Author Topic: Poor Wicking; Interesting Observation and Solution  (Read 3284 times)

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Poor Wicking; Interesting Observation and Solution
« on: June 23, 2017, 10:15:25 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Hero Member, Psyche. This user is located in Zone 7a, Maryland. This was originally posted on May 27, 2013.

I just expanded my collection of EB (again), and on my last box, I ran out of soil.  I filled it up with what I had.  The soil was about 2-3 inches from the box rim.  I added the dolomite, topped off the water, put the cover on and left it for later.

I came back with a fresh bag the next day.  I added about a gallon of water to top off the box.  Lifting the cover, the surface was dry, but immediately underneath the soil was nice and moist.  I filled the box to the rim and added the fertilizer strip.  The soil comes in a compressed bale and is dry.  The day was very windy.  Instead of battling the elements and breathing in a lot of dirt, I just put the cover back on and would wait until the newly added soil got moist and the wind to die down.

Now, the story conflict...  The soil was not moist the next day.   Shocked  It was very dry for several inches down, past the point where it was moist the previous day.  I added another gallon of water to the box.  That water was going somewhere.  No leaks, no hot temperatures, humid.  I reached in the box to repack the corners, just in case.  Put the cover back on and checked the next day.  It was till dry and still drinking about a gallon of water a day.  I never had a wicking problem before.

My other boxes with plants are doing fine (well enough anyway).  None of my boxes are drinking a gallon of water a day, yet.  Peaking under the covers, the soil is dark and moist.  What is going on with my new box?

The answer is blowing in the wind.

The cover was loose on the new box without the "loaf" of soil.  I grabbed some egg sized stones and put them all over on top of the cover.  The next day, under each of the stones, the soil had become moist and the surrounding was still dry.  I built up my mound of soil, put on the cover and added the plants.  When I build my mounds, the cover is pretty tight.  The edge of the cap barely touches the rim.

The next day, the soil was dark and moist.  And the plants lived happily ever after.  Grin

(Or will they?  I'll find out later.  Roll Eyes )

FYI, Promix BX with Mycrorrhizae, Espoma Garden Lime and Espoma Garden Food 10-10-10 in burlap

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Re: Poor Wicking; Interesting Observation and Solution
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2017, 10:16:57 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Hero Member, Sun City Linda. This user is located in SoCal Inland 9A. This was originally posted on May 28, 2013.

Interesting. And the moral of the story is......We should follow directions!  Grin  But, it does help to understand WHY!

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Re: Poor Wicking; Interesting Observation and Solution
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2017, 10:19:00 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Newbie, newmexjags. This was originally posted on June 8, 2013.

We are new to Earth Boxes, got two and planted them 3 weeks ago. Followed the directions, then noticed the tomato plants in one of the boxes was turning yellow. Lots of water in the boxes, top is down tight. Soil was bone dry. The soil in the other box was barely damp. Pulled back the cover and put in about a gallon of water from the top. That was last week end. Now back to the same problem this week end. One box is bone dry, one is barely damp. Lots of water in the bottom. My husband pulled back the cover and put the sprinkler on top. Plants are not happy. It is very dry and very windy in NM so far this summer. Usually the winds are long gone by now. Is this contributing to the problem? Why isn't the water wicking up when there's plenty to wick?

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Re: Poor Wicking; Interesting Observation and Solution
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2017, 10:20:57 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Hero Member, movrshakr. This user is located in Zone 10a - near Cape Canaveral. This was originally posted on June 8, 2013.

Wicking depends on--

a. Must have a mix that will wick. 
You say you followed directions, so I assume you have a good mix, without soil, sand, compost, etc, and with a high percentage of peat moss--preferably one on the approved list, but there are many brands that will work.

b. Must have wicking towers properly 'built.'
That means packed down during fill.  I pack mine down all the way to the top; some people don't.  But they have to be packed in the chamber AND high enough into the box to bring the water up.  I see no disadvantage to packing them all the way to the top, and I see an advantage to doing so, so I do it.

Wicking will 'start' better = quicker if the mix is quite moist at plant time.

Now your action should be to get the mix VERY wet from the top WITHOUT WETTING THE FERTILIZER STRIP!

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Re: Poor Wicking; Interesting Observation and Solution
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2017, 10:22:00 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Hero Member, Psyche. This user is located in Zone 7a, Maryland. This was originally posted on June 8, 2013.

Newmexjags,

The story I wrote more illustrated that building the soil above the rim of the box was important for the wicking process.  The built up soil tightens the mulch cover so that it doesn't dry out easily from wind.  I was surprised even with doing everything else correctly, this one step threw off the wicking.  Did you build up the mix above the rim?

I agree with movrshakr, and want to emphasize again to not pour water on the fertilizer strip.

At the end of the story, I put that I was using Promix BX.  What mix are you using?

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Re: Poor Wicking; Interesting Observation and Solution
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2017, 10:25:52 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Guest, cushman350. This was originally posted on June 9, 2013.
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Hero Member, movrshakr. This user is located in Zone 10a - near Cape Canaveral. This was originally posted on June 8, 2013.

Wicking depends on--

a. Must have a mix that will wick. 
You say you followed directions, so I assume you have a good mix, without soil, sand, compost, etc, and with a high percentage of peat moss--preferably one on the approved list, but there are many brands that will work.

b. Must have wicking towers properly 'built.'
That means packed down during fill.  I pack mine down all the way to the top; some people don't.  But they have to be packed in the chamber AND high enough into the box to bring the water up.  I see no disadvantage to packing them all the way to the top, and I see an advantage to doing so, so I do it.

Wicking will 'start' better = quicker if the mix is quite moist at plant time.

Now your action should be to get the mix VERY wet from the top WITHOUT WETTING THE FERTILIZER STRIP!




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Re: Poor Wicking; Interesting Observation and Solution
« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2017, 10:32:45 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Hero Member, PaulB. This user is located in Southeast New Mexico, Zone 7. This user is located in June 11, 2013.

First of all, newmexjags, as a fellow New Mexican, let me welcome you to the earthbox forum.  I understand what you are going through, I live in Roswell and today's humidity was a relatively high amount of 22%.  Most people don't understand how much this dry air can affect our plants.

I suspect, from reading your post, that the problem may have originated in how the box was setup in the first place, the potting mix was not moistened enough before putting it into the box.  Fresh potting mix, even if it feels damp, is very dry and can soak up a surprising amount of moisture before the box reaches equilibrium.  Too dry, and the mix will take what seems like forever before there is adequate moisture to support plant life.  plants placed in this dry mix will have the moisture sucked out of them, causing the plant to fail.  Below is an excerpt out of my box setup methods:

This is how I prepare my earthboxes. Although I don't mention it below, the black screen and watering tube are put in place before any potting mix is added.

I mix the dolomite all throughout my potting mix.  I found a handy tool at the hardware store, it has like a mini-hoe on one side and a 3 tine fork on the other, with an extendable handle.  I paid about $9 for it.  I use it for stirring the mix around.  What I do is to scoop or shovel about a third of my potting mix into a wheelbarrow, sprinkle some dolomite over it (I use a dedicated plastic 2 cup measuring cup with a lid that I found at Walmart), sprinkle some water over it, and mix it in well.  I then add some more potting mix and repeat this process over and over again until all the two cups of dolomite is mixed in and the potting mix is damp.  I then use a scoop to dump some mix into the wicking wells and compact it, adding more mix and compacting until I have the wicking towers built.  I then scoop the rest of the potting mix into the box loosely, spreading it around and eventually mounding the top, patting it gently into shape.  Next I use the edge of my hand to create a shallow trench where I put the fertilizer.  If I am not going to plant right away, I avoid putting the fertilizer in until just before I plant.  I hope this helps.  Oh, and be sure to fill up the reservoir with water right away, so the box can get the wicking action going.

I never put the potting mix in the box dry, it takes just too long for the wicking action to start.  Having the mix already damp will accelerate the process.

Now, you already have the box planted and the plants are struggling.  You may, or may not be able to save them, depending on how far along the damage is.  Here is one method of getting the box to begin wicking properly, now that it is already setup.  This method was posted here by Mickey, one of our long term members.

Lift the mulch cover ('shower cap') off, exposing the two corners opposite the fill tube.  Poke a finger down into the two back corners, to see if there is any moisture near the surface.  If not, take the following steps.  First, compress those two corners by making a fist and pressing into the corners, downward.  The purpose of this is to take most of the air pockets out of the mix in the two wicking corners.  A compressed mix will draw up water by capillary action much better than a non-compressed mix.

Next, take a pitcher of warm, not hot, not cold, water and slowly pour it into the depressed areas.  This will fill the column of mix with the water it needs to prime the wicking towers.  Add some new potting mix to the two depressions and pour a little more water on them to wet them well.  Avoid pouring water on the fertilizer strip, as this will simply wash the nutrients into the reservoir and waste them. 

Basically speaking, you want water to come from the bottom and nutrients to come from the top, for this growing system to work well.

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Re: Poor Wicking; Interesting Observation and Solution
« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2017, 10:34:00 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Newbie, juseth. This was originally posted on October 15, 2013.

Most interesting info here.  I have used Earthboxes for about 25 years--when I didn't have dirt or sun in a condo, and then recently to increase growing space and never knew about "wicking chambers".  Just lucky, I guess.  I had 4 boxes planted this year with 18 corn plants--and had a huge successful crop . What a surprise.  Never had corn before.  Just cleared them out and the roots had completely filled the water well. I always water thru the tube--is there another way?  I am confused by some of the comments --especially since I didn't "get it" about the WCs.
Is there somewhere to access information about the planting mix?  I am confused by the comment  "so I assume you have a good mix, without soil, sand, compost, etc, and with a high percentage of peat moss--preferably one on the approved list, but there are many brands that will work."  Without??
Still having fun with the Earth Box after all these years.

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Re: Poor Wicking; Interesting Observation and Solution
« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2017, 10:37:30 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Guest, cushman350. This was originally posted on October 16, 2013.
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Newbie, juseth. This was originally posted on October 15, 2013.

Most interesting info here.  I have used Earthboxes for about 25 years--when I didn't have dirt or sun in a condo, and then recently to increase growing space and never knew about "wicking chambers".  Just lucky, I guess.  I had 4 boxes planted this year with 18 corn plants--and had a huge successful crop . What a surprise.  Never had corn before.  Just cleared them out and the roots had completely filled the water well. I always water thru the tube--is there another way?  I am confused by some of the comments --especially since I didn't "get it" about the WCs.
Is there somewhere to access information about the planting mix?  I am confused by the comment  "so I assume you have a good mix, without soil, sand, compost, etc, and with a high percentage of peat moss--preferably one on the approved list, but there are many brands that will work."  Without??
Still having fun with the Earth Box after all these years.

Right here:

http://earthbox.com/approved-for-earthbox

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Re: Poor Wicking; Interesting Observation and Solution
« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2017, 10:40:34 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Hero Member, baileyj. This user is located in Zone 7A --- Annapolis, Maryland. This was originally posted on October 18, 2013.

I have used Earthboxes for about 25 years--

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Re: Poor Wicking; Interesting Observation and Solution
« Reply #10 on: June 23, 2017, 10:43:18 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Horticulturalist The EarthBox Hero Member, kathy. This user is located in the mountains of PA Zone 5, almost 4. This was originally posted on October 21, 2013.

EarthBox will be celebrating its 20 year anniversary next year!

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Re: Poor Wicking; Interesting Observation and Solution
« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2017, 10:47:42 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Hero Member, gardendoc. This user is located in Ocean Springs, MS Zone 9a. This was originally posted on October 21,
2013.

Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Horticulturalist The EarthBox Hero Member, kathy. This user is located in the mountains of PA Zone 5, almost 4. This was originally posted on October 21, 2013.

EarthBox will be celebrating its 20 year anniversary next year!

So this means there will be AWESOME deals to celebrate, right?


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Re: Poor Wicking; Interesting Observation and Solution
« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2017, 10:48:59 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Horticulturalist The EarthBox Hero Member, kathy. This user is located in the mountains of PA Zone 5, almost 4. This was originally posted on October 30, 2013.

Yes, indeed we are talking about it right now!