Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

After some years of playing about with this design and that design, I decided to buy a wicking bed kit. 'Water Saver Gardens' from Toowoomba offered the best value that I could find. We've put one together and ordered another 2; all are 8ft x 2ft and hold around 600 litres. The photos are from building up the second one.

The designer and builder, Alan Singleton has thought of everything a gardener would need to make the bed. All the screws, bolts and nuts, liner and clips, water channel, permeable blanket. Clear instructions went with all the holes being drilled and the panels marked. It's a well thought out and well executed simple and effective design. 'All' we had to do was screw it together and fill it. And a good tip is to put it together on a firm flat surface.

It is the more usual water-reservoir type (none of my previous wicking beds have a separate water reservoir). There's a lot of debate about what the best material/s are for the reservoir. Alan suggests wood chips but since I am used to working with coir, I chose coarse coir for the reservoir. So more or less step-by-step here is our newest wicking bed:

The package - the 5-in-1 in the background is my fertiliser of choice for new gardens.

And the components:

Coir bricks acting as an elevated platform to simplify putting the sides together. The milk crate is the best robust garden seat.

One end bolted on.

Finished ready to be taken outside. A two-woman job, not heavy but a tad awkward for one old girl by herself. The wood blocks and metal strap give the sides some stiffness.

In place and levelled.

The under-liner - goes over the metal strap and under the plastic liner. Supplied and used in transport to keep the liner from being damaged. Nothing is wasted! And notches are cut into the under-liner so it sits neatly around the wood posts.

The liner in place. Clips are supplied. The corners are neatly stapled and slits are cut to allow for the reinforcing bar.

Coir bricks in place; we used 6 in this bed. When expanded, each is supposed to make 60 litres.

Wetting the coir bricks. Breaking up the compressed bricks was helped along by us easing them apart as they swelled with the water. It didn't take that long, maybe 30 minutes all up.

The coir spread to evenly cover the water reservoir area.

Permeable blanket in place over the coir.

One of two slits made into the liner directly above the permeable blanket. This is how a wicking bed does not drown or rot the plants growing in it. It is the absolute 'trick' to wicking beds (or bins or self-watering pots) along with being on a level surface.

100 litres of Vermiculite was added directly over the permeable blanket. Each layer was watered as it was placed.

Then were added 6 x 30 litre bags of el-cheepo potting mix, then 3 x 30 litre bags of 5-in-1 and a selection of red compost worms with some home-made compost. Then the cover crop seeds topped off with pre-soaked fine coir (euphemistically called 'garden soil').

The cover crop seeds. A mix of Sunflower, wild bird mix, Lucerne, Rye.

Mulched with pre-soaked fine coir.

From the time we walked the package around from where it was delivered to the last handful of mulch, it took 2 of us 3 hours. We don't have any connection with Alan Singleton except for being satisfied customers: he answered all my questions and delivered as promised.

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Replies to This Discussion

I tell you what - those "old girls" aren't as feeble as they like to make out!  Nice work ladies.  VERY impressed with this build.  What was the cost Elaine? (if you don't mind me asking)

Girl power. The bed is amazing and I love the step by step, great information .Thanks

Great step by step Elaine, really good and clear.

Where the heck do you get your 5 in 1 in bulk like that? Cheaper to buy that way? Delivered? I like the stuff very much myself but am currently buying one bag at a time.

You obviously expect the coir at the bottom of the bed to last in it's current state for a long time. How would you know if it had broken down? You would need to dig everything out and redo.

You should have great success with these three beds. Can't wait for the photos showing crops growing.

And yes, as per Andy, cost please? And perhaps a link to the website of the guy you bought them off.

Water Saver Gardens, Toowoomba: The ones we have are $225 each and around $15 for delivery, he's subsidising the courier. I'm expecting that the coir will last some years - as my Dad used to say "it should see us out" ;-)

Feeble? Soft in the head for taking it on ;-) It was either go wicking or stop gardening. We're not as strong as we once were and just do what we can within the limit of our strength and endurance. Since both of us love gardening and love eating our fresh produce, we figured the effort was well worth it.

The first bed has a cover crop growing sporadically. I've figured out that I put too thick a layer of sugar can mulch on top of the seeds. With these two (just completed the second in 2.5 hours) we've added pre-soaked coir and hopefully not too thick, similar to the way I do sprouts/micro-greens.

When there's plants growing worth looking at I'll do another blog as a follow-up.

And the bulk 5 in 1?

I don't use bulk 5 in 1 Lissa - never have. The bags are way beyond my strength. The bags in the garage are 30L bags, that's not 'bulk' as they see it at Redcliffe Produce.

Bulk meaning you "buy in bulk" - lots of bags. Do they give you a discount for buying so many at once?

Ah, now I understand. The most we've bought at one time is 4. Redcliffe Produce have the best prices around, beat the 'Price is Just the Beginning' mob by a good distance so I never ask for discount. They sell a great deal of horse feed and stuff in big bags and 4 probably wouldn't be 'bulk' to them anyway.

The mere process of driving over there would probably negate the cheaper price for me. Will continue to buy locally :)

Great post Elaine thank you now I understand more about wicking beds.

That was fantastic! I am so doing that over the next little while.

Any effort you put in will be well rewarded! Growth is *fantastic* - I am mind-boggled.

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