Combating Dry Soil Pockets: Improve Your Plants Root System
by, 04-25-2010 at 12:02 PM (3599 Views)
Get your watering can and shovel ready. This blog is about watering and dry soil pockets. When I got my soil and my pots I decided to get overzealous and fill each pot with dirt almost 2 weeks before I transplanted plants into them. I thought, well the soil can dry out good and I can see how long it takes. I regret this decision. I should have made sure all of the pots were saturated(not over saturated of course) before planting my seedlings. The reason I say this is that I ran into some pretty bad problems when I watered my plants for the first time. Right after transplant I watered the plants with very mild nutrients(at least I got the mild part right). My first watering was very frustrating, and I let it get the best of me. I bought a little nutrient sprayer that holds 2 gallons of water at a time. This sprayer helps oxygenate the water and its easier for me than a watering can. I decided I should use the gentle spray setting to water my plants. This was also a mistake. I began watering the plants until I saw water come out the bottom. This took an excruciating 5 minutes per plant! One could see why I got so frustrated. After 20 plants I got lazy to cope with my frustration. This was not a good plan. I ended up pouring water into the last 19 plants just right out of the bucket. After taking a long break, in which I became angry with myself, I decided to go back and take a look at how badly I messed up. I took my shovel and tilled the dirt in every pot. All of them were dry about 1/2 inch below the top soil. I grabbed my water sprayer and made a new batch of mild nutes. I turned the sprayer to a higher pressure, and watered the whole garden one more time. I made sure that the top inch of soil was moist and water was coming out the bottom. FINALLY, I felt okay leaving the garden. I could have thwarted this whole situation if I would have just watered the dry soil before planting the plants and making sure the dry pockets were gone THERE. Also if I would have remained patient throughout the watering I would not have wasted so many nutes. I have watered 4 times since then, I still suspect there are dry pockets lower down. Theres no evidence of that though as the plants look great.
I now water using the same nute sprayer, however, I always use it on a higher pressure setting. Why? Because it penetrates the soil much better that way. I rarely even have to check with my shovel for dry pockets. So why all this hubub about dry soil in my pots? As your plants roots grow they branch out into the pot looking for water and nutrients. IF there is a dry area, your roots will avoid it. This can greatly weaken the root system if the pot is full of them. Bottom line all of your soil should be wet throughout and remain more wet than dry during most of its life. One of my plants actually died because I planted it into a dry soil pocket. Avoid this mistake at all costs!
I don't mean saturate the soil when it looks sort of dry. I mean that if the soil is more dry than wet to the touch, its time to water them. In my garden(after I fixed the watering issues) it takes 5-7 days to dry sufficiently. If you get overzealous and water too early, you run the risk of root rot but more importantly over watering. If you water too late then you will have dry soil pocket issues, not to mention the plant will be droopy and look poopy until you water it. When you water it from being fully dry if there is a pocket where the main root is, the root could be severed and the plant could DIE. I call the 5-7 day range the "Sweet" spot during veg. I will "make it rain" during flowering (see nature blog). This is my strategy when watering and I hope it helps people out when they begin their own journeys in gardening. I have updated all of my posts, to be more honest and concise. Feel free to re read the first two, I changed alot. Tomorrow I will blog about Pets and Critters in the garden.