Posts Tagged ‘wicking barrel’

Wicking Barrels Construction.

February 3, 2017

I have become aware over recent years of the value of wicking beds but have not been in a position to establish any barrels or beds until this past year.

However, I have now completed my first barrel and it has been in operation successfully for the past year with no wilting despite some very high temperatures.

2016-01-09 18.51.02

For this project I am using some half wine barrels which had been used as large pots at my previous address for growing herbs.

When I emptied these barrels of their soil and moved them they very quickly dried out so they needed to be tightened up before using them again. To tighten them I sat them upside down on a flat concrete base. Using a flat punch I  gently tapped down each ring until they would go down no further starting with the smallest and working down to the largest ring. Once the barrel is again tight I set the rings with a small Tek screw through each ring on opposite sides of the barrel.

The barrel after the rings have been punched down. You can see the amount they have been punched down by the fresher look of the timber.

The barrel after the rings have been punched down. You can see the amount they have been punched down by the fresher look of the timber.

Once the barrels are tight the barrel can be lined with a waterproof material. Pond liner is best but in a pinch heavy builders plastic will do the job. Make sure the tek screws used were short so they did not break through to the inside and can puncture the plastic. If they do come through to the inside then grind them off with an angle grinder before installing the waterproof liner.

 

Barrel is lined with plastic pond liner and then the socked drainage pipe is installed on top of that followed by coarse sand to finish about 30mm above the side drainage hole.

Barrel is lined with plastic pond liner and then the socked drainage pipe is installed on top of that followed by coarse sand to finish about 30mm above the side drainage hole.

On top of the coarse sand use a dividing layer of some sort to separate the garden mix from the wicking sand. In this case I have used sugar cane mulch which transmits water well but others use various forms of weed matting.

Once the barrier is in place just top the remaining 30cm or so with good quality potting soil and you are set to go.

The wicking process is a natural process but only works to around 30cm in garden soils and mixes. Most garden plants and especially vegetables, for which this system is particularly suited in my climate, do very nicely in it.

I recommend that you mulch to surface to reduce evaporation. Once mulched fill the reservoir with water until it runs out of the overflow tube. From this point on you have to decide to wait for the wick to start which will take a few days or to prime the system by watering from above. Either way will work and after that it will keep working until you stop filling the reservoir and the soil dries out.

The best part of this method is that there is no need to water morning and night. Even with fully grown plants using their full water allocation you only need to fill once a week or so. The reason for this is simple. Instead of top watering and gravity dragging the water down and away from the roots leaving them dry, the water rises to the roots as needed keeping conditions ideal for the plant without any water-logging and no evaporation if well mulched.

UPDATE

I started this post a year ago and decided to delay publishing until I could show some results. With a year since the barrels were planted out everything has grown well and the following photo shows how well this lemon grass is doing.

Lemon grass one year after being planted in the wicking barrel. February 2017.

Lemon grass one year after being planted in the wicking barrel. February 2017.


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