Best soil mix for self-watering containers?

allrawpaul(z8 seattle)April 16, 2005

Anybody know what soil mixes work good in self-watering containers, and who sells them? - Lowe's, home depot, nurseries? Thanks very much, Paul. How about recipes for mixing your own? Thanks again.

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katwomn59(8b-Austin, TX)

Somewhere in this forum are threads about home made E-boxes and there are some posts about soil for them. The recommended mix I got from the E-Box site says 45% peat, 45% compost and 10% perlite. Havent tried it yet, I have a self watering window box that I am about to pot up today. I think other people just use good potting mix and add some perlite.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2005 at 5:03PM
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I have used two formulas; my e-box uses the same as katwomn59's post above, and in my GS self watering I use 2 parts peat/1 part vermiculite/1 part perlite/ and if each part equals 1 quart, I add 1 tablespoon limestone to adjust the pH. This 2/1/1 mix is very light and wicks well, I have grown very healthy tomatoes using it.
Last year was my first with the e-box, and I think my 45% compost caused some type of mold or mildew to kill off the tomatoes late summer, tho' still harvested some tasty unknown type (was supposed to be Box Car Willie, but they were not round!).
I love my self waterers. Good luck! Bill

    Bookmark   April 17, 2005 at 8:43AM
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katwomn59(8b-Austin, TX)

Hmmmm. I just potted up some petunias in the 45% mix. I hope they will do okay. I read that they need a lot of water and fertilizer. Next time, I will try the peat mix. But I havent seen vermiculite in the stores. Could I just use 2 parts perlite?

    Bookmark   April 17, 2005 at 11:44AM
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I would just go with 1 part instead of doubling up, as the two ingredients do different jobs in the mix,and should still work well. Be sure to fertilize! I bet your petunias will do well with the compost mix. Bill

    Bookmark   April 19, 2005 at 10:41PM
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katwomn59(8b-Austin, TX)

Thanks Bill! I hope the petunias do okay too. Seems kinda heavy, and not too fragrant! Still pretty wet but it has been cloudy and fairly cool since I planted them. Saw some kind of bug running around in it yesterday but it moved too fast for me to see what it was. But so far the petunias are looking okay, and one of them has 1 bloom and a bud on the way!

And while I am at it, may I ask, what do you fertilize with? I have some liquid organic fertilizer but it has fish emulsion in it and is pretty stinky. I was thinking that the solids might settle in the bottom of the reservoir and REALLY stink so I have been looking around for something else. Organic if possible, but since these are ornamental (I use organic on my herbs) I would consider some other kind of fertilizer. But that raises another question. I have heard that chemical fertilizers eventually build up salts and you have to flush your pots. How to you do that with a self-waterer?



    Bookmark   April 20, 2005 at 7:50PM
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I have used a few different brands over the years, some organic some not. Gardener's Supply has a good slow release organic fert that has worked well, as does Gardens (?) Alive! . I was also concerned about the build up of salts, but perhaps up here in the north east our shorter growing season does not allow enough time to be a problem?

I have added too much water to my self waterers which then overflows back out, maybe this ocasional flush helps?

I have used fish emulsion as a foliar feed, and have also added a bit to the top of the soil instead of the water resevior so the odor dissipates the same day.

Most self waterers say to mix slow release granular fert into the potting mix during set up, or in a band on top like the e-box. That is where I have used the Gardener's Supply and the Alive! product, but there are many other organic granular slow release products. And I've used the standard chemical ferts which are dissolved in water with good success. Good luck! Bill

    Bookmark   April 22, 2005 at 10:02PM
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katwomn59(8b-Austin, TX)

Thanks Bill! Too late for the slow release ferts, (I did use Healthy Start with the planting though) but I will try a water soluble fert and maybe water from the top cause this windowbox doesnt have a wick or water channel, just a grid. The soil doesnt have any direct contact witht the water supposedly works by evaporation. So I cant figure out how the fert would get to soil. Unfortunately, I just discovered thrips all over my petunias yesterday, so fertilizing is on hold right now until I see if I can save them! I have broken out the neem oil, but I understand you have to take off all the blooms and buds for several weaks while you treat. Sigh!


    Bookmark   April 23, 2005 at 9:39AM
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katwomn59(8b-Austin, TX)

Well I am not too happy with the 45% peat/compost mix. It has been almost 2 weeks since I planted and it is still soggy. Seems awful heavy too. The lower leaves seem to be pretty floppy looking and I think I have fungus gnats. They look like itty bitty mosquitos stuck in the sticky trap I put out for thrips. These are heirloom petunias I got by mail order so I would hate to loose them. I think I am gonna take them out this weekend and repot them in the lighter peat/perlite mix. Whatta drag. Sigh!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2005 at 9:16PM
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tania(Zone10 Ca)

In my earthboxes I always use Supersoil potting mix for all my veggies and strawberries. And for my blueberries I use E.B. Stone Azaelia & Camelia mix. Both work great! Best of all...I hardly ever water the blueberries!

Tania ~_~

    Bookmark   May 2, 2005 at 3:57AM
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garaj(9B CENTRAL FL)

I use either Lambert's (Home Depot) or Jungle Growth (Lowes) in my homemade self-watering e-boxes along with the conventional 2-in wide strip of 6-6-6 and with 2 cups dolomite mixed in the top third of the mix. Works great.Garaj.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2005 at 6:12PM
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allrawpaul(z8 seattle)

Garaj, what is the reason to mix dolomite only in the top third of the mix? Do you use 2 cups of fertilizer? Do you bury the fertilizer strip? Thanks for the soil reccommendations! Paul.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2005 at 8:35AM
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    Bookmark   May 17, 2005 at 6:40PM
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garaj(9B CENTRAL FL)

Paul, sorry I haven't gotten back sooner. The dolomite in the top third plus arranging the two cup strip of fertilizer on top is as per Earth Box instructions. Check out or Garaj.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2005 at 4:27PM
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macthayer(z9a NV)

Gardeners Supply Company makes a special soil mix for their self watering containers. I've used it and wouldn't use anything else. I tried another brand, and ended up with soggy, rotting plants. I also use the Gardens Alive Organic fertilizer and mix it right in with the soil mix as I'm making it up. I then add more to the top of the mix as soon as they start to fruit (I grow tomatoes in mine). MacThayer

Here is a link that might be useful: Gardeners Supply Company

    Bookmark   May 29, 2005 at 8:39PM
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I have two Earth Boxes with tomatoes in each.

I used Pro-Mix (purchased from Home Deopt) in one and Jungle Growth (From Lowes) in the other.

All four tomatoe plants (2 in each Earthbox) are doing well; however, I did not add any lime to either. Since the Pro-Mix contains lime, those tomatoes are showing no signs of blossom end rot.

I have one cherry tomato and one Patio Hybrid in the other box, with the Jungle Growth with no added lime. The cherry tomato is just starting to put out tomatoes, but the patio hybrid is covered with big, green tomatoes. So far I've had to throw out about 10 or 12 of the patio tomatoes due to blossom end rot. I still have about 20 tomatoes on the bush, so I'm hoping to get a few good ones before it's all over.

From now on, it's Pro-Mix for my Earth Box tomatoes, or added lime to the mix.

BTW, I love the Earth Box for growing tomatoes. I found some plans for building home made boxes using five-gallon buckets and an planning to grow more tomatoes in the future in these self-watering boxes.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2005 at 2:49PM
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