When I started growing small vegetables in wicking boxes, they were so successful that I wanted to extend the concept to something that would take the deeper and more extensive root system of a tomato.
Enter wicking tubs. I’ve written about how I made them here. Just for the record, I now have a total of 31 wicking boxes and 8 wicking tubs. It’s almost pathological!
One of the wicking tubs is beside the steps that lead up onto the deck. There’s also a grapevine planted beside the steps which is trained up the railing and onto the deck. That becomes relevant as you’ll see.
Of all the wicking tubs, the plants in this one struggled. I watered regularly but the soil on top always seemed dry. After watering, water appeared in the bottom of the inspection tube (using a dipstick to check), but didn’t seem to last. The other tubs behaved as they should have.
I concluded that somehow the plastic in the bottom must have become perforated and water wasn’t being retained in the reservoir. It still didn’t seem to be the cause of the dryness, even allowing for the extra watering, but there was nothing for it—the whole thing had to be emptied and checked.
As I started removing the soil, some fibrous roots appeared. I thought they were just the remains of the plants that had been growing there, but as I got further down, the roots became more numerous and bigger. As I got closer to the bottom, I tried to move the tub. No way would it move. Then I discovered why.
Ants had heaved up the soil around the base of the tub, which meant that the original drainage holes were covered with soil. That sneaky grapevine next door had decided to take advantage of the moister soil in the tub and had put a root through the hole without me seeing it. This is what eventually came out of the bottom of the tub:
The plastic had been perforated too, but only a few small holes. I replaced it and put back the soil, but not before putting the tub up on bricks to keep soil away from the holes. I checked the rest of the tubs and they were OK. Just shows how enterprising plants can be when there’s water to be had. No wonder they can uproot roads and houses.