How to tell if wicking is working correctly?

ocelaris(7a)September 19, 2011

Hi, I'm new to the African Violet group, although I have a lot of other horticulture experience. I've been reading the forum on wicking, and last weekend I converted my 10 to wick using 1-1-1 peat, vermiculite, and perlite, I used nylon mason line soaked in soapy water for a wick. I've watch a few youtube videos on it etc... So I think I did it right, but I've heard people warn new users about converting all their plants, so I'm a bit worried! So my question is, how can I tell if the wicking is working correctly?

I've looked beneath the plants, and made sure the wick is wet all the way up (or if for some reason it wasn't I rewetted it). I wet the soilless mix when I repotted the plants, and watered them a small amount to try and get the wicking working. 2 days later everything looks/feels damp in the soil, but I wasn't sure what else to look out for?

The plants are under a pair of 4' long fluorescent tubes that I had for seed starting.

Also everyone says that the lights should be 10-12" from plants? But that seems really high, I got out my light meter and was getting 900-1100 only when the tops were like 4" away from the lights, so that's where they are now. I'm not sure if the bulbs are old, they're 2 years old, but we only used them to start seeds, so not sure if they've been used very much comparatively. I'll probably give these back to the vegetable seedlings come spring and get my own set of lights for the violets.

Thanks, Bill

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You do want 10-12" away from the tops of the plants for Standard sized AVs. My miniatures I have about 8" away from the bulbs. When the bulbs are too close, your plants will show it. I've found that too little light is MUCH easier corrected than too much. If your plants start "reaching" for the light (folding up towards it) then lower them. If the light is too close you can damage the cells, which in the past for me has resulted in very stunted growth, and brittle leaves. Err on the side of less light :)

As for the wicks, just keep an eye on the plant. Touch the soil and if it's a slight bit damp and stays that way, your wick is working! If it isn't, your soil will start to dry out (like it used to feel when you'd test with your finger to see if they needed water before wick watering.)

Hope that helps.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 3:56PM
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Also make sure they aren't becoming or staying soaked. I had a few plants do that at first, but probably didn't have the soil ratio right. Now if they seem good and moist and the pot feels heavyish I take the wick out of the water and let them dry a little for a day or two rather than leave it in constantly. Still much easier than the regular watering method.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 5:43PM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

Bill -

I think you got the explanation regarding wick. If the pot dries up - your wick is not working, if it is not - everything is OK.

Lights - 600foot candles is about right on the surface of the standard leaves. 1000 will be a bit too much unless you reduce the hours. Some varieties have higher light requirements, some - lower. You will see bleached leaves and tight centers if it is too much - and floppy leaves stretching to the lights - if it is not enough.

Example of a low light requirement - Ness' Viking Maiden. This is one of the best standard whites - frilly white flowers stay fresh forever, they do not brown easily etc., the plant grows symmetrically, beautiful grass green leaves. You need to keep it on the edge or under old half spent tubes - otherwise it bunches up easily.

I think you will see soon the plants getting very grateful for your new wicking setup.


    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 1:05PM
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Thanks, I think I may have packed in the soil too tight? I was used to doing that with potting soil to get soil around the roots, but this soilless mix doesn't really bounce back... I did actually use 2-1-1 perlite, vermiculite, peat mix... so I hope not too wet.

I keep touching the top of the soil to see if it's wet, and it seems fine, but I'll keep an eye on it the next couple days.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 3:20PM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

Bill - do not pack your soil ever. You want to fill the gaps so the plant will stay in a middle, but no jumping around the tree. Otherwise you will squeeze the valuable air pockets and the violet will die from root rot.

You can lift your pot - and if it is dry - it will be very very light. No problem - put it in a bowl with water for 20 min to restart a wick - and back to the mat.

Even if a wick doesn't work - it will take a month to kill the violet - so you do not need to check it every 2 hours.

Good Luck


    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 7:51PM
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Thanks, sorry I guess I missed that post before! I really do like violets, I've had so many plants that were so unforgiving and flowered so infrequently (orchids) that it's nice to have something almost always in bloom and gives fairly quick feedback. I'm going to have to repot some of them this weekend to do it right this time.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 10:26PM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

You are going to have flowers 24/7 from now on! Promise!


    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 11:07PM
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stonesriver(6B Tennessee)

And if you want lots and lots of blooms try a trailer. . . especially Pixie Blue. Grows well and blooms its little head off even when young.

Rob has some nice trailers that keep their shape naturally.


    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 1:31AM
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