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Old July 23, 2011   #1
drallred
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Default Earthtainer problem

Ok, I have a few questions and pictures to show. We took out the old tomato plants as the heat here in Phoenix has killed them, at least that is what we thought.

All but one was uniform in moisture, the one that was not was a marsh/swamp in the soil. Can't figure out why it is so wet, but we are using automatic watering system. When we took out the soil, it smelled very rotten and was very very wet. The basket in the bottom had collapsed, could this have caused it. The plants did very well and produced lots of fruit, the first 115 degree day did the Pink Girl and Cherokee Purple plants in so we are pressing them for the fall crops. The box with the Cherokee Purple is the one with the problem.

We planted Big Boy, Sweet 100 cherries, Cherokee Purple, Pink Girl and Russian Black.

So, here is the questions.
1. What would cause the soil to be extremely wet when the others were not?
2. How can the collapse of the basket be prevented?
3. We used a garden compost in the soil mix, what would be the best to keep the soil moist not soggy?
4. Has anyone else experienced this problem?

Pictures.
This is a picture of the top before we removed the soil. Notice the green moss growing.



This one is of the bottom of the container showing the collapse and some roots.



Lastly, this is the only real root that got into the water, it accounted for all the roots seen above.



Here is a picture of the garden when it was growing great.



That is it, the plants did very well except for BER and would like to know how to do better as we are starting our seeds now for the winter (not so cold) garden now.
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Old July 24, 2011   #2
rnewste
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First, regarding the rotten egg smell, this is indicative of too moist a Grow Media. Compost should never be used in a SWC. This will keep the Grow Media from being light and fluffy - needed for proper root aeration. You really need to stick with the 3:2:1 Potting Mix, Microbark, and Perlite recommended in the Guide to get the proper moisture level throughout the grow cycle.

Also, I see roots in the wicking basket. Did you use 2 layers of the Landscape Fabric?

In the one that collapsed, is the inner container support underneath bent or broken? I notice in your photo you have the bolts under the end handles. I cannot see any along the long side of the container. Are they hidden by the Grow Media, or did you not fasten the 2 containers together at these points, and just did under the handles?

To absolutely prevent the collapse in the future, you can use two sections of 4 inch PVC gutter drain pipe, cut to be 4-1/4 inches long placed next to the wicking basket, as in the EarthTainer II design.

Raybo
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Old July 24, 2011   #3
dice
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Yeah, it sounds like your wicking area was too large, remembering
Ray's experience with the original Earthtainer (it had a large wicking
basket, and he ended up having to mask off part of the top of it to
reduce the wicking area). The collapse of the wicking basket in the
middle probably contributed to that. Extra support for the container mix
support bench should keep it from bending downward and increasing
the wicking action around the basket.

The greater aeration of the mix using the bark fines and perlite in the
3:2:1 mix would help, too.

YMMV with compost in self-watering containers. You seem to only have
had one of several that was waterlogged, for example. Results may
depend on how thoroughly composted it is when you use it. (Compost
that still has a ways to go to be "completely composted" may provide
aeration similar to bark fines for a season.)
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Old July 24, 2011   #4
drallred
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We would have used bark fines if we could have found them here in the Phoenix area. I guess we will have to search in other markets. What we did find is Bark that is used as a ground cover, not that fine.

We used the 4" baskets that is used in the Earthtainer III instructions. I think that it collapsed and thus brought more in contact. Also, found out that the gardener that does the yards heavily watered the Cherokee Purples one day as he thought they looked dry. Could this also have caused the saturation and it just never recovered?

About the construction, we have 4 bolts around the top, one on each side and this made it very strong. We may take a 6" PVC pipe drill holes to let water in ad place it around the basket. We have two different baskets, one was lighter than the other and this one might have been the light one.

Any advice would be helpful, especially where to find the Bark Fines in the Phoenix area.

Thanks
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Old July 25, 2011   #5
dice
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You could screen the landscaping bark, or replace the bark fines with
pumice or lava rock (check with landscape supply companies). That
latter idea would be experimental, but I would expect it to work.

Maybe try it on just one container the first season and see how it does.
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Old August 1, 2011   #6
brismith70
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In the Earthtainer III instructions, Raybo recommends Earthgro Decorative Groundcover Bark. It appears to be made by Scott's. It is available at the Home ★★★★★ on the corner of Alma School and Chandler Boulevard. I know because I got some there two months ago.
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Old September 4, 2011   #7
vegomatic
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A stressed plant won't use much water. Overwatering by your gardener to "cure" its droopy look only made it worse. I'm really not that familiar with the self-watering containers. Do they have an overflow to keep the water level below a certain point?

-Ed
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Old September 4, 2011   #8
dice
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Quote:
Do they have an overflow to keep the water level below a certain point?
Yes, usually holes in the sides or ends 1/2 inch below the support shelf
for the container media and wicking chamber. This allows the container
to reach a saturation limit when exposed to heavy rainfall or the phone
ringing while filling it with the hose, etc, so you do not end up with
a flooded container.

The basic design also includes mounding up the container mix
in the center above the top of the sides and covering it with
a piece of black or white plastic with a cross cut in the center
where the plant protrudes from the soil. This reduces evaporation
and allows most of the rain to run off and over the sides, rather
than down through the container into the water reservoir and out
the overflow holes.
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