Portable vegie patch for renters with compost station and wicking beds | Gardening Australia

Renting and gardening… what are you supposed to do? Pour all your love (and hours of work) into the garden, only to leave it all behind when the lease ends? Or, you can get creative! Make a portable and productive garden (even in a courtyard) that provides loads of herbs, salad and vegies… with leftover space for a prolific compost system.

That’s what Steve and Rabea North from Melbourne did, but with the added innovation of a water-saving collection of up-cycled, DIY wicking buckets and tubs.

The criteria for their garden was simple – sustainable, portable, cost-effective and productive – so it was off to the local Indian takeaway for some alternatives to store-bought pots. “They had loads of 10 litre food grade buckets and polystyrene broccoli boxes that were destined for landfill, so we bought as many of those home as we could” Steve says. This is where the next level of innovation and ideas comes in. “Where appropriate for the plants, these have been converted into mini wicking beds” says Steve. Rabea explains that “A wicking bed is a self-watering container, and any renter can build these simple, portable wicking beds for $5-$10 each. They’re perfect for growing fruit and vegies using half the water (and effort) when compared to conventional pots”. 

Check out http://smartrenting.org/portable-composting/ for all Steve and Rabea’s composting tips, as well as lots of info about how to reduce your carbon footprint as a renter.

04:04 Portable Wicking Bed


A recycled polystyrene container or food grade bucket (10-20 litres, depending on the plant size)

1m x 25mm poly pipe

25mm poly elbow joiner

Drill & 8mm drill bit

One square metre of geo textile weed mat

A bag of scoria

Some good quality soil mixed in with compost.

Pea straw or an alternative organic mulch.


Measure and cut a poly pipe so that it sits 3 above lip of the container

Attach elbow joiner to bottom of poly pipe

Measure and cut a piece of poly pipe from the elbow joiner to extend two thirds of the way across the wicking box or bucket and attach to elbow joiner

Heating the polypipe ends in hot water can make it easier to attach to the joiner

Drill a hole each inch of the poly pipe at the bottom of the box

Drill or force a 23mm hole about two inches from the base of the bed, and insert a 5cm length of polypipe

This will become the overflow/drainage hole

Fill base of the bed with scoria, to the level of the drainage hole

Place square of geotextile over the scoria, so that it lines the entire bed

Fill the bed a mix of 2 parts soil to one-part compost, plant out and mulch

Water lightly from the top, and then fill the reservoir with water

The top watering is a one-off, to initiate the wicking process

02:50 Portable Compost System


5 recycled food grade 20 litre buckets with lids (for outside)

2 recycled 10 litre food grade buckets (for the kitchen)

Measuring cup

1 x compost screw

Drill, 8mm drill bit and 2mm drill bit


Drill four drain holes on the side at the very bottom of each of the 20L outdoor buckets

This is small enough to stop rodents from getting in but will allow worms access to help the composting process along.

Drill lots of ventilation holes in each lid (~20) using a small drill bit (2-3mm).

Store large compost buckets outdoors and undercover, and the two smaller buckets in the kitchen

They can leach a little, so sit them on soil, or plastic mat to prevent staining

To Use

Fill one of your kitchen buckets with a mixture of a carbon source (sawdust, shredded newspaper, leaves, etc.) and some dirt or finished compost for microbes.

Fill your other kitchen bucket with food scraps as you produce them. When you have a layer of food waste, add a few cups of your carbon source to cover your food waste and then add a half cup of water.

Continue this layering process for a week (max), or until the bucket is full

Empty the kitchen bucket into the outdoor compost bucket with the newest compost or start a new bucket if the others are full.

Give your compost a turn with the compost screw each week.

This system has worked beautifully for Steve and Rabea, with Rabea saying “Once properly set up, the above composting system is a set and forget system that can produce half a ton of compost a year or more for just 15 minutes of your time each week and should cut the amount of waste your household sends to landfill in half”.  

For most Australians, renting can be made to feel like you’re putting your dreams on hold, but as Steve and Rabea have shown, renting doesn’t need to be a barrier to good growing and great gardening.  

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  1. HG CHANNEL on December 4, 2020 at 9:06 pm


  2. btcETHதமிழ் on December 4, 2020 at 9:13 pm

    she is pregnant, congrats to her !!

  3. Milka - Americus on December 4, 2020 at 9:14 pm

    In the netherlands its 30 -40% buyers. And the rest are renters. Glad to see other Dutch people on your show. Lovely.

  4. Joan Knowles on December 4, 2020 at 9:15 pm

    Yes, could we please have more information on the composting system. Have no space for a compost heap and don’t want a worm farm, just want good compost. Please, please can we have some detail on what is put inside and approximate amounts/layering to get such a great result. This I feel I could do in the limited space I have.

  5. Dan The Broken on December 4, 2020 at 9:17 pm

    The host has mastered no-till tool-free grooming. 🤣

  6. Erin Wagg on December 4, 2020 at 9:18 pm

    I too would like to know more about this compost method. It seems they might have tons of green waste, (40 buckets of weeding and trimming plus kitchen waste) how is it managed? Thanks!

  7. My Wonder Filled Life on December 4, 2020 at 9:24 pm

    Love this thankyou for sharing ❤️🍇🍉

  8. Siobhan Capell on December 4, 2020 at 9:34 pm
  9. Nature degree on December 4, 2020 at 9:34 pm

    Fantastic lovely and impressive presentation Friend obrigado
    From India

  10. Wilson Wilson on December 4, 2020 at 9:37 pm

    Hello, greetings from lndonesia. Although I am from tropical country, I like the ideas of moving garden. And with composting too. Really great ideas. I would like to try it for my garden

  11. PurpleLuna on December 4, 2020 at 9:37 pm

    I have a reasonably big back yard and I am making my front garden into a veggie patch too so this is very inspirational ❤❤❤

  12. Retno Ika Safitri on December 4, 2020 at 9:37 pm

    This is so cool! 😍😍😍

  13. Bodie on December 4, 2020 at 9:39 pm

    Love the shirt Costa! Great garden too!

  14. Rebecca Dean on December 4, 2020 at 9:40 pm

    As usual brilliant show 😍🥰

  15. robbiehalloran on December 4, 2020 at 9:42 pm

    Fantastic idea! And I would also love to see or hear more on the compost system please

  16. TM on December 4, 2020 at 9:45 pm

    This is fantastic, we rent and grow everything in pots to take with us, thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  17. Rich Mountains on December 4, 2020 at 9:47 pm

    Great Baby Bump !!!!
    Congratulations from San Diego

  18. Ynga on December 4, 2020 at 9:50 pm

    Is this bucket compost system the same as any other larger system or do they need to do certain things to make it successful? Would love to have a go!

  19. Isabel Lee-Rosson on December 4, 2020 at 9:52 pm

    Wow! Would have loved to see more on the compost system. I have one open bucket on my balcony that relies on black fly larva, it works but his looks better!

  20. Snezana Jovanovska on December 4, 2020 at 9:52 pm

    Amazing. Keep shining!

  21. Name Nameson on December 4, 2020 at 10:02 pm

    Not bad. I do kratky tomatoes in 100L totes as well as various plants in soil containers. I will have to give a wicking bucket a try. Renting sucks for gardening

  22. aru2435 on December 4, 2020 at 10:05 pm

    Can you please more explain with material name how he make the portable container .

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