How a wicking bed can make gardening easier
 Baw Baw Lifestyle   By // 21:33, Tuesday 1 January 2019

Judy Stewart teaches a class at a Baw Baw Sustainability Network event how to make a mini wicking bed.

GARDENING • Lowanna College Agricultural Studies Teacher Judy Stewart recently spoke about wicking beds at a Baw Baw Sustainability Network event in Yarragon.

First published in our 16 August 2018 print edition.

No idea what a wicking bed is or why you’d want one? You’re in luck – we asked Judy all about why you might want one and how to make it.


“All wicking beds feature a reservoir at the bottom, and on top of the reservoir you have sand,” Judy told the Baw Baw Citizen.

“On top of the sand goes a layer of felt matting,” and on top goes the soil you can actually grow plants in.

A fill pipe from the reservoir layer to the surface allows topping up on the rare occasion that’s necessary, and a drain at just above the felt level stops the soil from getting soggy and losing minerals.

Judy’s signature wicking bed has a reservoir made of old milk bottles with holes drilled in the sides, but none where sand could fall in.


“The sand is there to actually wick the water from the bottom of the reservoir up to the soil layer on the top where the plants are. If you don’t have the sand, it doesn’t work as a wicking bed, it’s just like any other garden bed you have anywhere else.”

But what are the benefits of a wicking bed over a standard raised garden bed?

“With milk bottle depth reservoirs, [one of my gardens] has been watered only eight times in three years. That was twice each summer.”

You can grow everything from vegetables in about a foot of soil on top of the sand, to trees in deeper soil. So long as the sand can wick the water up to the soil, the plants will be happy.

Judy has taught students at her school how to make wicking beds, and her class’ efforts saw them become finalists in an international prize.

“They built wicking gardens out of barrels, vinegar barrels from the cheese factory so it’s food grade (which is the reason milk bottles are used),” Judy said.

“Our school was a finalist for the Zayed Future Energy Prize, and we’re applying for that again this year.

“Being a finalist meant we were actually flown over to Abu Dhabi, we went to the sustainability expo over there, it was a really big thing. That put our program on display to the world.”


So why not save up a few old milk bottles and build your own wicking bed? It could save you a lot of time and water come summer!

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