Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wicking pots and worm bed system for Solanacea

This year I am going to add some polystyrene boxes to plant tomatoes in.  Large tomatoes don't do well here - we have bacterial wilt in the soil, and I think a myriad other diseases that are commonplace here.  I like tomatoes though, and I did get some free seeds to experiment with.  I am going to try a sort of wicking bed system as in the past I have had blossom end rot as well which indicated uneven watering.   I am putting some boxes front and centre.  They are resting on the front of the the asparagus bed, making use of every inch of the garden.  I hope I wont be disappointed.

assemble what you need:

The idea is to drill a  drainage holes about a quarter of the way up the box.  Add drainage rock - I used quincam, scoria is another good one to use.

  Below this line the boxes are filled with small rocks for drainage. . Now I am not sure if there should be standing water here, or some people even use sand.  There is conflicting advice about what barrier to use above this.  I am not a huge fan of weedmat, so put a layer of chux cloth - water will wick through it, and it is what I had available.

Into each bin I spread some crushed eggshells and a few comfrey leaves - all things I have read will help with this battle against bacterial wilt.
On top of that I put my soil, and in the interests of not using any of my own soil or compost, I used a mixture of :  Crusher dust, potting soil, and pelletized organic fertilizer.

One one side of each box I have a tube for watering - you can see  the level, so that the box will always have water available for the plant.
Update:  Here you can see parsley growing well in a wicking bed, and the eggplant have done well for a couple of years, not getting the bacterial wilt, so my experiment works well!

 This soil never seemed to dry out - the surface was always moist - now that has to be a good sign...
At last the wicking bed experiment has begun....

Updated with new photos July 2016


  1. I can't wait to see how this system works! Thanks for writing about it. And, just so you know, I've only grown worms under my kitchen sink when our son was small, for a school project. The worms did so well, we had them for years, which sometimes surprised house guests! Oh, and when the nephews bought fishing worms to use in our pond, at the end of the day, I'd rescue the worms and "plant" them all over the yard. We have lots of worms in the yard now.

  2. This is such an interesting project. I look forward to seeing how it works for you. I have problems at times with tomatoes, too, but mostly because I neglect them far too much.

  3. Wow you've been busy....please keep us posted on the progress of your experiment.

  4. You had a really good idea! I wish you it will all work well :)

  5. You have to let us all know how this works. I have amazing success with my tomatoes early in the season and then the fruit stopped ripening and that darned leaf rot spread. I started new plants in a new bed and the died the same fate. I decided it is a time of year thing and spring tomatoes work but summer ones don't. If you find a way that I can get tomatoes for more months, I'll become a disciple.

  6. Lesa,
    It sounds as though you have quite the knack for breeding worms. I only really see them in wet earth, but every time I see them I get very excited!
    you have such amazing flowers I am not surprised that you don't have time for vegetables. I wonder if you could grow some vegetables in among the flowers though?
    Once the humidity goes away it becomes very pleasant out in the garden.
    Luckily there are other people who have experimented before me.
    This bacterial wilt is a tropical disease, so that is why I am not including any of my soil. I hope it works. I good way to test for it is to put a cut branch of an infected plant into water - if a milky white sap seeps out it is likely bacterial wilt.

  7. Dearest Africanaussie,
    Wow, this post must need expert knowledge to understand; so sorry for my luck of vocabulary for the tomato (Solanacea, haha I needed to check this word).

    I am keeping my fingers crossed for the good harvests, my friend.

    Sending you lots of love and hugs from Japan, xoxo Miyako*

  8. Dear Africanaussie, I hope this works!! I understand your love for tomatoes, and would like to see what you find out! If you would ever like me to send you some Mortgage lifter tomato seeds, I would be happy to. They are a great (my favorite) heirloom. I'm praying for you and that you get a giant crop!!!!
    It was good to 'see' you in comments. I'd love it if you linked this up...maybe your idea will help someone else with soil issues...Blessings!

  9. Miyako,
    I am so impressed with your understanding of English - there is no need to apologise. I can only say Konichiwa in Japanese :) (maybe it is spelt wrong?)
    Thank you for your kind offer, but I dont think you can send seed overseas, especially to Australia. I dont see where to link it up - but you are welcome to link up if you think it might help someone...thanks for your prayers

  10. Will be interested to see how this goes. Interestingly enough, I went to a garden class last night where the teacher was talking about grafting tomatoes to prevent tropical root viruses that kill off big tomatoes here in Hawaii as well. He was growing a big beefsteak tomato until about a foot high then grafting it on to a cherry tomato root. Maybe somebody wants to try that out. I just stay with growing cherry tomatoes.

  11. Stellamarina,
    I have never tried grafting, but that sounds like a good idea. Cherry tomatoes grow wild here, and I love them, but just want to try growing some other tomatoes. The supermarket ones are so flavourless.


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