Thursday, June 9, 2016

Wicking box #3

Back in May, I wrote about installing our first wicking boxes. We finally got around to setting up bed number three - remember the issue we had with a cracked base, in the last tub though?

Minor crack, but still not water tight

David went and bought some silastic in a tube, which I was dubious about the practicality - given the base is actually rather thin and flexible. I thought the weight of the soil, might break any seal we could manage to dry. I made sure to use silastic on the facing side and underneath too. No photos unfortunately.

Silicon repair, top, right- hand corner

But I did manage to take a photo after we sealed it, and packed the road base underneath, so it sat snugly under the plastic base. Our hope was to reduce the possibility of movement. We tested the water holding capabilities, for 24 hours, then deemed the silastic a success!

I'm relieved that particular idea, worked, as I didn't fancy purchasing more plastic, to act as a liner, in the already plastic tub. Kind of defeats the purpose of recycling plastic, if we had to buy more plastic. The rest of the silastic went to repairing other needed jobs around the place too - like holes in the chicken coop, roof, and the metal watering can had developed a small leak that was getting increasingly bigger. Purchasing the silastic met more needs than one.

The watering section

Once the tub was sealed though, I filled the base (water in situ) up to the drainage hole, with sand. We're going to try a different approach to the first two wicking boxes, where rocks were used in the base. Not only, did I want to avoid more weight in the tub than necessary, but we always have plenty of sand, from the silt bed. which fills up, after every rainy season.

The hose is set up, within the sand itself, as I demonstrated in the original post. Only instead of rocks, I'm using sand. It will be interesting to note any differences between the two systems, as they grow.

Fabric plug

I've also read with the sand layer, you don't have to use a barrier, like the shade cloth I used in the first two tubs. Which allows the plant's roots to sink right into the wet sand, without being held up by a barrier. The concession, of course, was to plug the drainage hole, with a small square of shade cloth, to stop compost falling out.

I actually enjoyed setting this wicking box up, more than the other two. Because it used fewer, but more readily available resources. It was also, a lot easier on the back!

Adding more

Once I was happy with the sand layer, I started to bring in the compost. Light materials again, made it easier on the back and faster to fill. What I'm liking, more and more about these tubs are, the worms are going to do all the soil work for me. I'm waiting on an order from our local hardware store, for worms. Once added, there will be no more turning beds or dealing with tough weeds in compacted soil. So it will be worth going to the effort, initially setting them up.

I have the recent photo of what the bed looked like, immediately after planting:

Tub #3

I had some society garlic, which needed to come out of its hydrophobic pot, and I transplanted some parsley too. Love having herbs for cooking. They've both adored the new conditions since.

I also took photos of the other two boxes, on the same day:

 Tub #2

A lone broccoli plant, went into tub 2, with some rubuarb, herbs, and tatsoi, plus some buckwheat which germinated from seed. Pretty happy with that.

Tub #1

Tub 1 (the first to be constructed) was filled with mainly bracicas, pot marigold and snow peas. Some have done great, others, not so well. The peas have suffered in the strong winds we've had lately, for example.

Here are some more recent photos, taken several weeks later, with the addition of sugar cane mulch. In order of construction:

Tub #1

Planted one month ago

Tub #2

 Also planted one month ago

Tub #3

 Planted two weeks ago ~ parsley quickly recovered

I still have not mulched tub number three, as I've been waiting for the green mizuna seeds to germinate. Once they grow a little bigger, I'll put the mulch down. I don't want to risk rotting them, with a thick layer of mulch.

Mainly mizuna, and some tatsoi

I can't wait for our greens to start producing enough to eat. I'm sure our guinea pigs won't mind in the slightest either. We have more space against our retaining wall, to build several more tubs. Although we're not going to go searching for these particular tubs any more - as we have some supplies we can use on site instead.

It's to do with a little accident we had, back in May of last year...

May 2015

I'm sure my dearly beloved, would love to be reminded of this particular incident. When a chainsaw met a tree, that didn't quite fall in the direction it was supposed to. Down it came on our only garden shed on the property! We purchased a new kit shed, and replaced the two sides, which were damaged. We have other building projects reserved for the pieces of the new shed, we didn't use.

However, the damaged tin remains, of the sides which had to be replaced. They still need to be found a useful purpose. So we are hoping to use the straighter pieces of metal, for building more wicking beds. What became an unfortunate accident, we would rather forget, can be redeemed instead, by growing vegetables for us. I like the thought of that.

The best part is, I can make these beds longer this time - giving more space to grow!

2016 seems to be the year of wicking beds.


  1. There are just so many versions of wicking beds and yours is yet another! I am so happy with mine too.

    1. We will both enjoy seeing how our systems grow, I think. I don't know about you, but I love having veg/herbs, so close to home. Its worth the effort.

  2. Chris, we have three wicking beds. Our largest has sprung a leak though and it is going to be a big job to take out the soil etc and fix the problem so it is just being used as a raised garden at the moment until I feel motivated to fix it up. Yours are looking good.

    1. It sucks when they break, isn't it? I have to be prepared for this reality too. These storage tubs I'm sure, are not designed to be outdoors. But I'll see how long I can get from them. Good luck, when you get to fixing the bed. :)

  3. All is looking good! I'm glad you mentioned the worms....they will eventually convert all the compost to worm castings which hold a phenomenal amount of water, such that you might have to replace part of the medium after a couple of years because it becomes like black mud (I do).

    Another interesting thing is that you've done away with the barrier between sand/pebbles and soil. I never can understand why people do this. The water-loving roots will find their way into the wet layer at the bottom and it's better to have as much compost and hence nutrient in the box as possible for the plants.

    I must get to and write that post I was promising now that you've done two lots of boxes.

    1. I can only hope I get to the black mud stage, lol. Which means the worms are doing a great job, even if it does make more work for me. ;)

      Yes, I like not having the barrier - less resources to acquire and it won't need it with the sand. Rocks and gravel are a different story.


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