Monday, 24 September 2007

Wick(er)ed Dreams

The latest news from the govt. on Water Restrictions indicates that they are set to change on the 1st Oct to allow us 1 day of using drippers per week.

As we live in an even numbered house that will be Saturday here from 6am to 9am OR 5pm to 8pm so we'll be having some early starts on Saturdays.

Although this will help in some of the less easily accessible areas, in the vegetable garden I will continue to use the containers I have attached to the various beds as this is working very well.

I am investigating more efficient watering systems including a technique known as 'Wicking-bed Watering".

This basically consists of building garden beds on top of a plastic membrane thus creating a 'pool' of moisture in the lower layer and the vegetable roots draw this moisture up via capillary action. I often water seedlings by standing them in a tray of water and this is a similar principle.

I have recently seen articles written on this style of gardening using various methods of getting the water 'sub-surface' - usually this involves the use of agricultural drainage pipe.
Here is a link for further information.

I wanted to trial this method but not spend any money to set it up so I chose to use a small section of ground in which I wish to grow pumpkins in this year.
The area is under a very large gum tree which will use any water that I try to give the pumpkins so this method might just solve this problem.

First I dug out the area
and found a piece of wood from Doc's stash pile (again)
to allow the area to be built up.

I levelled the area with soft sandy loam.
Note the site very gently slopes to one side to allow heavy rain
(although rare, it does happen remember this)
and excess water to drain away.

Then I found a sheet of plastic
(leftover from the hothouse project last month)
and lined the area with this.
The plastic only goes up about 10cm at the sides
meaning it will just be this level that will contain the water.
The plants should use this water up over about a week
before needing to be watered again.
(that's the theory anyway)

The area was then filled with a manure mix
that I had been allowing to 'cook' over winter
in preparation for the pumpkins.

Then topped up with some of the compost
I've also been 'cooking' over winter.

I then raided the worm farm for a few helpers

And tucked them up with some felt covering.

One week later after less than 3mm of rain during the week
and no extra watering, the whole site was still quite damp.
The worms could be easily found
and there was evidence of young worms in there!

2 weeks later I put some 4 litre juice bottles
(minus their lids)
in to enable the lower surface of soil to be watered.
Then plant 3 Rouge d'Etampes Pumpkin plants
that are bursting out of their pots in the hothouse.

At the very least the plastic should prevent
the gum tree roots invading the area


  1. This looks like an interesting way to conserve water and well worth experimenting. Do let us know how things fared in the bed. I'm interested in doing this sort of thing for tomato plants in bottomless buckets. I guess you'd have to have the area shaded but not so shaded as to block necessary sunlight from plants. Anyway, will be keen to see how it works out.

  2. Seems like an excellent idea. I shall be following this closely!

  3. Hi Cosmic
    These dry times are forcing us to investigate different watering methods.
    This method should allow me to use the space under the gum trees where I often can't get anything to grow.
    I'll keep you posted on this bed's progress.

    Hi Libby
    After all your summer rain this year I wonder if you'll have a dry winter like we have had!

  4. Hi Scarecrow - what a great idea!
    I have a garden bed that is getting invaded by next door's plum tree - I think you have just fixed that problem for me!


  5. Great one Duck Herder!!

    Nothing worse than watering someone else's tree ;)

  6. Hi Scarecrow
    YOU are my first blog experience - that's how besotted with Wick I am!
    Have been experimenting with the method in cut rounds of tanks and just found your site. I also happen to write an irregular column The Dirt for our small local newspaper, in which I have been encouraging people to grow their own. My question is can I use your diagram and of course credit you and enfcourage people to your website - I have our own pics
    Wendy French

  7. Hi Wendy
    I don't have a problem with that...are you in Australia or overseas? (over our seas anyway;))

  8. cool I made a bed out of an old boat and it works a treat and made a second one out of a spa bath both are working well.See photos on


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