Wicking beds are a great option if you are looking for low maintenance garden ideas. However, these still require a low level of care. You will not be able to let it be and expect the garden to look after itself and bear fruit without intervention. The main draw for wicking beds is that they help conserve water and you can leave them on their own for a few weeks without having to water them.
You can create a wicking bed with DIY methods. You can also find commercially available raised planter boxes that use the wicking action. This way, all you have to do is add the plants. Water is essential for plant life and plant leaves act as the point of evaporation. Energy is made inside the leaf and water evaporates from it. When water exits the leaf it starts a chain of reactions where water in the ground gets pulled into the roots through a method called osmosis. Here, water moves from a place of high mineral concentration to a low concentration through a semi-permeable membrane. When the roots take in water from the soil, there will be an absence of water in the soil surrounding the soil. But due to wicking and the close concentration of soil particles, water fills these voids because of capillary action. But the void has to be a certain size. If the air spaces are too big, wicking will not happen.
You have to be very careful when adding fertiliser to a wicking bed. As the wicking garden bed is lined to create an airtight container, the nutrients will not get flushed out if you have over-fertiliser. When there is too much fertiliser or nutrients in the wicking garden bed, you may notice a smell emanating from it. This is because bacteria will be feeding on the excess nutrients and converting them into compounds like methane. Adding more water will not work due to the watertight container. Therefore, it is essential that you don’t over fertilise the wicking bed. While a normal garden bed is to be fertilised every two weeks, this shouldn’t be done with a wicking bed.
You should also not be using sand, cloth or rocks in the wicking bed. You should have conditions similar to what is found in nature. You should not be watering the bed from above as you do a normal garden bed. Water should only come from the inlet pipe and the reservoir should be filled from the bottom. It is best to use seedlings than seeds. This is because you can’t water from the top. This can cause the seeds to dry out without germinating. So you are safer using seedlings that are mature enough to draw water from the soil and reservoir. Make sure you use quality materials so that the planter doesn’t deteriorate too quickly. Instead of using soil from the backyard, make sure you use a good veggie mix. Compost should be added between crops as well but you have to avoid using manure.