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Alternative Gardening: Water-absorbing crystals in EB's.

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May 4, 2009
2:54 PM

Post #6502058

Has anyone added water-absorbing gels to their soiless mix for EB's?

Does anyone have any thoughts on the idea?



SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

May 4, 2009
4:39 PM

Post #6502639

I'm thinking it's not necessary because the EB soilbed stays adequately moist as long as you keep the water reservoir filled. Save your crystals for a NON self-watering container...IMHO...

Crestview, FL

May 5, 2009
2:50 AM

Post #6505452

Katiebear: I added water absorbing mats to some of my hanging baskets; but, not my EBs as they don't need them. I have since started using perlite with my hanging baskets for better drainage.
Gainesville, FL
(Zone 9a)

May 5, 2009
12:10 PM

Post #6506425

I added to many to everything year before last. I think everything I planted with them heaved out of the pots or ground. Clearly a few go a long way. I cant see them in an earth box tho, it should be moist in there all the time anyway.
Pembroke Pines, FL
(Zone 10a)

May 5, 2009
12:28 PM

Post #6506478

If you follow Earthbox* instructions they say definetly not! The genuine EBs retain water providing you use a quality container mix w/o moisture control granules and keep the cover on it at all times. Never use anything that says "soil " or you will have root rot.

May 5, 2009
1:42 PM

Post #6506746

Thank you all.

I have another question. Until I can get to the States and buy coir I am using shredded palm trees which are like thin straw. The water doesn't percolate up very well. I've thought of using an old nylon stocking with pea and perlite as a "wick" from the resevoir to up towards the roots.

Again, any thoughts?

Galien, MI

May 7, 2009
2:48 PM

Post #6516983

I'm making my own e-barrels, so I'm going to try the cornstarch type of crystals. They are much, much softer, and didn't heave the small grow bags I had with them in it. Since I'm making my own, I know I will need to experiment with how wet/dry they get - that's why I'm adding some of those crystals (quench). It's easier to add in a drainage wick later if I need it than it is to water more frequently. If you are using more of the straw like material, I'm guessing it won't wick quite as well. In that case, a small amount of stuff that does wick better, or some of the softer crystals, may be a good way to go. How well does that stuff drain or draw water? you may want to put a pile in a bucket, with 2 inches of water, and about 1 ft of the palm straw, and get an idea of how far up that water will travel.

I tested the clear crystals next to the cornstarch crystals. when filled with water, I can easily imagine those clear ones pushing stuff around. The softer ones didn't.

May 7, 2009
3:00 PM

Post #6517031

Thanks for the suggestions.

The straw mixture drains quickly but I'm still experimenting on how well it wicks.

I've got a 55-gallon barrel ffilled with shredded seaweed that I am making into bokashi. I think some of that might hellp to make the mixture wick better.

I also think that an old nylon filled with coir would be a good wick. Or a few pieces of cotton cord.

Meanwhile I have a blueberry plant doing well in one of my HEB's and a tomato starting to bloom in the second one. I'm in the process of building about ten more.

The experiments continue.

Galien, MI

May 7, 2009
3:07 PM

Post #6517068

The cotton cord does wick great - I used it to make a vacation watering system, but in an HEB, they may not last long enough. It likes to break down quickly. That was why it was no recommended to use as a drainage wick for overwet HEB's or raised beds.

Good luck! keep us informed. :-)

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