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Wicking Beds

Wicking beds are an excellent gardening technique, especially in arid regions, where water conservation is essential. They offer several benefits and help plants thrive even in dry conditions. Let me explain how wicking beds work and their advantages in arid regions:

What are Wicking Beds? Wicking beds are a type of self-watering garden bed designed to efficiently use water. They consist of a water reservoir at the bottom and a raised garden bed on top, separated by a water-permeable barrier. The plants’ roots grow into the garden bed soil above, and they draw water from the reservoir below through a process called capillary action.

Benefits of Wicking Beds in Arid Regions:

  1. Water Conservation: One of the most significant benefits of wicking beds in arid regions is their water-saving ability. The water reservoir at the base reduces evaporation, and the capillary action ensures that water is drawn up to the plants’ roots as needed. This reduces water wastage and keeps the soil consistently moist.
  2. Drought Resistance: Wicking beds help plants withstand dry spells and droughts. The consistent moisture supply to the roots prevents plants from drying out, reducing stress during hot and dry periods.
  3. Improved Plant Growth: With a steady supply of water, plants in wicking beds experience less water stress, leading to healthier and more robust growth. They are better equipped to produce flowers, fruits, and vegetables.
  4. Reduced Watering Frequency: Unlike conventional garden beds that require frequent watering, wicking beds need watering less often. This is particularly helpful in arid regions, where water is scarce and precious.
  5. Minimized Soil Erosion: The design of wicking beds helps prevent soil erosion caused by heavy watering or rain. The water is contained within the reservoir, reducing the impact on the soil surface.
  6. Customizable Size and Design: Wicking beds can be built in various sizes and shapes, making them suitable for different garden spaces and plant types. They can be easily adapted to fit available areas and can even be made portable or placed in elevated positions.

How to Use Wicking Beds:

Setting up and using wicking beds in arid regions involves a few key steps:

  1. Building the Bed: Construct or purchase a raised garden bed with a water reservoir at the bottom. The reservoir should have an overflow outlet to prevent waterlogging.
  2. Add the Barrier: Place a water-permeable barrier, such as geotextile fabric or weed mat, over the reservoir. This barrier separates the soil above from the water below but allows water to be drawn upward.
  3. Fill with Soil: Fill the garden bed with a suitable growing medium, such as a mix of compost, potting mix, and sand. The roots of the plants will grow into this soil and access water from below.
  4. Planting: Plant your desired vegetables, flowers, or herbs in the soil above the water reservoir. Make sure to water the soil from above initially to encourage root growth.
  5. Watering: Fill the water reservoir through the overflow outlet. The water will be drawn up to the plant roots through capillary action. Monitor the water level and refill the reservoir when necessary.

Wicking beds are a fantastic tool for sustainable gardening in arid regions. They promote water efficiency, support plant growth, and reduce the strain on precious water resources, making them a valuable addition to any garden in dry climates.

Wicking beds (also called self irrigated planters – S.I.P. – or self-watering raised beds) are simple raised beds with a “tank” of water at the bottom. As the plants use the water in the soil, more will be sucked up from the tank automatically, so you only keep the tank full and you never need to water the plants from the top. There are many advantages:

  • you use much less water, up to 90% less
  • you don’t need to give water every day
  • your plants never go dry, thus they grow better
  • It’s simple to build and needs to electricity or pumps

Here is more on how this works:


Building IBC Flowbin Wicking beds


Wicking beds need up to 80% less water than normal raised beds! Water less often: Because the bed has its own water reservoir, the bed can go days, even weeks without watering (depending on how big your reservoir is).

More Videos on Wicking beds

Easy to build Wicking bed as used in the townships of Namibia.

Here’s a playlist of 14 more videos on how to build and grow with wicking beds.


Here’s another detailed video on building a wicking bed with lot’s of explanation on why it is built the way it is built.


Growing mobile fruit trees in wiking beds – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRn7cgrjBJI


Here’s a nice video showing a lot of different plants in wicking beds, including fruit trees πŸ™‚

Trellising on wicking beds

You can use cattle panels or Builders reinforcements.

They used welded mesh available at most hardware or building stores. It has a mesh size of 20cmx20cm and comes in sheets of 2.4mx6m. It can stand as an arch on its own, or you can attach it to another support structure to simply have a vertical trellis. However, it is not galvanized, so it tends to rust a bit over time.

Wicking beds and Aquaponics

You can connect the Wicking beds water inflow in the garden to the aquaponics fishtank. This way you are using fertilised water for your wicking bed.

You can also put wicking bags on top of your Aquaponics. This way you have the best of both systems: Here’s a video showing how to grow potatoes in a wicking bed: ​​


Do self-watering pots cause root rot?

Do Self-Watering Planters Cause Root Rot? It is unlikely that a self-watering planter will cause root rot. Root rot is caused when the plant has been overwatered and the excess water doesn’t have a place to go β€” such as in the bottom of the pot away from the roots or out a drainage hole

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