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CAT Wicking Bed – Great new garden design – RIG News #14

2011 October 4
by Webmaster

CAT Wicking Bed – Great new garden design for arid areas

RIG Network participants Scott Pullyblank, Chris Thiesfield, Charlotte McCabe, Wiruungga Dunggiirr and Jen Clarsen each gave excellent presentations at the DAA NT/RIG CPD Event, “Health and Life Skills Gardens” that was held in Alice Springs on July 29, 2011.

They provided lots of inspiration and practical tips for different approaches to community gardens – such as bush medicine and bush food gardens, hydroponic systems large and small, permaculture and wicking beds. Read on to learn more about CAT’s Wicking Bed system that Jen Clarsen designed and recommends as an effective way to ‘grow and show’ how to grow food in arid environments.

CAT Wicking Bed

Wicking beds are useful in desert conditions
In central Australian remote Aboriginal communities and outstations, its very tough to get a vegie garden to grow well. About a year ago, the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT) started to talk to people living in Yuendumu, Alparra, Ulpanyali communities, as well as a few Alice Springs town camps, to look at ways to make gardening easier. The feedback from community was generally that people were very keen to grow fresh vegies as well as have fruit trees but were unclear about how to make the process easier and more workable.

What is a CAT wicking bed?
CAT has developed a raised garden bed product that is designed specifically for remote Aboriginal communities located in arid environments. The CAT wicking bed has two main parts: the bottom half is a contained reservoir filled with gravel and water, and the top half is filled with soil, plants and mulch. This works like a soak in a river, watering plants from below rather than from the top. The soil acts like a sponge moving the water upwards to the plant roots – this process is called “wicking”. All soils wick in different ways and its important to get the soil ingredients right so it does the best job possible in moving the water upwards.

Product features:
- The bed is very low maintenance and extremely water efficient. – Can be placed neatly close to your house and/or outdoor cooking area. – The bed is shipped as a flat pack, saving you money on transport costs – The bed is built to sit higher off the ground (table height), so old people and people with bad backs can garden comfortably. – The wicking bed height stops rabbits and deters dogs from eating and digging around it for food, keeping the growing area more hygienic too.

Order information: The CAT wicking bed is designed for arid environments and to reduce maintenance. However gardens need planning, maintenance and management – watering, weeding, fertilising, harvesting and planting. CAT can provide the technical support to help you develop plans to manage and maintain your wicking bed garden. The CAT wicking bed and technical advice service is now available. There are also a number of add-on features for the CAT wicking bed that are suitable for outdoor learning that schools may find useful. For more information, please contact CAT on ph: 08 8959 6100, fax 08 8959 6111 or email:

IP disclaimer: Copyright and intellectual property contained in this material is the property of the Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc (CAT). It may not be reproduced or used for any purpose without written consent of CAT.

RIG Network acknowledges CAT & their kind permission to reproduce the above material and images, below and above,  in RIG News and on the RIG website.

RIG News #14 – August 2011. Written and produced by Anthea Fawcett for RIG Network.

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