wicking beds

A wicking bed is an extremely water-efficient way to garden, and its frame allows for easy installation of either shade cloth or greenhouse plastic.

In short, a wicking bed consists of a basin of gravel with rich soil on top of it. There’s a pipe set into the gravel, which bends and rises to the surface for watering. This is how you water your plants. The water settles in the gravel and is wicked up by the soil to the plants’ roots. It’s very conservative with water, as it doesn’t lose moisture to evaporation like surface watering does.

It’s easy to make and it doesn’t take up much space. You can plant it intensively due to the richness of the soil. You can make it any length you wish, but keep the width something you can reach from each side (like 4 feet wide).

Your wicking bed will need very little attention. Just make sure you water it once a week, or whenever it seems like the soil is getting dry. Each time you’re about to pull up a plant (like a root), make sure you have more seedlings ready to transplant, so that you can make the most of the space.

We’ve been so impressed with our wicking beds that we turned our whole garden into a series of them. You can make them any shape and size you want, and even have flexible drainage hoses in the PVC, so all you have to do is turn on a tap.

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For more information, check out our web site: VelaCreations

Project Steps

Layout Frame

Choose your site and dig a hole the size you want your wicking bed to be, 12″ deep.

At each corner dig a hole 1′ deep, and put a 2″x2″ post in each hole, so that it stands 5′ above ground level.

On the long side of the wicking bed, put a post every 2-1/2′. These posts need not be so tall, only 3′ up from the bottom of the hole.

Screw 2″x2″ boards in between the posts at the top and at 2-1/2′ from the base of the hole.

Gravel Bed

Place black plastic on the floor of the hole.

Line the hole, floor, and sides (which are 12″ deep) with vinyl tarp. Staple it to the wooden posts.

Staple shade cloth to the posts around the perimeter of the hole. The shade cloth should come up to 2-1/2′ from the base of the hole.

Snake the 4″ flexible drainage pipe throughout the hole.

Slice the end of the flexible drainage hose about 6″. Open the drainage hose at this slice, and slip in the 3″ PVC pipe vertically.

Fill the hole with gravel.


Cut a piece of shade cloth or landscape fabric to cover the gravel. This will keep the soil and gravel layers separated.

Mix a rich soil with some compost, worm castings, and quality dirt. Add some wood ash if your soil is very acidic.

Fill the shade cloth walls with dirt, 1 to 1-1/2′ above the gravel. Compact it as you go.

Shade Cloth/Greenhouse

Attach either shade cloth or greenhouse plastic to the frame, both on the sides and roof. This will keep your plants at the right temperature and free from pests. When the plants are flowering, you can lift up a part of the shade cloth to allow pollinators inside.


Make a grid of the surface of the wicking bed, so that you can plant intensively in each square.

Fill the wicking bed with water via the PVC pipe that is sticking up. Look inside the pipe and fill to the top of the gravel.

Plant your seedlings in the soil. You will want to water the young plants from the top until their roots get established.

Mulch the surface of the soil really well — 4″ of fine mulch is good.

Fill the wicking bed once a week with water, or when it seems like the soil is getting dry.