Sunday, February 27, 2011

Managing water in my Wicking Bed

I had to run a little repair job on a Magic Square Garden this week. I wrote about Frank Fisher's garden in the car parking space a few months back. Frank had specifically requested a "wicking bed". I have to admit to being only vaguely aware of the concept prior to this request but having done some research we adapted the standard Magic Square Garden Clean Patio Kit to create a wicking bed. The whole exercise worked really well including a great little ceremony while we set the beds up in his car park, unfortunately I left my wheel barrow behind (Clifton Hill!) so I had to go back.  It took a week and a bit at least before I got back and I noticed a small leak from one of the beds. Not good, messy and affects the operation of the wicking bed.

Well eventually I got back to make some repairs. I expected to empty the bed entirely and replace the liner but fortunately I met Frank before he set off for work and he pointed out that the leak had dried up. Well that saves a mountain (small mountain, 1m3) of digging. We had a chat about the gardens. Frank had harvested some very nice Broccoli, Tomatoes, Lettuce and herbs. The bird netting we set up had worked perfectly to keep the possums out and I was really impressed at the lack of "Moth Holes" in the Broccoli leaves. No spraying involved, perhaps the bird net helped? Frank said something along the lines of "I suppose you saw the article on the weekend". No. What article? Says I. Well here it is... I couldn't ask for better unless Scotsburn had rated a mention. Such is life.

Click on the pic to see the article from the Age's Domain section.

Now as I mentioned Frank's beds are the first we have installed even if I have pushed the idea strongly since. It's fair to say that over the Summer we have experienced, watering has been relatively easy. We have ironed out a few bugs over time, including finding a better tap set up for the out let. I took a couple along and replaced the corks Frank had used to replace the clunky arrangements I originally put in. I pulled the cork on the first bed and was nearly knocked over by the smell as a week tea solution spewed out. It was clear, but brown and stank something septic. The second bed had clear, stink free water in the base.

My guess is the water in the first bed needed replacing. It is probably quite rich with nutrient, making it ideal for running off to a small garden bed elsewhere. I considered collecting this solution in a watering can and re-applying to the top of the bed but over time I think this will raise salt levels so let's share the nutrients around. We supply each Wicking Bed Kit with a dip stick (1m bamboo garden stake, nothing like using materials we have on hand) and we are still working out the ideal "saturation zone" in the base of each bed, I guess a round 10cm. Clearly though there needs to be a regular flushing of the bed to keep the water sweet. Love any feedback on this, especially if you have any experience with wicking beds or sub irrigation.

While I'm thinking water and the newspaper, how about the announcement from our new Water minister. Personally I think it's just playing politics and really disappointing. Target 155 was no great friend of nurserymen. But long term keeping water users conscious of consumption is better for all of us and I have always agreed with the theory that gardeners are more aware of their water use than any other group in the community.

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