Turface in a Self-Watering Hanging Baskets

cliss(6)April 25, 2012

I have a number of spider plants that I keep in hanging baskets indoors. Rather than take them down every time I water, I've found a style of self-watering basket I like, with the opening to the reservoir near the base of the container -- so I can hang the baskets above my head but still easily refill the reservoir.

In the past, I've used straight potting soil in these baskets. Last year, I tried switching to Raybo's 3:1:2 mix, which also seems to work well. This year, as I add a couple more plants, I keep looking at the turface I have around for the gritty mix, and especially the turface fines I've sifted out, and wondering... Would it be possible to build a self-watering mix using these ingredients? It'd be nice if I didn't have to restock the potting soil and/or the perlite... ;)

So. Has anyone tried this? Can anyone give me some suggestions on how I'd go about figuring out proportions or testing a SWC mix before actually trying a plant in it?

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I don't believe Gritty Mix wicks water upwards. You have to water from the top.

I use self-watering pots myself where the saucer attaches seamlessly as part of the container since it looks nice. However, I don't use the water reservoir to self-water my plants. They are solely there to help drainage and for tossing out excess water.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 7:16PM
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I experimented around with turface for SWCs for a few years.

Turface does wick water fairly high although slowly, so a mostly turface mix did not sustain a tomato plant in an 5 gallon SWC I had.

For your setup, indoor hanging basket, your pot is/should be shallow and the plant won't need a lot of water.

So you probably would get good results from using straight turface (or turface fines).

For outdoor SWCs I only flushed out the salt buildup one a growing season. You'd probably need to flush yours out even less.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 4:44PM
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I've thought about straight turface, but was worried it might wick *too* much. On the other hand, I've used straight humus, so I suppose it's unlikely to be much worse than that... Hmmm. Maybe sacrifice a spider plant pup and see what happens?

Thanks for the info!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 6:15PM
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I'd bet that it wouldn't work well enough for SWC. By all means, try it, but I wouldn't do it with a plant you aren't willing to lose. Also, you better make sure that the hook you hang it from is good and solid, into a framing stud, because the weight of wet turface is substantial.


    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 6:49PM
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Yeah, this is definitely something to try first with a couple of spider plant pups... I have four or five that are about to touch the floor and need cutting off anyway. :)

Is the weight of wet turface any more than that of wet potting soil/humus? My current pots can get up to 15-20 pounds wet, easy... My sun room is a former brick porch, though, so the ceiling is pretty hefty.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 6:53PM
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Well, I can tell you that my plants are WAY heavier with gritty mix then they ever were with Miracle Grow. Most are in the same pots too. So yes, there is a big difference.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 10:13PM
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Actually in a SWC the weight differential isn't all that much. I've had both mostly turface mix and mostly peat mix at the same time. Water accounts for most of the weight. This is only true when the there is water in the reservoir. For normal containers that have dried out some, turface is much heavier.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 1:48AM
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Well, I'm definitely not going to put a full gritty mix into a hanging basket... Granite is way too heavy for that, leave alone wet turface. :)

emgardener, thanks for the note about water in the reservoir... Yeah, that makes sense, and fits my experience with humus-based mixes. The big trick (weight-management-wise) making sure the mix dries out a bit before refilling the reservoir.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 6:41PM
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