244: Raymond Jess on Wicking Beds.

Watering up in the garden, and using physics to maintain proper soil hydration.

– – – –

After retiring from two careers, the Air Force and teaching, Ray pursued his love of food by graduating from the Phoenix Art Institute with a certificate in Culinary Arts. The highlight of his culinary experience was working as a chef for the 2007 Super Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Natural extensions for this self-proclaimed foodie were the completion of his Master Gardener training and his Certificate in Permaculture Design.

Don’t miss an episode! Click here to sign up for weekly podcast updates

A love of fresh foods and herbs kept him gardening for the last two decades.  During a volunteer component of his Master Gardener training, Ray discovered wicking garden beds. A man of curiosity and a seeker of ways to do things more efficiently, he embarked on a research project leading him to the Father of Wicking Beds, Collin Austin. As a result of Ray’s research, his backyard garden has evolved from rows of crops in a plot of ground, to raised beds, to grow-buckets and wicking beds. He is currently keeping his eyes open for the next great idea to perfect his garden, so he can keep giving his family, friends, and neighbors fresh produce.

In This Podcast:

We hear from Ray Jess, a man who loves to learn, and is excited to help others learn about wicking bed gardens.  When he first saw a wicking bed at a fellow Master Gardener’s yard, he was intrigued and that started his deep research. From there he tinkered with an idea about how he could build one in his own yard, with a little improvement, of course. Now he has written an article for the Urban Farm and we hear the benefits of capillary action in his own words.

Listen in and learn about:

  • His careers in the military and as a teacher
  • Going to culinary school, then onto Master Gardener training and into Permaculture Design
  • His definition of Permaculture
  • His first introductions into gardening through his father’s gardens
  • Why he took the Master Gardening Training after multiple inquiries by his customers at the local nursery
  • How the training completely transformed his opinion of what he knew about gardening
  • Then, why he once again revised his idea of what he knew after taking the Permaculture Design Course (PDC)
Producer’s note: You can look up a Permaculture Design Course in your local area, or if you are in the Phoenix area click here for the course that Ray now helps lead.
  • The challenge to overcome his hurdle of keeping everything in neat rows after taking the PDC
  • How the wicking bed is so different from regular gardening
Producer’s note: Here is the link to Colin Austin’s Podcast.
  • The advantages of wicking
  • How the wicking bed does not wash away the nutrients vs a regular garden
  • The process to build a wicking bed
  • Why he recommends a pond liner over anything else to build the basin reservoir
  • The reason the water needs a void for air
  • Hard water flushing and why that is necessary
  • Watering his bed every two to three weeks is reassuring to him
  • Why he does not consider himself a farmer, even though he always send friends home with goodies
  • Size considerations – why the depth is important, but not the square footage
  • Planting seeds, and how capillary action works to help hydrate the plants
  • Evaporation and how that helps move the water
  • His current crops, and what is in his garden right now
  • How he is trying something new for this next wicking bed that he is making
  • The fresh onion that he grew that changed someone’s life

As well as:

  • His failure – He has realized that he is terrible at growing potatoes – a picture from Cricket’s Garden
Producer’s note: Here is the link to Cricket Aldridge’s Podcast on Suburban Homesteading.
  • His success – The results that he has gotten from his wicking beds
  • His drive – To learn more, to share more, to show his love through his food
  • His advice – Don’t be afraid to experiment, keep going until you succeed; and spread your knowledge, love and passion for growing food

Ray’s Book recommendations:     

Master Gardener Manual – search for a Master Gardener class in your area

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition  by Toby Hemenway

Producer’s note: Here is the link to Toby’s Hemenway’s Podcast. and the link to his Permaculture City course How to reach Ray:

Link to Ray’s article on Building My Wicking Bed

Link to Ray’s Featured Farmer Interview

Producer’s note: You can send an email to Ray at podcast@urbanfarm.org and it will be forwarded to him


Don’t miss an episode! Click here to sign up for weekly podcast updates

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

Post comment