Posts Tagged ‘wine barrels’

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.

Roman Strawberry 9th August 2010

August 9, 2010

Roman Strawberry

Roman Strawberry

Roman Strawberry planted out today in the wine barrel nearest to the house. This was a free gift from Digger Club.

‘Roman’ is a very attractive ever-bearer variety with dark green leaves, long flower trusses with large, semi-double, apple-blossom pink flowers and deep red fruits. It’s attractiveness and productivity combined with an open plant habit and vigorous growth makes it an excellent choice for hanging baskets. Growing strawberries in hanging baskets is also an ideal way to keep the slugs off the fruit!

Herb Barrels 8th July 2010

August 6, 2010

Completed construction of Herb Barrel Garden. I wanted to have raised tuns for kitchen herbs accessible from the kitchen without having to get muddy. The barrels are positioned so their tops are at about waist height and fully accessible from the concrete path through the front door.  There were at least 2 sizes of barrels available,  one large and one small although either would have served the purpose. I opted for the larger size with 780mm diameter at the top. Their construction was of oak timber and had been previously used by Southcorp Wines to age their red wines in South Australia. The barrels were manufactured in France and this is stamped on the bottom of the barrels. They are a fine piece of art in themselves.

Before I was able to construct the stand they were kept full of water to keep them watertight. When the time came to prepare them for the herb garden I drilled 6 holes in the base each 25mm in diameter to allow good drainage. I covered these holes with some old shade cloth and gravel to a depth of 50mm. On top of that I placed my home made potting mix. I didn’t want to use commercial mixes because only premium soil had the characteristics I wanted and that was going to cost more than than the barrels. I made up my own mix using garden soil from my vege garden, composted cow manure, aged horse manure and home made compost. I mixed these together in a garden bed first with my rotary hoe, allowed it to age for a couple of weeks.

I enlisted the help of Phillip, my sixteen year old son, then filled the barrels to within 50mm of the rim. As I was filling the barrels I incorporated Easy Wetta water storage crystals to ensure they wouldn’t dry out in our summer heat in February. Wine barrels will collapse if they are allowed to dry out so the soil needs to be kept moist. There is sufficient mass of soil and enough water crystals to maintain this symbiotic relationship. We shall record progress of the tubs as we go. I expect to plant them out in Spring.

Herb Barrels before filling with soil. At this stage they are half full of water to keep them watertight.

The stand was made from basic materials found around our farm. I used 4 old railway sleepers supported at the correct height by concrete breeze blocks. I levelled the first blocks placed on the ground. You could adjust the height to whatever suited you best.


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