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cutting down on watering???

North Wales, PA(Zone 6a)


Out of necessity (poor, in-ground drainage) I have started container gardening around my deck. I love clay pots, but seem to have to water the plants at least every other day, some daily. What are your opinions about the soil moistening products out there? I read about the sponge tip, but don't want to replant. Any other ideas? BTW, the plants are varieties of daylilies, dwarf ivory halo dogwoods, variegated iris, gayfeathers, and hosta--all potted in clay.



Santa Barbara, CA

JewelOrchid is right about the clay pot being the problem. Using water-absorbing polymers might help but are expensive, tend to heave and shrink with wetting and drying and would require major repotting project.

There are self-wicking systems, based on felt-like materials, one end in your water reservoir and the other end in the core of the potted plant. As the plant ball dries, water will move up the wick by capillary action to rewet the ball.

Leaving most plant partially submerged in standing water is just asking for root rot. I sort of compromise with my potted plants. I leave them soaking up whatever water they need for an hour or so, then let the pot drain of excess water. Too often we think we have watered a plant because we see the water run out of the bottom of the pot. NOT! Lot of potting mixes shrink away from the side of pots when dry. Other plants make such a dense ring of roots around the outside of the rootball that water just runs down the sides and out the bottom. So periodically I give all my container plants and good soak (and a good bath too.)

Brooks, I wish I had an easy answer for you, without lots of work on the horizon. Seems like maybe large plastic pots could be the answer.

Another could be the wick program that lots of AV growers out there use. But then you are left with unattractive byproducts, water containers, strings, unsightly messes.

Have you thought about installing a trickle system on your deck? You would have to time everything and make sure that your water usage is not causing rot on that brand new beautiful deck.

During the summer time I have ALL my plants except the stapeliads sitting in trays/dishes/catch pans and I water to excess when needed. It has been a LOOOOOOONNNG time since I lost a plant to root rot from standing water, and trust that you are an experienced enough gardener to not get caught on that hook.

Let us know what you come up with as a solution.

Princeton, NJ(Zone 6a)

Depending on the size of your pot, you can plant in a plastic pot that will fit the inside of the clay pot, then just drop it inside the clay pot and cover with a mulch if the plastic pot is too obvious. On large pots, line the inside with plastic (Leave the drainage hole open) to just below the soil line, then fill with soil and plant. There isn't much you can do about this year but you might want to give it a try next year. Another thought, I'm not sure what your're planning on doing with those perennials and trees come winter, should not leave clay pots outside during freezing weather especially when filled with soil, they will likely crack.

Sansman, just saw an interesting post elsewhere, about clay kitty litter.

Okay, remember we are talking CLAY here, but the person posted to ask what to do with large bags that were left over. Someone suggested that they hold water really well, and would help cut down on watering... perhaps it would work as a top-dressing for a temporary fix, until you build up strength enough to repot everyone with the chosen water-stretching method.

I can't comment on polymers, or sponges, as I have no experience, but am definately intrigued with the idea.


Princeton, NJ(Zone 6a)

I would think that if clay litter dried out once wet, it would turn into a hard impenetrable mass. Those of use who garden on clay soil know what that is like. I personally don't recommend it.

This message was edited Sunday, Jul 8th 8:36 PM

Menahga, MN(Zone 3b)

That is really a problem with clay pots; I have been wondering if they could be sprayed on the outside with a clear sealant to inhibit the moisture loss.

Thought I'd jump in and maybe this can help with the watering problems' Here on the prairie,Ks Zone5(NE),many of us use wick watering' I've container gardened many years,over 20,,here. I purchase the more expensive clay pots(large) and the miyan inca,strawberry planters'(heavy plastic) And of course Half-round whiskey barrels' Always make my own soiless soil but Wal*Mart quit supplying vermiculite this year,don't know why but we gardeners aren't happy about it'To keep my barrels light,so I can move them around,I put shipping peas in the bottom(we also drill drainage holes in bottom) then fill with soil.One third peas to be exact' Plant all the containers with veggies/flowers(zinnias,dill,basil etc)companion planting as I don't use chemicals' I put long shoelaces or rope inside gallon milk jugs full of water' When the plants need water it wicks it into the containers'I made a small courtyard,fabric covered with smooth river rock and stepping stones to set my containers upon,no dirt splashing on plants either'Along the driveway,I put a small old fence,can't bear to pitch it out,and the vines grow on it and provide some windbreak and shelter for other containers' In spring,I only dig out a third and then add new soil,plant and mulch good'We deal with arid/humid and windy conditions here and this works for us' Hope I gave some of you some ideas'I'm a Calif.girl but have created a paradise on the prairie''' As for the kitty litter idea,not for me'Sis''

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