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Wicking beds- The upside down- watering system!

Fruits of Labour- Nice healthy tomato plant with ripe fruit.

Upon researching the ‘Wicking Bed’ system recently, for a client of mine to offer them some options for growing their own fruits and vegetables at home with minimal water usage (‘Wicking bed’- is a name for a growing system that has a bottom water storage tank which can be accessed by the plant roots system as needed for an uninterrupted supply of moisture and nutrients), I was amazed at the modern designs that are readily available for purchase from within Australia. Also, the name Colin Austin- keeps popping up. As it turns out, Colin Austin is the original inventor of the system in Australia, which has since subsequently inspired hordes of sustainable gardening groups, permaculture organisations and farm producers worldwide. Colin was invited to Africa by World Vision- to see if he could improve sustenance food growing in periodic droughts that cause so much hardship over there, and his systems were tweaked for use in these areas where regular rainfall failed to materialise. For us die-hard gardeners back home in Australia that grow vegetables throughout the hot summer months and sometimes find it hard to keep the moisture levels up to your favourite veggie plants, or worse, if the hot winds dry your plants foliage to a cinder and the fruits crack and drop due to excessive moisture stress, then the wicking system, is a good subject to immerse yourself in. I have been on a few garden consultations with some of our long-term Bribie Island residents, who have mentioned to me in passing comments as we walked around their property, “that tree must have found the water table or something”, “it seems to have tripled in size with no apparant care or irrigation”. It’s the exact same principle that the ‘Wicking system’ uses. The top of the plant roots remain dryer, but the bottom roots have ventured into the water reservoir below which created a more robust root system as the plants hydrate themselves through osmotic pressure. Unlike hydroponics systems- which can have their plants root systems, flooded and drained without soil media. For more information visit:

These days, the fact that our water bills are sky rocketing may actually discourage some people from growing their own fruit and vegetables, unless they have a water tank or a water bore but the reward from growing your own food knowing that its free from insecticides, harsh chemicals and is also naturally nutritious- runs supreme in my mind. Gardening in small spaces can be a challenge but the benefits from recycling our own kitchen waste by using compost bins or using a worm farm to convert kitchen waste into worm tonics or castings can, not only improve your soils water holding capacity but also activates and feed the beneficial bacteria and fungi that work in a symbiotic relationship with the plants root system. With the design of the Wicking Bed system, you are also conserving water regardless of the local climatic conditions and If you really want to create a healthy soil- vibrant with microbial life, you can try brewing your own microbial brews to reboot your soil which also promotes healthy root systems and is especially beneficial for our lawns, fruits and vegetables. These brews are called (AACT), Actively Aerated Compost Teas- and can also be further researched online. After all this talk about tea, I am off for a cuppa. The Happy Horticulturist

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