Growing edibles in wicking pots

by Edwina Robinson, 2 August 16

lettuce leaves

With spring around the corner it’s time to start thinking about growing some edibles. At the end of a long day, it’s satisfying to pick a selection of greens to make your pasta look glam. Or first thing in the morning blend up leafy greens, with banana, soy milk and honey into a chlorophyll rich smoothie.

There's a range of greens you can grow at this time of year: like Mizuna, mixed lettuce, spinach, Asian greens, rocket and parsley. These annuals will reward you by growing quickly with a little care.  

One of the advantages of growing in pots is you have a transportable edible garden!

Mizuna on salmon and pasta

Mizuna greens, smoked salmon and pasta. Photo: Wikipedia.

Getting started

Pick a spot that receives between four and six hours of sun per day. If possible, choose somewhere close to your house or apartment where you will see your plants on a regular basis.

You don’t need to have to garden in the ground to grow great greens. Instead, think about using large containers – they should be a minimum of 30cm deep and 30cm high for growing greens. If you want to grow fruiting plants, like tomatoes and eggplants you will need to choose a larger sized pot.

Good drainage is essential to your plants as is using a quality potting mix (generally, you get what you pay for).  And keep the soil moist will help your greens keep growing.

One way to ensure success is to construct a wicking pot. This takes a little preparation but will reward you in 6-10 weeks time.

Creating a wicking pot

Wicking pots include a water reservoir at the base which allows plant roots to access extra water when they need it. So they are not always reliant on you. You can buy these types of pots from nurseries and department stores, however, we want to show you how to construct your own by following these steps below.

Winter greens in wicking pots

Wicking pots in a driveway growing salad greens like rocket, mizuna, green and red lettuces,rocket, asian greens and garlic. Photo: Edwina Robinson

Equipment needed
  1. Large tub or pot min. dimension 30cm – use a recycled pot if possible
  2. Hessian/shade cloth/coir – available from nurseries and hardware stores
  3. Gravel (5-20mm dia) – available from landscape suppliers
  4. PVC tube (50mm dia) – available from plumbing suppliers or hardware stores
  5. Scissors 
  6. Screwdriver
Optional composting step
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Kitchen scraps
  • Coffee/tea grounds
  • Garden clippings & autumn leaves
  • 30 worms from a worm farm
Step 1

Place PVC tube in pot and add gravel. The gravel reservoir  should be approximately ¼ the depth of the pot. The PVC tube should sit above your proposed soil and mulched surface so you can extra water into the reservoir during dry periods.  Use your screwdriver to insert holes into your container at the height of the gravel – this lets excess water run out. Note: occasionally these will get blocked and your tub may fill to the top with water. To fix this simply grab a screwdriver to unclog the holes.

gravel in pot - step 1

Tub filled with gravel to approximately 1/4 of the height of the container and 50mm PVC tube.

Photo: Edwina Robinson

Step 2

Lay your hessian or shade cloth over your gravel layer. This forms a barrier between your potting mix and gravel. You don’t want the potting mix to fill up the voids between the gravel – as this is your water storage area!

Step 3 – This is an additional composting step (you can skip this step if you don’t have the ingredients)

Add a layer of organic material to start composting in your wicking pot. Cover this with a layer of hessian and keep moist.

shredded newspaper over gravel

Shredded newspaper is place over the hessian and gravel. Photo: Edwina Robinson

leaves coffee floor sweepings

Old potting mix, autumn leaves, coffee grounds and dust and dog hairs from the floor are added over the newspaper. Photo: Edwina Robinson

Worms in child's hands

Add 30 worms from your worm farm. Photo: bestandworsteverblogspot

hessian covered compost

Compost material covered with hessian and kept moist. This can be left to breakdown for a number of weeks or can be covered in good quality potting mix straight away. Photo: Edwina Robinson

Step 4

Add good quality potting mix to the rest of your container.

Step 5

Now the construction part is complete – you get to choose your greens. At this time of year, you can choose either seeds or seedlings. Obviously seedlings cost more but will get your garden started more quickly. As you build confidence, try using seeds. 

Step 6

Keep your seeds or seedlings moist. Once they begin to germinate keep an eye out for bugs. In the warmer months you will find green grubs (the larvae of the white cabbage moth) feasting on your plants. And remember to feed your plants on a fortnightly basis with an organic product like a seaweed plant tonic.

Happy gardening.

living sustainably

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