Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

We just put in a new  wicking bed module.
I have always been rather impressed with how wicking beds work and have designed and made a 
small prototype module,  based on similar construction methods  to similar  beds.

The whole system works very efficiently so far, and I am keen to see how well it compares to my other raised vegetable beds.


I already have seen significant savings in water use so far as we have had only added about 10 litres over the last 5 to  6 weeks in it. We have had about 40 mm rain though and these are only new seedlings.
I am trying to keep accurate records and will do an informal trial to compare
the two systems. So far I am impressed with this module.

I planted capsicums, tomatoe, parsley, lettuce, and celery as the first crops in this bed .

Cropping dimensions are 1 square meter. 


below our new bed is planted out and now 5 weeks old


cross section of our bed . 







Step one: level the site




Step two: level the inner frame, reservoir into its position.



Step three: Slide the main raised garden frame over this section.





Step four: Place the filling tube into its position. Note the slits to the bottom.




Step five: Add the sand, and fill flat to the top of the resevoir.





Step six: Place the geotextile fabric over the sand, this stops the sand and the soil mixing.



Step seven: Add the soil to the top of the bed.




Step eight: Time to plant out!



Thats it!

I'm going to put a pdf document on my website with more comprehensive instructions.

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Replies to This Discussion

your turn Elaine, your going to have to draw up or take pics of your style of wicking beds....because now im lost and confused with your idea heehee.
There are now 3 photos of my one and only wicking bed - in an album called 'Wicking Beds According to Elaine' at this link (if the link works): http://brisbanelocalfood.ning.com/photo/albums/wicking-beds-accordi...
That was execallant Mark...Yes a picture sure does say a thousand words. (thanks Liz and Rudi also)

Now i get the lay out and construction of a bed...but how does it work...Water is always at the bottom in the sand and because its touching the dirt....Is this what keeps the dirt moist or wet?, does the dirt draw water from the sand????
Got it in one, Vanessa! The crux of the whole deal is that the wet material is in touch with the dry material. It can be sand or potting mix or soil or anything else fine which you can think of. So yes - the dirt draws water from the sand! I miss that vital piece of information in my explanation :-(.

You do not have to spend much money on these things - that Geo-whatsis in Costas' programme is an expensive complication and is not needed for a wicking bed to work.

If you get the chance, go to Colin Austin's website: www.waterright.com.au and see what he's saying and follow some of his links because there are many and varied ideas all of which work.

I have only the one wicking bed in use just now and it's not possible to take pix of it since there's a Choko growing in it. All I can do is take photos of the empty bins, for whatever that is worth.


I forgot about this on costas show....(i went to look for the name of product that im intersted in and found this demo...I was looking for the name of the product, called Geo cell...not sure if thats how you spell it but thats what i was looking for heehe)
Sorry the link didnt attach to reply above??? here is link to costas show.

http://www.sbs.com.au/shows/costa/listings/detail/i/1/article/6172/...
Although I view wicking beds as close to the ultimate in water-saving, there's some down-sides. It's balancing those up- and down-sides ...

Anyway ... because the potting mix is not in touch with the actual soil, we miss out on the micro-organisms and the worms. It is possible to have a 'wicking worm bed' which is a development and seems like a system an experienced wicking bed maker and user could advance to. Not for this beginner, anyway. So I reckon to add as much garden soil, compost, worm castings and compost worms as I can to my Mel's modified mix.

'Mel's modified mix' as I call what I use for potting mix is: 1 part of Vermiculite, 1 part of Perlite, 1 part of coir peat (coco-peat) soaked [1 compressed block pre-soaked in 9L of worm juice/water/bokashi beer/seaweed extract] plus compost, trace elements (minerals), gypsum and if for an acid-lover, add powdered Sulphur. Add some already-used mix from a bed or box which has grown something to help with establishing micro-flora in the new wicking bed.
Anyone considering wicking systems is somewhat exposed to lots of information and disinformation which is confusing. Yes there is the possibility of failure through fundamental problems such as a poor installation process. Also assume problems with the selection and nature of the media, both growing media and the aquifer media. The ongoing maintenance and cropping of these enclosed systems is also something to think about over the long term.
As a cropping system I am confident that they work if a degree of standardization is modelled into a small wicking bed system. The wicking bed pod illustrated was designed to standardise the look and size of a garden bed we are familiar with that would be suitable for backyard food production.
The construction materials used are all standardized in order to replicate consistency in the manufacture of the wicking pod.
The method of installation is simple but needs attention to detail with levelling tolerances.
The aquifer media is standardised
The soil media is standardised
The maintenance program is scheduled.
The overall product is cost effective and marketable to a consumer that is confident with this method of cropping.
The product is cost effective, and can be made accountable for its environmental footprint.

I feel a simple standard model as the one illustrated would overcome the difficulties that people persieve to be a problem .
QUESTION..... Where do get that fabric from (that is set between the sand and the soil) ???? and at how much a leg will one loose heeehee.
As far as I am aware you don't need the specific brand/ type of material that Mark has chosen. Pretty sure that I have seen one at Jane Street that had an old woollen blanket as the wick.

Mark, is this something that your company is considering retailing when you have finished the tests? With the focus on growing veggies, and the price of some of the raised beds available - sounds like this would be a fantastic alternative for people looking at starting gardens!
I have made a few of the normal raised beds for clients over the years as you know, but these wicking bed modules are now a serious consideration for us. I get heaps of enquires for them and questions about how to make them as well. In the past I retro fitted birdie tanks and other raised bed systems into wicking beds. But now find that this wicking bed module addresses many of my concerns on wicking beds and the practical application of these in a home food garden. I am very happy with everything about this model, but would love 12 months to trial there “productivity” per $ of investment installation. And also to properly study, and analyse the decomposition and remediation of the soil media used in them over and past one year of production.
Hi mark, im not too sure why, but have a look at that costa link, he talks a tiny bit about, what soil to use, because of decomposition and how it will be harder for the water too circulate and water becomes stagnant. (so im guessing, not adding manure as such, and add as liquid form instead?) and something about adding sand to the mix, to keep soil loose?????

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