Wicking Beds

by Sam de Villiers
(Cape Town, South Africa)

High density companion planted wicking bath!

High density companion planted wicking bath!

Having just read this weeks email about wicking beds I really need to share my experiment. A few weeks ago I started a wicking bed in an old bath. It was already 3/4 full of gravel from a previous experiment filtering duck pond water - so I just topped it up with well rotted manure/compost.

I decided to combine the wicking bed experiment with a high density / companion planting / how-much-is-too-much experiment. So have planted the following seeds - maize, butter beans, gemsquash, butternut, cucumber, swiss chard, a pack of mixed herb seeds, sunflower. I bought a six-pack of chilli seedlings which also went in there, and a friend gave me some strawberry runners. Also in there are a couple of garlic cloves, an avocado pip, the top of a pineapple and a piece of ginger root.

This is in Cape Town, so when I started it was still pretty hot and the beauty of it was that I only needed to water once a week. At the end of the week the soil was still moist and the seedlings were sprouting all over. In fact I've never had such a successful result with seeds and some of the packets had been opened over a year earlier. I've been topping up with roughly 10 litres of water a week and since the rains started I haven't had to water at all. The earthworms started coming out two weeks ago, so I dug up a few of them and added them to my bath and judging from the wormcast - they're also happy in there.

The attached photo was taken about a month ago, the maize is now about head height and the "undergrowth" doing very well. The beans are full of flowers and the little chilli seedlings have one or two baby chillis. All the plants are green and growing (except the pineapple top and the avocado pip - but they were experiments within an experiment) and the only yellowing or dying of leaves are the oldest ones. The squash types are also starting to form flower buds, they are planted around the edges so that they can spread down and around the bath.

The only disappointment has been the packet of mixed herbs, mainly because the "mix" isn't very mixed - there were no contents listed and from what has come up it appears to be mostly fennel, dill and coriander.

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Jun 17, 2010
Whats a wicking bed
by: Shreesh

I am not familiar with this terminology ... whats a wicking bed?

It looks like some kind of raised bed for veggies ... right? Or is there more to it?

[MEG: The Wicking bed waters your plants from underneath from a built-in water reservoir. It is reported to use 50% less water than conventional beds, and promotes many other benefits. If you join the email list, there is access to a free info booklet on wicking beds.]

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