5-1-1 and water conservation
This is my first year using the 5-1-1 mix in my vegetable containers, and I've had great results. Everything grows more happily, and I'm getting a larger yield from the tomatoes and squash and beans. I also like the way I can flush the mix with a heavy watering. Sometimes I catch a whiff of a swampy, septic smell coming from the water exiting the container. It's good to know that I'm cleansing the mix.
The trade-off, of course, is a mix that doesn't hold water the way a peat-based mix does. I'm fine with that, but I'm a little concerned about wasting water. I find that, in this hot summer weather, I need to flood my containers with water twice a day to keep the plants happy. I need to keep watering, even as water is draining out of the bottom of the container, in order for the plant roots to get their full daily drink. (No, I don't believe that my mix is too coarse. If anything, I think it's a bit finer than true 5-1-1.) So, I'm wondering if there is a way to irrigate my plants and also not waste quite so much water in the process. I like to flush my containers once or twice a week, not once or twice a day. Also, I get my water from a well, and wells have been known to go dry in summer.
So I was thinking about a container with drainage holes that can be opened and closed. I was thinking that, when it's time to water, I could close the drainage holes, water the plants until the mix is soaked, let them sit in the saturated, non-draining mix for...I don't know...ten minutes? Fifteen minutes? And then open the drainage holes and allow the water to drain and the mix to flush. A ten-minute intense drink. In this way, the plants would make more efficient use of a smaller amount of water, and I'd save my well from going dry. I use Rubbermaid 18 gallon totes for my vegetable containers. I don't really know how I would make drainage holes that can open and close. But let's say that I figure something out. Do you think I would be damaging the roots of my plants, if I let them sit for ten or fifteen minutes in highly saturated 5-1-1 mix, and then pull the plug and let the water drain away?