Friday, September 02, 2011

What's a Wicking Bed?

I'm so pleased you asked :)

If you're not from a hot dry climate then you don't need to read this post.

If you are from a hot dry climate then read on and find a very water efficient garden bed design.

Do you remember those pots called water well pots? Same principle applies here:

Water will 'wick' up, via capillary action, from a water reservoir in the base, up through the soil to the plant roots.
A waterwell pot (TM and all that stuff):

Can be built in a container, in-ground or above-ground bed (ie suitable for renters as well as home owners).
Drastically reduced evaporation due to not watering on the top of the soil.
Plants have moisture where they need it (at the roots) when they need it.
Very water efficient.
Makes your garden less dependant on you and regular watering. You can go away for a weeks holiday in summer and your plants will still be alive when you come back!
Less fungal issues caused by soil splash and wet leaves (because you wont be top watering)


Can only be 300-400mm soil (the water will not wick any higher than this).
If your water reservoir leaks it can be a lot of work to fix it.
Not particularly suited to high rainfall areas.
Not suited to deep rooted plants.

For us in Perth our summers are very long, very hot and very dry. Our record is about 84 days with no rain but it's still generally over 50 days with no rain. When it does rain the evaporation rate is higher than the rainfall in all of spring, summer and autumn anyway, so the plant still doesn't really get much water when it does rain (ie rainfall only exceeds the evaporation rate for three or four months of the year).

Added to this is those dreadful Bassendean Sands that most of Perth gardeners have in their backyards. The least fertile soil in the world! Lucky us! Water (and nutrients) wash through this stuff (which is not much better than beach sand) so fast plants have to be real quick to get a drink as it flows past them back down into the water table.

There are other factors (such as blisteringly hot easterly winds in summer) but the two listed above are sufficient reasons to be looking for very water efficient methods of gardening.

I think I first heard about wicking beds at one of the free workshops held at Lockridge Community Garden. I've been attending these monthly for the last two years. Fabulous folk.
I did some web research also, there are some very useful sites and you'll see a variety of ways of making these if you go looking. The originator, Colin Austin of South Aust, is a good place to start - Waterright . Google wicking beds and you'll find heaps.

Colin came up with the idea to ameliorate erratic rainfall in trying to assist Ethiopia with food growing.

Being the sometime sceptic that I can be, I decided to follow the instructions given by Todd Smith at Lockridge Community Garden and built two wicking beds out of polystyrene foam vegie boxes last January to see how they would go during our summer.

I'll show you how they went in the next post ...

Happy gardening everyone!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Backyard Makeover



Raised sleeper wicking beds for annual vegies. More info re these later.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Potatoes in Tyres

I can't believe how popular the post I made, years ago, on growing potatoes in tyres is.

It is the single most popular page on this blog, and searches for this topic continue to be the reason most ppl end up at my blog. Amazing!

I haven't grown potatoes in tyres myself for quite a while now, but have some organic seed potatoes waiting to be put somewhere. The tyres I used previously are now holding up my worm farm.

Oh! But I've just remembered I do have two other tyres not currently doing anything at all. Well, I had put some green manure crop onto them but it's not too soon to change that!!

Coolo, think I just gave myself a project for the afternoon, particularly as I have a bale of straw sitting out there not doing anything and it *is* potato planting time!

I'm off to plant potatoes in tyres!


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lemon Cordial Taste Test

Just made a drink of the lemon cordial I made. It's not great and could do with more lemon-ness in the flavour, but it's not dreadful either.

Think I will try less stevia next time and see if the lemon-ness comes through more.

Have you made any cordials from home-grown produce?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Plants for Free!

Oh how I love Freecycle.

Several times at the plant nursery I have looked for watercress so I can grown my own to add to my daily lunch-time salad, but to no avail.

Lo and behold what do I see in my local Freecycle emails on the weekend - someone one suburb away has watercress that's bursting out of it's pot and she'd love to give some away, YIPEE!

A few emails later, a short 5 minute drive and I am the happy owner of some watercress plants.

There are regularly plants advertised in our Freecycle group and I've given some away as well as received the grass tree. Maybe there are free plants waiting on Freecycle for you too? (Freecycle is for more than just plants BTW!) Go to the website now and join the group nearest you (there are groups all over the world)

Thankyou Freecycle!!

I didn't even get my nails dirty with this plant as it is floating in my pond.

Thursday, January 06, 2011


Collected Kangaroo Paw seeds from my garden this afternoon - both Anigozanthos Manglesii (red and green kangaroo paw) and Anigozanthos Veridis (a smaller all green kangaroo paw).

Both had flowered particularly well so I was really pleased to be able to gather some seed for future propagation and use in my used-to-be-front-lawn area.

I was very fortunate to adopt a xanthorrhoea (grass tree) for free (from however I feel it was already too far gone when I adopted it. There has been no signs of new leaves at all and the leaves in the middle of the crown are dead (were like that when I adopted it). I will continue to pamper it with more water than any any other plant receives and 4 - 6 weekly doses of seaweed solution and see what happens.

Go get some dirt under ya' nails!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I Wish we Had Smello-Net!

I really do wish you could smell what I bought today, cos I have something yummy!

Brown Boronia is a West Australian native that is very, very fragrant. People walk around the city selling bunches of it when it's in flower and you can smell them from miles away. A beautiful sweet aroma. They cleverly had some right at the front door of the Better Pets and Gardens shop I went to today - to buy cat food.

The aroma is just magnificent and I could smell it as soon as I got out of the car. Their selling ploy worked very well on me - came out with two boronia plants as well as two tomatoes, a capsicum, a punnet of bok choi on top of the cat food!

Boronia is sold as an aromatic oil for burning in oil burners.

I've tried to grow one of these before but it carked it pretty quickly, hopefully I will have more success this time. Here are the two I bought today:

The one on the left is the standard Boronia Megastigma, the one on the right is called 'Heaven Scent' which is, the label informs me, and improved version of the first.

The second plant has more compact bushier growth as you can see in the pic. The flowers are smaller but seem almost as heavily scented as the standard plant.

The flowers are quite profuse and are dark brown/purple on the outside and either yellow or, in this case, lime green inside. Here's a close up of the flowers both inside and outside:

The plant is native to the south-west of my state so I think my previous problem has been heat and dryness. I have a spot in my current native garden that I think may be OK for this plant. So I'll put it in the ground in a few weeks and see what happens.

Vegie Pot Update
I took pity on the mostly-dead snow peas today and gave them a burial befitting a .. well, umm a dead vegie plant :) :

All of the lettuce I had originally planted were still there, so I just added a few more to fill in the complete circle around the inside of the pot. In the middle I planted a tomato.

I bought a single tomoto plant in a pot instead of a punnet of seedlings even though it's a more expensive option.

I dislike buying a punnet of them and either throwing half the plants in the bin or just being absolutely overwhelmed by fruit if I'm silly enough to plant them all. They also take up far too much room if I plant 8 tomato plants. (What family could ever need 8 tomato plants?? hmm maybe an Italian family). I haven't had much luck with transplanting out ones I grown from seed either, so I'm better off buying an individual plant.

Trendy Tomato
The tomato I bought today is calld 'Pink' (after the singer maybe???) and is supposed to be a heavy cropper, so I probably should feed it more than I usually do. I'm generally pretty slack with fertilising, preferring only to do it during soil preparation. I gave it some Thrive (TM and all that) liquid fertiliser when I planted it today. Might go mark it on the calendar so I remember to feed it again in a few weeks.

Anyway, here's how the pot looks now, hopefully I haven't planted the tomato too soon as it's not really spring yet. I am a bit concerned for the lettuce once the weather warms up, but hopefully they'll all be eaten before it gets too hot for them :

Yum- I see summer salads on the menu, and right outside the back door!

The other tomato (a 'trailing' one meant for hanging pots, but I don't have any hanging pots) is in a separate pot with the rest of the left over lettuce plants, and in yet another pot is the yellow capsicum/mild chilli that I bought.

All in all there was quite a bit of dirt under my nails today!

Next time I'll show you my worm farm. 'Til then happy gardening everyone!