how do wicking garden beds work

how do wicking garden beds work

Once we first began Very Edible Gardens (VEG) again in early 2009, we had no concept what a wicking mattress was. Then, after a yr or so of putting in raised vegetable backyard beds throughout Melbourne, somebody whispered the phrases into our ears. “Wicking beds,” they stated. “We wish some wicking beds.”

“Wicking beds” we thought, smiling and nodding, then scratching our heads. “What on earth is a wicking mattress?” So we did some analysis and, equal elements intrigued and skeptical, we began to experiment. Up until then, all our raised veggie beds had been both hand-watered or arrange with ‘dripline’ irrigation. However now we began organising wicking beds in previous bathtubs:

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…after which, utilizing plastic liner, in our raised VEG beds that are assembled from sleepers of regionally harvested golden cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) timber:

So, What the Heck are Wicking Beds?

Invented by an Australian named Colin Austin, the concept with a wicking mattress is that you just forestall water from leaving the underside of the mattress with a water-resistant liner or layer. This creates a water reservoir beneath the soil. Then, relatively than having to irrigate by watering from above (by way of drip irrigation, a hose, watering can and so on), the water actually wicks up into the soil from beneath, protecting it good and moist.

Now, with all that water, this might simply get messy and even pungent. However, you forestall the burden of the soil from squashing all of the water out – and making a muddy mess – by having the water sit inside a layer of small stones, which is ready to accommodate the water while bearing the burden of the soil (and your prize pumpkins!) with out collapsing. You forestall the soil from washing down into gaps between the stones with a sheet of one thing that lets water wick up, however stops soil shifting down.

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Then you will have your blissful soil and crops on high of this.

The final important piece of the wicking mattress puzzle is that you just want an overflow level (normally a pipe) in order that the soil layer doesn’t get flooded, which might kill the soil life and crops by rotting their roots. (With the VEG Wicking Mattress type ones you put in them earlier than you add the soil or stones.)

As you’ll know if you happen to’ve researched wicking beds on-line, the obtainable info is scattered concerning the net in dribs and drabs and infrequently with recommendation that contradicts what the opposite website stated. So, taking all of it with a grain of salt, we got down to study by doing, our preliminary intention to show to ourselves that wicking beds didn’t work. We gave it a reasonably good shot, and within the course of we realized loads, and refined how we go about them enormously.

We’ve condensed all this data into our How one can Make a Wicking Mattress sequence. However earlier than you rush out and construct one, take a second to think about the professionals and cons…

Execs and Cons

Q. “How do I do know if wicking beds are proper for me?”

Allow us to degree with you right here. Yeah, we promote these items. And we love them. However, we’re not all for promoting them to anybody the place it’s not the correct resolution. So that is our truest, honestest, bestest record of the formidable execs, and a few real looking cons of wicking beds. So learn on, to assist resolve whether or not or not wicking beds are the correct alternative for you.


  • Simpler gardening. Within the backyard, overwatering might be simply as massive a difficulty as underwatering. With wicking beds, the statement pipe eliminates the guesswork of figuring out when and the way a lot to water!
  • Happier, more healthy, extra productive veggies. Veggies love wicking beds as a result of they a present low-stress setting of fixed, optimum moisture, good for soil life, and good on your crops. You’ll get extra meals, from much less area! Right here’s a simple visible to assist:About Wicking BedsThe Wicking Mattress H2O sine wave
  • Much less weeds. In wicking beds, the floor of the soil is comparatively dry, making it tougher for weeds to germinate.
  • Use much less water. Oh, we haven’t talked about this but? Wicking beds flourish with loads much less water than regular raised beds. Assume one thing within the ballpark of 1 third to at least one half much less water for every kilogram of produce.
  • Water much less typically. Wicking beds want watering a lot much less typically, which means crops will survive and thrive for days, and even a few weeks, even if you happen to go away throughout in a heatwave.
  • Develop on any floor. Wicking beds are an ideal resolution for spots the place eucalypt or different vigorous tree roots would possibly invade the mattress. As water and vitamins are prevented from soaking by means of the mattress base, the timber received’t even realise the veggie mattress and its wealthy soil is there! Wicking beds might be constructed on high of concrete, paving or contaminated soils, whereas protecting the soil within the mattress separate from what’s beneath.


  • Trickier to put in. Wicking beds require some technical understanding and talent to be constructed correctly; they will leak, or over-saturate the soil, both as a result of poor design or being put in incorrectly. (Our kits are designed to make it simpler and include clear directions although, so that you get it proper the primary time!)
  • Dearer. Wicking beds sometimes value a bit extra to arrange than non-wicking beds.
  • Extra supplies. Wicking beds typically require some non-renewable supplies, i.e. poly pipes and liner, in addition to screened crushed rock which might be pretty vitality intensive to supply. (We minimise this through the use of food-grade poly liner, and poly parts, relatively than PVC, for human well being and environmental causes.)
  • You possibly can break them (if you happen to attempt onerous sufficient). Wicking beds are usually not fairly idiot-proof as soon as put in. For instance, it’s attainable to pierce the liner if you happen to drive a tomato stake right into a wicking mattress too deep and enthusiastically. Belief us, we’ve repaired broken beds, and it’s not enjoyable to dig all the pieces out to interchange the liner!
  • Some coaching required. Wicking beds do require slightly bit of data or coaching for use correctly – what we principally imply right here is protecting the water degree topped up by means of the influx pipe relatively than floor watering, draining the reservoir sometimes, and never hammering in tomato stakes… It’s really very straightforward! However they might not be applicable if all kinds of untrained folks handle the beds.

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If you happen to suppose they’re for you, you possibly can leap straight to trying out our kits, or contacting us about set up providers.

They only work!

Okay, so that you do wish to take into account your choices, however right here’s what one shopper, Rosalie, stated about her beds:

The unique two wicking beds have been so profitable that I had the opposite three transformed. One of many authentic two was planted with silver beet once I went away in Sept 2014 and one other non wicking mattress additionally planted. I used to be away for 4 weeks. After I got here again the distinction between the 2 beds was superb. One was lush, the opposite simply OK. This was what satisfied me to transform the opposite three.

As for water utilization, they’re a miracle. I’ve solely a 3000L tank and it will recurrently run out within the first month of summer season. For the reason that wicking mattress installs I’ve had two summers and the tank hasn’t run out for both. I do know this has numerous different variables like temperatures and rainfall, however anecdotally they save water. I fill them as soon as per week, or twice if now we have baking warmth within the excessive 30s+. It takes far much less time to fill them than if I had the dripper system working – i.e., minutes versus hours.

The rationale we advocate and set up so many wicking beds is that they work. In Melbourne’s scorching dry summers the veggies proceed to thrive with a fraction of the water in any other case required. On the 2 events now we have put in or transformed one or two of a bigger variety of raised beds as wicking, the purchasers have each in brief order acquired us again to transform the remaining. The distinction in plant well being and development is simply so beautiful.

Getting a Wicking Mattress

Righteo then! If you happen to’d like a hand getting your wick on in your yard, then there are three primary methods we might help:

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  • Go it alone possibility. First, if you’re wherever on the earth, you possibly can learn and apply for your self our distinctive course of of putting in wicking beds: How one can Make a Wicking Mattress (free – yay!)
  • VEG Wicking Kits possibility. Second, for anybody in Australia, we are able to put up you one in all our wicking mattress kits (together with detailed directions) so you possibly can convert or construct your first wicking mattress figuring out you will have the correct parts.
  • Absolutely put in possibility. Third, for anybody in Melbourne, we are able to come and absolutely set up raised wicking beds at your home the place we provide all the pieces (if you would like we are able to even provide and plant the veggies). Alternatively, we are able to come and convert your current raised veggie beds to wicking typically. Simply drop us a line!