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Wicking Reservoir-Pipe Experiment

9779144877?profile=originalI'm expanding my front veggie garden at the moment, and decided to add some form of water savings to a section of the expansion in case I have another dry spring and summer like last year.

This is based on (and is) an open wicking bed (within the area of the garden around where its being laid). Rather than the water being in an open trough, its will be in pipe, relying on wicking fabric to transport the water from inside the pipe, to the soil. It will sit on almost flat (maybe/preferably slightly depressed) sheet(s) of plastic wider than the footprint of the pipes. Struck-out April 2016, no plastic sheet used in working trial.

The disadvantage over an open trough is that it will not collect rain water as well. I'm mainly using it because I wish to encroach upon my 300mm of soil with the reservoir (pipes).

This would be nowhere near as efficient as the IBC wicking beds I have, but a good compromise and will save on water. I'm hoping that this is useful for me to just chuck into the bottom of a garden as a quick retrofit to an existing open type of garden bed.

All works based on Colin Austin's wicking beds concepts.

Simple, >11 Litres - 2Metre 90mm, 1 End Cap, 1x PVC 90 Degree Bend, 500mm 90mm PVC.


>22 Litre, 2 Metre Array x 2

>33 Litre, 2 Metre Array x 3


Most microfiber cloths (best to test) make great wicks


How to Add The Cloth Wicks
10 to 20mm size holes are drilled into the top of a horizontally sealed pipe array. Both ends of a micro fibre cloths are then inserted into separate holes with the ends of the cloth always extending to at least the very base of the inside of the pipe. When plugging the hole with the cloth, ensure the insert is a tight fit ... twisting the cloth into the hole helps to achieve this.
Other Possible Configurations
A narrow, lengthways cut/slot along the pipe, and slot 2 x MF cloths in, then another 2 ....
A length of 30mm holes, drop fabric lined netting pots to make contact with very base of pipe, and fill the pots with sand and other test material, including direct soil mix.
With or without the sheet?
I am very tempted to exclude the plastic sheet. I know that there are additional water savings by stopping the downward flow, and encouraging sideways and upwards flow & wicking ... but how much water loss is there when the bed is directly above a rocky surface,. After watering, even when dry, the water can sit there for hours. In this sitting time period, perhaps most of the water can be wicked away with only a little (and probably beneficial) shale & clay rock absorption of the water. Update April 2016. I went without the plastic sheet.

Top-up Bucket System 
This system may benefit with a slow gravity feed from a large water reserve like a 200 Litre blue barrel.
Future Use in My Garden
I am planning to use multiple separate systems. I'm planning on small separate systems in or to -
* Mitigate total loss of water in combined reservoirs due to an unexpected leak in a pipe.
* Make it easier to level. Two metres and under is a quick and easy levelling job. Level is important as the holding capacity reduces as a pipe's, or in this case a WRP's level is offset.
* Maintain the system easier. By breaking down the large array into many small WRPs.
* Multistage a rollout into the long garden bed. This allows for expansion with less disruption to the total garden in one hit.


This system can be boosted beyond wicking by filling up the filling pipe to the very top ...

The cloth plugged holes slow down an instant leak, but of course increase the water distribution from the reservoir's wicks' via gravity & displacement coupled with wicking.



This particular skipping rope (broken) is another material I found to wick well.


Pros and Cons


Can be used in many different types of beds. (Raised, level, in-ground ...).

Can be retrofitted.

Water savings.

Parts can be found as recycled parts.

Parts quite cheep if purchased.

Water in reservoir always clean, no anaerobic/nitrogen drawdown issues that some wicking reservoirs may get.


Introduction of plastics to the garden (be as selective as possible over plastic types).

Requires solid base (may not work in sandy soils where the water rapidly continues to travel down).

Small reservoir for a wicking bed.

Pipe array requires to be kept level in order to take advantage of total water holding capability of reservoir.

Update 9th March 2016

Not much has been happening with this. I will make an effort starting tomorrow with the season been a tad dry. I have thought through the 2nd wick option ... to have slightly large holes (than current) drilled into the top of the pipes and geo-fabric lined pockets which are affixed to the outer part of the pipe, have an opening, and extend to the inside base of the pipe (pocket sealed at the base). This could be used instead of the micro-fibre wick. The pockets (which become the wick) would simply be filled with the surrounding soil or sand. Water should then wick up and through the soil from the pocket wick. Update April 2016. I did not go with this option.

Update 14th March 2016

The area for a double 2 metre run of WPR was cleared (I chose not to use a plastic sheet at base)

9779150685?profile=originalThen I placed some deco at the base (to help me level the WRP)

Then WRP installed (all connections sealed with pressure pipe pvc glue)


Then WRP Covered with soil. This should hold over 22 Litres of water.

Update 16th March 2016

Soil has now covered the pipe. Due to this being the first run, I have used a long vertical pipe for the water

delivery, as this gives more options for the moment. I have included a second vertical observation pipe in the diagonally opposite corner to the delivery pipe.

9779151491?profile=originalOn a test run, I filled the pipe to horizontal level (90mm). I noticed that by the end of the fill, I had actually put over 30 litres in. This was due to the water wicking out during filling (the new soil is dry and seems quite willing to take the water away). Within 10 minutes, the reservoir was back to half full.

I toped up the reservoir 2 further times over the next half hour and observed that it now took about 20 minutes for the reservoir to drop down to half on the last top up (the slowing down of wicking is due to the moisture level rising in the soil surrounding the pipe. 

I topped up one further time, observed the level to be 3/4 full after half an hour post top up and retired for the evening (it was getting too dark). A level check the next morning shows an empty reservoir.

I dug holes above the pipes, and noted the moisture around 10cm from the surface. (originally dry soil and no rain overnight). This is wicking from pipe to wick and from wick to soil, and soil wicking to sounding soil quite well.

I am quite satisfied with the results so far. So onto planting next.

Update 14th of April 2016

The plants have been fed well with 2 applications to date of charlie carp & seasol, and 1 application of volcanic rock dust & Go Go juice on initial planting.

The plants have also been kept well hydrated thanks to the pipe.

Pipe being filled with garden hose in following shots.


14th April 2016

5th May 2016


What's Next?

I'm planning on putting a similar one in starting around 1 Metre from the existing WRP. I would prefer to use a natural material for the wick, and will start to look around for something that can wick well and last several years with little disintegration as the wick plugged holes need to be kept tight.

Update 27 July 2016

The 2nd WRP has been installed, this time a 2 x array, 3 Metres in length.

9779154885?profile=originalDue to the 1st WRP wicking out water too fast for my liking, I only made half the number of holes in this version, this time installing the wick by folding the 4 corners of the cloth, inserting the 4 cloth corners while twisting into the hole. I have left the outer part of the wick short. The wick can be further pulled out in the future to allow for a higher wicking rate if required.

9779155671?profile=originalOnly the front part of the garden in photo is covered by the array, however excess water from the WRP will flow  at the base (on hard ground) to the back part of the garden.

Update December 2016


External Reservoir and Float Valve to be connected to the array...

With this cheep device, the pipe array has a true feedback mechanism with the external reservoir, taking away the blindness of a gravity feed or gravity drip feed.

The external reservoir's feed to the pipe is governed by the pipe's level and therefore (via the cloth wicks), governed by the soil's requirement for water. End to end wicking is back. This is very important for true water saving via wicking, as the external reservoir would just keep on sending water regardless of soil moisture (i.e. - too dry, too wet, or just right) if allowed to just feed the pipe array without any feedback.

Over the next few days/weeks, I will acquire the appropriate float valve, and the external reservoir will be installed, and system trailed.

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Donna's Garden - 14/06/10

The mustard and marigolds in the nematode bed have grown heaps in the past month and look to be ready to use as green manure - is it best to chop and drop, or should it be dug in?


After a lull in planting anything, finally am starting to see some results from my direct in bed plantings out the back. I made holes in the mulch, but the naughty chooks keep getting in and scratching around and covering the poor little seedlings so every few days I am forced to go and gently uncover them again :) I didn't label anything - at the time it was plant or write labels so I figured I could figure it out as they grew. There should be a huge selection though as I know there parsnip, turnip, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, kohl rabi, carrot etc - next months blog should hopefully help me identify what came up.


The specialist seedling tray didn't work very well for some reason - I will be buying some better quality seedling raising mix, this was just a coir block - ironically I prepared two long pots at the same time and thickly sowed lettuce and mizuna which are going great guns.


The frangipani bed also has some seedlings coming up, again I can't remember what but think there was some mustard and lupins as well as a few others.


The fruit trees are doing pretty well despite a few minor problems, with the exception of the poor fig tree whose leaves have about ten different problems - hopefully as they are decidous they will fall soon and next year will be a lot better if I pump it with seaweed and bugs. The best growers so far are probably the paw paw, pepino (although suffered dreadfully last summer from being stung by moth/ fruit fly - will cover this year with mosquito netting I think), avocado, almond, guavas and bananas. I took the labels off the guavas (china pear & thai white) so I will label the photos with the type so I don't forget. The poor thai white guava had a twist tie label which cut into the wood a fair bit, hopefully it doesn't let any fungal infection in and heals properly.


The herb bed is going really well, and a lot of new seedlings are starting to grow bigger although hubby is still not allowed to harvest them yet - coriander, dill, fennel, italian parsley. Will have to try again to get some of the mexican coriander started as I don't think they came up or the normal chives.


I have planted a whole heap of chicken seedlings in the clothesline bed and they are starting to grow, think there is millet, sorghum, wheat and a few others. The idea is that I will successive plant and always have some green and some seeding to give them as a treat.


The cubby house bed had some late planted snake beans which I cut off and left to decompose, and as it was looking very empty and dry I tried to transplant a few of the mustard/ marigolds from the bed next to it for a bit of green manure. I really need to pick up a whole heap of lucerne bales and add more to all the beds, top off the piles of compost laying around to help decomposition and put at least one bale in the chicken run for them to sit on - hopefully next weekend!


The front new garden is doing well, and finally the banana pup has produced a new leaf (IM had given up and wanted to rip it out and try again). I pruned/ decimated the two passionfruit next to this bed and dumped them on the top as a mulch and will cover it will lucerne when I get more. Amazing that they are still green as that would be at least three weeks ago now... think that is what finally helped the banana pup as it now gets a bit more sunlight.


The big bed has self seeded cherry tomato growing almost to the top rail, almost ripe millet for the chooks/ seed, garlic, eggplant (didn't get around to potting one up) some sort of peas (had problems getting them to come up - this is the third time, and now have no idea what kind ended up growing). There was another tomato that I think is likely to be self seeded principe borguese which is for drying, it was sprawling everywhere and we picked it up and put a trellis around it so hopefully that works to contain it a bit better - I am slack at staking and tying so hopefully this option will be a winner, in summer I could also throw over mosquito netting for fruit fly if it works.


In hindsite all my beds should have been green manured the first growing season and would be a lot more productive by now - but at the time wasn't willing to 'waste' the beds by growing non productive stuff - duh! Think this is the most important thing to do when you have poor soil and not much money. In addition to building up the soil, I was amazed by how much more moisture the plants create and act as their own living groundcover - the nematode bed is lush and green, moist black soil while the one next to it is dry and degraded as it was almost fallow with little mulch for a couple of months - yet they both got the same amount of water (rainfall only).

Anyone in a fire ant area interested in growing pepino let me know as ours is doing well - they are related to the tomato and very easy to strike cuttings from as they have those little root nodule things on the branches and you just have to dump a handful of soil on them where they touch the ground - in fact the initial plant had about five branches that had done it by themselves which I have relocated to the old blueberry bed along the driveway - planted heaps thinking that I would lose a few but of course all took and are now growing really well despite the neglect they get there with no water and poor soil.


I have now been a member of Brisbane Local Food for two years, and ithas been an amazing journey, thanks everyone for your support, help and friendship during this time and I look forward to many more years as a part of the BLF family!

Note there is a separate blog for my chickens as they have just started to lay and I figure deserved their own this time :)
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