For some time now, Marnie and Ken Johnson have been building and using 'Wicking Beds' to grow and propagate the plants for the nursery, as well as for growing vegetable crops.
What is a Wicking Bed?
A wicking bed is a container garden with it's own water reservoir. We achieve this by making several 'wicks' (sand in pots) which make contact with the lining fabric and the sand/soil layer above, drawing the water upwards in a wicking action. The reservoir doesn't need to be full for this to work so you can leave a wicking bed for quite some time between fillings. It will continue to water your plants while you're away or through the summer heat.
This photo shows how we use sand in pots to make our 'wicks' while the other pots act as support for the cloth layer that will go above.
A hole is drilled in the tub at the pot height so only water from the wicks will ever make contact with the sand/soil above. The soil layer stays moist without getting waterlogged. This hole can be a simple over-flow in a stand-alone bucket, or can be connected with additional plumbing to other containers to be filled at the same time in a larger setup.
We currently have several different systems in use but all use the same principal - water reservoir, sand wicks, cloth layer then more sand and potting mix.
The IBC Tank
These used food-grade 1000 litre tanks are cut in half using an angle grinder to make two generous-sized 500 litre tubs. Certain plumbing fixtures need to be added - and these are slightly different for the top and bottom tubs as the top one has a lid and the bottom one has the tap. During their regular workshops, Ken shows how to prepare these tanks to make your new garden beds. Sets of fittings for top and bottom tanks can be ordered to save you sourcing everything.
We use rectangular 65L and 85L tubs, as well as 65L round tubs depending how we like to fit everything. We use the builder's plastic tubs rather than regular tubs and buckets as they last much longer outdoors. A little more expensive but worth the extra if you intend to re-use your tubs each year.
The round ones look nice with flower displays while the rectangular ones fit together side-by-side either on the ground (under weedmat) or up on a bench for easier access. Rectangular ones can be beautified with wooden surrounds on your verandah.
The finished Wicking Tubs have their own water reservoirs so they keep everything moist for a long time between drinks. We use these either for directly planting seeds or seedlings (filled with potting mix), or we fill them with sand and store potted plants on them so they don't dry out.
See How to build a Wicking Bed on our Facebook page - CLICK HERE
You can make your own, or we have Wicking Tub Kits available here on the website (CLICK HERE) and some at the Gloucester Farmers Market.
We use 12L builder's buckets (good quality outdoor plastic) for smaller garden beds and for propagating. We grow salad vegetables, peas, herbs and small crops in the buckets. They are easier to move about than the tubs.
In the nursery we mostly use them for propagating our cuttings. We fill the upper half with sand instead of potting mix and place the cuttings directly in the sand. We have an excellent strike rate as the cuttings do not dry out.
Wicking Buckets make excellent container gardens for small spaces or rented homes.
Again, you can make your own, or we have Wicking Bucket Kits available here on the website (CLICK HERE) and some at the Gloucester Farmers Market.