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Square Foot Gardening Forum
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Beds not holding moisture? Toplef10Beds not holding moisture? 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.

Beds not holding moisture? I22gcj10Beds not holding moisture? 14dhcg10

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Beds not holding moisture?

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gfperkins
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Post  gfperkins 9/26/2023, 2:24 pm

This was my third summer using the Square foot garden method.  I  have re applied the several different composts to the beds every year to keep the Mel's mix in the right proportions. I am in the process of moving my raised beds to a new better location.  I am shoveling out the Mel's Mix after a very heavy 2-3 days of soaking rain.  I am noticing that only the top 3 inches or so of the soil in the raised beds is moist, but the lower portion is dry as a bone.  I remember noticing in the past during the summer growing season I would often stick my finger in the soil after a thorough soak and find that the deeper soil was dry too.  What is causing this? Too much peat moss?  I think I starved my plants for water this summer-- maybe that's why I only got mediocre results.  My plants never wilted though.  What am I doing wrong?
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Post  markqz 9/26/2023, 4:39 pm

Welcome to the forum, gfperkins !

At the risk of controversy, and strictly a personal recommendation, I suggest getting one of those inexpensive moisture meters. Did you know that your fingers don't actually have a way to detect moisture? They use temperature and friction as a proxy. But temperature is also a proxy, since it's based on the relative difference between your fingers and the soil.

Have you been supplementing rain with additional water? I would venture that your beds need watering at least every other day.

I drip irrigate for 20 minutes a day. It almost never rains here. I find just the opposite of your situation. Using the moisture meter, the top soil can be pretty dry, but the lower portion is very moist -- possibly too moist.

Don't worry -- there'll be people with more and better advice coming along soon!

Happy Gardening!
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Post  OhioGardener 9/26/2023, 5:16 pm

Welcome to the forums from Ohio, GF Perkins!  Glad to have you here!

One of the problems with peat moss is that if it is allowed to dry out at any time it become hydrophobic, which means that it repels water rather than soaking it up.  Thus, if the bottom of your MM in the bed was dry, and you watered the bed, the MM in the bottom of the bed will still be dry as the water runs off of it. This is the reason that it is so important when making MM it is necessary to soak each layer as it is added to the bed.

As you are removing the MM from the bed, and putting it in a new bed, ensure that it is thoroughly soaked in small batches before it is covered.

And, of course, as Mark said, a moisture meter is always useful, and they are inexpensive.

https://www.lowes.com/pd/Moisture-Light-and-PH-Meter/999989626

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Post  MrBooker 9/27/2023, 7:13 am

I like my garden-but I like my lawn mower.  Speaking of my garden, I have a rookie question. I have a bunch of compost left and was wondering if it would be a good idea to refresh the beds now or wait until spring planting.   Asking for my rookie friend....  
                                                                                         thinking
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Post  sanderson 10/1/2023, 5:25 am

MrBooker wrote:I like my garden-but I like my lawn mower.  Speaking of my garden, I have a rookie question. I have a bunch of compost left and was wondering if it would be a good idea to refresh the beds now or wait until spring planting.   Asking for my rookie friend....  
                                                                                         thinking
Dear Rookie Friend, Adding in the composts in the fall and covering with bedding straw, dry fall leaves or dry pine needles is a good way to overwinter beds in the colder areas. The microbes will slowly continue to break down the composts under the mulch (and snow) and the beds will be ready to plant in the spring when the weather cooperates. Just pull aside or remove the mulch to let the sun warm of the Mel's Mix. At my age I have learned to not put off doing anything because you don't know what life will throw at you. Having ready to plant beds is wonderful.

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Post  MrBooker 10/1/2023, 6:36 am

sanderson wrote:
MrBooker wrote:I like my garden-but I like my lawn mower.  Speaking of my garden, I have a rookie question. I have a bunch of compost left and was wondering if it would be a good idea to refresh the beds now or wait until spring planting.   Asking for my rookie friend....  
                                                                                         thinking
Dear Rookie Friend, Adding in the composts in the fall and covering with bedding straw, dry fall leaves or dry pine needles is a good way to overwinter beds in the colder areas.  The microbes will slowly continue to break down the composts under the mulch (and snow) and the beds will be ready to plant in the spring when the weather cooperates.  Just pull aside or remove the mulch to let the sun warm of the Mel's Mix.  At my age I have learned to not put off doing anything because you don't know what life will throw at you.  Having ready to plant beds is wonderful.
 Thanks for the reply.  I suspected that but wanted to make sure. I'll have to wait for awhile though. I still have turnips, green beans, green onions, Lettuce and cabbage in the beds and doing really well so far. I can do the half barrels right away because the Tomatoes and peppers are about done. Thanks.
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Post  lisawallace88 10/2/2023, 2:54 pm

One of the problems with peat moss is that if it is allowed to dry out at any time it become hydrophobic, which means that it repels water rather than soaking it up.  Thus, if the bottom of your MM in the bed was dry, and you watered the bed, the MM in the bottom of the bed will still be dry as the water runs off of it. This is the reason that it is so important when making MM it is necessary to soak each layer as it is added to the bed.

As you are removing the MM from the bed, and putting it in a new bed, ensure that it is thoroughly soaked in small batches before it is covered.


What Ohiogardener said!  It's SOOO hard to get peat damp again if it dries out!  Take the opportunity in moving it to wet it well before starting again.  I also found that drip irrigation on a timer was a huge help in keeping grow bags of MM moist.
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