5-1-1 mix watering??

Joe1980(5)April 27, 2011

I have repotted almost all of my plants in either 5-1-1 mix, or gritty mix. The gritty mix I am grasping quite well when it comes to watering, however, I have an issue with the 5-1-1 mix. When I water, as it should, the water drains very freely, which I expected. But, today I decided to dig in a bit after I watered, and I noticed that the top 1/2" or so was good & moist, but underneath that, it was bone dry. It's as if the water is being repelled, or passing right through without moistening the mix.

The pine bark fines I used were labeled as "pine bark mulch", and were what you'd call partially composted. A good portion of the bags are small, broken down particles, while the rest is larger, averaging 1/4" to 1/2", with a small portion being 3/4". Is my mix too coarse, or is there some technique I am missing??


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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Bark becomes hydrophobic (water repellent) as it approaches about 30% water content, so the trick is to water before that. In your case, the bark was apparently very dry when you made the soil, and remains hydrophobic, probably the peat too, right along with it. I generally wet my ingredients several times with a fine spray of water as I mix the soil, which 'breaks' the hydrophobia and allows the bark pieces to absorb water. What you need to do is either put a hose on the containers for an hour or so on trickle, or soak the pots in a tub of water to break that initial hydrophobia. If you use a tub, be sure to fill it gradually, in increments with pauses so the bark doesn't want to float on top of the water that will be filling the pot from the drain hole(s).


    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 8:21PM
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When I made the soil, I made it in a 14g rubbermaid tub, and tossed in a gallon of water as I mixed it up. The pine bark fines were also very wet, because they were sitting on a pallet outside, in the snow. Half the bags were frozen. Maybe I let it dry out too much since my last watering??

Also, when it comes to water, I am very picky, using only CLEAN rain water. I made a custom delux rain collection system, that stores in a 55g barrel in my basement. I use an old resin table top with the umbrella hole to collect it, because my roof water is too dirty. This all started because I have hard water, which will form a crust on the soil surface. I have a water softener too, but as you know, that means salt. My plants are much happier since being put on the rain water diet a few years ago. With all that said, the bathtub isn't an option, but that might be more of a wife issue then a water wasting issue. If anything, I'll use a bucket, because I have dozens of them.

Will this mix pull water via capillary action like peat based soil?? If so, then I'll set my plants in a saucer of water and let them sit for a while. Thanks.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 8:36PM
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