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Wicking grow beds

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Blog entry by Jimthecarver posted 02-07-2013 05:40 AM 5286 reads 0 times favorited 28 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Even though were supposed to get a snow storm, I am confident the babies will be ok inside.
That being said it was time to get the beds up and going. We decided that wicking beds would be best for us, with the cost of water going out of site. This type of bed uses much less water.
The build:

First off the beds were built from 2X8X10 treated lumber…(yes, I know its bad).

As you can see, pond liner is used to seperate the wood from the soil. I used pond liner instead of plastic because I wanted to make certain there will be no leaks.

Here we have 4” leech line for septic systems laying in the bottom with an elbow and a short riser to fill the bed.

The end of the pipe that is laying in the bed needs to be covered with shade cloth.

After that its time to add rock to the bed. The rock needs to be at least two inches above the pipe.

An over flow pipe is added 3” above the bottom with shade cloth over the end to keep the rock from clogging the pipe. I use zip ties to secure the shade cloth.

To keep the soil from sifting down into the rock and stagnating the water, about 2” of straw is added.

Then we added the soil to finish off the beds. The deep bed will be used for tomatos the stepped bed will be used for less deep rooting plants.
Before we called it a day we filled the beds with water. It took about 4 minutes to fill the bed before water flowed from the over flow pipe.
With the pond of water being below the bed it will use much less water and self regulate how much water is wicked up and not get root rot or not be over watered.
This is a no brainer for me….I seem to always over water my garden.
Any comments I will try to answer.
Thanks for viewing.
Happy gardening
God Bless
:-)

-- JTC



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Jimthecarver

111 posts in 2405 days
hardiness zone 8b

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28 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14694 posts in 3880 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 02-07-2013 05:47 AM

Nice!
My plan for my greenhouse if/when it ever gets built is to have an eavestrough collecting the roof water and running it into a rain barrel that will provide stored water for the plants. That’s my vision anyway… this system looks like a nice addition to the rain barrel plan.

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4312 posts in 3143 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 02-07-2013 06:06 AM

This looks like an excellent growing system to me. You built this beautiful greenhouse so quickly! How deep is the soil layer above the straw?

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

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Jimthecarver

111 posts in 2405 days
hardiness zone 8b

posted 02-07-2013 06:19 AM

MsDebbieP- Ours thoughts are to collect rain water and use it instead of using tap water. Maybe next year. :-)
Radfarmgal- I added straw and I believe it will compact down to about two inches after soil was added leaving about 16” of soil.

Today I will make up four feeding tubes for the wormies to enjoy some rotten/fresh veggie food.
The little guys will roam around the beds and fertilize the garden.

-- JTC

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Jimthecarver

111 posts in 2405 days
hardiness zone 8b

posted 02-07-2013 11:38 AM

Its a cold windy day out today….but its a very warm 84 degrees F. inside the little house. Weather man says snow tonight and/or tomorrow all day. BRRRRRRR! Come on spring!
I made up the feeding tubes for the little wormies and buried them about 8” below the surface of the beds and left about 4 inches sticking above ground. The heat in the black pipe will speed up the process of decomposing the food and make it more available to the worms they like it a bit fuzy….lol

All of the greenwaste gets blended up in a special blender, then froze to explode the cells of the food. I use a hammer to break it up and it thaws out it becomes easy for the little guys to eat.

The last shot you can see the water down inside the pipe…makes it easy to see when water is needed.

Hope everyone is staying warm.
Happy gardening
God Bless
:-)

-- JTC

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Radicalfarmergal

4312 posts in 3143 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 02-08-2013 07:19 AM

I see you have “hired” your worms to do your raised bed cultivating for you in exchange for room and board. Great idea!

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

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Jimthecarver

111 posts in 2405 days
hardiness zone 8b

posted 02-08-2013 09:08 AM

I like the idea of not having to change out the soil…my little friends will allow me just add to it next year.
We need to find out what to do once they multiply like crazy and i have to remove some of them, I’m thinking they would make to much castings to grow in. Its all new to me so this journey will also be a learning curve.
Maybe the plants consume the castings so it will not build up as first thought….we shall see.
Any input would be much appreciated.
:-)

-- JTC

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Radicalfarmergal

4312 posts in 3143 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 02-08-2013 11:23 AM

In nature, earthworms are only part of the soil food web. The earthworm’s role is to bring plant residues and all kinds of surface microbes down deep under the soil. In this process, they break the plant residues into smaller pieces and make them more accessible/digestible for other smaller microbial members in the soil food web. By building tunnels and lining the tunnels with with castings, earthworms improve the infiltration and water-holding abilities of the soil and provide channels for easy root growth. They are generalist consumers, eating a range of plant matter, fungi, microbes – basically anything small enough that gets within reach.

Earthworms do not work alone. Within a thriving soil food web, you will have a community of mycorrhizal fungi, bacteria, algae, protozoans, nematodes and soil anthropods working together to continually decompose organic matter to release minerals and create humus. Plants benefit from the activities of these soil denizens but they are also essential members in the process by providing the organic matter that begins the process anew, such as through leaf litter and roots that die back during a dry spell. The more diverse the organic matter, the more diverse the soil food web members can be. Some members, such as types of fungi and bacteria, actually enhance plant growth by making nutrients available to plant roots, protecting plant roots from disease, fixing nitrogen, gathering and transporting nutrients over distances, storing moisture, creating tilth (beneficial soil structure), degrading pollutants, chelating toxins and even buffering soil pH.

In a healthy system, if you regularly add enough diverse organic matter to replace what you remove (e.g. through harvesting), you should not have to change out your soil. I guess the question is, how healthy is the soil you initially put into your raised beds? Sometimes you can buy compost and have it delivered, but if the compost is created from one type of organic matter, chances are the organisms living in the compost will not be very diverse. If you are concerned about the quality of your soil (measured by its inhabitants) or if you just want to give it a bonus and you have the availability, gather a bucketful of soil from your homemade compost, a meadow, a marsh, pond or a forest and use that soil to inoculate the soil you put into your raised greenhouse beds. Observe. See what your plants tell you over time.

Enjoy that beautiful greenhouse and all you will be able to grow in it!

If any of you are interested in learning more about the soil food web, I recommend the book Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, by Toby Hemenway

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View Jimthecarver's profile

Jimthecarver

111 posts in 2405 days
hardiness zone 8b

posted 02-08-2013 11:37 AM

Wow…your awesome,
Thank you for the information.
You write so very well…writing is not something I excelled at, although I still try anyway.
We will check into that book. Time to go back to school I suppose.
:-)

-- JTC

View daltxguy's profile

daltxguy

882 posts in 2977 days
hardiness zone 4a

posted 02-08-2013 11:40 AM

Nice setup, Jim.

I don’t quite understand the worm feeding system. How does the food get to the worms through the tube? and why is it necessary to try to decompose the worm food? ( I doubt it will decompose just because it is in a black tube, btw)

When I had worms, I simply buried the raw food a few inches below the surface. The worms always found it and consumed everything. If your food source is only in one place, then it might restrict and limit your worm population.

-- Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. - Thoreau

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Jimthecarver

111 posts in 2405 days
hardiness zone 8b

posted 02-08-2013 11:56 AM

Daltxguy- I watched a video from a very well know gardener, he showed how using a feeding pipe you don’t need to dig around disturbing the root system of plants. Each time before replanting the beds he would move the pipe to a different spot. The pipe is cut 12” long and several holes are drilled in the side for easy access to the food.Sounded logical…lol. This is my first year at having any experience with worms except for fishing.
He also explained better than I at how freezing the food helps break down the cell walls and also may kill any pest or eggs that may be hitching a ride to the garden.
As for the black pipe….maybe I am overthinking it a bit but I thought black pipe will be hotter there fore making the food rot faster.
Its a learning curve for us non-gardeners.
:-)

-- JTC

View daltxguy's profile

daltxguy

882 posts in 2977 days
hardiness zone 4a

posted 02-08-2013 12:20 PM

I’ve never seen the worms and the plants share the same bed, so maybe this is a system to combine both.

Everything I’ve read and experienced is that the worms don’t need any help digesting their food. So, you may be able to simplify your system once you get some experience with it (You’d probably be happy to dispense with the time,effort and energy costs of all that blending, freezing and hammering and stuffing down a hole). Usually the food only needs to be buried about an inch below the surface – and that is really only to let them get at it from all sides.

I’ll be interested in your experience once you’ve had your pets for a while.

It’s an interesting system anyway and who am I to say it won’t work! Keep us up to date!

Btw, decomposition does not require heat. That’s a common misunderstanding. Composting produces heat!

-- Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. - Thoreau

View Jimthecarver's profile

Jimthecarver

111 posts in 2405 days
hardiness zone 8b

posted 02-08-2013 12:36 PM

I have a worm bed that is only for production of worms. I feed them as you mentioned, just dig, dump and cover.
I was thinking in the wrong direction … for the food breaking down under heat. Thoughts of forgetting to put ice in my lunch box and how the food was less the edible after 120° desert sun got to it for a few hours.
I appreciate all the help.
Thank you.
:-)

-- JTC

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Jimthecarver

111 posts in 2405 days
hardiness zone 8b

posted 02-08-2013 12:42 PM

I found this in my pictures….this is after 2 days.

They found it rite away and I was very suprised.
Sorry MsDebbie.
:-)

-- JTC

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14694 posts in 3880 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 02-08-2013 12:54 PM

((not looking … not looking… ) ok I looked. Ew.

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

View Jimthecarver's profile

Jimthecarver

111 posts in 2405 days
hardiness zone 8b

posted 02-08-2013 12:58 PM

Oh btw…that is not a bendable straw down in there.
;-)

-- JTC

View daltxguy's profile

daltxguy

882 posts in 2977 days
hardiness zone 4a

posted 02-08-2013 01:49 PM

There’s just nothing better than happy worms! I didn’t quite realize the worms were supposed to feed in the tube but there they are and there’s no dinner bell either that I can see!

Now, let’s just say that it does get hot in that black tube, wouldn’t that be a bad idea for the worms, never mind what it does to your lunch? On the other hand, I don’t think the temperature will change appreciably in a short black tube, mostly buried in the ground.

-- Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. - Thoreau

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Jimthecarver

111 posts in 2405 days
hardiness zone 8b

posted 02-08-2013 07:09 PM

Daltxguy- I have found a negative with the pipe. After looking at the results from another wicking bed with a feeding tube that has been in use about 6 months. It was completely packed with castings and the roots had invaded it to the point that pulling it out came with the sound of ripping roots.
Maybe the holes in the side is a mistake as well.
A learning curve for sure….after pulling the pipe I dug a small hole and dumped food for them then covered it with soil. Dumped the pipe!
:-)

-- JTC

View Dez's profile

Dez

19 posts in 2701 days
hardiness zone 9

posted 02-08-2013 09:39 PM

Looking good!!!

View daltxguy's profile

daltxguy

882 posts in 2977 days
hardiness zone 4a

posted 02-09-2013 10:10 AM

Thanks for the update JTC! Well there ya go, we all learned something. Thanks for sharing the results of your first 6 months.
Perhaps it still might work if you moved the pipe around every couple of weeks or so.
It does seem like your plants do like the castings, so whatever you do, it is all good!

-- Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. - Thoreau

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4312 posts in 3143 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 02-09-2013 01:06 PM

Thank you, Jim. Reading, studying and writing come easy to me, but I think building a beautiful greenhouse in such a short period of time is absolutely amazing. That we all have different talents and strengths is what makes this world such a wonderful place. If you lived closer, I would try to figure out how to barter my skills for your construction skills. : )

I have been reading the discussion between you and Daltxguy and I have a few thoughts. Your system of blending, freezing and putting your organic matter into a tube isn’t wrong. It just speeds up the decomposition system that a natural ecosystem could be doing by itself. When you put a banana peel into healthy, living soil, it is immediately attacked by bacteria that use enzymes to break down the sugar molecules in the cell walls. Fungi use enzymes to break down the lignin and cellulose. Small anthropods and annelids take bites off the edges of the peel that have been soften or made more accessible by the actions of the bacteria and fungi. The wastes of these small workers are then used by microscopic soil animals which break it down even further. In a healthy soil, worm castings will not build up because they will be consumed by something else within the food web.

By blending, freezing and thawing your green wastes, you are bypassing the initial role of the bacteria and the fungi and making the green wastes more quickly available to the earthworms. My question is, how much of the work do you want to be doing and how much would you like to let nature achieve? By burying the green wastes whole, it may take longer to breakdown, but it will also provide niches to support a wider variety of soil micro-organisms.

If you provide the green wastes in a variety of places in your raised beds, you shouldn’t have to worry about castings building up in one place and not in another. I have read that small earthworms can travel up to 27 feet in an hour through garden soils.

Daltxguy is correct in stating that the decomposition process is what creates heat but I can also help explain why your lunch started to decompose in the hot desert sun but not when it was cooled by an ice pack. There are different kinds of bacterial decomposers. Psychrophiles work best around 55 degrees F; mesophiles work best between 70 – 90 degrees F., and thermophiles start to really work around 100 degrees F. Things will still decompose when it is cold, say around freezing, but they do so at a much, much slower rate. If your lunch was hot, moist and in an enclosed container, you were providing a preferred environment for the fast working thermophile bacteria that was hanging out on your lunch and they started to eat your lunch before you even got the chance.

Keep up the observing and experimenting and you will have an incredible garden that provides delicious, healthy food for you and your family.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View Jimthecarver's profile

Jimthecarver

111 posts in 2405 days
hardiness zone 8b

posted 02-09-2013 03:56 PM

Radicalfarmergal- your name fits you very well your very Rad!
Many thought provoking points in your comment. Thank you :-)
I really don’t want to blend all that gunk and waste time if nature will take care of it for me.
I have watched those little guys move and seems can really cover some ground.
As far as trading skills your going to come out on the short end…your intelligence shines very bright.
I had help with the build…but the design was all mine.
Thank you for the time you take to help us guys/gals become better gardeners.
:-)

-- JTC

View sharad's profile

sharad

1671 posts in 3097 days
hardiness zone 11

posted 02-09-2013 10:53 PM

Robin, I have no words to praise your scientific approach to the decomposition process in your above comment. I am sure you will be educating us like this in the future. By the way I always put a banana peal in one of my containers in turn. Now I can visualize the process at work and know why the plant likes it.

Sharad

-- Bagwan-- “If someone feels that they had never made a mistake in their life, then it means they have never tried a new thing in their life”.-Albert Einstein

View daltxguy's profile

daltxguy

882 posts in 2977 days
hardiness zone 4a

posted 02-10-2013 08:42 AM

So much going on in your lunch that you didn’t even know! thanks RFG, that’s a pretty complete description.
Remind me not to invite the thermophiles to my next summer picnic or at least provide them with air conditioning.

I should be cutting blocks of ice to store in the ice-house but that’s a completely different kind of building…

-- Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. - Thoreau

View ChrisMobley's profile

ChrisMobley

4 posts in 1839 days

posted 02-12-2013 07:43 AM

Very nice and such great information.
Thank you for sharing.
Chris Mobley
www.cmobleydesigns.com

View Daniel Schelhorn's profile

Daniel Schelhorn

4 posts in 1867 days
hardiness zone 9a

posted 02-12-2013 09:54 AM

Are those hurricane straps holding the windows together? Great idea! I just recently started on a compost bin and used some of those to hold up the fence that was blown down so I could get both done with one project. Those beds look really sharp too.

View Jimthecarver's profile

Jimthecarver

111 posts in 2405 days
hardiness zone 8b

posted 02-12-2013 07:24 PM

Daniel – yes I found a dusty old box with left and right ties. They came in very handy.
Thank you for the kind comment.
I hope your project comes together well.

-- JTC

View Channa's profile

Channa

1 post in 1782 days

posted 04-10-2013 09:02 AM

What are the concerns with chemicals leeching into the soil from the pond liner and the PVC?

View Jimthecarver's profile

Jimthecarver

111 posts in 2405 days
hardiness zone 8b

posted 04-13-2013 09:37 AM

Concerns are zero ….otherwise I would be digging up and replacing my water line that feeds the property.

-- JTC

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