‘Wicking’ refers to the ability of many materials to ‘suck-up’ water through capillary action. It is like molten wax moving up in a candle wick. Fortunately for us wicking also happens in soil, any type of soil, even sand.

The water can reach up to about 30 cm above the level where there is free water in the soil. 'Free water' is water that would drain away if it was not blocked by some obstruction.

In our wicking systems we store free water within the systems to supplement the water held in the soil. This gives better growing conditions for plants for longer and more time between waterings for us. Water under or outside the bed or box is not as effecitve.
This website is about wicking and growing crops in wicking boxes, beds, macro-pots and all that goes with those.
Our focus will be on
low-cost systems and practical experience gained since 2005 when we first published this.
The advantages of proper wicking systems are many:
Optimal conditions
         for a plantís roots somewhere within the soil;
Optimal use of water,
          no water is lost through draining below the root zone
          and minimal evaporation loss by using mulch;
. Watering mainly from the bottom up
          fewer weeds and diseases, less evaporation loss;
No permanent stale water,
          so no mosquito larvae or anaerobic conditions;
Less frequent watering due to a reservoir
          looks after itself for up to a week in hot weather and
          two to four weeks in cooler periods;
Very labour efficient, once set-up
          ideal for people who only have time at weekends;
. Easy to work
          when planting, watering, fertilising or harvesting
          while raised beds save backs;
Useful on any scale,
          from a few boxes on balconies, to growing many
          vegetables in beds;
. Easy to create mineral-rich soils
          by adding all required minerals to the soil mix;
Can adjust Ph of the soil
          to suit crops, such as low pH soils for blueberries;
No invading roots
          roots from nearby trees or shrubs are excluded;
Ability to grow anywhere,
          near trees, on stony areas, on concrete or balconies;
Very low cost of boxes,
          home-made boxes cost little, $3 - $6 per box,
          $13 to $15 in materials for macro-pots and small beds.

Wicking can be used in many ways. Currently we use:

Wicking boxes (click here for details)
   Wicking boxes are portable and can be taken when
   moving house. They take about an hour to set up.
   The cost of materials is from $3 to $6 depending on materials
    used, tools and experience.

Wicking macro-pots (Click here for details)
   Macro-pots are made from crab-pot mesh and weedmat.
   They sit on 'pallets' and can be moved with a forklift.
   We combine wicking with espalier growing for our fruit trees.
   Matrerials-only cost is from $13 upwards when buying in rolls.

Small wicking beds (Click here for details)
   These are also made form crab-pot mesh and weedmat. They
   can be raised but normally sit on the ground. They are too
   heavy when full (250 kg or more) to be easily transported.
   Materials-only cost is from $14 upwards when buying in rolls.

Large wicking beds (click here for details)
    Large wicking beds are permanent structures, ranging from
    1.5m to up to 6m. They need careful planning of their
    location and take half a day or more to build.
    Cost depends on size, materials used, tools and machinery  
    available, and experience.
SHADE HOUSES (click here for details)

   We use shade houses to provide cover for some of our wicking
   boxes and beds to allow us to grow through summer.

   We also use shade 'hutches',mini versions of our shade houses,
   for temporary protection of transplanted seedlings.
The concept of wicking beds, was developed by Colin Austin, http://www.waterright.com.au Peter Van Beek and friends from Kookaburra Park in 2005.
The applications of that concept shown on this web-site were developed by Peter Van Beek with inputs from many friends.
Demonstration site at the Landcare nursery and
bush tucker garden in Gin Gin, Qld

NO STONES at the bottom
  Which container holds more water:
    . the one with the soil mix,
    . or the one with the stones?

Did you say stones?
Better look at our water holding test.
(Click here for details)

And which holds more micro-biology which we need for healthy plants? That is a no-brainer, the one with with the soil ofcourse.
Rocks are solid, nothing grows inside.
(Click here for details.)

NO CLOTH above the water reservoir
It creates an airlock that stops wicking dead.
It restricts the volume of soil for roots to grow in even more due airpruning of feeder roots.
(Click here for details.)

We started with Ag-pipe but that became almost completely clogged up with fine roots and was not letting water out fast enough. We replaced it with 90mm PVC pipe and they work well.

NO BENEFITS only cost
We have found little evidence that the fine particles in the soil wash down to fill up open spaces or stop water from spreading.
In wicking systems water moves from the bottom up.

Very little water moves downwards to transport fine particles.
In a good soil mix with good biology, the fine particles are incorporated into a stable soil-structure.
Temporary free water within a system does not create anaerobic conditions and does not allow mosquito larvae to develop.
It is used within a few days, allowing fresh air back into the soil.
Permanent water creates problems.

All wicking systems consist of five or six components:
∑ a structure, box or other container that holds soil,
∑ a plastic liner, ( if the structure does not hold water:)
∑ a water reservoir,
∑ a fill pipe,
∑ an overflow, and
∑ mulch.

Welcome to wicking
Wicking boxes
        How to make a box
        No stones - no cloth
Wicking beds - large
        How to make a low-cost bed
       Other wicking beds
Macro-pots and small wicking beds
        How to make a macro-pot
        How to make a small wicking bed
Our standard shade-house
       Building a shade-house
       Our current lay out

    Tips and tricks
    Why organic