Wicking buckets are the best...

19 May, 2015

I love wicking buckets! Having started experimenting with these last year with some underperforming blueberries, I have since found that pretty much anything can be grown in a wicking container of some kind.

I am currently growing the following in wicking buckets:

Blueberries


Oranges, lime and mandarin espaliered along the back fence.


Main rationale for that is the fence was always going to need to be rebuilt, and I wanted to be able to move the plants out of the way, as I don't trust tradies to not step all over and break young plants. This way I'll be able to move them out of harms way when the fence comes down, and put them back when it is up again.

In front are some standard size apples I'm trialling. These will likely need re-potting every few years, but I'm figuring this will be worthwhile for the dwarfing effect on the tree and the ability to move the tree when I need to.


Raspberries also seem to like wicking buckets.


In other tree experiments, I have three plums, a damson and an apricot also in wicking buckets. They are only a year in, but are doing pretty well.


These will be able to be moved into my new and improved chicken pen when in fruit, to reduce the need to net, and be taken out again for the rest of the year.

Now you may have noticed that while I started out with buckets, I have evolved to using plastic storage basket type things.

There are a couple of reasons:
1. They are light and easy to move around, particularly because of the handles.
2. They are cheap.

An unexpected benefit has been how easy they are to label.


Now I've only been using these for a year or so, but they don't seem to have deteriorated at all in that time, so I'm going with them as my preferred bucket for now.


This is how I turn the baskets into wicking bucket.

Take your bucket. I use the large 50L ones for trees, and the smaller 20L ones for small bushes. I figure I can always pot these up if needed.



Cut your water hole. I basically stick a pair of scissors in about 7-8cms above the base of the bucket and then twist it around to create a 1cm hole.


Et voila.


Then I fill the bucket with potting mix, planting whatever I'm growin in as close to the top of the bucket as I can.


This ensures the plant has plenty of room to grow roots above the water reservoir, so it is unlikely to drown from too much water.

Yesterday I potted up two avocados and three gooseberries as the next experiment in wicking buckets.



It will be interesting to see how they go.

Do you grow bushes / trees in wicking containers? If so I'd love to hear your experiences.

25 comments:

  1. I really like the idea of these wicking buckets.
    Coincidently I have been wondering lately whether I could have a shallow water well inside a pot and just filled with potting mix throughout, like you have done.
    You answered my question perfectly thanks.
    I suppose using a shallow tray outside the pot would achieve a similar effect, but more expensive and complicated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have tried this system for just over 12 months, and seems to be working fine so far. I expect the external tray situation would be more susceptible for water loss via evaporation, so less successful in our dry and hot climate.

      Delete
    2. Yes and trays can breed mosquito, especially during rainy spells.
      One small advantage to trays may be that you can more easily see when the water dries up.

      Delete
    3. True. I have found that the clear plastic (as opposed to mostly white and grey ones pictured) are good in that I can see the level of the water reservoir through the plastic. But they don't look as nice as the white ones.

      Delete
  2. I've always seen the self watering pots as having a second reservoir under the soil. Yours seems so much simpler.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True. A slight modification on the same theory.

      Delete
  3. I thought you had to have a water/rocky reservoir and then some cloth and then the soil?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can do that, as I originally did with my wicking buckets for the blueberries. However I've read plenty of places where people filled wicking containers with soil entirely, and didn't bother with the rock/sand and cloth barrier and they worked just fine. My experiences so far are also showing no issues with a soil only filling. A win for simplicity I think.

      Delete
    2. Thanks Bek, that's great to know :) They sure seem to be thriving

      Delete
  4. Thanks Bec, I'm a bit confused though, how are they wicking pots as opposed to ordinary pots filled with soil that you top water? cheers jj

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi jj. They don't have a water hole at the bottom, so the only water outflow is via the side hole I have created. The water collects in the space below the hole until it reaches the hole and then drains from there. So you top water and the water collects in the bottom below the hole. The water in that reservoir wicks up through the rest of the pot. I hope that makes things more clear. :)

      Delete
    2. Of course, isn't that clever! :)

      Delete
  5. What beautiful espaliered fruit trees. So celver to grow so much in these wicker buckets, and I can see why you have to punch a hole in the side but you added idea of self watering is brilliant :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cheers! I do think espalier is the best thing in the backyard edible garden. So functional!

      Delete
  6. You have some very clever ideas here. Your method making a wicking bucket seems so much simpler and much less costly than self-watering pots found online.

    How often do you have to water the buckets? I'm in California looking for ideas to reduce water usage and Australia seems to be far ahead of us in this concept.

    Your other great idea is to move the trees to a shelter before the birds peck holes in all the fruit. It's extremely difficult to net a 10-foot tree. Also like the idea of dwarfing the trees this way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jane
      Cheers! I can't claim credit for the idea, this is just the way I implement the theory.
      In Summer (generally 30 degree C plus most days, some days up to 40 plus) I'm generally watering them once, occasionally twice a week, making sure to water to the point of water draining from the hole so I know that the reservoir is full.
      Tell me about it! I have plenty of other standard size trees and netting them is a nightmare. But I would rather do that work than lose all the delicious fruit!

      Delete
  7. This idea has potential. I've lost a large amount of garden area due to garage construction, but I could use wicking buckets until it's done. Thanks for the suggestion!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are a lot of options. You may want to google foodnstuff (Bev) who I think grows most of her food in wicking boxes. Good luck!

      Delete
  8. Bek, just discovered your blog and I really love it. I was wondering whether you have any problems with the soil at the bottom of your wicking buckets getting a bit dank and yucky? I ask because Ive been looking into wicking beds, which use scoria at the bottom, with a layer of geomesh stuff (forgotten the correct name) over the scoria, to stop the soil from seeping in, to prevent it all from going a bit blurgh.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sorry, just seen the other comment on this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No problem! I am actually trying both in my larger wicking beds, but I have to say so far (with good quality pottingmix) it hasn't been a problem in the wicking buckets. They of course are easier to clean out and replace the growing medium if they do get a bit manky in future than a 1.2 x 2.4m bed. :)

      Delete
    2. Good point. I am definitely going to try this with my potted blueberries. I used coir peat in an attempt to retain moisture, only to discover (after I investigated after testing the pH) that coir peat should not be used with ericaceous plants. Oops. Also, I think it's good to keep bigger wicking beds productive all year round given the effort and potential expense in setting them up, whereas here in inland Vic, blueberries are deciduous (well mine are, even the one that's not supposed to be). Oh, and cooch grass wont be able to get up through the plastic.

      Delete
    3. Interesting. I also have some evergreen blueberries (or they were sold to me as such), but they haven't yet lost their leaves. This is their first year so we will see how they come through this winter.
      Very true, I hadn't thought about benefits against the ever invasive couch. Wicking buckets win again! :)

      Delete
  10. Hi, just found your blog, Very interesting stuff. Is it still working or are you having issues? I have made wicking pots out of bins and those very large plastic pots at Bunnings, by using agi pipe and sand as the wic in the reservoir with a shadecloth barrier between that and the soil. I'm amazed that your method is working as soil sitting in water becomes anaerobic and kills plant roots (actually I killed a pot plant that was sitting in a shallow tray of water..). I believe all those self watering pots available generally only have a very small amount of soil in the water as the wick. Is your method still working okay, and how are those cheap non UV stabilized buckets holding up in the sun? Thanks for sharing your great blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Paul
      The wicking buckets are going great guns. The trees in them are doing really well with no issues. I think its because they have enough drained soil above the water reservoir to not get fully saturated and therefore the plant roots can still 'breathe' (for want of a better term). The plastic hasn't desegregated as yet and they are mostly in full sun. I would never go back to regular pots.

      Delete