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Aussies Living Simply

Wicking Beds

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    Hi all,

    not sure if this is the right thread/catagory to talk about wicking beds but here goes.

    I have several wicking beds in my garden and have been pleased with most of them so far but it is early days yet and a wet cool summer is no test for them either.

    My main problem is soil settling and as it goes down it takes the plants down too and some too close to the water reservior. I have lost several tomatoes after the heavy 100ml downpour the overflow couldn’t get it away quick enough and the plants got water logged and have died.

    Only happened in one bed though.

    Has anyone else had this sort of problem?


    Croydon Victoria


    Hi Dayla,I have that trouble with my fridge wick beds,as I put broken bricks or rocks in the bottom with some sand then plenty of leaves then whatever soil I had available at the time-which wasnt as much as I would have liked.

    As soon as everything has finished they will be getting a make-over.

    Did you put enough soil/compost in before planting out?

    You mentioned this only happened in one bed is the drainage working properly?

    Hopefully someone with a bit more knowledge will come along soon.


    The drainage must have blocked, I probably made the hole too small. It is cleared now, but SOO much rain and the sinking/settling of the soil meant the tomatoes were sitting in water. Only for a day, but that was enough.

    These wicking beds are made from half IBCs. Wonderful height.

    I have other wicking beds which are surrounded by old roof tiles, they are big cement tiles. They look great and slot in next to eachother very neatly.

    I am working on more using wood. But the settling is a problem for all of them. I used bought compost and mushroom compost, mixed them together, they settled the most ie: tomatoes.

    The garden soil ones also settled.



    My holes in my wicking beds are 2cm at least and drain well.


    Hi, yeh mine are 2cm too but the drain hole in this bed drains into another similar bed and I don’t think it could get in because the other was too full too!

    I will remedy the situation when the crop is finished.




    Dayla,if I remember correctly you should have some soil in there too not just compost.

    if you can find it go to scarecrows blog or ask Doc he is the other half of scarecrow

    Even google wicking beds you may find her there.


    I have that problem too. Because of budget constraints I used exising soil from my garden (wherever I could pinch it I took it) and combined with horse manure that I get free from someone in town. The horse poo decomposed and composted down beautifully – leaving my beds with greatly reduced soil levels. I remedy this by refilling the beds (more horse poo/straw) at change of crops and filling it to the brim. I also wait until the more sensitive plants start to wilt before watering. So far I’ve not drowned my plants yet…

    After my Autumn crops I will think of purchasing some soil as with frequent downpours this is far more likely to become a problem.


    I have just finnished my 10 th and planted rasburys


    Hey Fishfood,

    how are you?

    I am having to dismantle my wicking beds as I am moving to Healesville. Have bought 2 acres there. It has a polyhouse so I will put my W beds in there and will have a proper go at aquaponics in there too.

    take care



    Hi dayla yes still going i made front page of the local paper with the fish when you get settled pm me your phone no and addres and i will visit


    I dont worry about drainage at all. I put all my plants straight in but I plant around them with plants that dont mind wet feet and they seem to take up the excess. I am surrounded by large trees and this has been the only was for me to have a successful garden without tree root infestation. I find strawberry plants great. Beetroot gives bumper roots. Onions and leeks also and potatoes. I am surprised that the tomatoes died if wet as they also do well and are grown in hydroponic setups. Hope this helps.


    Hi Gardenaholic,

    We had huge amounts of rain when the trouble started and the tomatoes wilted. The excess could not escape. These wicking beds are half IBCs, so act as a giant bucket.

    The water was stagnant in these unlike hydroponics where the water is moving and oxygenated. Big difference there, I learnt this fact when dabbling in Aquaponics.

    When I have moved them to our new house. (much hard work digging out the soil) They will be in a polyhouse and I am in control of the water going in. And it will enter through the pipe to the bottom not from the soil surface washing all the nutrients to the bottom where they stink as I am digging it out.

    If they were out in the open I would definately put more holes in for drainage.

    thanks for your comment, hope your way continues to work well.



    Hi Dayla,

    Firstly, can I ask what an IBC is?

    Secondly, what were you using as a barrier between the reservoir and the soil? I’ve seen weed matting or shadecloth used. Could the settling soil have been caused by the barrier collapsing into the reservoir?




    International Bulk Container :tup:


    Hi Sam,

    an IBC is an international or industrial bulk container. One of those plastic boxes in a metal cage.

    Mine had been used for foodstuffs and so are safe to use for growing stuff in. Only they are not UV stable and therefore must be protected.

    In mine I used straw in the bottom as I was advised to do then I put mushroom and vegetative compost straight on top, so yes there was a lot of settling which took the tomato roots down perilously close to the water level.

    And then when all the rain, 100mls on one day it could not escape quick enough and wilty toms.

    When I made more WBs I made them in different ways. Dug down till I hit the yukky clay, bout 10cm, then put the plastic sheeting, which came up at the sides about 10cm to make the pond.

    Ag pipe inside for the water to come in thru. And chucked the soil back in. Put another 2/3rds above with wooden planks and filled that with good soil and planted. That has worked well, not too much settling but excess water just flows out at the top of the plastic sheet.

    In containers I have put stones in the bottom and covered them with old shade cloth to keep the soil from clogging up the reservoir. Haven’t tried those yet but they should work.

    I like the idea of them and will make new ones when I move house. They proved themselves to be water wise and the lack of root competition from trees was fabulous.



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