In an effort to build a more sustainable garden, im trying to have as many things out side the ap systems as possible. Most likely i will never go back to dirt rows, but know that power can be the Achilles heel in ap, and want to have some portion of my garden that does not require power. i like the idea of wicking beds, but haven’t found a solid How-To. Any advice would be appreciated.
Rob, a wicking bed is really as simple as a plant pot with it's holes up a few inches from the bottom or leaving the plant pot in a saucer of water. It is really just a way to provide a reserve of water for the plants.
Those fancy self watering planters with all the extra materials and engineering are wicking beds.
A trench in the round with plastic in the bottom before making a mount of garden soil over the top is also a wicking bed.
I've done one where I put a billboard liner in a trench and then filled the bottom with wood chips then I made a mount of mushroom compost on top and ran one drip irrigation line down the top and that wicking bed is about 15 feet long and 3 feet wide.
You can build nice raised garden bed type planters and line the bottom half of them with liner to hold water.
Some people will put gravel or coarse materials in the bottom and cover with root fabric or shade cloth before putting the compost/garden soil on top.
Other people will add a perferated tube in the bottom with a watering tube up to the surface so they can add water into the bottom without wetting the surface.
Make it as simple or complex as you like. I say use what you have on hand and don't get too wound up in how they are "supposed" to be made.
Well Rob you are in luck. I am in the process of applying for a patent for china and an international patent. No worries though, it is open sourced, I just don't want big Ag to control the tech.
Sorry, I don't have time to write this now as its past midnight here and have to be up in six hours but I promise you I will write a blog while I'm out at my garden this week so please look for it come friday or saturday.
A couple of key factors just to start you off. Water can only travel about 30cm (one foot)max, vertically. You must have adequate drainage and aeration or you'll have a sloppy, stinky mess. The bed must be level.
I have been using two wicking beds made out of 100 gallon rubbermade tubs for close to a year and have had such great success that I am expanding on them quite a bit.
With the rubber-made tubs I fill the bottom half with gravel and the upper half with coconut coir and worm castings. There is weed mat and an overflow drain at the coir/gravel interface. The gravel acts as a reservoir of water which is topped off through a pipe extending through the coir. These tubs can never be overfilled due to the overflow drain. The reservoir will last for a good week in hot and dry weather in my location.
I top the tubs off with system water when I remember. I have found that topping then off has become a little bit of a hassle so I am integrating them into my system to keep the reservoirs always stay topped off.
I now have a new design for integrating wicking beds into an active aquaponics system. If the reservoir has a constant water supply then it does not need to be so deep. The depth of the growing media is dependent on how high it can wick up water. I am now using 55 gallon drums cut in half to make two equal round beds. I am now making the reservoir 6 inches deep and the coir about 13 inches. There is a constant trickle of water into the reservoirs and the overflow goes back to the sump. I can adjust the overflow fitting to adjust the water level inside. I will post more information on this design once it has proven itself by a full crop grow out(the first crop is well on its way).
Rob here is 'how-to' for a round trench in the ground type, that incorporates some of the more 'fancier' elements (basically the perforated tube) TC mentioned...
This is another good source... he also does aquaponics and so there are some interesting videos on that too:
Wicking beds are excellent!
Hi Chris. Does your overflow pipe kick out the side above the weed mat or below the weed mat in your rubbermaid containers?
My old design overflow exits the container right at the weed mat. For continuous flow wicking beds I now am exiting the overflow about 1-2 inches below the weed mat. On the outside I can control the reservoir level by using a double 90 that is not glued in. I can swivel the double 90 up to raise the reservoir level and swivel down to lower the reservoir level. This allows me much control as a crop develops. During germination I can insure a moist media surface by raising the reservoir level. When the crop is established I can keep the media surface dry by lowering the reservoir level a little. None of this continuous flow wicking bed stuff has gone through several crops yet to prove my techniques work.... I am just telling you what I am playing around with right now
Brilliant. That double 90 is a great idea.
thanks TC, thats what i needed to hear. i am working double time to move the farm right now, and apologize for the slow reply.
i feel like a newby again, i am ever so grateful to have such a wonderful resource as this site. ...thanks everyone.
Ha ha! i have a new project to work on!
Jon, are you till doing this same thing with the pots filled compost mix sitting in the gravel? If so is it still working out great for you and not hurting the fish? Thank you for any added info on your update.
Jon Parr said:
Rob, I'm using some regular old black plastic nursery pots with composted rabbit manure, chicken manure, a handful of wood ash, lava rock fines, granite dust, worm castings (fed mostly BSFL castings and parrot cage droppings with lots of seed hulls), and sawdust (my well water is 8.2, and sawdust helps balance that). The pots set down about 1" below the high water mark in my gravel media AP beds, so each time it floods, it wicks up into the pots. The whole idea was inspired by Vlad's dual root zone idea, as a way to get bloom nutes to heavy feeders without fouling the AP water. This is working kick ass (thanks Vlad), and is my way to grow root crops and heavy bloom feeders from here on out. I also like the plug and play style of using the pots. As a plant matures, I can yank an individual pot and replace it with another already started, and there is no mess left behind except the severed roots that grow down into the media (which the worms take care of).