All Things Gardening forum→How can I get a bed to hold water?

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Name: Julie Seward
Westerville, OH (Zone 6b)
julieseward1
Jun 15, 2020 11:40 AM CST
My house has a raised brick flower bed completely covered by the eves. It's really hard to keep anything alive because it drains out so quickly. What can I add to the dirt to help retain moisture? I have not added any mulch as I have all annuals in there but I think I may need to. Suggestions? Thanks.

Julie
Name: Rj
Just S of the twin cities of M (Zone 4b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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crawgarden
Jun 15, 2020 11:55 AM CST
Compost would help in that situation, dig it into the garden
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Name: aud/odd
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Cinta
Jun 15, 2020 1:00 PM CST
You said they are annuals which take a lot of moisture to get established. They naturally need to be constantly moist and have to be watered every day when they are first planted.

Some type of mulch will help leaves if you have them or wood mulch. But you can never go wrong improving the soil to have success even with annuals.
Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tomato Heads Dahlias Houseplants Garden Ideas: Level 1 Photo Contest Winner: 2014
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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pirl
Jun 15, 2020 1:04 PM CST
How about adding moisture holding granules, like Soil Moist?
https://www.google.com/search?...

Warning - reconstitute before using!
Name: GERALD
Lockhart, Texas (Zone 8b)
Hydroponics Greenhouse Region: Texas
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IntheHotofTexas
Jun 15, 2020 2:36 PM CST
With something that needs a lot of water, I would add a lot of vermiculite to the soil. It holds three or four times its volume in water and makes it available to plant roots. Half vermiculite is not too much, but whatever you can add will help. I buy vermiculite from Amazon, because stores often only offer smaller bags at high prices. Amazon has four cubic feet for $40. That's a lot of vermiculite. It's very light and fluffy. You want the course grade. You may also find large bags locally at swimming pool supplies. It's all the same stuff. It's just volcanic material that fluffed as it dried. Nothing harmful about vermiculite currently being mined. I use 100% vermiculite to root cuttings. If it does what you want, you will have to do it again about every two years.

I wold normally look to mulch for water control, but I also don't want to have to deal with it in an annual bed. I think vermiculite is the thing.

Perlite is also used, but I don't like it as well and not at all for your problem. For one thing, the perlite itself doesn't hold so much water. It just presents some surface. And it is more obvious in the soil. It looks like, but is not, plastic foam pellets. And it floats and moves around the soil. Perlite is also a volcanic product that's popped into expansion by heating. Perlite may be better for plants that can easily get too much water, because it helps create some air space. Perlite costs about the same by volume as vermiculite. I do use it, mainly in containers that tend to get compacted.

If you use either heavily, consider adding nutrients to the soil as neither of these provide them. Good time add compost, anyway, since you're already digging. May need to anyway, if it hasn't been done in a long time or forever.

Name: Julie Seward
Westerville, OH (Zone 6b)
julieseward1
Jun 15, 2020 3:15 PM CST
pirl said:How about adding moisture holding granules, like Soil Moist?
https://www.google.com/search?...

Warning - reconstitute before using!


I never heard of this before. I'll check it out. Thanks!
Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tomato Heads Dahlias Houseplants Garden Ideas: Level 1 Photo Contest Winner: 2014
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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pirl
Jun 15, 2020 8:08 PM CST
It's sweet relief for plants that go dry too fast.
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
Plant Identifier Garden Sages Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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stone
Jun 17, 2020 3:04 PM CST
julieseward1 said:My house has a raised brick flower bed completely covered by the eves. It's really hard to keep anything alive because it drains out so quickly. What can I add to the dirt to help retain moisture? I have not added any mulch as I have all annuals in there but I think I may need to.

1) Does this bed get any light?
2) How deep is the soil in this brick bed? How wide is the bed?
3) Is this bed right up against the wall of the house? Are you sure that you want to retain moisture against the house?

If there's room for a bed in that location under the eves... It is a simple solution to get in there with a shovel and try to dig down into the native soil.
Digging into clay usually works a treat for retaining moisture...

After getting some soil depth... yes, add lots of compost/manure to help retain moisture and give the soil some texture (humus) then plant and then mulch the plants... and... you shouldn't have to water near as much.


Denver, Colorado, USA, Earth, (Zone 5b)
DenverDaisy
Jun 17, 2020 8:15 PM CST
Organic material is the answer, add compost.

Soil moist granules are great if you need them. I know of some frugal gardeners who take apart disposable diapers (fresh and unused) because the absorbent granules in them are the same thing.
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