All about wicking beds

Essentially, a wicking bed is a giant self-watering pot. Water draws up through the soil from the reservoir below by capillary action (wicking) through carefully layered construction directly to the plants roots. A properly constructed and maintained wicking bed should have nice moist soil most of the time, greatly reducing the amount of time physically attending to their needs. In an area of low rainfall or affected by heavy water restrictions, wicking beds minimise water wastage, delivering water exactly where it’s needed.


Construction of a good, functioning, producing wicking bed is all about having the right depth, right medium (for both drainage and growing) and taking the time to construct it properly.

View below for how to prepare a wicking bed.


Major hints and tips in construction

  • IBC containers make perfect wicking beds, food grade ones are readily available for you to recycle into your veggie garden.
  • The site and bed, needs to be level and in full sun for growing vegetables.
  • To wick well the soil needs a high proportion of organic matter, a 50/50 blend of organic soil and compost works really well.
  • Scoria, crushed brick, and clay balls are all porous and hold water which allows for perfect wicking. Clean and washed blue metal gravel can be used as long as the particles are smaller than 10mm in diameter.
  • Geotextile fabric feels like felted fabric, is a synthetic material designed to be buried for years without breaking down. Its main purpose is to keep the soil and silt from dropping down between the gravel keeping the reservoir clean and safe. Shadecloth will let soil wash through to the reservoir clogging it up and eventually souring the water.


  • Gardening becomes easier and time effective.
  • Overwatering or under-watering is always an issue, but the observation pipe eliminates the guess work.
  • Providing constant optimal moisture for good soil life produces healthier more productive veggies = more food from less space.
  • The surface of a wicking bed is relatively dry making it hard for weeds to germinate.
  • By having a reservoir, gardens need to be watered less often therefore using up to one half less water per kilogram of produce than regular gardens.
  • Plants will thrive for days even a couple of weeks if you go away even during a heatwave, no need to worry about timers breaking down.
  • Tree roots can’t invade the bed so planting under large trees is not a problem as long as it’s not too shady.
  • You can place them anywhere there is a level position, even on concrete. Make them as small or as large as you like.


  • They do require some technical understanding, needing to be constructed properly, cutting corners will waste your effort.
  • Typically, wicking beds cost more to set up i.e. poly pipe, agri-pipe, scoria and geotextile fabric rather than a couple bags of compost, some fertiliser and a bit of elbow grease.
  • If you are using a plastic liner, tears and holes are a problem from stakes and implements which means pulling everything out to replace it.


Still need a little help? Ask in-store at Barossa Mitre 10 for how you can create your very own wicking bed.