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Life on two acres of arid dirt, on the edge of the Australian outback.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

how to make a wicking bath ~ our way

This post is another request, this time for Jane who wanted to know how we make our wicking baths. Hopefully Bluey will understand our instructions.

So here we go with a tutorial, the photos being part of the description.

I would just like to say that this is the way we do it.  There are other methods out there and I will add a couple of links to the bottom of this post.  We may change later down the track, but for now this is what works for us. 

Watcha need:

An old bath. 
You will need a handy person to build a frame to hold the bath in place. This is made from heavy duty pipe account the weight of the bath when complete. Hubby has made this one at a good working height for me. 

50mm storm water pipe (long piece to water into reservoir and the small piece gets attached to the drain piece).
40mm P & W drain piece (as shown in second pic).

A tube of pvc pipe glue for sticking the 90 degree bend and AG pipe to long piece of pipe.
A tube of silicon to seal around bath inside and out where P&W fits.

Ag pipe (found in hardware stores).

Shade cloth and scissors to cut it. You can use weed mat too.

Zip ties or string.

Spirit level.



And of course some soil.

Whatya do:

Step 1: To place drainage pipe into your bath. 

(A little complicated for me to explain as hubby is the one who does this).

Remove the old brass plug surround from the bath so you can fit the new P&W drain pipe in its place. The small piece of PVC is used with this drain pipe. You need to add silicon to seal around the area.

Step 2: Next you need to make the reservoir pipe using ag pipe. Ours have been wrapped in double shade cloth held on tightly with zip ties. This helps to keep debris out of the holes in the piping. 

It then needs to be joined to the longer piece of PVC. We do this by adding an elbow piece. This photo hopefully helps show what is needed. The ag pipe is cut to the size of roughly 1.5metres, depending on the size of your bath.

This is what it should look like once the shade cloth is put on the ag pipe and attached to the 90 degree angle piece. Now this is all done it is time to set up the wicking bath/bed.

Step 3: Place the bath where you want it and level off with a spirit level. They must be level to drain well.

Step 4: Lay your pipe into the bath like the photo shows here. Tie the long pvc fill pipe with a piece of string or zip tie to the drain pipe like so...

Step 5: Now the rocks can go in. 

You may need to hold the pipe down while you add rocks so that it is held to the bottom of the bath.  The rocks have a habit of slipping under the pipe. The idea is to just cover the ag pipe up to the top of the drain pipe. This is not a good pic to show that, but hopefully you get the idea. More rocks were added until I could no longer see the pipe.

Step 6: On top of the rocks goes the shade cloth that has been pre-cut to size. We double the cloth for extra protection to stop debris from getting through to the rocks below.

Step 7: You will need to cut a small hole that can be slipped over the long piece of pvc pipe, like this pic.

I should mention that I use a face mask when handling anything dusty or mouldy in the garden. We must look after our lungs. Better to be safe than sorry.

Step 8: The straw gets put in on top of the shade cloth.  I used biscuits from a bale of oaten hay. It needs to be fairly thick/dense.  The straw is what wicks the water up from the reservoir below.

Step 9: Finally, it is time to put your soil in. I filled to the top of the bath as it will sink a little bit as it settles.  I used soil from an older garden bed, then mixed in some homemade compost and old chook poo. 

Step 10: Once filled you can then put the hose in the pipe and fill until water runs out the plug hole underneath.

Like so. And then you are done!

I have transferred my strawberry plants over and covered them to protect from any frosts that may be around.

I think that is it.  

I am not very good at writing tutorials so just ask away if you have any further questions. 

Here is a link to tell you a little bit different way to make a wicking bath.

And a video from Rob Bob showing how he does a wicking bath.

The wicking method is a great way to save water.  Where we live there is very little rain so it costs a fortune to keep a garden (whether it be flowers or veggies), because mains water is so very expensive. Sometimes we can go months without receiving a drop of rain. I am pleased to say that since I have been using this method for growing veggies, my bill has more than halved and my veggie production has increased ten fold. This is great news on both accounts.

See you soon!


  1. Funny I only just read one of your old posts on how you do your wicking beds, so this post has come at a great time!
    I am very interested in this method of gardening, it just makes sense. It's hard to source old baths in my area, because everyone is into it up here, and they go real quick, I've been trying to find other alternatives, but to no avail yet. I will persist, as this is a gardening method I really want to try.

    Do you find you have to water from the top for a while until the wicking process is working? And how long might you water from the top?

    1. Hi Cheryl,

      Yes I do water from the top if I need to use the bed straight away. Otherwise it takes a few days to wick up and you may need to add more water to the reservoir. I just sprinkle a little on the top to help the soil pack down and speed up the wicking process.

      You can use any big container for wicking beds so long as they are leak proof. People use IBC containers with success but I decided not to use them as the plastic part breaks down too easily. We are lucky enough to know a builder that replaces baths in government housing, so this is where we were able to get ours. Otherwise hubby has picked them up from the side of the road and sometimes people give away on local fb pages. Even the large (or smaller) boxes from the cheap shops can be used.

      Have a look these images so you can get an idea of how wicking beds work.


      Thank you for your response and questions, I knew I would forget something lol!

      Happy gardening,

    2. Back again Cheryl.

      We might try this next time using an old fridge. A pretty good tutorial on this one :)



    3. Thanks, I will check them out when I get time.

  2. Thats amazing Tania, thanks for the great tutorial. When you mentioned wicking baths a couple of posts ago I was not sure what they were. Then I wondered why you didnt just plant into the garden. So now I realise that water is the problem. I have never heard of them before but what a wonderful idea & you have explained it all so perfectly. Thanks so much for sharing. Your blog is great & I do enjoy your posts so very much. Happy week to you Tania.

    1. Thank you Julie.

      Yes we live in an arid area of Australia, lots of red dirt and flies lol! I struggled for years to grow a garden and failed dismally so this was my last resort so I can grow our own food. This years produce from the garden has been the best yet in nine years of gardening. So I am happy now :)

      Wishing you a lovely week,

  3. Tania this is perfect! Thank you so very much for showing this. I wanted to use old baths but I have been unable to work out how to end up with a reservoir. Woohoo. Bluey is currently not very well so I will wait until he is a bit better before asking him to do this with/for me. I am making the apple slice today. Will Instagram a photo of it for you.

    1. That's great to hear Jane, I always worry about forgetting something important. One thing that I did forget to mention was to put a cover of shade cloth over the drain plug. We forgot to do it this time around, but it is not a big issue because we have used double layer shade cloth to prevent debris mixing with the rocks.

      I was amazed this morning to read a post on using old fridges for wicking beds. I think these would actually be better as they are insulated. The thing I noticed when reading other methods is that they don't use the straw to wick (our method was learned from Rob Bob on youtube). They just put the soil straight on top of the shade cloth. I found this interesting but not sure if it is an issue or not. I guess the soil will wick anyway. It does mean that I wont have to empty out my beds to replace the straw every couple of years if it is going to wick anyway. I will include the link to the fridge wicking bed for you as it is explained really well :)


      I hope Bluey is feeling a lot better very soon.

      I look forward to seeing your slice on IG :)

      Have a lovely day,


  4. I am frequently amazed at how good Australians seem to be about adapting to their environment. I've never even heard of this system, even though drought has been a real problem here in the Smokey Mountains of North Georgia for well over a year now. I will tell some other folks here about this post.

    1. Hi Harry, long time, no see. Its great that you could visit again :)

      You are most welcome to pass this information on to other folk.

      Hope you and your wife are keeping well.



Your comments really make my day. Thank you for taking the time and for being so kind.