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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

Mark, how about a pic or three of the module itself? Or is that what you have shown above? If that's the case, then I'm at a loss to know how it is made. A pic or three?
Nice beds Mark ~~~
ooo nice....may we be able to have pic or diagram of exactly what you did Mark... Im interested in these also. (ive NEVER been able to get it around my head how these work!) A friend of a friend of mine, has all her gardens done in a wicking bed way and she says, she hardly ever waters the beds...she does have a tank and last year with barely any rain, never ran her tank dry.
Think 'self-watering pots' - a wicking bed is a swp on steroids. Physics ... not my strongest subject ;-) but it's a natural event that water 'runs uphill' as it were - we only ever think of it running downhill - but there's a force which allows molecules of water to 'climb' up or move up by coating fine particles with water. Sounds weird and there's a proper explanation out there, but it does work!
Hi Elaine, exactly that, this is giant water well.
I will put some thing illustrated together as soon as I can regarding construction.
Physics is not my strong point but we do understand that water moves through soil in two ways pulled down by gravity through a soil profile and also water can move horizontally and to a degree vertically via capillary action e.g. (Osmosis, most concentrated to least concentrated, this is the wicking action in its simplest form).
Okay, I get self watering pots... kind of.

Does that mean that there is a cavity at the bottom of the garden bed that holds water? And if that is the case what from the garden bed/ dirt itself comes in contact with the water? I have some idea that blankets can be used but not really sure how/ where they fit in?

Thanks Mark, think *detailed* diagrams maybe ;)
yeap im in the same boat as those questions also..just cant wrap my head around...does it work by the moons cycles...water goes up and water goes down...same theory as when to plant seeds..water goes up and water goes down and then a dormant period. (i also dont get where the water sits, touching the dirt above, so guessing the water bed part in the bottom always has to be fill??)
Yes, there is a cavity at the bottom and an overflow hole too, so the bed does not fill up when it rains.

There are a number of different designs but the bottom line is that all must hold water and keep it in contact with the soil in which the plants are growing. There can be agricultural cloth or other cloths acting as wicks or not - it doesn't seem to matter that much. What does matter, is the depth of soil above and whether the plant's roots are in the wicking zone. The top of the soil does not have to be wet but where the roots are sure does. But you could not have a metre of soil and a reservoir at the bottom and expect Lettuces to grow, their roots are not that long, but a trees roots are once it's established but in the meantime you would have to water it until the roots are far enough down. You need to balance the depth of the soil to what you are growing. Wicking beds suit the general run of home garden veges, if you read up on them (with the 25 hours each day you have spare!) you will see that people with lots of experience grow a wide variety of plants in wicking beds and there are several designs and many notions of what works and what does not. See

You also need to monitor the water level and allow the soil to dry out a little to prevent water-logging. I suggest that only plants which don't need superb drainage be grown in a wicking bed. Paw Paw and Avocado are two plants I would not consider for a wicking bed.
Thanks for the great diagram Mark!

In case you didn't know (like me) 'An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock or unconsolidated materials (gravel, sand, silt, or clay)...' from my friend Wikipedia.

Looks pretty easy actually now that I see it like that. I look forward to hearing more about your experiments & results!
Thanks for the diagram and the progressive photos!
no problems, I tried to make it easy for you and pictures say 1000 words . I got to thank Liz for doing the pics and Rudi for offsiding in the construction phases, Big thanks to Liz also for posting those pics and descriptions this evening for us ...
I second that! :-) My one completed wicking bed does not have a reservoir and while I have enough material for the rest of the wb project (another 4 beds) I'm wondering if it is really necessary. The trick as I see it - or until I prove myself wrong which might be sooner rather than later ;-) - is to have the overflow big enough to cope so there's little likelihood of the bed waterlogging. Colin Austin from Kookaburra Park - the originator of wicking beds as far as I know - reckons a 1 inch hole covered with shade cloth is sufficient around 3 inches from the bottom. So far so good. My beds are 200 and 300 litre thick black plastic tubs I bought from the kitchen (? :-O) section at Bunnings. They get lined with waste styrene for insulation.


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