Absorbent materials, such as a wet sponge sat upright or a wet bath towel hung from the line, behave the same way. Gravity is self-explanatory, it’s the ever-present force on this planet which pulls everything down! Connecting People to Nature, Empowering People to Live Sustainably. Would be great to add an explanation of why the water doesn’t cross into the gravel layer. Place the pot on top of the rocks – and that’s basically it! This is an especially great tip for tropical plants which can often find the indoor environment of most homes as being more dry than they prefer. Capillary action is created by the cohesive and adhesive forces of liquids. It's best to avoid using plastic or vinyl sheets alone to protect plants from frost, since these materials can trap condensation inside, which can freeze and damage the plant. Putting stones around plants in a tray is a great way to increase humidity for indoor plants that need more moisture. If you pour water from the top, the medium will act like a sponge and prevent a certain amount draining out of the bottom, that is the perched water table. Hi, I also altered the composition all the way through the pot, the expanded clay balls are 5-12mm diameter and they retain little moisture, similar to perlite. What can I put in my pots without drainage? No gravel – none of the time! . Too much water and plant roots rot, not enough water and plants dry out. Should You Put Gravel or Rocks at the Bottom of Plant Pots for Drainage? Gravity, which exerts a downward pull on the water, causing it to be drained away through the drainage holes. gravel in bottom of plant pots for drainage, how did the tradition of putting gravel at the bottom of pots originate, how to increase drainage in pots and containers, the correct way to increase drainage in pots and containers, http://oregonstate.edu/dept/nursery-weeds/feature_articles/physical_properties/physical_properties.html, Gardening Calendar (Australian Temperate Climate) – December, Gardening Calendar (Australian Temperate Climate) – November. It depends upon your growing medium. The main reason for wanting to improve drainage in pots is because most plants don’t like having ‘wet feet’, otherwise known as waterlogged roots, … Thanks! Hydroponic systems also use perlite as a potting medium, or ‘clay balls’ which are in fact clay coated pumice balls which are very porous and weigh almost nothing. You should also make sure your plant isn’t too small for a pot like this as without root mass filling your pot, it will instead be filled with soil that will hold more water for longer. Find out more here. What do you put in the bottom of a planter? Thanks for your comment Will, the article is in fact correct, you can try it out by making some clear pots out of soft drink bottles and testing it out, it’s been documented many times by others and I’ve explained the science of it and how it works. I have wondered for years why nurseries don’t have gravel or the like in the bottom of their pots. To be very fair, not having drainage holes in a pot used for indoor plants isn’t quite as big a problem as it is for outdoor plants. You’ve preempted my next article on which explains the proper way to increase drainage in pots, which I’ll publish soon, but your solution is half-way there. Water molecules will exhibit strong adhesive forces that allow them cling to other materials if those materials are even more polar (have a stronger electrical charge) than water itself, as the attraction will be stronger than the attraction of water molecules to each other. Tricks to Make Your Potted Plants Look Extra Stylish A potted plant may be attractive on its own, but nestled in a bed of polished river rocks or surrounded by tiny succulents makes it extra stylish. Converting Months to Seasons – Northern and Southern Hemisphere, Meteorological and Astronomical, The Birth of a Permaculture Food Forest – Before & After Photos, Garden Arches, Vertical Gardening for More Growing Area in Small Spaces. Change ), You are commenting using your Facebook account. The only kind of plants which love a saturated growing medium are marginal aquatic plants, and there are plenty of useful edible ones such as watercress, taro, kangkong and water chestnuts for example. Since any decent quality potting mix must retain some moisture, it needs to contain material which will absorb and retain moisture, much like a sponge does. If we look at the Permaculture Attitudinal design principle – “Everything Works Both Ways”, we see it states that whether we see something as positive or negative, as a ‘problem’ or as a useful resource, depends on our attitude. Because they have large air spaces within them, they are used to increase the drainage and aeration in potting mixes. I have some succulents in pots ( small, medium, sized) and 3 dwarf citrus in large pots. Unfortunately, however, the concept that you need to put rocks in the bottom of your planter is a complete myth. Most gardeners prefer to use a potting soil mix for growing gardens in pots, but amended garden soil can be used. To keep dirt from washing out of pots, put a large rock or something similar over each drainage hole, like broken pottery, a coffee filter or a cheesecloth. Water naturally runs to the lowest point under the influence of gravity, and will all run out from a container with drainage holes in the base unless there is something else present to hold it there. This mixture drains extremely well and holds little moisture. The gravel will hold water and increase humidity, while keeping Each Important Function is Supported by Many Elements, 4. However, the water still won’t drain out any faster unless you squeeze the sponge. Put a layer of gravel in your plant’s drainage tray, or down inside a decorative planter, then sit your plant pot on top. Reducing the volume of growing medium available to the plant roots will reduce root growth space and overall root volume, as well as available moisture, thereby decreasing the plant’s drought tolerance and potential maximum growth size. Change ). . Welcome to Deep Green Permaculture – Connecting Pe…. Water (H2O) is considered a polar molecule because it has a negative charge on one side of the molecule and the positive charge on the other. A shallow rooted plant in a tall narrow pot will have similar issues, there will be too much overly wet potting mix which the roots will never be able to reach, and if the potting mix stays too wet for too long it will break down much faster, and sink down, dropping the level of the plant in the pot. That is, when people ask why put rocks in potted plants, they usually have some idea that this will help with drainage. This weekend I took out of the pot a lemon tree which was planted in 70% expanded clay balls mixed with 15% coco peat and 15% compost all the way through the pot. Crocking was supposed to encourage water to pass down from the potting mix into the gaps in the coarse layer below and out through the drainage hole. Pots, planters, tubs and containers designed to hold plants always have drainage holes in their bases to allow any excess water to drain out freely, preventing water accumulating at the bottom of the pot. . Make sure you check on the water from time to time so you can refill it when the water level drops. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Angelo Eliades and Deep Green Permaculture with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. The water doesn’t flow down into the gravel layer below because the water is ‘perched’ and can’t move, it’s held up there in the perched water table by capillary action against the force of gravity. (It’s also exactly why you should always use well-draining soil in your planters.). In all the other pots, add increasing amounts of gravel at the bottom, then fill with potting mix to within 2.5cm (1″) of the pot. The same thing happens with people who have been told about adding gravel to soil for drainage, putting wood chips in the bottom of a planter or adding charcoal in the bottom of pots. From the North Willamette Research and Extension Center, Oregon State University, Physical Properties of Container Media. Here is a simple experiment that can be set up to determine whether adding gravel at the bottom of a pot improves drainage or not. The reasons for this vary, but the practice can be damaging to the plant in the long term. This is a real exercise in lateral thinking, or more accurately, Permaculture holistic solutions thinking. Make some clear plastic pots by cutting the tops of clear plastic soft drink bottles so the perched water table can be viewed through the sides. Succulents and cacti naturally grow in sandy soils that drain quickly. I also appreciate your efforts in providing significant explanations in the comments section. The Perched Water Table The interaction of these forces and gravity creates something called a water table, which forms whenever you put water in a container. Seed Saving – How Long Can You Keep Seeds? The problem would be even worse in glazed terracotta pots, which don’t seep moisture from their sides and stay wet longer. Should I line my planter box with plastic? How to stop The secret to improving pot drainage is to alter the composition of the potting medium, by mixing something with a larger particle size all the way through it, and there are several different amendment materials for this purpose. Click on this article for tips on getting rocks glued to soil off without harming the plant. Should You Put Gravel or Rocks at the Bottom of Plant Pots for Drainage? You may also be interested in: 8 Simple Ways to Make Rooting Hormone at Home. 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