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You might be thinking, what the heck is a wicking bed and why do I need it in my garden. Don’t worry, you’re in the right place! I’m going to teach you all about wicking beds and how to build your own. We repurposed an old canoe and turned it into a wicking bed flower garden in no time. It’s really simple, even beginner gardeners can do it!
What is a wicking bed?
A wicking bed is a self-watering raised garden bed for fruits, veggies, or flowers. It’s basically a larger version of a self-watering flower pot. Wicking beds are designed to keep the bottom of the soil moist, allowing plant roots to suck up the water. This style of gardening is great if you frequently forget to water your plants or are gardening at an off-site location, like a community garden or classroom.
There are pros and cons to wicking beds. One of the biggest pros is that you do not need to water your plants as often. You can also build a system that will collect and store rainwater. Hello water conservation! The cons, some plants do not like to have wet roots and the constant moisture can cause root rot. Keep this in mind when picking plants for your wicking bed garden. Annuals and seasonal vegetables do really great in wicking beds.
If you’re looking for a cheap start-up garden, this is not it! Wicking beds can be costly to build, especially if you are purchasing everything up-front. You can cut costs by reusing materials you already have and repurposing old containers. We used an old canoe for our container and cut costs by using materials we had on hand.
What do you need to make one?
First things first, you will need some kind of waterproof container. This is where you can get creative! You could purchase a prefabricated wooden raised bed or plastic raised bed if you don’t have the tools to build one. Other options are plastic storage bins, galvanized buckets, or stock tanks. These come in all sizes and are relatively cheap. In fact, you might have an extra one lying around the house you could use.
You could also go the non-traditional route and repurpose something as your container. We used an old canoe. Other great options are an old clawfoot bathtub, metal toolbox, ceramic pots, old toy trucks, and so much more. Yard sales are a great place to look for this stuff. Consider your budget for the project when choosing a container. The larger it is, the more materials you will need to fill it.
Next, you’ll want to head to your local hardware store to pick up the following supplies. You will need a drill and drill bit to put holes in the PVC pipe. If you don’t have one, Ryobi is cheap and will get the job done. But if you want a quality one to grow or start your tool collection, we recommend investing in a DeWalt.
How to make your own wicking bed
Making your own wicking bed is pretty simple, even for beginners. After you pick out your container and gather all of your supplies, it shouldn’t take you long at all. Here’s how you put it together.
- Cover the bottom of your container with rock
The rock will make up about 1/4 of your container when it’s all said and done. This is the holding tank for you water.
- Lay out your 2in PVC pipe and make sure it runs the entire length of your container. Measure and trim excess.
Save excess PVC pipe for later use.
- Drill holes along the entire length of the PVC pipe.
Drill holes on all sides. This is how you will fill your container with water.
- After the holes are drilled, lay your PVC pipe along the middle of your container. Put a cap at one end and the 90 degree elbow at the other.
The 90 degree PVC elbow will be the end where you fill your container and what collects rain water. Make sure its on the side with access to a hose or water source.
- Connect another piece of PVC pipe to the 90 degree elbow. Measure approximately 6 inches above the top of your container and cut off the excess.
One way to save money in this step is to use the cut-off piece from step 2. If your container is long, you may not have enough left over.
- Once your pipe is placed down the middle, add another layer of rock.
At this point, you should have about 1/4 of your container filled.
- Drill a small hole at one end of your container, just above the rock line.
This is your overflow hole. During rainy seasons, your container may take on too much water. It needs a way to flow out. This could be a simple hole or you could add a 1/2in PVC pipe.
- Cover rock with filter cloth and trim excess.
You want to make sure the entire rock bed is covered. You might even want to have excess on the sides to hold the dirt in place. If the dirt starts to seep into the rock, it can block of your PVC pipe and water won’t flow through.
- Fill your container the rest of the way with dirt.
Choose a soil that best fits the needs of the plants you plan to have in your bed. Vegetables need a more nutrient dense soil than flowers.
- Add plants
This is the fun part! Remember to research the plants and their needs before planting in a wicking bed. Wicking beds leave the roots wet. If a particular plant is prone to root rot, they would not do well in a wicking bed.
- Fill your container with water using your PVC pipeline
Remember that overflow hole you added, this is a good time to check it out. Fill the container until you see water start to trickle out of that hole. That’s when you will know it’s full. You should also be able to look down to the elbow of your PVC pipe and see water. When you cannot see sitting water, you will want to refill it. You may have to fill it more frequently in dry season.
- Sit back and enjoy your beautiful wicking bed!
You did it! You created your own wicking bed garden. CONGRATULATIONS!
If your a visual person, you can check out our garden highlight on Instagram for a step-by-step walk through.
My Wicking Bed Flower Garden
We had so much fun turning this old canoe into a wicking bed flower garden. Not only did we turn our junk into something beautiful, but we now have some very happy honey bees! It was a great learning opportunity for our kids and a fun family activity. With summer approaching, you’re probably looking for fun ways to entertain your kids. Check out 100 Outdoor Activities To Do With Your Kids This Summer and create your ultimate summer bucket list.
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