My 11-year-old garden beds are starting to show signs of falling apart so I will need to replace them soon. Any new garden bed I build will definitely be a wicking bed because it has many advantages over traditional garden beds. (There is a great offer at the end of this blog for anyone who wants to grow the best veggies with minimal watering and lower maintenance.)
Recently I have come across an Australian business called WaterUps® from Down Under and I like what they have developed and the ethos behind the company. I will be installing their system in my garden as I refurbish it over the next couple of seasons because I reckon it is brilliant and is a great improvement on the standard gravel/scoria wicking systems.
What’s a wicking bed?
A wicking bed is a growing system where your veggies grow in soil above a reservoir of water that slowly is ‘sucked’ up by the plants and soil to give a consistent water supply for the plants. Think of a giant self-watering pot, or you could watch this clip for a more detailed explanation. I retro converted half my garden beds into wicking beds 2-3 years ago and I’m a total convert. Why? Well I’m glad you asked….
1. Water and time efficiency
Wicking beds use up to 80% less water than non-wicking beds. This means less time watering (good during water restrictions) and less cost. When all my beds have finally been converted to wicking beds, I expect to save heaps more of each.
Currently I use a combination of wicking beds, drippers and overhead misters. I fill the water reservoirs every couple of weeks. (In Summer I also use a combo of drippers and the overhead daily watering for seedlings until their roots are established.)
2. Plant health
A constant supply of water available to plants results in a stronger root system because the roots grow down towards the moisture deeper in the soil bed rather than just any moisture on the surface. This makes them more tolerant to temperature variations, they have more vigour and are better able to take up moisture and nutrients.
3. Increased yields
The most improved crops in my garden are tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, zucchini, squash, pumpkins, and sweetcorn – high water consumers.
This is because there is a constant supply of water and the plants have developed a stronger root system which helps them take up more water when needed and also absorb additional nutrients.
4. Increased resilience
My wicking bed veggies are more resilient to extreme weather and bug attacks. I believe this is related to the plant health and the ability of each plant to use as much or as little water as it requires.
5. Soil health
A wicking bed enables nutrients in the soil to stay put, rather than getting washed away through rain or watering. I have well drained sandy soil that would otherwise leach nutrients with too much rain. With a wicking bed, water is stored in the reservoir and is available to plants as needed. Another huge benefit is that surrounding trees and bushes do not have the ability to spread their roots into the garden beds and rob soil of the goodness from my veggies.
6. Protection from Dodgy soil
Because wicking beds are a complete growing system, there’s a physical barrier between your veggies and the surrounding soil. This is good news for any veggie grower who is in an area that has chemical contaminants in the soil.
Wicking beds are also great for areas covered in concrete that you thought would never be an option to grow on. Another great advantage is for areas surrounded by trees and any potential invasive roots.
7. Disease control
Because water is stored in the wicking bed there is no need to get the foliage of the plants wet. This is a great advantage for crops that are susceptible to fungus type diseases that are spread by droplets and thrive on wet foliage. I have noticed that my tomatoes have less foliage diseases when grown on wicking beds and there is a lot less powdery mildew in Summer on crops like zucchini and cucumbers.
8. Time savings
Most of the longer-term time saving is gained during the watering process the reservoirs only need filling every 2-4 weeks rather than watering daily with irrigators or a hose. I also think construction will be quicker when I build with a Waterups® system because there is no need to cart heavy gravel or scoria.
9. Ease of instalment
Yes, you can design and build your own wicking bed using scoria or gravel or you could use wicking cells. To get scoria/gravel delivered and move it around your garden is not only really hard and heavy work but takes ages to get into your beds.
I reckon that a smarter way to build is by using the wicking cells. They only weigh a fraction compared to scoria/gravel and they are made from recycled plastic. There are also great kit options available for a really quick solution.
10. Travel knowing your veggies will still be watered
There’s nothing worse than coming home to a shrivelled veggie patch that you have invested your heart into due to lack of water on hot days or you’ve been away for a few days. I know that when I decide to go away for a couple of days or if I am busy at work that the veggies will not suffer because there is always a good steady supply of water available to them.
These are just a few of the reasons for installing a Wicking bed system. I could give you more but I need to get to the offer:
Quote HBVG10 for 10% Off at WaterUps® from Down Under
Yep! It includes Wicking cells, garden bed kits and if you order on their website and use the code HBVG10 as you checkout, you will get 10% off your purchase. This offer extends to all products excluding the freight cost and any of the eWood® Wicking Beds. Offer starts on Saturday, 1st August 20 and ends midnight on Friday, 14 August 20. How is that for a deal? Go to the Waterups® shop and check out the range. Feel free to forward this offer to friends and family so they don’t miss out.
More information on wicking bed systems
Results of a 63 day trial of WaterUps®carried out at Kimbriki House & Garden Education Centre in 2018.
Wicking bed efficiency evaluations.
Comparison between Waterups® and Sand/Scoria.
Sustainable Schools Program.
Thanks to Waterups® for permission for the use of images used in this blog.