Episode-2219- Wicking Beds for Easy Garden Production
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As many of you know I have become a huge fan of aquaponics over the past two years, but if you said, what is the best thing about aquaponics, okay, I’d say fish and cool water gardens.
Though if you said what is the best part about aquapnics for growing vegetables, I would say, two words, wicking beds. I don’t really think I would be that big into aquaponics without them. I would likely have one small system or just garden ponds. Once I learned how to integrate the two, I was hooked.
And yes, they go together like beer and pretzels, but i don’t always have pretzels with beer and you certainly don’t always need to have aquaponics with wicking beds, in fact most people that use them, don’t. And the good news is as long as you design them right, if you ever want to add fish, it is just running a few pipes.
Join Me Today to Discuss…
- What exactly is a wicking bed and why do they rock
- Mixing up the right soil mix for your wicking beds
- Different types of wicking beds
- Large rigid containers
- Self watering planters (grow buckets, etc)
- In ground beds (generally done with pond liner)
- Flow though vs. static wicking beds
- Keys to good design
- Use media excluders
- Allow for over flow
- Make over flow levels adjustable and serviceable
- Mulch, mulch and mulch
- 6-8 inches of water
- 12-18 inches of soil
- Use a well draining media – lava rock is best
- Use scrap pipe, etc in the bottom media
- Developing and improving fertility
- Yes you can add nutrients to the water
- Compost should be added frequently
- My four part fertility program
- My Two Mineral Supliments
- Hydro Organics Earth Juice Cal-n-Mag Plant Food
- Liquinox Iron Zinc Chelated Solution
- Azomite – Often Best Sourced Locally
- Green Sand – Also Often Best Sourced Locally
- Dry Molasses – Also Often Best Sourced Locally
- Worms – Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm
- Final thoughts – this is more work in the beginning and less work forever
Resources for today’s show…
- Join the Members Brigade
- Join Our Forum
- The Year 128
- Walking To Freedom
- The Granddaddy’s Gun Club
- Bullhead Fishing Forum – A new little site I started
- Biltong for Breakfast
- All I Can Do is Write About It – Lynyrd Skynard
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Very topical episode for me, I’m getting a couple IBC’s this week to make some wicking beds! I probably have to re-listen (| was driving) but does anybody have a drawing of how to make the overflow adjustable? what parts are needed?
Two ways to do this.
One, change the height of the over flow. All you do is reach into the media excluder and either pull out the pipe and add a longer or shorter one, or to make it hold more you can just say add a strait fitting, losely dry fit, for instance a one inch strait coupler will bring the water up about 1 inch.
Two, set the external pipe so you can raise it up higher and lower, I don’t like this method it creates more potential failure in my view and is a bit more complicated to mange the return in a circulating system, in a static system I find it actually more simple.
Here is how I make a wicking bed, consider this a scale model as I don’t recommend these trays for wicking long term, too shallow but the function is identical https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOCtPgYiMRk&t=86s
Let me know if this makes sense and if I get done with the capentry I should be building some big ones on my new system and will be videoing that by next week.
Ahhh, now I see, the videos I had watched with IBC wicking beds all had the overflow coming out the side. I think when I pictured “media excluder” I was thinking of the barrier between the soil layer & water reserve.
Thanks for this episode, perfect timing for me. I would likely had some design regrets if it had come out a week later!
In reference to maintaining water level in static wicking beds, aka self-watering containers or Sub-Irrigated Planters (SIPs)…
The Earthbox Automatic Watering System (AWS) works like a charm to maintain water levels in SIPs. Note they can be modified to work in non-Earthbox containers by adjusting the length of the clear vinyl drop-tube which controls water depth. Google “Earthtainer” for a DIY SIP plans and details on modifying the AWS sensor.
The AWS allows for flexibility regarding SIP placement because water level can be maintained in an individual SIP, planters do not have to be level with each other. The 1/4″ water supply tubing is easy to route and hide, personally I use 1/4″ silicon aquarium air tubing for added flexibility. If you use air tubing, know that it will weaken over time and come loose at the connector ends, I use tiny zip ties to reinforce the connections.
Yes the AWS is a little pricy, but it provides automation. I can leave for weeks without worrying about plants in my SIPs. Note you can buy just the AWS sensor heads, look under AWS replacement parts, for $15ea. I waited for a sale (they happen frequently) and bought a 12 unit AWS kit which worked out to ~$10ea with free shipping. Also be sure to use a good in-line water filter to avoid clogging the sensor head. I’m going on 5yrs without a clog.
Regarding anaerobic issues with SIPs. Refer to the Earthtainer plans and note the airgap. This keeps the water reservoir from going anaerobic! Creating an air gap in Jack’s design would deliver the same benefit.
Jack is right about plants performing better in constant flow wicking beds vs static. IMO the main difference is active aeration of the roots in the constant flow beds. The air gap in the Earthtainer passively addresses aeration reasonably well, but you can kick it up a notch. Eliminate the air gap by following Jack’s wicking bed design, or raise the water level in the Earthtainer design, then add an air stone and air pump to provide forced aeration. Note the container-in-container design of the Earthtainer allows for easy separation of the soil container from the reservoir (assuming you don’t bolt them together) allowing for easy servicing of the undercarriage and air stone.
Net-net: With two 1/4″ tubes, one for water and one for air, you can activate wicking beds which should perform similarly to constant flow beds without heavy plumbing, concerns about planter location, or leveling and water flow between planters. With tiny “plumbing”, this type of system is ideal for installations requiring aesthetic appeal. The tradeoff is the use of air pumps instead of water pumps so keep a spare air pump handy!
Would a wicking bed work with smaller perennial plants like blue berries?