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Square Foot Gardening Forum
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Please Share Your Knowledge with a Newbie! Toplef10Please Share Your Knowledge with a Newbie! 1zd3ho10

Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

Please Share Your Knowledge with a Newbie! I22gcj10Please Share Your Knowledge with a Newbie! 14dhcg10

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Post  brianj555 8/23/2017, 6:28 pm

I recently made to square foot Raised garden boxes.  Both are 4 x 10 x 12".  I only planted in one and am home composting the other for next march.  I'm in zone 9.  I have Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers , carrots, romaine lettuce, green onions, snap bush beans, mustard, and collards planted.  Everything but the jalapeño and bell peppers seem to be growing very well.  Those two just don't seem to be getting any size to them, but they do have some blooms.  I direct sowed the cucumbers and they are huge, dwarfing everything in the box but the tomatoes. The cucumbers are about 4 feet tall and the tomatoes are anywhere from 2 1/2 to 4 feet tall.  I planted both celebrity and heatwave tomatoes. They are both determinate , I didn't realize that at first , but I transplanted them so late ( about a month ago) that they will produce and then it will be getting near the time to frost.  I filled the box with a variation of Mel's mix. 25% vermiculite, 25 % pete, and 50% compost (chicken, cotton burr, mushroom and cow)

My question is. ...  now that the plants are getting larger, what is the best way to tell when and how much I need to water them??  Are there any tricks to determine this other than buying a meter?  Is there a method for telling by feel?  I would appreciate any suggestions, tips or tricks you are willing to share.
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Post  Scorpio Rising 8/23/2017, 7:12 pm

First off, welcome to the forum, brianj555!  

Has it rained where you are?  Have you gardened in the ground before?  

Here, MM needs less water than containers but more watering than Earth.  Not really helpful....it tends to always feel dry to me.
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Post  brianj555 8/23/2017, 7:30 pm

Thank you for welcoming me and responding. Yes.   It always feels sort of dry to me too.  If I reach down about three inches and pull up a little dirt, it does feel somewhat damp.  But that's kind of a reach.  It has been raining too much here, zone 9, but it gets sooooo hot between showers I feel like it's getting dried up.  The Bell Peppers look they they are getting too much water and the jalapeños as well. The sweet Banana , Tomato and cucumbers look great.  I'm just trying to find a good solid dependable way to know when I need to add water and how to know when I have added enough.
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Post  brianj555 8/23/2017, 8:00 pm

Please Share Your Knowledge with a Newbie! Img_3712
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Post  brianj555 8/23/2017, 8:18 pm

Please Share Your Knowledge with a Newbie! Img_3715Bell Peppers pictured above.  Below Tomato and cucumber .
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Post  Scorpio Rising 8/23/2017, 9:03 pm

I believe your plants are telling you "well done, brianj555, keep up the good work!!!"Please Share Your Knowledge with a Newbie! 3170584802

If no wilting, I would let it ride!
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Post  sanderson 8/23/2017, 10:00 pm

Brian,  The only way I test the moisture is to stick my finger in half way (3").  If it's wet at 3" mark, it's good.  I'm in Zone 9 also but we do not get summer rain so I water daily.  Also, I have a layer of chopped straw mulch on top to slow surface evaporation.

Oh, and welcome to the Forum from California!  glad you\'re here Can you add your State to your location?  As a Mod, I know which State you live in but it will really help folks assist you if they understand your climate.

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Post  brianj555 8/23/2017, 10:26 pm

The Thank you!  Yes I will add my state.
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Post  Kelejan 8/25/2017, 1:27 am

glad you\'re here brianj555  happy hi  
from Kelejan in  :canada:British Columbia

I think you photos look good.  In time you will feel more confident about watering.  I think one should water deeply but not every day as you want the roots of your plants to seek the damp down below and build good roots then they can survive a few days in case you cannot water them.  Also, use the Search Box in the top left-hand corner of this page and put in the word MULCH and you will gt a lot of extra information.
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Post  brianj555 8/25/2017, 7:51 pm

I just tried something that I think might work.  I filled a 16 oz plastic water bottle with rain water.  I poked a hole in the lid.  Then I turned it upside down and stuck the top about 2 1/2 inches down in the dirt.  I'm thinking if the MM needs to be watered all of the water will trickle out.  If not it will stay in there?  I did it about an hour ago and only about 1 " of the water has come out.  What do you guys think ?
Please Share Your Knowledge with a Newbie! Img_3717
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Post  Scorpio Rising 8/25/2017, 8:47 pm

OK, not sure about the bottle thing.  Holeonly in the upside down lid?  No hole in the "top" old bottom of the bottle?  If not, physics dictates that no more water will be able to come out of the bottle.  Just formed a vacuum at the top of the bottle preventing any further water flow.  

Drill a super tiny hole in the old bottom of the bottle to allow trickle flow!  Keep us posted! 

I seriously need to water.......
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Post  brianj555 8/25/2017, 9:41 pm

What you say does make sense.  I will try that.  I will say that the water will eventually  drain out the way it is now though , but maybe not trickling, which is what I want it to do to determine if the soil is dry or moist.  I know it will drain in time because I didn't make theses bottles like this initially for this purpose.  I made them to slowly deliver miracle grow initially .  I only did it once and stopped using any fertilizer after reading on here that it can be bad for the MM.  it took the liquid about a day to drain out with the miracle grow in it.  I don't think the soil needed watering then either.  What I will do is keep trying it both ways.  One with a hole in the bottom and one not.  Kind of test to see if they drain quicker after going a couple days without watering and then try right after I water to see if there is a difference.  I will be careful though not to jeopardize the health of my plants with this experiment.  That would most def be counterproductive.
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Post  Scorpio Rising 8/25/2017, 11:29 pm

Just keep detailed notes....really important.  Write it down!  I do a "plan" and what actually happened thing...

Can't wait to hear!Please Share Your Knowledge with a Newbie! 3170584802
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Post  sanderson 8/26/2017, 10:09 am

Brian, There are watering stakes meant to be used with plastic bottles. The water drains out the tiny holes in the stake. I had to tinker to get the seals between the stakes and bottles tight. You have a few more hours with your experiment. How is it going?

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Post  plantoid 8/26/2017, 10:24 am

You can purchase very cheap  moisture indicator probes off eBay or Amazon for a couple of dollars .

A quick test that you'll pick up on after a few years of doing ANSFG .
 
Usually if you can get a handful of your MM and squeeze it hard if water drips out it's too wet & if it does not stay slightly balled it will be too dry .

After a while you'll also find it easy to look at the leaves of the various crops  & know that it they are not pert and fresh looking  in their best colours there is a problem but by this time the dry soil has already started to hurt your plants  a little


Consistently getting the right level of  moisture when the plant needs it is considered by some/many to be  quite an art . Lots of folk give up when they fail to learn it  .
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Post  brianj555 8/26/2017, 11:03 am

sanderson wrote:Brian,  There are watering stakes meant to be used with plastic bottles.  The water drains out the tiny holes in the stake.  I had to tinker to get the seals between the stakes and bottles tight.  You have a few more hours with your experiment.  How is it going?
The bottle in the pic above has drained out about another inch, after about 18 hours.  So that's two inches total.  It still does not have a hole in the top, and I am about to try one like that now.  I will say though that my MM is still most though throughout. When I squeeze the MM it didn't drop water but it does stay in a ball.  I have spent all morning making my first compost pile.  There is a pic on my compost heap thread.
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Post  brianj555 8/26/2017, 12:49 pm

Ok. Even though the MM will make a ball at 3" deep, the bottle (with a pinhole at the top and in the lid) emptied inside an hour.  I was hoping that it wouldn't empty until the MM was dry.  The one without the pinhole at the top, still has water in it. It is dripping very very slowly as it is still over half full after 20 hours, but I don't know if the moisture in the soil has anything to do with how fast or not it drips.  I will keep playing around with it.
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Post  Kelejan 8/26/2017, 8:48 pm

Brian, I admire you for doing this experiment; this will really get into your mind and stay there. I liked the way you did it off your own bat and without reading about it first.

I like experiments.  I took part once in a two-worm reproduction experiment as to how many worms could be produced in X-time.  I think I got about 75 worms in four months.
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Post  brianj555 8/26/2017, 10:06 pm

Thanks.  Speaking of worms, I think I need to get some and try that tube.  That looks cool.
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Post  Scorpio Rising 8/26/2017, 10:58 pm

Interesting about the bottle waterers....
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Post  AtlantaMarie 8/27/2017, 7:28 am

Hi Brian. Marie here. Welcome from Atlanta, GA! Somehow I missed seeing your 1st posts....

Interesting experiment. I'm like Kelejan - practical experimenting like what y'all have done.
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Post  brianj555 8/27/2017, 10:43 am

Hello Marie.  Thanks for the welcome.  It looks like the experiment with the bottle having a hole in the top and the bottom didn't work. I watered the garden pretty thoroughly this morning and waited about an hour, then placed the bottle in the mix.  It drained pretty quickly.  The mix was moist at the depth that the lid was at.  I'm thinking I'm going to have to find a different type of lid.  The bottles with only a hole in the lid , do drain, but do so slowly.  I'm not sure whether the level of moisture in the mix actually has any impact on when or how much drains out.
I think they would be too expensive to justify their actual worth, but I wonder if a water bottle like for a hamster would work?  Like that kind of tip???
I will say that one thing I have found that I like about the bottle is it waters deep. The water dripping out doesn't touch the soil until 3" deep.  I think that's a good thing.  I'm watering the roots and not the surface. I think
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Post  Turan 8/27/2017, 3:30 pm

Ollas work in this frame of only letting water out in response to water saturation levels in the soil around the pot. Here is an article about them https://permaculturenews.org/2010/09/16/ollas-unglazed-clay-pots-for-garden-irrigation/
Some where on line there are instructions to making your own using clay flower pots.

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