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PostPosted: Aug 12th, '14, 16:13 
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I've been reading and watching a lot of videos regarding wicking beds and raised beds and recently I've discovered the olla as a method of watering your garden. I got to thinking about the maintenance involved in wicking beds and raised beds and even a dirt garden with the soil reconditioning and the cleaning of the water reservoirs as a seasonal issue and I started to wonder if any of these types of gardening was superior and why.

I'd like to hear from those who have a season or two of experience with the maintenance of any of these systems. I'd like to hear the pro's and con's of each. And I would specifically like to hear from anyone who has had experience with more than one of these systems and have found one to be superior to the others.

Okay... discuss. :)

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PostPosted: Aug 12th, '14, 16:43 
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Fish and Food has a lot of experience in this area. Hopefully he chimes in.

I'm throwing up how to go about my next series of veggie gardens. Wicking beds are obviously good water savers and are usually raised so better on the back, also they are better for weed and grass control as they are disconnected from the surround earth. I'm not sure about maintenance with them. Raised beds are better on the back and probably decent for weed control too. I think gardens flat on the ground would be better if you are using a large area and require ploughs etc to cultivate but don't do much as water savers.

I've got excellent rain fall in my area so not sure if it's worth the effort of making wicking beds, I like the idea of raised beds for ease of maintenance and harvesting but I'm also keen on long runs for corn and potatoes etc that we would use a lot of.

I think there are a lot of things to consider when choosing the layout and I'm struglling to make a decision.

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PostPosted: Aug 12th, '14, 16:55 
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Charlie wrote:
Fish and Food has a lot of experience in this area. Hopefully he chimes in.

I'm throwing up how to go about my next series of veggie gardens. Wicking beds are obviously good water savers and are usually raised so better on the back, also they are better for weed and grass control as they are disconnected from the surround earth. I'm not sure about maintenance with them. Raised beds are better on the back and probably decent for weed control too. I think gardens flat on the ground would be better if you are using a large area and require ploughs etc to cultivate but don't do much as water savers.

I've got excellent rain fall in my area so not sure if it's worth the effort of making wicking beds, I like the idea of raised beds for ease of maintenance and harvesting but I'm also keen on long runs for corn and potatoes etc that we would use a lot of.

I think there are a lot of things to consider when choosing the layout and I'm struglling to make a decision.

It sounds like we are in the same boat. I don't have a lot of space (5000sf lot including house) but I get daily rain showers (one of the many perks of living in Kaneohe, Hawaii). I could easily set up some 55 gallon barrels for rain collection off the roof of my house and have that hooked up to wicking beds or an olla system. With our multiple daily showers I don't think I would have a problem keeping any self watering system self reliant. I don't have room for long rows and wouldn't even consider using a plow in my small yard. I am inspired by the video series on YouTube by OneYardRevolution as well as the quirky guy at GrowYourGreens.com. The wicking beds will keep the nutrients in the bed and prevent them from washing out into the surrounding soil. But, if I am also farming the surrounding soil, what difference does it make? Is it really worth installing a liner and creating a reservoir? The expense of a wicking bed is much greater than a typical raised bed.

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IBC CHIFT SLO (Tilapia, Koilapia, Comets)
IBC ST PIST
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Genesis 2:15
Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.


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PostPosted: Aug 12th, '14, 17:32 
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Check this thread out
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=22628

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PostPosted: Aug 12th, '14, 18:39 
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Trying to farm a couple of acres here by organic methods and on a budget... aside from our aquaponics systems we have so far tried:

Planting straight into the ground
Wicking Beds
Swales
500mm high Raised beds (corrugated iron beds)


We have very dry summers here, and with forecast El Nino drought again this coming summer - wicking Beds have been fantastic and really come into their own in this regard. They are a bit of work to build and a bit costly compared to the other above methods but worth it. We've found for us the quickest and cheapest way to build a lot of them is by framing them up using recycled corrugated iron ($1 per sheet!) and 200mm height worth of builders plastic for the reservoirs. If you are careful with the preparation, buildiers plastic is fine as its generally protected from sharp spades etc by the gravel and shadecloth above it.

We started off building the wicking beds out of IBC's and old refrigerators but found these methods to be more labour intensive.

The other methods we've tried were cheaper and quicker to construct but used a lot more water so probably longterm are working out more costly. On all our beds we add heaps of well rotted compost with worms, followed by a layer of cardboard or newspaper weedbarrier, covered with a thick mulch of straw or woodchips. The mulch makes a critical difference in all methods. For the swales and raised beds, irrigation was run under the mulch.

Growthwise wicking beds seem to have the edge, particularly over summer, as the plants seem to be getting all they need and rarely run out of water.

Planting deciduous trees and installing shade cloth above our growing areas for summer shade has also really helped with growth in our climate

Maintenance on wicking beds? We're about 1.5 years in now and the only maintenance is topping up the beds with compost and mulch :)

With a bit of thought and clever design, you could capture the wicking bed overflow/runoff in a sump tank in heavy rains if you're overly concerned about it. But prob the best thing you could do in this regard is watch the weather forecasts and let allow your wicking beds to dry out a bit before downpours. Also consider making your overflow drain adjustable (can be easily achieved with swivelling polypipe on a 90 degree elbow which you raise up or down)

In addition this spring we also are going to try:

Back to Eden method (http://www.backtoedenfilm.com)
HugelKultur beds

hope this helps.. all the best

ps our soils are very heavy clay and have been abused by many years of modern agricultural methods of past owners, so we've concluded everything has to be raised for drainage in order to grow at all.


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PostPosted: Aug 12th, '14, 19:19 
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Im on rock and have virtually no organic matter or topsoil and a dry season that can be no rain for 3 to 6 months
I tried raised beds(250 mm)but struggled to keep them moist.
I turned one into a wicking bed and it boomed.
They all became wicking beds.
Problem was still the amount of bending and water required to keep them moist.
So the next plan is raised beds (hip high)with wicking and hugelkulture
I have plastic lining 250 mm up inside then heaps of wood palm fronds filled up with sandy soil topped off with compost and cow manure.
All with internal worm tower/compost bins.
Watering is going to be by slotted irrigation pipe for below and drip irrigation above.
I imagine they will draw nitrogen as the wood breaks down for a few years then start to release nutrients,the idea is to try and have cycle going.
Obviously as I eat vegetables Im removing nutrients and putting them down my sewer but I will try as best I can to return most of what I take back to the soil as compost and grow some green manures and mulch to make up the short fall.
I am doing a youtube of the whole process I will post it up when its finished

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PostPosted: Aug 12th, '14, 21:56 
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I really depends on your soil content and rain amounts. I grow tomatoes, legumes and curcubits in dirt. There is less hassle with trying to figure out what is missing and why plants aren't thriving. There is no better tasting tomato than what the minerals/nutrients in good compost and dirt provide. I grow peppers in wicking pots because my soil ph is always and issue. I use a mix of my soil, compost and peat(lower ph). I grow mostly greens in the AP because the grow faster, have less pest issues and don't need all the other minerals/nutrients that fruiting veggies need.

You also have to consider pests and disease in your area. I am plagued by Septoria in my tomatoes and powdery mildew on cucurbits. These are airborne spores and overwinter on host plants for the next year. It won't matter where I plant or what kind of container I use. If your area has soil hosting disease then containers/wicking beds with fresh soil is the way to go. If you are overrun with pests/birds it is much easier to treat and protect in a container/wicking/AP. The problem is one species will usually take over because it is off balance with predator species.

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PostPosted: Aug 13th, '14, 02:55 
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Wow! Some great responses so far! Most seem to be leaning toward the wicking beds. I need to learn more about the Back to Eden method and HugelKultur beds. Looks like I've got some YouTubin' to do! :)

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Len Fa Farms (my backyard system)
IBC CHIFT SLO (Tilapia, Koilapia, Comets)
IBC ST PIST
3x GB 4'x8'x12", 96cuft of black cinder

Genesis 2:15
Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.


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PostPosted: Aug 14th, '14, 12:12 
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I watched the Back to Eden film and found it fascinating. I will most definitely be adding mulch to my beds.

Has anyone had experience with using a soaker hose buried under a layer of mulch maybe on a timer? I was thinking this might be an easy and affordable method in my case due to the regular rainfall we enjoy. I could put one of those battery operated water timers on a rain barrel tap.

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Len Fa Farms (my backyard system)
IBC CHIFT SLO (Tilapia, Koilapia, Comets)
IBC ST PIST
3x GB 4'x8'x12", 96cuft of black cinder

Genesis 2:15
Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.


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PostPosted: Aug 14th, '14, 12:33 
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Good little film that one hey.. certainly demonstrates the potential of deep mulching :thumbleft:

Yep, soaker hoses or drip lines run under mulch is a successfully proven irrigation technique. Keep it low pressure like you say, and you'll have less worries with potential leaks and all the fuss with pressure reducers etc.

Just remember where you run the irrigation pipework so you don't cut through it with the spade down the track which I've done a few times by accident :whistle:

I really like the cheap manual water timers (the ones like egg timers with no batteries).. Just spin the dial every now and again when your plants need some water. If you run wicking beds you may find like some of us you hardly need to water anyhow


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PostPosted: Aug 20th, '14, 20:59 
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I'm of the opinion that wicking beds put anything else to shame, yes you do have to replenish the organic material every now and again but you dont have to stand there watering 2-3 days a week in the middle of summer. I grew 100 corn on about $4 of water last summer, but if they were in raised beds or in a standard garden you could times that by 10 at least. My 7000 litres of wicking beds have cost me less than $350 with the major outlays being Clean Sand for the wicking medium $150, The crates to create a void $30, The plastic liner for all 5 (including re-doing 2 1000 litre beds because of FREAKIN mice destruction)$86, Cement to mouse proof bottom of two 1000 litre wicking beds $18, Recycled galvanised rain water tank cut in thirds $free, recycled corrugated iron $free, soil from yard %free, horse manure $free, jarrah for corners/posts $free, Screws $5
They are a fair bit of work at the start but after that its no more work than any other method
Mine are going on 3 years old and have paid for themselves


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PostPosted: Apr 25th, '16, 16:15 
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yes you do have to replenish the organic material every now and again but you dont have to stand there watering 2-3 days a week in the middle of summer. I grew 100 corn on about $4 of water last summer, but if they were in raised beds or in a standard garden you could times that by 10 at least. My 7000 litres of wicking beds have cost me less than $350 with the major outlays being Clean Sand for the wicking medium $150, The crates to create a void $30, The plastic liner for all 5 (including re-doing 2 1000 litre beds because of FREAKIN mice destruction)$86, Cement to mouse proof bottom of two 1000 litre wicking beds $18, Recycled galvanised rain water tank cut in thirds $free, recycled corrugated iron $free,????

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