Wicking Garden Beds

September 27, 2021

Do you often forget to water your plants? Or does your hectic work schedule get in the way of taking care of your home plants? If you're a gardening enthusiast looking for an easy and efficient way to water your plants, a wicking garden bed may be the perfect solution.

Planter boxes and raised planters are getting more popular by the day, but the downfall of raised beds is their requirement for heavy amounts of water. On the other hand, a raised wicking garden bed is super water-efficient, and your plants will love you!

Wicking garden beds store water within their base so the soil can absorb what it needs whilst eliminating runoff or evaporation. They also catch and retain water when it rains. Wicking garden beds come into their own in drought conditions thanks to their water catching and retention capabilities. They are equally useful for low-maintenance gardeners as they can be filled up and left for a while without further watering required.

Now, you may be thinking, where do I find wicking garden beds? You can simply make one at home with these simple instructions!

How to make a wicking bed garden at home

If you’re a home gardener, here's a simple way to make a wicking garden bed at home in six easy steps:

  1. Buy or build a raised garden bed, then line with thick plastic. Apple crates and barrels orIBC containers cut in half make for great raised garden bed structures.
  2. Lay a PVC pipe across the base of your bed. You’ll need to drill holes into it to allow smooth water flow. Connect the pipe at a right-angled bend and continue to the top of the bed. Alternatively, an Agpipe (agricultural pipe) with holes will also work.
  3. Fill 30-40cm from the top with Scoria (stones). Be careful when filling the bed not to tear the plastic. Drill through the side of the bed and insert a piece of pipe as an overflow to allow excess water to drain out just above the level of Scoria.
  4. Add a layer of Geotech fabric to prevent the soil from muddying the water.
  5. Fill to the top with high-quality veggie growing soil, then fill the bed with water down the protruding pipe until water comes out of the overflow.
  6. Plant out the bed with your favourite herbs or vegetables. Always remember to mulch to enrich the soil with more natural goodness. The beds will then ‘wick’ water from the reservoir at the base and will only need filling when all the water has been used up.

Note: The regularity of refilling will depend on the size of your planter, weather conditions and what you're growing.

And there you have it — your very own simple yet super water-efficient wicking garden bed!

Embrace your green thumb with wicking bed gardening in Australia today

If you’re searching for the best way to enter the satisfying world of wicking bed gardening in Australia, Mr. Fothergill is here to help. We offer Australian gardeners the best collection of seeds, bulbs, propagation supplies and garden gifts in the market. Plus, all our products adhere to strict quality guidelines ensuring optimum performance and peace of mind when purchasing. You can even plan and design your home garden with our Garden Planner and set up your garden like a true professional.

If you have any questions about wicking garden beds or how we can help your home garden come to life, get in touch with our team. We’ll be happy to spread our mutual love for gardening!


How often do you need to water a wicking garden bed?

The best part about wicking garden beds is that they only need watering when they get low, how often will depend on the water holding capacity of your garden bed, the plants you are growing and the season/weather. We suggest checking your wicking garden bed often when first established, but once you get a feel for the garden bed you may be able to go weeks without needing to refill it. If you want to check how much water your wicking garden bed needs, just look down the filler pipe. If you can see some water, it's fine. But, if no water is visible, we suggest topping it up.

Do wicking garden beds save water?

Wicking garden beds have a lot of advantages over standard raised beds and in-ground gardens, especially because they are highly water-efficient. Watering from the bottom up prevents evaporation of all surface water. This efficient process makes them a reliable self-watering option for all types of gardeners. If you were to water your plants from the top, any runoff will be captured and stored in the base for future use resulting in zero waste.

What is the best soil for wicking garden beds?

To act as a wick, the soil needs a high proportion of organic matter. The best option for a wicking garden bed is a 50/50 blend of organic soil and compost, we suggest using a high quality vegetable growing soil from a reputable supplier such as your local garden centre.

How deep should the soil be in a wicking garden bed?

The soil in a wicking bed should be at least 30-40 cm deep to allow sufficient depth for most plant root systems.

How do you fertilise a wicking garden bed?

You can fertilise plants the same way you would in a normal garden bed by watering with a liquid fertiliser from above or by digging in composted manures. Due to there being no lost water from evaporation or runoff, and any excess being captured in your water reservoir, you may find that less frequent fertiliser applications are required.

What type of liner should be used in a wicking bed?

A thick PVC liner is a good option for a wicking garden bed, as it is durable and will not break down over time. Your wicking garden bed is only as good as its water holding ability, so don’t skimp on a cheap/flimsy liner. Plastic IBC containers cut in half are a popular reservoir as they do not require a liner at all.

What are the main benefits of wicking garden beds?

There are many benefits to using wicking garden beds, including:

  • Reduced water usage — The wicking action draws water up from a reservoir and less is lost through evaporationYou’ll use less water overall, saving you time and money.
  • Stress-less — Your garden will be more self sufficient meaning you can enjoy holidays away without worrying about how your garden is handling your absence.
  • Drought tolerance — Wicking garden beds can stay hydrated during periods of drought, meaning that your plants will stay hydrated and replenished even during the driest times.
  • Better plant growth — Plants in wicking garden beds often grow more consistently than those in traditional garden beds, as they have a steady moisture supply and are less likely to become stressed due to lack of water.

What are the drawbacks of wicking garden beds?

There are a few potential drawbacks to using wicking garden beds, including:

  • Initial cost — Wicking garden beds can be more expensive to set up than traditional garden beds, as they require a liner, piping and scoria.
  • Size limitations — As most wicking garden beds are raised, they are best suited to small to medium sized vegetable and herb gardens. They may not be realistic for large scale flower or decorative gardens.
  • Care of the liner — Your wicking garden bed relies on the waterproof liner holding water, so care must be taken when initially setting up your wicking garden bed to ensure the liner does not become torn or damaged. If installed correctly using scoria and geotech fabric, the likeliness of damaging your liner by digging or staking is very small.

Wicking beds may be a good option if you’re looking for a more efficient and drought-tolerant way to garden. Whilst they may take a bit of time and money to set up we assure you that the effort is definitely worth it.

What are the best plants for wicking garden beds?

The short answer is — almost anything! The main limitation on what you can grow will be dictated by the depth of your soil. Root crops such as carrots and beetroot will grow in a bed depth of 30cm as will most herbs and vegetables. Some plants that do well in wicking beds include tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, capsicum, beans, and peas. Herbs such as basil, oregano, and thyme also do well in this environment. Larger trees and anything with a deep root system will most likely not be suitable for your wicking garden bed.

How long do wicking garden beds last?

On average, wicking garden beds last at least 10 years but may last much longer depending on maintenance of the liner. That’s a lot of gardening indeed! Wicking bed gardening in Australia is quite new but growing in popularity every year. Why not give it a try in your garden and see how you go!