Wicking beds rock!..

13 January, 2016

I love my wicking beds! Ever since I built them between November 2014 and April 2015 I have been extremely pleased with the results, however it is now in the peak of summer that I reckon I'm truly seeing their benefits.

See the below comparison between cucumbers, both from the same punned of bought seedlings (my seed sown cucumbers all died/were eaten).

First up, the wicking beds:

And now, soil planted cucumbers:
The difference is amazeballs! Both got equal treatment in planting, being planted out into soil (the wicking beds were filled with soil from my garden, so even that is the same) enriched with homemade compost and watered once or twice weekly as needed. Both get full sun throughout the day. The only difference is wicking bed vs. soil planted.
It just goes to show that particularly for water loving plants that our soil dries out way too fast, even with fairly regular watering. Keeping the water within reach of the plants makes a huge difference.
Need more proof? What about tomatoes.
Wicking bed toms:

These are at least a meter tall and laden with fruit.
Soil grown toms:
These are about 70-80cm mostly (although some are closer to a meter or a bit more - interesting how varieties are more/less tolerant to conditions) and have fruit, but a lot less than the wicking bed grown ones. I wonder if a more stable water level has allowed the wicking bed ones to grow more strongly and also set more fruit as they are not water stressed.
Overall I love my wicking beds. They are great and I only wish I had built them sooner. That said I'll still grow in the soil, but I'm thinking I'll be planting a lot more perennial plants and drought tolerant plants in the regular garden and leave the majority of the annuals to the wicking beds where I get more bang for my water buck.


  1. I love my wicking beds too, although I don't have any actual beds, just tubs and crates. The secret is always having the root zone wet; it's a fallacy that roots won't grow in water and that you should never leave a pot saucer under a pot because the roots will rot. That's rubbish (probably put about my not-very-observant gardeners!

    You can never water a traditional garden bed enough...you think you are but we all know how there's a growth spurt after a good soaking rain.

    The other good thing about wicking beds is that nutrients don't get washed into the subsoil away from the root zone. Everything you put into a wicking bed nutrient-wise stays there until the plants take it up. It's why you have to be a bit careful about over-fertilising.

    The greatest idea since sliced bread!

    1. I reckon if I didn't already have my raised beds I would have done what you've done with tubs. Works a treat!
      I wonder if the water fallacy comes from very wet climates where some plants do die (from suffocation, not rot) of too much water. Unfortunately this is not a problem likely to befall us.
      I'm trying to be cautious with feeding the wicking beds, but may be erring on the side of too little. Do you feed yours anything except compost?

  2. I'm planning to re do all my backyard veg beds with apple crates and make them as wicking beds. The differences really are amazing.

    1. I wonder if apple crates may be too tall if it is all wicking bed. I understand from my reading that water only wicks up 30-40cms, so it may depend on where your water outlet point is. Let us know how you go though, I'd be interested to hear about it.

    2. The top layer would only be 30cm's of soil for that reason. They're only 70cm's tall so it does mean quite a larger reservoir. I'm thinking of cutting the tops off to make them a bit shorter

    3. Interesting. It just means more subsoil/gravel I guess, and more cost for that. But shouldn't impact productivity I guess.

  3. Can I use peach pips in the reservoir instead of gravel?

    1. I don't see why not. Anything that takes up space. But in hindsight I wouldn't bother with gravel and just fill them with soil. Though that does mean you need more soil and if you are buying it in that can be costly.