The lettuce and spinach crops that were planted in June have well and truly run their course, pretty much done before Christmas. With summer nearly over, it’s a good time to try to plant some more little darlings in wicking beds one and two.
In bed one we’ve got runner beans, snow peas, bok choy and some chard.
In bed two we’ve got lettuces, pak choy and a circle of capsicums in the middle.
This time we’re going to try shredded mountain ash bark for mulch. The new mulcher is able to slice up the bark, though it’s still pretty hard work. It comes out very fibrous and fluffy, and it looks like a good candidate for creating a moisture barrier.
Here we are in the second month of spring and the weather has been atrocious. Constantly overcast, storms, cold and buckets and buckets of rain. The veggies haven’t gone into full profusion without much direct sunlight.
Spring is here, and we started harvesting our lettuce last week. Just a few leaves here and there to go in a roll or tacos. So far one snail has turned up in the wicking bed, more likely than not imported as an egg with the dirt.
Meanwhile a fourth lettuce (bottom right) has carked it, cause unknown. Spinach is also approaching readiness to start gentle harvesting.
Finally, the control group in the ground has started to perk up, with a few extra leaves. It will be interesting to see if they provide a “late harvest”: I’m half expecting the ones in the beds to bolt to seed, and these ones in the ground may be too small to go to flower and actually provide a second, later harvest if they can survive the pests.
The last lot of accidental potatoes from our garden were yummy, so we’re going to make an effort to grow some on purpose. These best way seems to be to put them in a bag with the sides rolled down, then as the plants grow up more soil is put in and the sides rolled up so that by the end you have a very tall thing that is mostly full of potatoes.
We’ve just emptied the woven polypropylene garden bag we were using to store fire sticks, so it will make as good a receptacle as any. It’s kinda giant … I wonder really how high this technique can go.
With some dirt in the bottom. We mixed the compost from where the last set of potatoes grew with a bit of sand to lighten it up.
We had some leftover baby potatoes from the last veggie patch, which have started to sprout, and there was one in the pantry that was also getting a bit keen.
We chopped that guy up – apparently it doesn’t matter how big the potato you plant is, it just needs to have an eye that wants to sprout. This way we get 5 plants from the one tater.
We missed garlic planting day (shortest day of the year) this year because we didn’t have our next set of wicking beds ready at the time. We threw those bulbs in as fast as we could, though, about 2 weeks ago. Looks like they’re making up for lost time!
These bulbs were scavenged from last year’s failed lot: the cloves we pulled off the garlic we bought from the shops went more circular, like they were going to turn into a nice bulb, but never went any further and were no bigger than when they were planted when we dug them up last summer.
They sat in a box in the shed waiting to be replanted, and have exceeded expectations.
We can also add another benefit to the list of reasons why wicking beds rock: there are bees everywhere.
I watched them for a while, and they’re landing on the geotextile and sucking the moisture out of it. They’re also down inside the watering tube and they also sit on top of the levelling standpipe to get a drink.
There’s a bit of early spring warmth around, so let’s see how some little coriander seeds go. Hoping they won’t just bolt straight away like some others. In a lot of cases it seems like it’s better to sow in autumn to get winter herbs.
Another great weather day lets us complete the third and fourth wicking beds (minus the cladding).
First the drainage pipe is thrown in and connected. We use an adapter on the inside of the tank outlet to size it up for the drainage pipe, and cut the pipe lengthwise at the end to get it over the adapter. A bit of duct tape keeps it in place. A stainless steel screw keeps the filling end of the pipe attached to the side of the IBC.
Then comes 150L of perlite in each one.
Then geotextile …
This was the end of the first 6m piece that we bought. Our initial cuts were a little off, so we ended up about 10cm short. We were able to cut a piece off the long side and drape it over to keep everything in place. Should do the trick.
Then it’s 3 wheelbarrows of dirt in each one, 50L of manure and 100L of vegetable mix to lighten up our clayey soil.
Ready for some little plants! We’ll put onions (spring, brown, leeks) in one and potatoes in the other.
We got all that done in another 4 hours, which included a trip of an hour and a half to get more geotextile, tung oil and vegetable mix/manure. This part of the project probably only needs another hour to fetch and spread some mulch and plant some plants, so it’s a 9 hour total build time and it could theoretically all be done in one day. If all the components were already on-site then two people could certainly make 4 beds in a day (sans cladding), and have some time afterwards for celebratory drinks.
Update: got some more mulch and finished off the ground. No more mud on the boots!
When we planted the wicking beds back at the beginning of June, we popped a couple of leftover seedlings in the ground nearby, to see how the growth differed. 6 weeks on and the difference is marked. The ones in the ground have barely moved while the ones in the wicking beds are healthy and vigorous – about twice the height.
We lost three lettuces during transplanting, but that still leaves us with 32 good plants which I reckon we’ll be able to start harvesting come September.
We have three out of four sides of bed 1 clad, and we’ve started digging and levelling the earth for beds 3 and 4. Of course, the digging is going very slowly as the weather is totally crap and the ground is saturated.
The other benefit of the wicking beds is that when it’s really bucketing down the plants aren’t even getting wet feet. The water drains through and leaks out the overflow pipe, and the optimal level is always maintained without intervention.