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My wicking pots…….

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    I have been very interested in the concept of wicking beds since I first read about them on here. Most of the ones I saw were the size of standard garden beds but I started thinking about smaller beds.

    I had seen references to the wicking concept being used with polystyrene boxes and it started me thinking. I did a bit of research on the web and picked out a few pertinent points such as the depth of soil shouldn’t be more than 300mm.

    My mind ticks over slowly and it took a while before I was ready. I thought I could utilise the blue 200 litre agricultural drums that seem to be readily available. Then I tossed ideas around in my head on how to fill the water reservoir, how to drain it and what bedding materials to use.

    Finally I was ready to give it a go and even if I do say so myself, the results were not bad at all. The total cost for each pot came to $25. I bought the drums, the pipe and fittings, an off cut of shadecloth and the coir blocks. The gravel is some blue metal left over from the side of the road (I made sure there was no tar or bitumen on it), the sand came from our old sandpit, compost from my compost heap and the donkey manure came, well from donkeys.

    Here is how I constructed them…

    I gathered these bits and poeces together to make the wicking pots….

    Showing detail of slots in the filler pipe (it’s upside down here) and holes in drain pipe. The drain pipe has holes along three sides of the pipe. I thought I might have to make a sleeve out of shade cloth to stop the soil clogging the pipe. You can see the hole drilled in the side of the drum to take the drain pipe.

    Drum cut in half to make two pots. Filler pipe glued together (‘L’ shaped one) and drain pipe cut (small ones on top).

    All fitted together. The drain pipe has about 12mm fall so the excess water drains out the front of the pot. Now I just have to find some gravel for the bottom, cut a circle of shade cloth to go over the gravel then fill it with growing medium and I’m away…

    For those who don’t know, the water goes in the filler pipe, fills up the reservoir and drains out the drain pipe. The soil is kept moist by wicking action – hence the name.

    Added washed gravel.

    Shade cloth barrier next to keep the potting mix out of the gravel (also around the drain pipe to keep it clean)

    A thin layer of sand over the shade cloth.

    The potting mix – coir-peat, very sandy loam, compost and donkey poo all mixed up.

    The first pot finished with the water reservoir filled all ready to plant tomorrow. Will get some lettuce and salad greens for this pot. Oh and a layer of mulch to go around the plants.


    Pot 1 planted with herbs – sage, oregano, thyme, sorrel, chervil, marjoram and welsh onions. 10/1/11

    Pot 2 planted up with various lettuce and a couple of Judi B’s triffids (welsh onions). 10/1/11

    The lettuce are growing well after three weeks. They did wilt a couple of times in the heat before I mulched the soil. 2/2/11

    Herb growth after three weeks. I’m very happy with how these pots have performed. I have only topped the reservoir up about three times and we had very hot weather in the last week. 2/2/11


    Hi Steve,

    They look good, I must get Mr Bobbs to take a look because somehow the simplicity of the design is bound to get lost if I try to pass the instructions on.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Take care,



    Thanks Bobbs. It was great to meet you and Mr Bobbs when I was down last month although it was only for a few minutes. 🙂


    Thanks Steve

    I have two drums set aside for this. Now DH will know exactly what i want him to to to.


    Thought I would update this thread on how the wicking pots performed. They have done really well. Here they are today (please excuse the mess around them, they have been ignored)…

    That is a volunteer cherry tomato growing in them. It came from the compost I put in them. Judi B’s triffids have really done well in them.

    I found the right hand drum used a lot more water than the left one. I think it’s because that one has the screw in caps in it and the water probably seeped out through them. If I did it again I think I would run a bead of silicone around the caps to seal them properly. Even so, I only topped up the reservoirs whenever I thought of it – about every fortnight I’d say. Haven’t had to do anything else except pick things from them! :tup:

    The soil has settled a couple of inches so when I go to replant I will mix in some fresh compost to bulk it out again and to feed the soil. But it is still lovely and friable.

    That tomato did well. It survived all our frosts this year and we had a couple of beauties!


    Thanks for the updates Steve they have done well.



    they look fantastic Steve,

    I’ve done something similar but with buckets that I bought for 79 cents or so from the local hardware store. I must admit, while looking at yours I realised that I have not allowed a drainage hole in the side of the buckets but then I am going to have mine under shelter.

    Good to see the results, mine are still waiting for the seedlings to grow before I plant them into the wicking buckets but I have high hopes for them.


    Hi Steve,

    thanks for this post, it is most informative. I have been playing around with wicking beds also. I have done some in the black boxes some councils used to recycling and large waterwell planter boxes. It is easy to modify them. I will be doing it to some of the large black regular plant pots I have. Just line the bottom with heavy duty plastic and drill a hole somewhere up the side for the overflow. Some will overflow at the top of the plastic but a reservoir will remain at the bottom.

    They really do save water and things grow well.



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