'Soil Moist' for containers

dowbright(z6 in Missouri)April 2, 2012

I tried to search just this forum in case this has been answered before. I'm guessing it has, but there were thousands and thousands of mentions in my results. Sorry if this has been answered a hundred times. :/

So, for container gardening, what do you guys use to retain extra water? We're still traveling between St. Louis and the Ozarks, so I may have to leave them for a few days once in a while. I won't be using any clay pots.

A lady down here suggested a product called Soil Moist, but I'm worried that since it's a polymer, it may not be safe. I generally garden organically.


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You really don't want the soil to retain too much water if your goal is to extend periods between watering for when you go away. What you want is some kind of self-watering system, the simplest of which would be some kind of wicking system.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 8:48AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

There are two schools of thought on the product's efficacy. One is that since it holds more water it must be a good thing. The other is that since it holds water much more tightly at reduced tensions (when the soil is getting dry) it becomes a considerable disadvantage as the soil passes the point where it's moisture retention is low enough that you normally would have watered.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 10:47AM
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So what is your advice Al on how to deal with extended absence?

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 11:01AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Enlist a helper. ;-)


    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 1:11PM
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I guess, that would be the ultimate self watering system, LOL, at least if you got a gardener to do it.

In my experience though helpers that are willing to do it, can cause more problems then if you let the plant starve ;)

Wicking systems aren't perfect either, but less likely to fail then mechanical or electrical systems. I'd sure like to know a better method if there is one out there.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 2:59PM
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Here's a solution I have used in the past for vacations, etc. It requires that you can reach the plants with a garden hose. I set mine up on the deck. I'll set a sprinkler timer to water, say 10 min per day early in the morning. Then hook the hose up to a chain of small garden sprayer type sprinklers, and arrange the plants around them. Test it a couple of times to make sure that all the plants are covered by the spray, and that your "on" cycle provides an appropriate amount of water. Downsides: first, it's one size fits all. I'll set the plants that require less water further from the sprinklers, but for the most part, they will all receive the same amount of water. Once it's set up and you're not there, you have no control - even if it rains all week, your sprinklers will still go off. But that being said, you've got a functional system that waters as per your specifications, and you don't have to rely on a "helper" not to forget.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 11:38AM
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That could work maple, but I am always concerned about leaving automated watering systems unattended with pressurized water. If it fails, or a hose burst or whatever, you could have several days of potential flooding without knowing about it. That's why I prefer a more passive system that uses a reservoir that has a limited capacity, then hooking to a hose that's at well or city water pressure.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 1:40PM
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In fact, If I am away on vacation, I usually shut off my well pump and take the pressure off my lines to avoid a water surprise while I am away.

An alternative could be a drip system that uses a rainbarrel as a reservoir, but that could be an expensive solution.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 1:43PM
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dowbright(z6 in Missouri)

You've all given me a lot to think about! I so appreciate the input. This is so fun, but scary and new too. Thank you, guys. :D

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 1:12PM
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