Watering Containers - Help required

saoodhashimOctober 7, 2013

I bought some small plants of tomato and peppers (6"each) and also started seeds in 4" inch pots. As for the transplants I planted them in 14" (diameter) x 12" (depth) and 10x10 pots. I put the soil in all those pots after moistening it. Now as I have been watering them for almost 2 weeks or so, I have seen that the soil level has been sinking in the pots even though when I put the soil in the pots I had done a little of tightening / compacting of the soil (not much of the seed pots as I was afraid that it might cause problems for the seed to germinate). Two questions emerge from this situation

1/ The not so serious one, is about the transplants. What should i do with the extra space on top of the pot. They plants have sunk by about 3 inches (I now have around 5-6 inches of space on the top of the pots). Do I put in extra soil on top to cover the stem of the tomato and pepper? And what about the roots. I though by giving them a deep 12" and 10 inch deep pots the roots will have enough space to go down further, but that depth has reduced by 3 inches or so. Will it affect my plant growth? What should I do now? Transplant it again in another (or same pot after filling the soil once again at the bottom)? What can I do to avoid it from happenning in the future?

2/ As for the seedlings, I am a bit worried. As I think, with the watering, the seedling roots have become exposed above the soil line? Except for cucumber seedlings, the others (chili and tomato) have still to completely open their seed leaves and therefore cannot be easily handled). How to take care of this and what to do (or what not to do) to avoid this problem in the future. Also I think, because of the compacting of the soil in the seed pots, I can see some of the seedling emerge in rather a round fashion and not in the normal upward style (telling me that they could not find space to head upwards and so they took a bit of longer route to come above the soil line) :)

Please help.

This post was edited by saood on Mon, Oct 7, 13 at 9:29

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I can't answer everything but I know that a lot of people suggest burying tomatoes extra deeply so that can really develop a good root system. Adding extra soil to those pots shouldn't be a problem I would think.

Some pictures of the seedlings would help show exactly what's happening. I'm not sure I understand what you mean by a round fashion. Like the supposed ostrich with its head in the sand? Lots of seeds come up like that before standing upright.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 4:11PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Yes, you can add soil to the tomatoes and bury the green stems to the desired height.
With the seedlings, I would add a bit of soil to cover the roots, and then of course add extra soil when the seedlings are re-potted.

What you have discovered is compaction - this happens with very fine particulate, which is what makes up the majority of bagged soil mixes (or yard soil, et cetera). Now that the soil has compacted with watering, the soil won't have as much oxygen, and it will hold water much longer. This can suffocate roots.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 6:55PM
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Thanks Ahleumakani and Josh for your replies.

1/ The tomato plants can be buried but what about the pepper?

2/ If compacting is the problem with potting mixes, how can I overcome it? Add some perlite / vermiculite. I went through Al's post on water retentive ability of potting soil and there are tricks like tilting the container will drain out some more water from the PWT or putting in a wick in the drainage holes. But as I understand this is a workable solution immediately after water (and immediately after the drainage has apparently stopped). But what about the container which have been watered 2-3 days before and still seem to be heavy because of water retention?

The local nursery guys were like shocked when I told them that I water until it starts to drain from the bottom as that's what I learnt from experts in the US :-). They told me to immediately stop it. Perhaps the local potting soil is not like Miracle gro type - here it hold too much water and may have been designed to suit local desert climate needs as to store more water to keep the plants cooler.

I really am afraid of making my own potting soil (it is becoming too much for a beginning gardener) - the best I can do is take the potting soil readily available and mix sand or perlite / vermiculite (as all of it are available in the local market)? Will that increase the drainage without compromising on the spaces for oxygen? Should I actually be watering until it drains from the bottom?

Your help will be much appreciated.


    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 2:07AM
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saood if you are having the mix drop in the pot, as much as you are, you must be working with a very dry mix. Before using your mix dampen it to make it moist, but not wet. You should be able to squeeze a handful and when you open your hand the mix will fall apart, and yet be damp. Al

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 1:57PM
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Squeeze? You mean after squeezing I would see some water coming out of the mix?

I did not completely get your last statement.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 12:38PM
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No your mix would not be so wet that you can get water to run out by squeezing it. Al

    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 2:09PM
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