African Violets in Strawberry Pots

Question:  Can you plant African violets in a strawberry pot and have them grow well?

Answer:  Yes.  For the fun of it, we’ve done this before, with some success.  Because of their naturally spreading nature, the trailing varieties are the best choice for this use.  For smaller containers, use the miniature or semiminiature varieties.  Be sure that your pot has a means of drainage–drill a hole in the bottom if it’s not there already.  Also, be careful in watering you plants after first potting them, since it may take a while for them to adequately fill the pot with roots.  Use a light soil mix, containing plenty of perlite, for the same reason.  This will allow you to more heavily water the pot without risk of damaging the plants

Wicking Material

Question:  I would appreciate your answering a question about the use of mason’s twine in wicking.  Should the twine be unwound so that only one thread is used for wicking, or should the twin be used whole, as manufactured, for miniature violets?

Answer:  Since miniature violets are grown in smaller pots, and have smaller root systems, than do standard-size varieties, a thinner “wick” can be used.  Again, wicks made of synthetic material, like nylon, are best, since these will not decompose when constantly wet, as will wool yarn, for instance.  Though most growers choose to use a thinner wick for smaller plants, this isn’t absolutely necessary.  The wick will draw only as much water as the plant needs, so that a thicker wick won’t necessarily lead to an overwatered plant.  So long as the soil being used is “light” enough (contains plenty of perlite), wick size is not critically important.  For larger plants in larger pots, it is possible to use to thin/small a wick, since a great volume of water needs to be transported to the soil from the reservoir.

On the other hand, a wick that is too thin may dry out, or become clogged with fertilizer salts, stopping the wicking process.  If you find this happening frequently, use a thicker wick, or try another wicking material.  To restart the wicking action, water the plant thoroughly from the top and completely dampen the wick itself.

Capillary Matting Materials

Question:  I notice that you water by placing your plants on an acrylic material.  What is this and how can I get this?

Answer:  Most of our mature plants are watered by “capillary mats”.  Plants sit atop acrylic matting (or blankets).  When plants are dry enough to require watering, we wet these mats (our shelves are waterproof) with a measured amount of water.  The soil in the pots makes contact with the wet mats throught the drainage hole(s) in the pot bottom, and absorbs the desired amount of water.  We’ve found the cheapest, mos effective, material is acrylic blankets for about $6 or $7 (less if on sale).  We remove the satin edging and cut them to fit our shelves (for those with fewer plants, they can cut to fit into waterproof plastic trays).  One twin/full size blanket will cover about 48 square feet of space.  Once every 3-4 weeks, we’ll clean them in our washing machine, and they’ll stay usable for a few years.

Self-Watering Pot Stopped Working

Question:  I purchased some self-watering pots (elsewhere) and have found that with a couple of these, the water never would weep into the pot with the soil and the plant.  I’ve lost two violets due to the lack of water not seeping through the inside liner pot.  Any suggestions?

Answer:  If working properly, a self-watering ‘violet pot’ keeps the soil constantly moist by allowing the water in the outer glazed pot (reservoir) to keep the unglazed inner pot wet and, by osmosis, the soil inside.  If the inner pot is clean and unglazed, sometimes you just need to get the process started.  Try soaking the inner pot in (hot) water before using  (potting in) it.  This will get it clean (unclog the pores, so to speak) and give capillary action a head star.  Water the plant from the surface of the soil in the beginning, so that both the soil and the inner pot are damp.  The self-watering process should begin once the damp inner pot is submersed in the reservoir water.

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