ability (big voids in the material) and the fact that soil tends to penetrate the matrix and set like concrete, becoming "a bugger to dig out".

We're planning to go with washed sand, a bit like Costa's but without the big absorption tanks (which seem to me to just create huge voids in the reservoir and inhibit uniform wetting of the sand).

If anyone's interested, I can send them a pdf of our plans, just mail me at drysdaleharvestbasket@gmail.com. I'd really welcome some feedback.

Steve Williams

ingrid_hindell
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Joined: 01/01/2010
Wicked Watering

Gavin,

Go to
http://transitionbell.groupsite.com/gallery/7803

to see pics of what we did.

Seems to work...

Ingrid.

gavin_gamble
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Joined: 07/12/2009
Wicked Watering

I can't access the site as I'm not a member, but I can do some googling.

Thanks for the reply, but.