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Cover the Holes in the Bottom of Your Pots

By stetchworth
April 13, 2012

I used to put coffee filters in the bottom of my flower pots to keep the soil in, but I found they disintegrated too fast, so I now use some landscaping fabric and it holds up much better.

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Name: Jean
Hot Springs Vlg, AR, DeLand, F
Region: Florida Daylilies Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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rocklady
Apr 12, 2012 6:52 PM CST
I use landscaping fabric, too, and it works a lot better than the coffee filters.
Any day you wake up on the sunny side of the grass is a good day.

"The moving hand writes and having writ moves on. Neither all thy piety nor all thy wit can lure it back to cancel half a line nor all thy tears wash out a word of it." The Rubiyat by Omar Khayyam
Name: Ann ~Heat zn 9, Sunset
North Fl. (Zone 8b)
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flaflwrgrl
Apr 12, 2012 7:04 PM CST
I agree
I am a strong believer in the simple fact is that what matters in this life is how we treat others. I think that's what living is all about. Not what I've done in my life but how I've treated others.
~~ Sharon Brown ~~



Name: Maridell
Sioux City IA (Zone 4b)
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Maridell
Apr 12, 2012 8:11 PM CST
Dang, that is a great idea. I recently used newspaper and I know I have some landscaping paper around here somewhere. Thank you!
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
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RickCorey
Apr 12, 2012 9:06 PM CST
I've used nylon window screening, but it leaks mud and silt.

Someone suggested a used cloths-dryer-anti-static-sheet if you didn't have landscape fabric.

How about cotton flannel? You could also run a strip of cotton flannel out the hole and let it dangle, if you were worried about water retention or perched water in the bottom inch of the pot.

Name: Pegi Putnam
Norwalk, Ca. zone 10b
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Samigal
Apr 12, 2012 9:29 PM CST
I thought using coffee filters was a wonderful tip, until someone mentioned they disintegrated fast. Well, I did switch to landscaping material too. Haven't tried the used dryer sheets yet but plan on it. I went out to check on a plant that I used a coffee filter in and sure enough the soil was coming out the bottom. Time to start re-potting some of those plants. Thanks for sharing.
Name: Chris
Ripon, Wisconsin
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goldfinch4
Apr 13, 2012 1:31 AM CST
Same thing for me - done with coffee filters and have been using landscape fabric.
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Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
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kqcrna
Apr 13, 2012 5:27 AM CST
I've never understood this. I don't use anything. Usually the first couple of times I water a pot, a few a few grains of potting mix will escape from the drain holes. After that, nothing. The soil settles in and it doesn't fall out. Even my with bloommaster pots, covered with holes on the sides, the soil doesn't fall out.
http://www.bloommaster.com/

Karen
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Apr 13, 2012 10:08 AM CST
I have also been using landscape fabric to line the bottom of my pots. Easy to cut and shape to cover the holes appropriately. Though I am also experimenting lately using geopots, fabric pots that are porous enough in itself without having to puncture holes at the bottom. But I like landscape fabric, easy to buy in rolls Big Grin
Name: Melvalena
N Texas (Zone 7b)
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Melvalena
Apr 13, 2012 4:01 PM CST
I started using landscape fabric too, thought it was a great idea!
. but I've found the soil at the bottom doesn't dry out. Many of my plants suffer from too much moisture.
Top of pot soil is dry as a bone.. but at the bottom its wet as can be. Now I'm going back and pulling it all out and re potting. I think I'll get some window screening and start using that instead.
Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
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kqcrna
Apr 13, 2012 4:29 PM CST
Do all of you really have that much problem with soil washing out of your pots? Why don't I have this problem? Not that I'm complaining... but I don't get it?

Karen
Name: Ann ~Heat zn 9, Sunset
North Fl. (Zone 8b)
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flaflwrgrl
Apr 13, 2012 4:37 PM CST
As for me Karen, Florida has sand, pure & simple & mostly I would have things in pots until they got large enough to go in the ground & survive the relentless heat, lack of water, never ending sun, etc.... so when I potted things I did not use potting soil alone. I would use some potting soil but I put a healthy amount of native sand in so the plants could get used to growing in it in preparation for it's eventual home in the ground. Sand runs out of holes -- period.
I am a strong believer in the simple fact is that what matters in this life is how we treat others. I think that's what living is all about. Not what I've done in my life but how I've treated others.
~~ Sharon Brown ~~



Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cut Flowers Winter Sowing Charter ATP Member Seed Starter
Echinacea Plant and/or Seed Trader Region: Ohio Region: United States of America Butterflies Hummingbirder
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kqcrna
Apr 13, 2012 4:38 PM CST
Interesting. And I don't use sand. My native soil is clay. Big Grin

Karen
Name: Ann ~Heat zn 9, Sunset
North Fl. (Zone 8b)
Garden Sages Native Plants and Wildflowers Xeriscape Organic Gardener I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level
Butterflies Charter ATP Member Plant Identifier Region: Florida Dog Lover Birds
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flaflwrgrl
Apr 13, 2012 6:58 PM CST
You ought to try digging a hole in sand Karen. Sometimes it's an exercise in pure futility. The sand keeps running back down into the hole as fast as you dig! Rolling on the floor laughing
If you can get it wet enough first then you can succeed. Mostly you just have to learn to be lightning fast. Hilarious!
I am a strong believer in the simple fact is that what matters in this life is how we treat others. I think that's what living is all about. Not what I've done in my life but how I've treated others.
~~ Sharon Brown ~~



Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cut Flowers Winter Sowing Charter ATP Member Seed Starter
Echinacea Plant and/or Seed Trader Region: Ohio Region: United States of America Butterflies Hummingbirder
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kqcrna
Apr 13, 2012 7:05 PM CST
I've never gardened in anything but clay. But you ought to try to dig a deep hole thru that. Still, I don't think I'd want to trade my clay for sand. Green Grin!

Karen
Name: Ann ~Heat zn 9, Sunset
North Fl. (Zone 8b)
Garden Sages Native Plants and Wildflowers Xeriscape Organic Gardener I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level
Butterflies Charter ATP Member Plant Identifier Region: Florida Dog Lover Birds
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flaflwrgrl
Apr 13, 2012 7:41 PM CST
I hear that! I have once or twice tried to dig in clay --- think I'll keep my sand. Hilarious!
I am a strong believer in the simple fact is that what matters in this life is how we treat others. I think that's what living is all about. Not what I've done in my life but how I've treated others.
~~ Sharon Brown ~~



Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Apr 13, 2012 10:47 PM CST
>> Top of pot soil is dry as a bone.. but at the bottom its wet as can be.

Here are some guesses and questions.

1.
How often do you water? Maybe top-watering more frequently would keep the top moist.

2.
If your mix is mostly peat, once the top drys out it's about as good a wick as parafin. Try re-hydrating it slowly, a little at a time and see if that re-establishes wicking. In a really extreme case, add a drop or two of dishwashing soap to a gallon of water to help wet the peat. Warm water might help.

(I hate peat because for me its always way too soggy, holds WAY too much water, prevents drainage and lets no air in. But I overwater and water from the top.)

3.
Does your potting mix have good "wicking" ability? Peat, vermiculite and pine bark should help "wick" water up from the bottom by capillary action.

What is in your soil mix? Is it uniform top to bottom?

Capillary attraction or wicking won't work, however, if the soil has abrupt changes in texture or composition. For some reason, capillary attraction is broken if a fine mix changes to coarse mix abruptly. Ideally, the mix in a pot should be uniform from top to bottom if you want to wick water up or down.

If the bottom of your pots are fine and peaty, but the top is coarse, sandy and gritty, you have the worst of both worlds.

Some people put gravel and sand in the bottom of a pot, thinking that improves drainage downward. Actually the abrupt change from soil to grit just breaks the capillary column, and the soil might as well be sitting on concrete as sand. It's kind of like a siphon swallowing a bubble of air: it breaks the "capillary suction".

For the bottom layer to 'pull' water down from above, the soil mix has to GRADUALLY change composition.

I wondered if there was an abrupt change in your mix that prevented the dry top from wicking water back UP?

3.
Do you bottom-water without a strongly-wicking soil mix? Maybe you need to water from the top, more often. Maybe you have way too litle peat instead of too much!

Without knowing anything about your mix, I'll still guess the bottom would be less soggy if the mix were faster-draining. Then you could top water frequently, and overwater all you want, because water would drain freely out the bottom.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Apr 13, 2012 10:47 PM CST

>> Top of pot soil is dry as a bone.. but at the bottom its wet as can be.

Have you read the discussions of "perched water" in containers that Al ("Tapla") has posted on several sites? His posts would be much more accurate, but what I retained from his discussion is this:

In containers (not outdoor soil "in the ground" or raised beds), the bottom inch or two may be prone to "perched water". That is water in excess of what simple capilary wicking would hold if the soil column extended below the pot.

If the soil mix in the pot is fairly fine, that perched water can exclude all air from the bottom of the pot. Since it won't run out of the pot, roots can drown. Making your potting mix coarse (many people woluld think "very coarse") reduces the amount of percvhed water and encourages bigger channels and pores that will let water out and air in, for root health.

But if the mix has more than 10-15% fine stuff, it will probably plug up those pores and defeat the purpose of adding coarse stuff.

If you have perched water, it won't run out of the pot unless you thread a wick (like cotton flannel) through the hole in the bottom before you fill it with soil, and then let that wick dangle BELOW the bottom of thee pot. As long as the wick is in good contact with your potting mix, and extends down, the wick can pull the perched out of the pot and your roots won't drown.

Maybe if the pot is already full of fine potting mix and soggy, you can poke some cotton into the hole (a cotton ball or two??) then sit the pot and cotton balls on a capillary pad, towel, or sheet of cotton flannel. Now let the towel or pad dnagle olver the edge to carry excess water away. Just a thoguht.
Name: Melvalena
N Texas (Zone 7b)
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Melvalena
Apr 14, 2012 8:51 PM CST
Guys Guys Guys.. the problem is with the landscape fabric in the bottom of the pots.

My pots with out it drain just fine. I always top water. I am talking about large pots that I can not / will not lift. I water until I see it coming out the bottom. Nothing wrong with my mix either. Its the landscape fabric that doesn't allow the moisture to dry out in the bottom of the pots.. from about 1/2 way down its wet as can be but the top half is all dry.
This doesn't happen with the pots with out the landscape fabric.

Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cut Flowers Winter Sowing Charter ATP Member Seed Starter
Echinacea Plant and/or Seed Trader Region: Ohio Region: United States of America Butterflies Hummingbirder
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kqcrna
Apr 15, 2012 5:20 AM CST
Melvalena, you have to understand- Rick has a *condition*- an obsession with making the perfect potting soil mix. Or as someone asked him "Rick, you don't get out much, do you?" Hilarious!

Karen



Name: Melvalena
N Texas (Zone 7b)
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Melvalena
Apr 15, 2012 10:00 AM CST
Rolling on the floor laughing

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