There has been a lot of interest lately in wicking beds. I got one last October and so far have been very happy with it, especially after the stinking hot summer we had. If you are going to put in raised beds I would recommend you look at a wicking bed. A wicking bed is incorporates a water reservoir beneath the soil layer. The plants are watered by the water from the reservoir being pulled up through the soil like a wick straight to the roots where it’s needed, helping to reduce water use.
I bought a recycled timber kit from Adelaide Hills farmer 2 Acre woods, but if you want to keep costs down there are number of do it yourself designs. See this Sustainable Garden Australia page for more information wicking beds and how to make your own. My one tip would be to take the time to level the ground you are putting the bed on. I didn’t and have noticed that the slightly higher side dries out more quickly.
Also see Costa’s How to make a Wicking Bed video: www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/l222662/backyard-revolution-how-to-ep3
by Monica O’Wheel
I’ve had a few years where I have kept all my worms alive, but with the recent heatwave I’ve had another mass death of worms. I hadn’t done my usual plan which is to fill the worm trays with horse manure which gives the worms a lot of yummy food, and water holding bulk. I’ve done it now. I always set up a coolgardie safe type water cooling system with a hessian sack over the trays which I keep wet as much as possible. On work days a friend told me she puts an ice block on top of the bag/towel/other cloth, to slowly melt through the day while she is away. I will try this. The wet sack kept my top tray of worms alive but the lower ones died. I also put freeezer blocks in the top tray to help the worms cool down after a hot day.
In talking to other people at the One Planet Market, I received some good advice. Pauline puts an old wooly jumper into the tray to give worms some insultation. Instead of an old jumper daggy wool from a sheep farmer or unspinnable wool from a spinner would work. Chris puts her stack of trays on the ground so in the heat the worms can escape down into the wet soil under the trays to keep cool. Chris puts them under a lime tree to help the tree as well. A good shady tree is essential for this to work.