Insect mesh in place and ready for planting
I finallygot the wicking bed finished and the insect mesh attached. The final finish is not as good as I wanted as I couldn’t figure out how to keep the insect mesh in place and still get easy access.
My stop-gap solution is to hold it in place with boards and a couple of screws in each board. The battery operated screwdriver comes in handy attaching and removing the boards.
If you can think of any simple, elegant solutions to my dilemma, I would be pleased to receive them.
Seedlings and Seeds Planted
One of my aims was to have the wicking bed planted just after the winter equinox which was 22/23 June. I’m about a week late but I got the Black Russian tomatoes in the soil yesterday, which was 1 July 2015. Today I got the trellis system in place and will show you how to tie up tomatoes and prune them as they grow. It is quite simple and can be used outside in the garden as well. All you need is some support for the string that will be the support for the tomato plant.
The turnbuckle tightens the supporting wire and the wire is passed throught the hole, around the pin and back through the hole.
The tomatoes are at the southern end of the wicking bed as they will be the tallest plants in the bed, unless I decide to grow some climbing beans as well. If that happens the tomatoes should be well advanced by then. They are at the southern end so they don’t overshadow all of the smaller plants like choy sum, spinach, endive and all those greens that go in stirfries, soups and salads.
So far I have planted seedlings for tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, dwarf french beans and choy sum. Seeds have been sown for choy sum, Tat Soi, chinese kale,spinach, minutina and endive.
Over the weekend I finally got motivated and completed the construction of the hugulculture wicking bed and frame for the pest exclusion material. I have been a bit handicapped lately with lower back pain. I wrote about that here lower back pain. This post will be mainly pictures and a few comments so you should shuffle through it pretty quickly.
Testing the hugulculture wicking bed for leaks
The bed didn’t appear to leak so I started to carefully place the wood in to create the hugulculture effect. The carpet below the plastic and above it helped with protection, I am sure.
The next job was to move the compost
After adding the wood, the next job was to move the compost. When Gino was preparing the site with the skidsteer, he moved about 6 cubic metres of compost to this position close to the bed. It made it a short trip for each barrow load.
At the halfway filled mark I added lime and rock dust
The compost had been maturing for 12 months and was looking like a really good growing medium. I added minerals and lime at the half full mark.
Wicking bed all filled with compost and another addition of lime and minerals
After adding the compost, I added another dose of lime and rockdust as well as some blood and bone. I will water this in and the bed will settle a bit. It’s raining at the moment so I may not have to water it in.
The white pipe on the side of the bed is the overflow pipe. It is connected to the filler pipe and the ag pipe that goes around the base of the bed. This pipe is slotted so the water can spread quickly through all of the bed.
The overflow pipe is there in case it rains very heavily (quite likely in Brisbane) and water needs to be evacuated. The ag pipe will collect water as well as distribute it and it will rise up and out the overflow outlet. The other reason is in case I forget to turn off the hose when I am filling the bed.
This weekend I will get the pest exclusion fabric on and work out how to access the bed easily. I will also get some wire hangers in and will be able to show you some good ways to tie up tomatoes. I have bought some Black Russian tomato seed and some Roma. I will plant one of each in the southern end. Thats all for now.
I finally got off my dot and started the wicking bed construction. The first order of the day was to complete the second coat of exterior paint.
Second coat of paint finished
I got motivated and moved the sleepers onto the pad and gave them all a second coat of exterior paint. Moving them wasn’t my smartest move as I had to move them all off to start construction. Talk about double handling.
Same paint roller
The first coat of paint was applied on March 28 and the second coat on May 8. The roller was wrapped in cling wrap for that time. I peeled off the cling wrap and used the same roller.
Late in the day
I put in a few hours the next day on the wicking bed construction and nearly forgot to take a photo. This one was late in the day.
Some time spent thinking led to a few changes
Some changes were made to the plan
Quite a few changes were made during the wicking bed construction. I had actually drawn up a plan before I started, but as I progressed I saw some ways to change it that I thought would be for the better.
First, I changed from having the sleepers all join at the same place to having them in a brick pattern. That meant I had to cut one sleeper in the second row in half. I felt that this would make the construction a little stronger as the bed is just sitting on the ground. None of the uprights are sunk into the ground. The brick pattern wouldn’t be seen as all the joins are covered on the outside with an upright, and once the bed is filled with soil and compost you won’t see them on the inside.
Second change quite an improvement.
Originally, my plan was for three layers of sleepers making the bed 60cm high (2ft). After thinking about this for quite a while, I decided that a depth of 45cm would be sufficient as the bed was going to be used mainly for Asian vegetables and quick growing plants with shallow root systems.
By removing the top row I decided to put on a 15cm wide top cap that could be sat on. Nothing better than sitting down doing the gardening. A 15cm seat is much more comfortable than a 5cm wide seat. The top cap increased the height by 5cm.
There is also going to be a frame built over the bed for shade cloth. The shade cloth will serve a dual purpose of insect exclusion and wind protection. It will help keep the plants cooler in summer as well.
Last week I got Gino, who has a small business as an earth moving contractor, to do some work around the yard in preparation for the wicking beds.
Preparing the site for the wicking beds
There were some old foundations and an old Hills Hoist that I wanted removed. The site for the bed also needed levelling and a skidsteer was going to make life a little easier moving the compost to fill the bed.
Yard area before levelling for wicking bed construction
Fortunately Gino has an excavator and a skidsteer and he brings them both when he comes to a job. The old footings were more robust than I thought they would be. They were set a metre into the ground and the skidsteer had no chance of getting them out.
The excavator was needed to dig out the old footings
After the old footings were removed, Gino used the skidsteer to transfer a lot of compost closer to where I was building the beds. He then levelled out the building area with some crushed concrete fines I had purchased a while ago getting ready for this part of the project.
The skidsteer levels the site with crushed concrete fines
Best laid plans of mice and men
As you can see from the photos, it was a perfect Autumn day in Brisbane when this work was done. Little did I know that 4 days later we would undergo one of the biggest rain events in 10 years. We had 250 mm (10 inches of rain) from Friday am through to Saturday am. The back yard was 100 mm underwater at one stage. At times I saw my thongs floating away and compost disappearing to the front yard.
The next post about wicking beds will be the construction of the frame using the cypress sleepers and fitting the plastic liner.
I took a couple of videos of the work Gino did and Gino even says hullo. When I work out how to edit them I will have a link. If you are in the north of Brisbane area and need a good skidsteer and excavator contractor you can ring Gino on 0414 867 754. He is based in Chermside.
Wicking Bed Part 1
I started work on the wicking beds today. Over the last 2 weeks I have been getting
things together and today I needed to get a move on.
During my thinking and planning time, I figured out that I would need 21 sleepers that
were 2.4 metres by 20cm x 5cm. In the old scale that is 21, 8″ x 2″ 8 ft long. Originally I
did my pricing on treated pine sleepers from Bunnings at about $11.76 each. But there was a nagging thought in the back of my head about the chemicals injected into the pine
timber to make it resistant to termites and rot.
Painting the sleepers with a roller before construction of the wicking bed.
Can’t be a Hypocrite
I finally decided that I couldn’t be that big of a hypocrite. Here I was talking about
being organic and then using a product that could leach poisonous chemicals into the
garden I was growing my food in. So the frugal part of me had to give way to the logical
part that wouldn’t let me be a hypocrite.
I had to make an change in my budget. I was hoping to build a wicking garden bed that
measured 4.8 metres by 1.8 metres and 60 cm high for around $500. This was now impossible as the timber was going to be more than that.
Cypress Pine Sleepers
I finally settled on cypress pine sleepers that cost about $24.00 each, more than twice
the price of the treated pine ones. To justify it to myself, I worked out that the bed
was going to be there for minimum of 15 years so I would be thanking myself for paying
the bit extra than wondering whether I was poisoning myself and the ground by using the
cheaper option of chemically treated pine sleepers.
I purchased my cypress pine sleepers from www.cypresssupplies.com.au/. The young bloke there gave me a hand loading and as the sleepers were slightly longer than the van, also strapped down the back door. It makes your day when you get looked after. Makes it easier to justify spending your money as well.
Over time and exposure to the elements, cypress pine goes a silvery grey colour. I
decided to paint them in a eucalypt colour (a shade of green). Having opened the wallet
for the timber, I decided to invest in a dearer exterior paint. I went on the Whirlpool
forum and saw that a lot of older guys said with paint, you get what you pay for. They
also seemed to have a consensus that Dulux weathershield was the way to go. I followed
Wrap your roller in Cling wrap. It will keep the roller usable for at least a couple of days.
Setting up to paint.
Having done a bit of painting in my time, I figured that painting before building was the
best option. I set the sleepers on some timber to get them up off the ground and got out
the paint roller. I have used half of a 4 litre can to do one coat to one side and an edge. The whole can will cover them with one coat. I will do two coats.
Here’s a little tip if you are new to painting. In between waiting for your paint to dry
wrap your roller in glad wrap or cling wrap. That way you don’t have to wash the roller
out as it will stay moist. You can do the same with brushes.
One coat completed before the rain
Finished One Coat
It’s Saturday morning. I got up around 6:30 to get the other side and edge done on the sleepers. The weather forecast is for showers, so I wanted to get a coat on and hopefully a few hours drying before any rain.
One coat on, hopefully the paint will dry before the rain comes.
Have to laugh
It just occurred to me that I have gone to the trouble and expense to purchase cypress sleepers instead of treated pine and I have gone and painted them so they look like treated pine. You can’t help some people.
In the next update for building a wicking bed, I will be getting a machine in to make the site level. You may have noticed the pile of gravel fines in the pictures. Thats for levelling, as there is a bit of a hollow where I want to put the wicking bed.