Plants dry out on wet mats

marty-1August 22, 2014

After a few months plants dry out on wet mats-even after rewetting by top watering; my set up: plants w wicks on mat which lays on grids w end in water. It may be caused by shrinking of mix away from holes on bottom so pot loses contact w mat. Any ideas on how to prevent or fix this problem? I can't be repotting every few months

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Vikki(7b / 8)

Maybe give the bottom of the pot a few taps on a table to settle some of the dirt back around the wick?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 10:23AM
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What's your soil mix? Not really familiar with it but maybe if you add more perlite it could help with the shrinkage

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 12:31PM
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I use cape cod wicking mix; in my set up the mat ends drape over the grid(which are above the water level)-so the mats and plants on the grid are never flooded with water-so if the plants dry out I top water to get the capillary flow started again. Does anyone else use this system? I'm wondering if the system itself is prone to failure from mix shrinking and poor contact leading to failure of capillary flow

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 2:13PM
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possible solution: what about dropping the mats all together and just using a couple of wicks per pot directly through the grid?

also, what type of wicking material are you using and how is it placed in the bottom of the pots? felt or acrylic matting? (may affect how well it absorbs/makes contact)

This post was edited by Anon-Cdn on Sun, Aug 24, 14 at 8:32

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 8:30AM
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judyj(Z5 CO)

It's obvious that your wicks aren't working.

Are you using good, inorganic wicks, and are they up into the pots (not just to the bottom of the root system)?

If the soil appears to be shrinking away then you'll probably need to add something that does a better job of wicking moisture up. Perlite, vermiculite, or perhaps there's too much of it? I ran into that with the capillary mats I'm using. I added a little too much perlite in a couple pots and had to hand water them until they soaked it in.

I'm not familiar with Cape Cod wicking mix but do know that the wicks need to come up and need to be of inorganic stuff. The organic stuff just decomposes.

If you use a little perlite at the bottom, you will find that it wicks water right up. Might help.


    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 9:12PM
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Marty, I have a question for you. I also use mats to water my plants. At first I set the mat on the grid that was suspended over water filled tray. The mat ends were sitting in the water. I had trouble with the mat in the center drying up when there was still water in tray. Do you have that problem at all?
Now I just place three or four layers of poly felt in bottom of tray, water until mat is wet, and set my violets on the mat. Some violets have wicks and others do not. So far I add water when the mats are almost dry. My wicking is poly knitting yarn.
This way I only have to add water to tray about once a week.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 2:51PM
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I think you are right Judy that my wicks aren't working-if they were working the pots wouldn't dry out while the mats are wet; I use #18 synthetic twine I buy from Doug at Violet Showcase. I use his formula of pot size diameter minus 2=# of wicks. However I wick like Doug taught me in that the wick is bunched under the root ball and doesn't go to the top of the pot- still I think maybe the wicks I am using stop working sooner than yarn and that's the problem? Ima, I drape both short ends of mat over grid into tray and have no problem w Matt drying out. The matts and wicks stay wet, but a lot of the plants dry out. With my system the plants themselves are never bottom flooded w water, and maybe that's why the pot contact with mat and wick working on the mat is so crucial

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 10:26PM
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Marty, I think next time when I change the mats, I'm going to put two trays back on the grids with mat on top. I'll see how it goes. I sometimes add too much water to trays, and have to use turkey baster to take a lot out. I don't like to have pots sitting in the water, at least for more than an hour.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 2:19PM
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judyj(Z5 CO)

Hi Marty,
Physics will tell us that the water comes up the wick, the only place it has to go is where something is more absorptive (and has the capacity for it). This is in fact, why the water comes up the wick! The soil has to be dryer than the wick to draw the water from it-and can't have a barrier against it. Now I know you're saying that the soil is dry but read on...

Just IMHO, either:

1. There's not enough soil at the bottom of the root ball for it to draw water from it.
2. The circumference of the wick isn't big enough to really provide the needed moisture.
3. The wick isn't letting it go-perhaps it's coated with something that doesn't allow water to escape.
4. The soil is too dry and has formed a non-permeable barrier against it.

So number 4 I have run into. Sphagnum moss *can* get this way sometimes. In fact, I have placed a couple plants into a container to water them from the bottom and found they wouldn't draw water up at all. I had to water them from the top-ensuring the "soil" got damp-before they'd draw from the bottom. It's not quite the same as just watering them first. You have to ensure the Sphagnum moss gets wet.

That being said-next time I repot I'm going to amend my soil-less soil with something that enables it to better draw the water up-retains more moisture.

In your case, you might want to try the soil thing first. If that doesn't work, then change the wick to something else. Or vice-verse!

I'd just do one thing at a time-take one plant and try one thing. If that doesn't work try the next. Otherwise you might not know what the cause was!


This post was edited by judyj on Tue, Sep 2, 14 at 19:25

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 7:18PM
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