5-1-1 becoming hydrophobic

pondluvrApril 28, 2014

I like the 5-1-1 mix. I've been successfully using it to grow hosta in for many years. What I DON'T like is the tendency it has toward becoming hydrophobic if I allow it to dry out a bit too much. It happens, sorry. Some summers are especially hot and dry, and sometimes I have other things more pressing.

I invested in a DIY irrigation system for all my container hosta. It works well. But if the media has gotten a tad dry between waterings, I find the water just tends to run out the bottom of the container and doesn't really absorb into the mix. Anybody know what I can do to rectify this, other than the obvious solution of NEVER letting the mix dry out too much? One year, I did mix in some of the floor-dry granules to retain moisture, but I found that in the Spring, that could cause crown rot depending on the previous winter. So I'd prefer to stick strictly to the 5-1-1 mix with no additions.

Thanks for any advice.


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Have you tried/do you already wet the mix before you pot the plant. I noticed this as well, water was just running through and it looked wet but I found hydrophobic patches underneath. I gave a few plants a good soaking in a bucket and that seemed to do the trick. Once the hydrophobic parts of the mix get wet I don't think they dry out so easily and stay nice and moist until the plant needs a watering.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 10:03PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

You could employ a thin layer of extra bark mulch, which is what I sometimes do with the large pieces of bark that are screened out when sifting for the 5-1-1. During the Summer, use the bark to keep the upper mix more consistently moist, then pull the bark away if you're wintering plants that you intend to keep (and to keep from rotting).


    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 11:45PM
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As your containers gradually contain a larger percentage of root to mix, it becomes more difficult to keep them from getting dry too soon. Knock the plant out of the pot and take a look. It may be time to change the mix, and or, pot up to a larger size, or prune the roots. Al

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 10:45AM
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What about a wetting agent? Can you slow down your irrigation system (e.g. use 1/2gph drippers rather than something faster) so it has more time to soak in?

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 11:27AM
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Heavy mulch helps, but what really fixes this problem completely is mixing in some turface or diatomite. Not strictly 5:1:1 anymore, but it reliably breaks the hydrophobicity.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 10:11PM
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Why not just soak it? I usually just flush it everytime I water so no salt build up as well

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 8:59AM
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Would adding the turface or diatomite act in the same way as adding the floor dry product? I did that, and ended up losing some of my potted hosta in early spring due to crown rot. Seems the floor dry product I added retained too much moisture.

As far as soaking the containers, I have way too many for that. Which is why I ended up making an irrigation system for them so I wouldn't have to stand there for hours watering. Maybe if I slow down the flow of water, as somebody mentioned above somewhere, that would help. I don't have it going heavy, but it definitely could be slowed down a bit.

I may end up trying to bury them in the ground one of these days. If I do that, does anybody know if I could use the same potting medium (5-1-1)? I'd like to get them in the ground without a pot, but I have far too many maple trees with shallow feeder roots. They eventually get choked out. I thought about the spin out bags, but I'm thinking if I just use the pots they are already in, and spin them a couple times a year, it would serve them same purpose and be cheaper. Any thoughts?


    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 6:52PM
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