Wicking Beds Complete!

After weeks of work, our wicking beds are done!

Second bed full!

Here is the story in pictures!

Testing the liner to make sure it holds water. I used two layers of recycled billboard vinyl, plus 4 layers of 3 mil plastic sheeting I had left over from my old hoop house for each bed.

Fill testing...

The water drained out of the drain when it was full, and it held water overnight!

It works!

The same rainstorm that delayed this project also flooded my yurt! I shop-vaced over 15 gallons of water off the floor. This happened because the hailstorm blew apart the umbrella over the roof hole, admitting rain, and the part of the roof where water tends to accumulate was unsupported due to construction, so it fell in and dumped water into the yurt.

Flooded yurt!

Lee helped get the 1″ river rock with his truck. Thanks Lee!


To hold up the liner, I elected to spend more money on stainless steel screws and washers so that when this project rots, I can use them on the *next* project. These kinds of small investments really add up over time, and help fight the perception that resources are unlimited and everything is disposable. I got these at Breeds and Company. I’m considering standardizing on stainless square-drive screws for future outdoor projects if I can find them.

Also, be *very* careful with sharp fasteners when working on these beds! All it takes is losing one nail, screw, or staple to cause a catastrophic leak that will ruin the entire bed at some unknown point in the future! The first time I dropped one into the rocks, I was able to find it with a magnet. The second time the magnet didn’t work because the fixture was stainless! I had to dig up part of the bed under the liner to get it back. I recommend keeping something to catch the inevitable dropped fastener underneath it, like a bucket or tray.

Using stainless screws to hold up liner do I can use then again when this project rots.

I want the billboard vinyl to reach almost the top of the beds to protect the untreated pine from moisture, but I don’t want to *see* it, so I added this cedar fronting to cover it on top. Hopefully it’s deep enough to account for inevitable soil settling.

I cover the recycled billboard vinyl with rot-resistant cedar trim.

For the smaller pieces of trim, the stainless screws were overkill, so I used finishing nails from my Big Box of Salvaged Pointy Things to attach them.

I use recycled finishing nails on the small trim pieces to save valuable stainless fasteners.

The beds are looking good right before I put on the burlap and soil!

Trim complete!

Suddenly, in mid step,my shoes became *way* more comfortable as the mid-1990s soles took leave of the rest of the shoe. Instant moccasin! I tore of the other one and kept working. Later I’ll probably stick on thinner rubber soles, or waterproof them somehow.

Acidental moccasins!

If you look closely, you can see that I used old miniblind blades to hold up the burlap coffee bags so generously donated by Mozart’s Coffee. They are perfect as they’re thin, strong, easy to puncture, and waterproof.


A critical part of our new Permaculture setup is the new composter. Although I could have build one myself, I knew I had too many projects already, so I bought it from Costco for $150 plus tax. Thanks to Echo, who chipped in some cash and helped sell our old plastic composter. It has two rotating 50 gallon drums so you can use one while the other is composting. Our old-skool palette compost area never got turned or watered, so it took forever to get any viable compost. Since we weren’t really growing any food anyway, it didn’t matter. Now regular compost is a must.

Our new 100 gallon dual-chamber rotating compost bin. Echo helped pay for it. Thanks Echo!

I sifted the old compost and mixed it 1 part for every two parts soil when refilling the beds.

One bed done and full of a 2/3 mixture of soil/compost!

Knowing the soil would settle, I overfilled the beds as much as I could.  The timing for the finish was perfect, as it rained heavily for a day.  Now all the weed seeds, including what’s probably a lot of Bermuda grass, the Scourge of the Austin Gardener, will sprout so we can murder them all before we plant our own seeds.

You can scroll back up to the top for the finished product!

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