In my previous newsletters I have reported on my trip to
China looking for beneficial plants which improve health.
However travel is a great stimulus, I know from my Moldflow
days, when I would travel around the world twice a year and
come back all steamed up with new ideas.
I think the staff dreaded my return wanting to turn
the company upside down with new projects and would
patiently wait for me to review all the ideas I had come
across and put them into perspective.
I have been back now long enough to reflect and identify
what are the really important messages.
One is the power of the internet.
At Wuhan where I gave a talk at the University there
were people from Russia, Africa and even Nepal and they had
all heard about wicking beds.
I started promoting wicking beds on the net over ten years
ago but these message had not come from me but from a chain
reaction as people such as the permaculture groups would
hear about wicking beds then set up their own web sites so
the message just spread from web to web.
The second was the damage to health on a massive world wide
scale from modern eating habits, hundreds of millions of
people are suffering from diet based deceases like diabetes
and heart decease.
The third was the importance of neurotransmitters, those
hormones which control what and how much we want to eat.
The forth was the technical and political power of the
large, typically multi-national companies, who promote food
which taste good but use these neurotransmitters to play
with our minds so we just keep on eating more and more.
The fifth was the degradation of our soils which are
depleted of the critical trace elements and minerals which
are essential for our health.
In searching for a solution I have come up with the idea of
the Ying Yang food system which uses the internet to bring
together growers with customers who want to buy healthy
The basic principle is to use the wicking basket system in a
two stage process.
Plants are grown in a basket in ‘mother bed’ with nutrient
enriched soil containing the critical minerals and biology.
The basket, with growing plants, is transferred to
the customer who places it in a ‘daughter’ wicking bed to
enjoy food which is genuinely nutritious and fresh.
The July Newsletter describes this system in detail and I am
looking for feedback from potential growers and customers
who may like to participate in this scheme.
You can give me
this feedback here.
GRRRR those ***** stones
regularly receive emails from wicking beders complaining
beds either do not wick properly or the water becomes
stagnant and smelly.
have tried to explain the reasons in each email but got a
bit fed up so wrote a little piece called
which did not seem to attract attention so today I am going
wild and putting on the front of my web.
people recognize that I pioneered wicking bed technology.
fifteen years ago I made my first wicking beds, very crude
nothing more than a hole lined with a plastics sheet, filled
with a layers of weeds then backfilled with soil. Very
effective and saved water but did not catch peoples
then used the same method but in a box.
This time I used agi pipe (the standard type with
lots of with holes) to direct the water to the base. The agi
pipe soon filled up with soil so I covered the pipe (only)
with a layer of cloth.
I put this on my web and YouTube and this seemed to
catch people’s imagination.
person who was obviously much better at publicity than me
made a video but they (incorrectly) covered not just the
pipe but the bottom layer with cloth.
They also used stones in the bottom layer.
stones are far too large to have any wicking action at all
but there is some water transfer by water evaporating
from the reservoir and then
condensing on the cloth and soil above as these are
hydrophilic (attract water) so they do work to some extent.
however really caught on and soon there were thousands of
wicking beds made with this incorrect method.
The power of marketing over technology!
however realized that nutrients were just as important as
water saving so I moved onto the wicking worm bed.
On the large beds I had a container full of holes
buried in the bed and put compost and minerals into this
bin. The worms
would break this down and spread this nutrient mix
throughout the bed.
They also aerated the bed so the soil became a
virtual sponge holding a great deal of water so there is no
need for a separate water reservoir.
technically far superior to the bed with stones and cloth
providing a nutrient rich soil and the roots can go right
down to the base of the bed extracting water so it never
becomes stagnant and pongy.
This is a much simpler and more effective system
basically just a box with a pipe to the base and a worm
the power of marketing is such that this simpler and more
effective system has been overwhelmed by the more complex,
expensive and less effective system with cloths and stones.
This I find highly frustrating.
only disadvantage is the worm chamber takes up some room in
the box. This
is not an issue with a large bed but is a problem with a
small box as people are likely to want to use on a veranda.
I continued with my development and came up with idea of a
growing the plants in a basket so the basket can be lifted
out and food waste and minerals added to the space under the
selected volcanic rock dust provides the essential minerals
lacking in our diets.
Adding fungi and worms break down the minerals making
them available to the plants.
While stones, sand or soil can hold between 30 to 50%
water they do not compete (on a space basis) with a water
reservoir. This can be easily made by having an
inverted box (or better severa
l boxes) in the
base of the wicking beds, they must not totally cover the
base but allow soil to go down to the base.
Note they do need an air bleed at the top, just a
small hole with a cloth taped over is all that is needed.
Another alternative is to use external water reservoirs
which can be made as large as you like.
One external reservoir can handle several beds.
However if the water reservoir is too large then it can lead
to stagnant water.
It is incredibly easy and cheap to make a highly
effective wicking bed, virtually any waterproof container
will do. Why people spend large amounts of money on
complex wicking beds that don't work as well is one of the
mysteries of life. Maybe its the mobile phone complex
where the more difficult they are to use the better they are
Despite the theoretical advantages separate water
chambers most of my wicking beds are simple soil type beds.
I do put a lot of effort into getting really good soil which
to me is the key to success with wicking beds.
thinking about calling these sponge beds to differentiate
them from the rogue beds which are incorrectly called
to write up more about wicking basket in the near future,
however I see one
major opportunity for wicking baskets.
returned from China promoting
the wicking beds
concept as there are literally millions of apartments here
where people would otherwise have no way of growing some of
their own food.
basic idea is that growers, probably commercial growers
could grow crops in a ‘mother’ wicking bed.
When the plants are approaching maturity the basket
only can be shipped to the customer, either directly or
through a staging post such as a market or shop.
consumer would place the basket in a small ‘daughter’
wicking bed and can so has immediate access to fresh
produce. I try and
promote the concept of ‘chop and chew’ where the outer
leaves are taken of and eaten letting the plant regrow new
leaves. Research has
shown that removing leaves actually rejuvenates the plant so
the freshness is maintained.
have an idea of setting up a web site where growers can
display the plants they have for sale or are willing to grow
on a custom basis and consumers can purchase on line.
would be very interested for any feedback you have on this