What is a wicking bed?

"Wicking bed" generally describes a raised garden bed which supplies plants with water from below. Water travels up from the water reservoir via a wicking medium into the soil above. 



What are the advantages of wicking beds?
  • Wicking beds save water
  • Watering is required less often
  • Higher growth rates as plants naturally receive the optimum moisture level
  • Overwatering is prevented
  • Dry top surface reduces plant disease fungal infection
  • Orto wicking beds on wheels can be moved into optimum sun position all year
  • Orto wicking beds are at a comfortable working height

What does "self watering" mean?

The term self watering is interchangeable with wicking bed.

How does a wicking bed work?

Wicking beds use Capillary action to work. In simple terms, do you recall going for a swim just waist high? Did you notice how your (dry) T-shirt got progressively wetter as time passed, yet you had since left the water? This is the science that our wicking beds are based upon. By adding a water reservoir and a an overflow outlet, you should be kicking (gardening) goals in no time!


What materials are used in an Orto Box?




Do you need to be an experienced gardener to grow your own food in a wicking bed?

A wicking bed has 2 features which make them perfect for new gardeners. Firstly the overflow pipe means that you cannot accidentally overwater....as soon as the water level reaches the top of the reservoir you will see it flowing out of the pipe. Secondly, if you go away or forget your plants for a few days they have a water supply to keep them growing. Really no excuses.... just start growing.
Finally, by creating a stable environment of wet below and dry on top, you don't need to know the exact water requirements of every plant. Each plant will naturally settle their roots in the moisture zone they prefer.
Can I see a sample wicking bed in action?
You sure can! We have afew of our self watering planter box in our workshop in Footscray. Just call before you leave as sometimes we are doing deliveries, the planter boxes are at the very rear of the property.
What plants can I grow in my Orto planter box?
Some of the plants which we have been growing are:
Basil, Corn, Pak Choy, Parsley, Thyme, Zucchini, Rocket, Spinach, Kale, Radish, Silverbeet, Spring Onions, Strawberries, Mint, Cauliflower, Oregano, Mizuna, Cherry Tomatoes, Eggplant, Snow Peas, Jalapenos, Chilli, Cabbage, Lettuce, Blueberry
How much does a Orto planter box weigh?

The standard Orto planter box  (120 x 42 x 69cm) with scoria- and without soil and water weighs 65kg. Once water and soil is added the weight is closer to 150kg.

How much water is there in the water reservoir and how long will it last?

There is 24 litres of water in the small Orto and 32 litres in the bigger Orto reservoir. Mature plants will drink between 1-5 litres per day depending on environmental conditions. Mostly the plants are drinking a litre per day so the water will last a week or so in normal conditions, but in extreme heat check each day until you get a feel for exactly how fast they are using water. 

My soil looks dry on top, should I water from the top?

No. The wicking process is driven by the moisture differential between wet soil (at the bottom) and dry soil (at the top). The greater the differential, the better the wicking works, so watering from the top will just stop the process working and lead to rank anaerobic conditions in the bottom.

We have found that the appearance of dry soil on the top can sometimes stress out experienced gardeners and it can take a while to trust the process. If you dig down a few centimetres below the dry top you will see the moisture underneath feeding the roots.

Note that a week of heavy rain can produce the same conditions as watering from the top (even with the overflow), so we recommend that once it stops raining it can help to dry out the soil by letting some water out from the bottom via the overflow.

Is the timber sustainable?

Yes. We use two types of Cypress depending on which type of wicking bed is being made. For the larger permanent raised wicking beds we use locally salvaged Golden Cypress. For the smaller Orto self watering wicking beds we source White Cypress certified under the Sustainable Forest Management AS4708 2013.  We use White Cypress Callitris glaucophylladue because it has a 40 year durability rating without using any toxic chemicals or preservatives. 

Most importantly we encourage everybody to look deeper into claims of sustainability to learn more about where things come from and ultimately make your own decisions about material use. We use White Cypress Callitris glaucophylladue because it has a 40 year durability rating without using any toxic chemicals or preservatives. 

Do you ship interstate?

Yes, we do ship interstate, please call us for a quote based on your location. Please note it is much cheaper if we can book your delivery to a factory, warehouse or depot. These deliveries cost approx $99 each and are normally trouble free, we then charge a packaging fee of $49 per garden box. It becomes more costly if we deliver to a home address and need to book a truck with a tail lift. Drivers do not advise exactly what time they will arrive so it can cause everyone a lot of stress if you are waiting at home for your delivery.