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Creating a wicking bed from a 1000-litre IBC (Intermediate Bulk Container) involves converting the container into a self-watering garden bed. This type of bed is efficient in water usage and is particularly useful in arid or dry climates. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to make a wicking bed from a cut IBC container:


  1. 1000-litre IBC container
  2. Angle grinder or reciprocating saw
  3. Pond liner or heavy-duty plastic sheet
  4. Gravel (such as scoria), coarse sand or plastic bread crates
  5. Geotextile fabric or shade cloth
  6. Straw / sugar cane mulch
  7. PVC pipe (optional)
  8. Drill
  9. Potting mix, rich organic soil and compost
  10. Plants
  11. Mulch


  1. Choose a Location: Select a suitable location for your wicking bed. Ensure it receives adequate sunlight and is easily accessible for maintenance.
  2. Prepare the IBC Container: Use an angle grinder or reciprocating saw to cut the IBC container in half horizontally. You can use each half to create a wicking bed. With the top half, ensure that the large screw top has been adequately sealed up with a food grade silicon sealant. You can use the two halves of each metal cage to hold each wicking bed as well. Turn them upside down so that any sharp edges are facing down towards the ground.
  3. Install an overflow point: Create a 19mm drainage hole approximately 20cm from the bottom of the container in one corner. This will be the depth of your water reservoir. Insert a 19mm irrigation joiner into the drainage hole and silicone into place. Attach a 200mm length of 19mm irrigation pipe to an elbow and attach to the drainage outlet. The adjustable elbow allows you to change the amount of water contained in the reservoir. When the elbow is facing upwards, the reservoir remains full but in periods of heavy rain, it can be positioned down to drain freely.
  4. Install the inlet pipe: Cover the base of the IBC with a thin layer of scoria, around 5-10cm should do the trick. Then use a piece of PVC pipe cut to length, inserted into some agricultural drain pipe. The aggie pipe should coil around the bottom of the IBC.
  5. Add Drainage Material (scoria): You can then fill over the top of the aggie pipe with a thicker layer of scoria, around 20-30cm. Please note – the scoria in this step can be replaced with plastic bread crates.
  6. Alternative Drainage Material (plastic bread crates): Crates need to be cut with a grinder or reciprocating saw to fit the base of the IBC and tied together with cable ties. You will also need to create a wicking point. This can be achieved by using a plastic pot lined with weed mat and filled with sand.
  7. Install Geotextile fabric: Cover the drainage material/scoria with a layer of geotextile fabric. This will stop the soil from entering the reservoir layer and clogging it up. With bread crate version, cover with 5-10mm of sand and then a layer of 5-10mm straw mulch before filling with soil layer.
  8. Fill with Potting Mix: Fill the planter section with a high-quality potting mix, leaving some space at the top. We found that a blend of good organic soil mixed with compost works really well. For the wicking action to take place you really need a high proportion of organic matter in your soil.
  9. Planting: Plant your desired vegetables, herbs, or flowers in the potting mix.
  10. Mulch: Add a layer of mulch on top of the potting mix to help retain moisture.
  11. Watering: Initially, water the plants from the top until the reservoir is filled. Afterward, water from the top occasionally as needed, and the wicking system will draw water up from the reservoir.
  12. Maintenance: Check the water level in the reservoir periodically and refill as needed. Monitor plant health and adjust watering accordingly.

By following these steps, you can create an efficient wicking bed using a repurposed IBC container, providing a self-watering system for your garden.

Wicking Bed with Scoria as Drainage Material

Wicking Bed with Plastic Bread Crates as Drainage Material

How to Make a Wicking Bed | DIY Garden Projects | Gardening Australia