Gardening in drought? Learn how to make your own wicking beds from recycled plastic IBCs – a great way to save water and grow vegies in a hot, dry climate.
Consistent moisture is the key to growing most vegies and in hot, windy weather it can be a challenge. A simple solution is to create self-watering or ‘wicking’ garden bed, where a reservoir of water is contained in the base. The soil acts as a ‘wick’ drawing the water up into the root zone of the vegies ensuring moisture is available, whenever they need it.
IBCs can be purchased from transport companies and will make 2 beds as they are cut in half horizontally. Make sure you obtain ‘food grade’ IBC’s that have not been used to transport chemicals.
01:11 – PREPARING THE IBC:
– Cut the IBC in half. Sophie used an angle grinder which is able to cut both the metal cage and plastic container. (Please take care and follow all safety instructions when using power tools. If you are not comfortable using power tools to cut the IBC in half, please seek advice from your hardware store on manual cutting alternatives.)
01:34 – Separate the two halves and undo the screws that hold the metal cage to the plastic.
– Turn the metal cage upside-down so the sharp cut edges are facing down. File off any remaining sharp edges.
– Re-insert the plastic inner into the metal cage, to ensure the smooth, un-cut edges of the metal cage are at the top.
– Position the IBC in the full sun and ensure it is level.
02:08 CREATE THE RESERVOIR:
– Create a 19mm drainage hole approximately 200mm from the bottom of the container. This will be the depth of your water reservoir.
– Insert a 19mm irrigation joiner into the drainage hole and silicone into place.
– Attach a 200mm length of 19mm irrigation pipe to an elbow and attach to the drainage outlet. The adjustable elbow allows you to change the amount of water contained in the reservoir. When the elbow is facing upwards, the reservoir remains full but in periods of heavy rain, it can be positioned to drain freely.
02:43 FILLING THE WICKING BED:
– To create an inlet to fill the reservoir, position a length of slotted agricultural pipe in the base of the container and attach to a vertical pipe that extends the full height of the container.
– Secure the inlet pipe and fill the reservoir with a layer of scoria gravel with the finishing level approximately 50mm below the drainage outlet.
03:30 – Place a sheet of geo-textile (permeable fabric) over the scoria. – This stops the soil washing into the reservoir layer. (This can be purchased from hardware stores and some landscaping centres.)
– Add the soil mix to a depth no greater than 300mm. To act as a wick, the soil needs a high proportion of organic matter; a 50/50 blend of organic soil and compost works well.
04:04 – Fill the water reservoir via the vertical inlet pipe until water drains form the overflow outlet. Secure a piece of fly-mesh or a cap on both to prevent mosquitoes breeding in the reservoir.
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