Dry potting soil - Knowledgebase Question

San Jose, Ca
Question by skipper4444
August 11, 2010
Potting soil in my flower pots & planters is not absorbing water.The top of the soil is damp but if I check to see if the water soaked in, I find it hasn't. The soil is often bone dry underneath the surface. Today I dug up a plant that wasn't doing well and found that the soil in and around the root ball was totally dry. It had just been watered but only the top of the soil was wet. Any ideas?


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Answer from NGA
August 11, 2010

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What you describe is not all that unusual for potting soil in containers. Even though you are watering thoroughly - until water freely drains from the bottoms of the pots, air pockets can develop and the water will run out before the soil is completely saturated. There's an easy fix, though, and if you do this every 2-3 weeks during the growing season, the soil in the pots will remain moist. Simply submerge the pots in a larger container of water and leave them there until no more air bubbles come to the top. It's easiest if you can sink the pots into a larger container of water so the pots are submerged past their rims but if you don't have a container large enough to accommodate the pot you can simply set the container onto a tray with a 2-3 inch rim. (A roasting pan works well.) Water the containers and then let them sit in the water that drains out into the tray. If you continue to add water and if you let the containers sit for a few hours, the potting soil will absorb the water and this will eliminate the air pockets around the roots. Best wishes with your container garden!

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