NO  STONES
SOIL MIX AT THE BOTTOM OF A WICKING BOX IS BETTER  THAN ROCKS.
IT HOLDS MORE WATER,
IT INCREASES ROOT AREA AND THERE IS NO STAGNANT WATER
We first weighed each container dry, using a kitchen scale. We
then poured water into each one up to the litre mark and weighed
them again. Results are shown in Table 2. (1 litre = 1,000 ml.)

As 1 gram of water = 1 millilitre, the difference tells how much
space there is for water in each litre of material.
NB We did our soil mix (far left container) three times, as our
soil mix formes loose soil structures of varying sizes.
We averaged the results, see table 1, and used that in table 2.
How we measured it
Our test only needs yoghurt containers and kitchen scales -
anyone can do it and check our results.

We filled seven 1-litre containers to the litre mark with
respectively (from left to right in the photo): three with our soil
mix (sand/clay/loam/wormcast/compost), and one each with
large rocks, course sand, small pebbles, and fine sand.

All material was bone dry from being in the hot sun for days.
We need soil micro-biology
We grow organically, without synthetic fertilisers. That means
that we rely on micro-biology to feed our plants and keep them
healthy.

The waste products of the micro-biology (bacteria, archaea,
fungi, algae, slime molds, protozoa, nematodes and more) feed
the plants. They number in billions or trillions in a container or
large bed with good soil mix.
[For instance: the full stop at the end of a sentence can contain
from 200,000 to 500,000 bacteria.]

(Reference: Teaming with Microbes, the Organic Gardenerís
Guide to the Soil Food Web, by Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne
Lewis,2010, Timber press Inc. (The book is an eye opener.)

Microbes have been providing plants with countless micro-
nutrients since plants first emerged. Due to vastly improved
technology many of these have become known only recently.
The full range of those micro-nutrients is yet to become clear.

The benefits of the micro-nutrients to us are only just beginning
to be discovered by modern science. Older civilizations have long
claimed some knowledge of those benefits. We may finally be
catching up to them.
Micro-biology needs hiding spaces and surface areas.
Micro-biology needs huge numbers of nooks and crannies to hide
from each other. A soil mix of sand, loam clay and compost is
porous and provides endless hiding spots, billions of them.
Stones and course materials  are solid and provide no shelter.

Many forms of microflora also need a surface to attach
themselves to. The surface area of a rock that fits into a teaspoon
is pretty small, say a few square centimetres.

The surface area of the same volume of clay covers a very large
area. An incredibly large area in fact, the size of a tennis court,
plus some of the stands as well.

There is no air, water or space for micro-biology inside stones. The
air or water surrounding stones is also useless to them. [Some
microbiology may occur on the surface of stones, but that is
minute.]

So why have sterile stones that hold less water and is
useless for growing the micro-biology needed to feed our
crops?
And why sabotage the wicking in a wicking box by using
cloth?
It makes no sense to us
OUR GLASS WICKING BEDS
What we use to observe what is happening
We converted two aquaria of roughly the same size of brocoli boxes into wicking boxes by replacing a glass front panel with a perspex one.

That allowed us to drill a hole for the overflow pipe and use a normal water reservoir.

We enclosed them in styrofoam to keep the temperature as per normal wicking boxes.
We made the front styrofoam panel removable to allow photos but stop algae growing on the glass.
Standard box, soil mix to the bottom
Box with stones and geo- fabric
At planting
At planting
At 27 days
At 27 days
SOIL GROWS THE MICRO-BIOLOGY THAT PLANTS NEED
ROCKS AND AIR DON'T, THEY ARE A WASTE OF SPACE
At 13 days
At 13 days
CLOTH  IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE
Observations to date
.  The airlock is clearly visible.
.  When the reservoir in the standard box is dry, that in
   the other box is still half full (at the red line).
.  Plants in the standard box seem to have better
   developed roots.
'.  We had 16 and 7 mm rain, yet the plants in the
   standard box still seem to be getting ahead of the
   plants in the other box (not shown in photos).
.  [Both boxes have one cos and one mignonette
   lettuce as short term crops, and one sweet basil
   and one pepper as long term crops.]
.  We will repeat the exercise during the dry season.
Material
Dry weight g
Wet weight g
Volume of water 
Inert material
Soil mix 1
1197
1728
531 ml
469 ml
Soil mix 2
942
1581
639 ml
361 ml
Soil mix 3
1118
1685
567 ml
433 ml
Average
1085
1664
579 ml
421 ml
Table 1: Average for soil mixes
Table 2: Results for five materials
Material
Dry weight g
Wet weight g
Volume of water
Inert material
Average soil mix
1085
1664
579 ml
421 ml
Stones
1588
2066
498 ml
502 ml
Pebbles, 2-3 mm
1642
2043
401 ml
599 ml
Course sand
1743
2130
387 ml
613 ml
Fine sand
1471
1819
348 ml
652 ml
NO STONES
Our soil mix holds more water than stones, which in turn holds more than pebbles or sand.
More than half the space is available to store water. That apparently holds true for all good soils.
NO CLOTH
CLOTH CREATES AIRLOCKS
AIRLOCKS STOP THE WATER FROM WICKING UP
Cloth stops wicking
•  Any fabric stopping soil from being washed down
   creates an airlock.
•  Airlocks form a break in the wicking.
•  Fine feeder roots don’t grow in air.
•  When the soil above the fabric gets dry, the fine
   feeder roots slow down.
•  Course roots can penetrate the fabric to get to
  water.
•  While the plant still gets water, growth slows down.
•  If the water reservoir does not get empty regularly,
   water gets stale and mosquito larvae become
   mossies.
•  The filling and drying of the water reservoir helps
   airflows through the soil.
HEALTHY MICROBIOLOGY IS NEEDED TO GROW HEALTHY PLANTS FOR HEALTHY PEOPLE - ROCKS AND AIR DON'T GROW IT
USING STONES AND CLOTH MAKES NO SENSE
CLOTH
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