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Moisture meter

Posted by jeep461 Z9 Texas coast (jpotts461@gmail.com) on
Wed, Apr 4, 07 at 4:26

I have been having a lot of problems with sand and container soil with plants. Seems if I plant one the sand dries before the container so if I water the yard the plant wants to develope root rot. I figure the sand would wick the moisture away. Well I found a semi solution to my over watering and it is a moisture meter from Lowes about 4 bucks. I did a complete sample today of all my plants. It is pretty amazing. I would have been watering plants that were already too wet. The idea of amending the soil just does not work. On a large scale. If you are having plant problems try one it may open your eyes as it did mine.


JIm


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Moisture meter

Sand holds in a lot of moisture even though it allows the water to run freely through. It stays wet for a long time. Next time you change your container soil, try using Al's soil mixture - I included a link to the original post from the container gardening forum. I used this last year, and it is working great. I didn't change my potting soil this year, so it is staying a little too wet, but it is something to sit down and read when you have a chance.

Here is a link that might be useful: Al's Post: Container Soils and water in containers


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RE: Moisture meter

I had skimmed through the article in the past and took the time to read for content today. I now have little pony tails hanging from my pots. It does work they are wicking the moisture from the pots. It is too bad I cannot wick the moisture from the ones in the ground. In the normal course of automatic sprinkler I had to shut them off due to the difference in moisture retention of plants planted with the soil from their pot. Even the 1 gallon. I am hoping their roots will take off into the sand and I can resume normal automatic watering. I would sure hate to have hand water an acre. Thanks for the info.

Jim


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RE: Moisture meter

I don't do the wicking thing. I was referring to the soil mix that Al uses. I am sorry. I should have been more clear about that. I like the soil mixture because it absolutely allows for better root development with better oxygen flow to the roots. I was only suggesting that you add that kind of a mix to your soil to ammend it and make it less sandy. Like I said earlier, I am a little worried because I didn't change out my soil this year. I just didn't have the time. I think most will be okay. I went out and bought more of the soil conditioner/landscape mix at HD. They have a bag now that is $3.??. The Scott's Landscape Mix that I used last year was the same size bag but $8! In addition to the perlite, I use high fired clay. I buy it in the form of OilDri from Sam's Club or Walmart. It is the same stuff that they sale for auquatic gardening but much cheaper. I have a lot of cacti and succulents and this is the main ingredient for their soil. The nice thing about it is that it absorbs water and releases it over time to the plant. I believe the idea is that it also does this with liquid fertilizers as well. But it adds great porosity to the soil so that your roots are not drowning in water. I like Al's whole idea of wick watering. The truth of the matter is is that I really just don't have to worry so much about it being in Houston. We don't often have droughts in the growing season. Interestingly enough, we are dropping down in the 40's tonight, and tomorrow night's low is 37! That will be a record low. I have to go buy a sweater or jacket for my son to wear for Easter, not to mention the fact that I have to figure out what I am going to do with my tomatoes, bell peppers, jalepenos and lime tree! The first three haven't set fruit yet, but the lime has. I guess I am going to move them up right next to the house and make a teepee around them. I have NEVER experienced such a late cold front.


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RE: Moisture meter

I know you did not mean the wicking but as a solution to a immediate problem it worked. (this was the reverse wicking to remove water not put it in) I am going to use Al's formula. I went to the city yesterday but had no luck finding the fines of pine bark. I have not been to home depot yet I assume Sam's here will carry the same oildri. I have about 100 plants in 1 gallons doing their propagating. The wick on the surface of warm metal did the trick to even out the moisture. But even if I kept these in their soil the transplant to the sandy area would be the same. They hold water much more than sand and will try to rot the root under automatic irrigation for grass until the root grow out of their potted soil.

We are shcheduled to hit 41 Sunday morning about 7 am. I do not believe it will hurt any of my plants or vegatables for a few hours. I am always trying to find a better way. Also went hunting for trace minerals in a bag. I could not even find a complete one in dry or liquid. So I searched the internet for plant vitamines and minerals and found several sources talking of using human vitamins. So I gave some of my plants some of my vitamins. It had all the trace minerals needed and also stuff like copper which is a good fungicide. I did a trial with small plants 1/2 and large ones a full vitamine just poked down into the soil. I am getting better at gardening my plants are looking a lot healthier than they ever did. I love to propagate stuff. My latest was to cut back some night blooming jasmine that I bought and take the cuttings to water propagation. Maybe I will have 30+ more night blooming jasmine in a month.

Jim


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RE: Moisture meter

I looked all over for bark fines and couldn't find any, but then someone told me to get the stuff they sell as 'soil amendment' at Walmart. Don't like Walmart much, but that is indeed bark fines. I guess if you wanted it really fine you could sieve it. Seems to work well--except as a confirmed under-waterer I have to pay attention or they'll dry out TOO much!


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RE: Moisture meter

In addition to the perlite, I use high fired clay. I buy it in the form of OilDri from Sam's Club or Walmart.

Were would this be at Walmart. Automotive??

the stuff they sell as 'soil amendment' at Walmart. Don't like Walmart much, but that is indeed bark fines.

Now for the micro-nutrient powder or 1 gal composted manure where can this be found? The Manure composted? Will the regular stuff at Walmart work?? Or what should I use.


Big batch:

3 cu ft pine bark fines (1 big bag)
5 gallons peat
5 gallons perlite
1 cup lime (you can add more to small portion if needed)
2 cups CRF
1/2 cup micro-nutrient powder or 1 gal composted manure

My main problem is my potting soil not draining and staying wet. I imagine in the heat of the summer this will all change. The winter and spring mix stays wet all the time and I have constantly fought with wet decaying roots. This is the nicest time of the year here. My plan was to get as many plants established by March 1 so they could have some time to grow roots before the heat comes on.

Any ideas or sources are appreciated.


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RE: Moisture meter

Yes, at Sams and Wal-mart the stuff was in automotive. I don't know if it was called "oil-Dri" at Wal-mart though. I have to go to wally world today, so I will look to see if they still carry it. God, I hope so. If not, you may be able to find it at an auto part store. It will probably be more expensive. For the micro nutrients, you could try Super-Thrive. I believe that is what it is supposed to be. I never add that to my soil. The only thing I do add is crushed egg shells to my tomatoes. It adds to the stem strength. My tomatoes were very unhappy this morning. One was laying on its side in protest to this weather. I hadn't staked it yet but just did. I hope it makes it. I moved my seedlings in. It is forcasted to go down to 38 tonight. UGH! As for the soil, I don't know if I would quite as much of the Oil dri as it calls for perlite. I think last year, I used half perlite and half oil dri to equal the called for amount.


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RE: Moisture meter

  • Posted by mikie z9 St.Pete.FL (My Page) on
    Sat, Apr 7, 07 at 10:47

fwiw
I have spread lots of the walmart brand kitty litter(Smectite/Bentonite) on my florida sandy yard to increase both the moisture holding and the cation exchange capacities of its soil. Works!

It can be used for oil sop too!

Havent priced the oil sop, but their kitty litter is pretty cheap.


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RE: Moisture meter

Ideas really help. It would have taken years to stumble on these items alone. I spread some Caliche for a driveway base and where the was extra it was put on the yard grass. This area has the greenest grass and requires about 1/4 of the moisture that the other areas do. Everyone says do not use it on the lawn. I do believe a little goes a long way.

I have to run to Wally World so I will do some shopping for the gardening stuff. It is nice to see some light at the end of a tunnel. Sandy soil has been my gardening down fall. I spread a 6 inch layer of mulch one year and saw it all disappear a year later through the soil. I have to water lightly, fertilize lightly, everything is less because more just goes straight through the soil.

Now maybe I can keep my potted plants from getting water rot and increase the holding capacity of my landscape/ garden area.


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RE: Moisture meter

Found the oil dri. Not any luck on bark fines. They did have some Scotts landscape mix for 10.47 but it was all sealed in plastic wrap.So I could not look at the bark size. It was real nasty out so I cut my searching real quick outside. They did have composted manure. Well the search is on for bark fines and Pearlite other than in a 1/2 cubic ft bag for 3.99.

Still hunting


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RE: Moisture meter

The landscape mix is the same thing, but it is way over priced. My homedepot Earthgro Landscapers Soil Conditioner. It is the right stuff and was under $4 for a big bag. Sometimes they sale out of it. Ask them when they'll get it back in. They should get regular shipments. I got mine in the Heights, Houston, but the one at 45S and Bltwy 8 usually has it.

Be careful with the Kitty Litter. It typically is not high fired and will turn to mush. Not all, but a lot of them do.


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RE: Moisture meter

I have used some kitty litter in the past for trying to dry up areas. It did turn to mush with too much moisture. The OilDri will not do this ? I found all of the ingredients today at Lowes. It took some searching. I also found some Cypress fines. Like $ 3.20 for 3 cubic feet. The pine was about 90% fines. I am still having a hard time with vermiculite or perlite. All they sell is .8 cubic foot bags for 4 dollars. Is the OilDri a good enough substitute? Or keep on searching?


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RE: Moisture meter

I take that back the bag I got at Lowes was 8 quarts. I did a search and there are amost 30 quarts in a cubic foot. I called Home Depot and was disconnected after 10 minuits. I called a local feed store and they said they could order it for me. It was $ 20.00 for 4 cubic feet. (Perlite) So I did a little calculating and I was paying $ 60.00 for what I could buy for $ 20.00 at the feed store. I guess this is a no brainer. LOL I am testing the OilDri so far it is very stable under moisture.


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RE: Moisture meter

I have already tested the oildry. You can stop your test. It is stable. I kept it in water for 28 days, subjecting it to heat and aggitation, and it never broke down. I hammered with hammer and it never turned to dust; it simply broke into several pieces. I boiled it in water for an hour - no change. I stirred it with a fork everyday and made sure that the water level stayed above the level of the oildri. I know that some kitty litter works this way as well, but most don't. If you found some that does, as long as it isn't chemically treated for smell, would work as well. The oildri is still going to be cheaper for the amount that you get for the money. I don't know if cypress will work the same as pine. You'd have to ask Al if there are any differences. If you e-mail him, he will answer back. Just go to that post and go to his page and e-mail him directly. Did you HD not have the EarthGro. It was only $3 something for 2 cu. ft. That is pretty cheap. The other option would be to go to a mulching yard, buy the 1 cu. yard of pine bark and ask them to chop it up more for you. I have also heard of putting pine bark in a metal trash can and using a weed whacker to chop it up finer.


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RE: Moisture meter

Thanks for the test info. I was just seeing if it turned to mush when exposed to water long term. I used some kitty litter on a baseball field one rainy day and it made it worse. I really like oildri. Thanks for the tip. I did have to screen my 1st batch. I will try to make it to the city and HD. I mixed a small batch up. I proably will mix a large one tomorrow. I have been fighting spider mites for the last 4 days. They took over in a few days. Now they are knocked back about 95%. I know more about them than I really care too. I feel like a plant inspector now. LOL I will ask Al about the different mulches after I go through a few more of the posts and see if it has been asked yet. This coastal gardening is giving me fits. I am determined to make it work.


Jim


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RE: Moisture meter

  • Posted by bjs496 9/Houston 7/NJ (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 15, 07 at 12:23

I bought 8 bags of mulch from Lowes. I got the 3cu ft stuff in the white back that is about $2.68. I have been using their mulch in my containers for a couple of years. It is not as fine as soil conditioner, but it works well. This year particularly seemed to be more fine than in the past, but there was a bit more crap. It is nothing that can not be easily dealt with while you are mixing.

For the clay... In Houston you can buy bulk expanded shale at CJM in Rosenberg (their only location that carries it) for $65/yd or at Maas Nursery in Seabrook for $85/yd. CJM's is under the trade name of Tru-Gro by TXI and Maas claims their's is Haydite, but they are extremely similar (I can't tell the difference.)

~james


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RE: Moisture meter

The expanded shale is much like the high fired clay. The bag of OilDri is under $4 for a 25# bag. I would say it is about enough for 1 1/2 cu. ft. Times it by two and you should have 3 cu. ft. or a cu. yd. IMHO, why spend $65 when you can spend $8? Just a thought. I use it for my cacti and succulents and for my bonsai in place of Turface. It is basically the same thing.


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RE: Moisture meter

  • Posted by bjs496 9/Houston 7/NJ (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 15, 07 at 23:07

a cubic yard is 27 cubic feet (3X3X3=27). The potential problem with an OilDri type product or cat litter is consistency from brand to brand or year to year. Walmart has a nasty policy to drive the cost down as much as possible. The product you buy could vary from what you are use to. The higher the firing temperature the more stable the product is... the more costly production is, as well. If you are repotting yearly, perhaps it doesn't matter much. The worse that could happen is it will revert and you'll end up with a container full of clay.

~james


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the mix

  • Posted by bjs496 9/Houston 7/NJ (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 15, 07 at 23:34

Depending on what you're growing you might want to modify the mix. My normal mix is equal parts mulch (not decomposed), Perlite, and Tru-Gro.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

This year I had to modify it a bit because my source for Perlite was out while I was in Houston. The weight of my containers reflect this decision. Many people would complain that this mix is too loose and drains too quickly. I see this as its benefit. In the heat of the summer my trees need to be watered daily which reduces soil temperature, and benefits root development. Peat holds onto moisture a little too good.

Also, my choice of container and mix was geared towards a longer life. By the end of this year, I'll have about 140 trees in containers. I am trying to extend my repotting to once every 2 or 3 years, rather than annually.

~james


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RE: Moisture meter

Good to see options. I used the oil dry. It was real light until I added water and then became very heavy. Which is good where I live. It is very windy. I ran a moisture meter though the containers and it has the the same moisture top and bottom. This is what I was after so if it goes to the yard it will not retain extra water and try to rot the roots. The extra water will be wicked by the surrounding soil. My previous mix built almost a hard shell around itself. I really do like oildry. It is 1/3 price of perlite and looks to be a good source of additive for my sandy soil. I will give it a try directly on the soil. Maybe it will hold more water around the root zones.


Jim


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RE: Moisture meter

Sorry for the math brain fart. Doing the math, the OilDri is about $66 for a cu. yd. I, however, will never need that much. I've bought it two years in a row at Sam's Club and it has been the same stuff. I've run the test both years. It is from a national brand company that has a website. I can pull the bag out later to get the web address. The company sales to baseball fields and several other venues. It is the same product wrapped in a different package marketed to a different buyer. OilDri is a company brand name, not a Wal-Mart thing for those people who don't like wal-mart. If I'm remembering correctly, the company is in America for those that only like to buy American.


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RE: Moisture meter

The problem with sandy soil is that the water runs straight through it, and so you need to water more frequently. You'll want to make sure you have lots of organic material like peat moss mixed in so that it doesn't dry out. If you're technology inclined you can get a soil moisture meter, and measure the soil periodically to see how fast it is drying out. I the like my soil moisture meter from vegetronix which gives me a nice digital read out.

Here is a link that might be useful: Soil Moisture Meter


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