Brisbane Local Food

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Ps.  This is a work in progress, updates will follow

This blog will be about my conversion of all of my traditional garden beds into wicking beds.  A shout out to Elaine's blog which got me thinking about the idea and Rob's you tube videos which really sold me on them.  I originally bought two 90 L x 45 h x 45 wide back in 4th week of December and placed them out in the front garden. This side faces north, so they get full sun all afternoon and figured that this would be a good trial position because if I could get stuff to grow here, it should work anywhere. 

The reason for the trial is because this has been the first summer that I have tried to keep up with the garden and it was HARD!! I ran out of tank water at the beginning of December and was using mains water (shhhhh... don't tell BCC :) but that wasn't the worst of my problem.  I just could not find enough time to get out there and water everything and do all the maintenance tasks as well.  Watering was taking me about 40 minutes every 2nd day and with 3 kids, animals and a full time job, it was getting too much but I was unwilling to invest so much money (and effort) in the conversion process if I wasn't sure the results would be worthwhile.  Below shows the bed 3 weeks  and 6 weeks(now) after planting and as you can see, the results are amazing!!!  The plants are so healthy,  I sometimes get home at 2 pm and there is absolutely no wilting of leaves.  Best of all, I fill these with water every 10 days or so.  That's it!! I put a hose down the fill pipe, walk away, do some weeding, come back in 5 min and done for another 10 days!

-> See the little melons developing..... If all the female flowers turn into  fruit, I will end up with about 16 melons from 2 plants!

My first cucumber has appeared and is nearly full grown.  There are loads of female melon flowers developing.  Another advantage that I hadn't thought of is less powdery mildew.  The Charentais melons are very susceptible to mildew.  So far, I haven't seen any signs of it.... whether its not watering from above or that by having constant water, it is healthier and therefor more resistant, who knows.

So, out to the back garden..... I have a total of 8 beds which I want to convert.  I have started on the first 4.  One major expense is the buying of the beds.  I found 180cm x 90 cm x 40 cm high beds at bunnings for $99 each.  By the time i buy sand ($32 ea), plastic ($6 ea) and slotted AG pipe ($33 ea) it's quite an expensive project.  I originally had timber planks lining each garden bed so when I get on to the other beds, I'm planning to try to make 40 cm high boxes out of the waste planks from the garden for the remaining 4 beds.  This does of course depend on my ability to wield tools successfully which remains to be seen :) 

-> These are the 3 already done.  I've cleared the space for the fourth but a) ran out of equipment & b) procrastinating till next weekend to get it done.  Into these I've planted 1) broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and green been seeds 2) zucchini, corn, shallots and coriander 3) Tomato's, white eggplant (only seedling that you can see) capsicum and silverbeet.

-> These are the remaining beds to be done.  I am reluctant to start these until my other beds are productive.  The 2 tomato varieties have kept me in tomato's for the last 6 months and silver beet is growing everywhere.  For that alone I want to wait until I can at least replace my supply.  They also have 2 eggplants and 3 capsicums that are doing great.

-> And this is the left over timber for converting the other four.

So my plan is to keep updating this blog as I go so I can keep track of any success/failures with the wicking beds and for anyone else who might be thinking about doing it can at least look at this and see if its worth it.  I am convinced it is but "the proof is in the pudding" as they say and you can judge for yourselves as this progresses. :)

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Comment by Elaine de Saxe on October 30, 2014 at 17:10

Heh heh … I know a bit about converting every pot, bin, tub or whatever into a wicking bed ;-) Even my sprout pots are wicking now.

I work on the theory that growing enthusiastic plants such as fruit trees and Raspberries, need to be in something more sturdy than just the plastic liner. I don't know if the roots would penetrate the liner, usually roots head towards water and minerals but I'm erring on the side of caution.

Comment by Susan on October 30, 2014 at 16:22

Hey Andrew and Elaine - You can see how well they've done by all the produce I keep posting about. :) Just used the 200um builders plastic which is fairly cheap - as what Elaine said.  I wouldn't go and use pond liner.  I did make sure I put down cardboard underneath to protect the base and I used sand as my bottom layer so nothing sharp to damage.  I've been so impressed with wicking beds that every bed I have has been converted and I've created extra wicking barrels for things such as raspberries, rosellas and sweet potato.  

One thing I've learnt though - Use as much ag pipe as possible.  I was trying to be conservative and only looped the ag pipe around once in the beds.  Now, in the heat with the beds absolutely overgrown with produce, they are sucking the reservoir dry every 4-5 days.  If I had of wound a couple more loops of Ag pipe, I would have had a much greater reservoir and only had to refill once per week - at the moment I'm filling on Saturdays and Wednesdays.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on October 30, 2014 at 0:22

Heavyweight builder's plastic is what is supplied with the bought wicking beds. Since I've had them less than a year, no reliable info on how good or otherwise, they are. The converted wicking beds we did ourselves have a slightly lighter grade of builder's plastic and so far, so good 12 months down the track. Once the mix covers the plastic, it wouldn't be subjected to UV so should last more or less forever barring piercings or slashings.

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on October 29, 2014 at 23:45

How did this little project go Susan?  I've thought about converting the beds in the Little Dogs' Yard but they seem to be producing okay/or nicely.  As you know, the liner is very expensive and I think I'll wait until mid-summer.  If they get through that, then it's probably better to save the money. 

Comment by Lissa on February 7, 2014 at 4:26

So it is, my apologies. I don't know how I missed it - it's on the calendar!

For those interested in seeing Susan's garden and her wicking beds we have a GV there on 19th July. RSVP HERE at the event listing.

Comment by Susan on February 6, 2014 at 15:54

Hi Lissa, I already sent you the date for the 19th july.  It's on the event listing that you sent back to me. 

Thanks Christine,  I'm really hoping that that is the case.  I really just could not keep up with all the watering.

Comment by Christine Cox on February 6, 2014 at 6:10

Great job the beds look wonderful. Wicking beds are a great boost for the home gardener. Everything grows so well.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on February 5, 2014 at 20:39

Very interested to hear how it all goes. There's as many ways to make wicking beds as there are people wanting to grow in them.

May I suggest that instead of updates to this blog, that you do a fresh blog when you want to add something and put a link to this one at the beginning of the next one. Each time we want to read the extra post or see some more pictures, the whole thing needs to load. It just speeds up the process for the updates if they are separate entities.

Comment by Liz Pardede on February 5, 2014 at 20:12

Watxhing with great interest, Susan, as this is my plan when time, plans (i.e.:are we moving or not) and money permit. Great job, seems like they would be very worthwhile.

Comment by Susan on February 5, 2014 at 17:35

Hi Elaine, I did buy the big lot of slotted pipe $99 (I got the socked variety) and it does 3 beds so approx. $33 ea.  I'm following Rob's method for now.  Also, I'm using sand because of him and also I don't want to have to refresh the beds as often.  Let me know how long yours lasts with the potting mix though.

Lissa, sorry, was writing this late last night and hadn't taken the new photo's.  But they are all up now :),  The conversion process is not exactly easy so I can understand the reluctance.  Example: My husband said he would "help" me move the sand.  Now I bought this sand in 40 kg bags x 12 from the local landscaping place.  The first four I moved myself, one at a time, in wheel barrow out to the back.  -> I didn't break a single one but it did take me a while and was hard work as that is some heavy stuff.  He decided to put all 4 !!!! into said wheel burrow, lost control over it and it tipped sideways from the weight and he managed to split all four bags.  I was NOT happy as I then had to use a bucket, scoop it up with my hands and cart bucket loads out to the back. Despite that, I'm still convinced the beds are worth it and we are still married :)

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