Wicking Beds/Self Watering Beds
Want to water your garden only once a week in summer? Then wicking beds are the way to go! They are my NUMBER ONE HOT TIP when starting a vegetable garden at home.
Why is this? Because failing to water appropriately is the common reason a vegetable garden fails. Usually from underwatering, but sometimes from overwatering. People either do not water for long enough to soak the soil adequately or they water too infrequently. Buying a wicking bed will solve all these issues in one hit. Fill the reservoir with water and let the bed do the rest.
A wicking beds or a self watering bed or pot (same thing) is essentially a planting bed that waters your crops from the bottom up instead of the top down. So water is poured into the reservoir at the base of the planter, and the soil "wicks" or soaks the water up to the roots of the plant. A wicking bed is the most water efficient way of watering your garden beds as it prevents evapouration, as the water only needs to wick as high as the roots.
Wicking beds and self watering pots MUST be distinguished from pots which simply do not have holes in the bottom. A wicking or self watering bed will have an overflow outlet on the side to ensure the water level does not become so high your bed is flooded and the roots rot. This overflow outlet is essential for healthy plants.
For the visual people, this video by Biofilta, an Australian made and designed wicking bed, explains it well.
There are a lot of different companies in Australia who sell wicking beds or self watering pots (same). They vary depending on quality, size and appearance. There are also companies that sell the DIY components so you can turn any pot into a wicking bed. Or you can build a bed completely from scratch.
However you choose to do it, I always recommend wicking beds. They are absolutely worth the upfront cost.
What do I use?
I set up my vegetable garden before I even knew what a wicking bed was. But since then, I now will only purchase wicking or self watering pots. It is a big time saver, and allows the garden to hum along while I was on holidays, working, pregnant or had small children occupying my time.
I have a Foodcube, and it is my plan to eventually replace my existing garden beds with 5 Foodcubes, and then expand my garden. I hope to attach the Foodcubes to our downpipes, as shown in the video above, so that they fill with fresh rain water.
In addition this this, I have these self watering pots by Homeleisure along my retaining wall which are home to my youngberry, boysenberrry and strawberries. I hope to espalier some dwarf fruit trees along this fence as well.