How to make a moisture wicking bed: a vegetable hydrating solution for Australia’s hot summer | Australian Lifestyle | Guardian

2021-12-06 16:20:27 By : Mr. Weixin Ye

You will need a large list of materials, but it is worth keeping the vegetable garden happy and watering for up to 10 days-even in the heat

Last modified on Saturday, November 27, 2021 20.53 EST

Hotter summers make soil conditions more difficult to grow, and barren vegetable garden beds suffer the most. One way to solve this problem is to prepare a moisture-wicking bed for yourself.

The basic theory behind the wicking bed is that water is stored in a sealed reservoir under the soil. When plants evaporate water through the leaves, the water will "wick" through the soil to the roots above.

Depending on its size, the reservoir can keep the soil moist for up to 10 days. It actually eliminates evaporation in the soil and eliminates the chance of scalding the leaves that may occur when watering the plant from above.

Everything you need to make one can be bought from a hardware store.

Equipment you need (length depends on the size of the garden bed):

Raised garden bed with strong frame

Brickies sand (very fine sand), enough to cover the bottom of the garden bed to a depth of 50 mm

Food grade plastic sheet, enough to cover the entire garden bed, all the way to the top

Two 50 mm slotted agricultural pipes, one is long enough to reach one third of the length of the garden bed; the other is long enough to reach the entire length of the bed

50 mm polyethylene pipe, enough to go from the top to the bottom of the garden bed

25 mm polyethylene pipe, enough to reach half the height of a garden bed

A polyethylene elbow to connect the shorter 50 mm slotted agricultural pipe to the 25 mm polyethylene pipe

Sealant to seal agricultural pipes in place

14 mm of construction aggregate (blue metal gravel), enough to fill the lower half of the garden bed

Geotextile, enough to cover the entire base of the garden bed

High-quality topsoil, enough to fill the upper half of your garden bed

Mulch (pea straw or alfalfa straw), enough to cover the top of the garden bed to a depth of 50 mm

Your loft bed can be made of any material; however, ideally, it needs to be at least 50 cm high, with a strong frame and base (such as a corrugated iron container, wooden box, or old bathtub). Make sure to place it on a level field and a stable, flat surface-it is a good idea to spread a layer of sand first.

Make sure there is nothing sharp at the bottom of the garden bed. Consider covering the bottom with a layer of brick sand, just in case. You can also use some old carpets.

Then spread the food-grade plastic evenly on the base and sides, making sure it almost reaches the top of the garden bed. If your plastic is thin, you can double it before use.

On one of the short sides of the garden bed, cut a hole a little larger than the agricultural pipe you are using. Cut through the lining too. Install a short agricultural pipe so that it protrudes from the hole, and then seal it on both sides to ensure water tightness.

Connect the polyethylene elbow and the 25 mm polyethylene pipe so that the top of the pipe is at the same height as the top of the rock on the bed. This kind of polyethylene pipe can be used to indicate when the garden bed has enough water, and can be rotated to release water from time to time to avoid stagnation.

Add gravel. Run the longer agricultural pipe from one side of the garden bed through the center of the gravel to the other side. At the end of the agricultural pipe closest to the overflow pipe, place a 50 mm polyethylene pipe so that the top of the pipe is higher than the top of the garden bed (you need something to hold it in place until the soil is added). This is the water inlet pipe, you will use it to add water to the garden bed (using a hose or a narrow mouth watering can).

The gravel between the inlet and overflow agricultural pipes prevents water from rushing into and out of the garden bed before the reservoir is full, and allows you to quickly fill the reservoir without backflowing into the garden bed, which is very important.

Add water to the garden bed through the water inlet pipe and let it sit overnight to see if there are any leaks.

Place the fabric on top of the reservoir. If you cannot use geotextiles, then you can use a shade cloth folded in half. No matter what you use, make sure that the material allows the water to move up but prevents the soil from moving down.

Pour into the topsoil. To keep the soil fertile and healthy, make sure to add approximately 10 cm of fresh compost to the garden bed before planting each year.

Think of this as an ordinary elevated garden bed, with the tallest vegetables in the middle and the shortest or creeping species on the edges.

Note that the driest soil will be on the surface, which helps prevent weeds from growing. You need to manually water from above for a few weeks until their roots grow out. After planting, add a layer of mulch.

This is an excerpt from Futuresteading edited by Jade Miles, published by Murdoch Books (A$39.99)