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Prevent compost pots from drying out

Xyz123Xyz123 Posts: 53
Hi Novice gardener here. For last couple of years I have been growing some plants in pots. Problem I have is towards the end of summer the compost ends up drying out so all the water u put in comes almost straight out. What can I do to prevent this. I tried mixing compost with top soil but I didn't get better results. (maybe I didn't mean enough). What should be mix ratio? To rehydrate compost I tried putting small amount of fairy liquid but didn't work, perhaps again I didn't put enough in or didn't try for long enough. So this year I want to avoid the problem altogether. If possible .. What water retaining crystals or gels are recommended by users here? Ta


  • Dave MorganDave Morgan Posts: 3,123

    You can use any of the water retaining crystals xyz, brand isn't important. The secret is to not let the compost dry out in the first place. If you let the top layer dry out it forms a crust which water won't penetrate. You can top dress a pot with grit which stops a crust forming, or use a plastic bottle upside down and sunk into the pot to water. Both work equally well. 

  • BookertooBookertoo Posts: 1,306

    You need to water regularly and often so that the compost doesn't get so dry.  I add JI2 to all my pots to give them the weight and the material to stay damp.  Vermiculite is good too, I'm not a fan of the gels, but that's just me.  With over 400 pots to keep going, gravel, grit, JInnes and time keep most going.  If small ones do get very dry, fill a bucket or bowl with tepid water, add a couple of drops of washing up liquid and dunk the plant in there for a couple of hours.  The washing up liquid reduces the surface tension and lets the compost get re-wetted.   Although I now use no peat here, it is true that the peat free composts seems to dry out quicker than the others so need even more of a vigilant eye.  As Dave says, top dressing helps alot. 

  • LynLyn DevonPosts: 15,654

    I always use peat compost if i can get it, it does dry out quicker, you just have to keep at it, I have gro bag trays that I stand them in every so often, they can soak up what comes out of the bottom.

    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 60,348

    I think you may be making the mistake of watering little and often - it's much better to give the pot a total soaking - and then don't water it again until the compost is dry at least an inch under the surface e (stick your finger in up to the first knuckle). 

    Use large pots and leave at least two inches free from compost at the top - when you water fill the pot to the brim and let it all soak in. 

    That way the compost will absorb water much better and not become a dry solid mass.

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • WateryWatery Posts: 388

    I would caution against the water-retaining gels.  They can break down into lethal neurotoxins and even if they won't hurt you in your containers, how will you dispose of them when you are done?  Where will they go then?   Into the soil and waterways?   Also, there is research showing they don't work very well.  People on this site have given some useful alternatives.

  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 24,602

    I've never used any of those " water retainging " things, nor indeed have I been convinced by the science behind them.

    Each to his own though.

  • LandlubberLandlubber Posts: 396

    no - i'm not convinced either Hostafan1!image

  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 24,602

    Sounds like a cop out sort of excuse not to be vigilant about watering.

  • LynLyn DevonPosts: 15,654

    Same here! 

    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • HeftyHefty Posts: 370

    i heard you can melt ice cubes on the surface of the crusty soil, it then becomes able to absorb moisture image

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