These planters in Australia not only look good they are highly productive and most importantly they conserve precious water. In cities, they provide vital protection against toxic metal soil contamination.
We call them sub-irrigated planters (SIPs). The Aussies call them wicking beds. Fair enough. Note that they do not call them self-watering beds.
Following is an instructable that shows you how to make these beds as sub-irrigated planters (read the comments too). It is really quite simple. Line the planter with sheet plastic and install a water/oxygen reservoir (in this case perforated ag pipe). I favor recycled nursery flats or other recycled food containers that are relatively flat or low profile.
Why are there not wicking beds/sub-irrigated raised beds all over New York City, all over America? To paraphrase James Carville, it's our education stupid.
"The wicking worm bed is a highly productive growing system which not only produces more food from limited water, but also recycles waste organic material to provide plant nutrient and capture carbon. The essence is to form an underground reservoir of water or pond contained by a waterproof container or liner below the surface of the soil. Plants are productive because they have a continuous supply of water and nutrients." Colin Austin
We have extreme water restrictions here in Melbourne. All garden watering must be done by hand-held hose, and only on two mornings of the week, so this method of gardening offers a great solution. Water doesn't evaporate in the bottom of the wicking bed it 'wicks' up to the roots, and, the top soil will stay soft, under the mulch. Now, we'll only need to water once a week in summer, and less during the rest of the year.