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Wicking Bed / Garden Bed Grow Medium - Mels Mix Vs Manure

With the lack of access to my back yard to get soil or any machinery down there I decided a few years ago to build a down and dirty wicking bed by converting my poorly performing raised garden bed to a wicking bed. But I'd be filling it with just dirt and manure as opposed to the perlite/sand/vermiculite/compost/coir combination that seems to be standard media components in wicking beds. I then planted two tomato plants. One in the standard wicking bed and one in my ghetto one.  I didn't expect much to come of it but the results were in stark contrast to each other.

My Mel's Mix recipe is basically coir vermiculite and compost along with a little bit of potting mix and composted manure. My experimental bed is filled with dirt/ clay and the top 30cm is just layered fresh horse manure and sugar cane mulch with some newspaper. So anyone thinking of what soil to put in their raised garden bed. I highly recommend just manure and sugar cane mulch and newspaper. Pretty much a lasagne no dig type setup.

Full details here.

Naturally you need to top up the beds as the manure and sugar cane breaks down but that's par for the course with most garden beds.

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Comment by Andrew Cumberland on March 18, 2016 at 20:17

I'll be throwing horse poo into my compost from now on. 

Comment by Cres on March 17, 2016 at 13:23

The original wicking bed is at the front of the house which is north facing and gets plenty of sunlight. At least it did during those months of the test. (I need to prune back a big tree branch this winter)
There were worms in both wicking beds but given the massive food source of manure I think the back yard one was a better environment for them to populate. There's also a very good chance of greater microbial activity in the lower bed given the dirt in it which would have brought it's own source of bacteria as I was filling it. The top one has zero dirt.

I'll see if I can replicate the growth in the original beds but it takes time to solarise the fresh horse manure. I don't do SFG'ing per se. I try and take bits of different systems and implement them. I liked the compact intensive diversity of SFG's. Unfortunately I still haven't been able to implement a viable solution to keeping out possums and rodents from demolishing my seedlings and transplants. The costs of a mesh cage is prohibitive. Seems only my allium varieties and some root crops stand a chance.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on March 17, 2016 at 5:05

Mmmm, interesting! Is the plant which is doing best in the same shade as the other one?

I was seriously keen on Sq Ft Gardening for a while. Probably nothing wrong with it but there was a lot wrong with my site. Sloping with trees. So wicking beds became the only real option.

Mel is big on compost made from 12 ingredients. I cannot get that variety and use kitchen scraps and sugar cane.

I wonder if the one doing best has a greater variety of microbes including worms. Without the expertise and a decent microscope we ordinary gardeners are guessing what's in our soil. My two-bob's worth is that the microbes make the difference.

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