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Vermiculite for Wicking Basket

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Vermiculite for Wicking Basket

Post  mapspringer on 1/22/2014, 11:30 am

It's my plan this year to try 5-gallon buckets (of the double bucket/wicking variety) for tomatoes, along with others planted in my usual SFGs. My plan is to use vermiculite packed in the wicking basket, and was hoping to get some feedback from others that have experience in this method of bucket planting.  Any thoughts?

Also, most of the instructional videos and (other) forum sites have folks not using compost, but having to fertilize the bucket.  I may be crazy, but I feel like Mel's Mix would rock in a bucket system, without worry of fertilizing!
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Re: Vermiculite for Wicking Basket

Post  sanderson on 1/22/2014, 3:23 pm

I think it would rock!!  Keep us posted this summer.
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Re: Vermiculite for Wicking Basket

Post  boffer on 1/22/2014, 6:24 pm

I've used baskets in a 4x4 box, but not in a bucket.  Filling the baskets with MM worked good.  

Why not do half the buckets with MM, and half with vermiculite, to see if there is a difference?

I've grown tomatoes in 5 gal buckets (not wicking), and didn't need fertilizer.  It all depends on the quality of the compost in your MM.
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Re: Vermiculite for Wicking Basket

Post  walshevak on 1/22/2014, 6:26 pm

@mapspringer wrote:It's my plan this year to try 5-gallon buckets (of the double bucket/wicking variety) for tomatoes, along with others planted in my usual SFGs. My plan is to use vermiculite packed in the wicking basket, and was hoping to get some feedback from others that have experience in this method of bucket planting.  Any thoughts?

Also, most of the instructional videos and (other) forum sites have folks not using compost, but having to fertilize the bucket.  I may be crazy, but I feel like Mel's Mix would rock in a bucket system, without worry of fertilizing!


I have been using buckets for my tomatoes and peppers for 2 years now and MM works great.  I grew collards and kale in the tomato buckets as a fall/winter crop for rotation purposes and added about a quart jar of compost before planting,  both for the greens and the summer tomatoes. I also used compost tea for the tomatoes twice during the growing season.   I am not using the self watering double bucket but it should work fine.  And I think vermiculite will wick just fine.

tomatoes


peppers - some 2nd year greenhouse wintered. In the background you can see more tomatoes and some cukes climbing on cattle panels





KAY

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Re: Vermiculite for Wicking Basket

Post  Marc Iverson on 1/23/2014, 1:24 am

I'm curious how you will do with the baskets, especially if you don't use an actual wick of any sort to raise the water higher.

Vermiculite holds water really well, but I also wonder if it will release water really well into the surrounding soil. We know from working with Mel's Mix that it will do so when fully mixed into the rest of the "soil," but it has almost no distance to travel. Five-gallon buckets are tall. If you want to get water a foot high by sucking straight up, that's a lot more than we typically ask Mel's Mix to do for us.
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Re: Vermiculite for Wicking Basket

Post  mapspringer on 1/23/2014, 12:12 pm

Good questions Marc.  I'm no physicist, but the process here is capillary action.  It's the transfer of a liquid to a solid.  It is important to moisten Mel's Mix when adding to a SFG box, and the same goes for adding to a bucket. Like a sponge absorbing water better when it's wet than dry.  I don't feel like vermiculite would necessarily "hold on" to water so tightly that it wouldn't release it to the Mel's Mix.  As long as the Mix was already moistened, the vermiculite should just transfer it.  

Hopefully I'm right, 'cause it sounds good in theory, at least!
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Re: Vermiculite for Wicking Basket

Post  Marc Iverson on 1/23/2014, 9:08 pm

There's a very interesting thread, I think in the do it yourself section, of the tomatoville forum. It was started by a guy who has done a lot of experimenting over the years in building wicking containers, and he sells them weekly. He has tried out types of wicks and researched how high they wick water. From what he says, gravity is a seriously limiting factor on how high water will be pulled, quickly requiring, for instance, dramatic increases in wick widths. We know that capillary action works in general, but it is always fighting gravity. The question then is how much gravity it can fight? You might find that thread great reading. However, any information you gather by trying your experiment will bring you closer to your goals, so there's no reason to be putting off trying it out. I'm just personally curious as to the limits of capillary action. Maybe your experiment can help us all find out.
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Re: Vermiculite for Wicking Basket

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