Retaining Soil Moisture: What To Do When Soil Dries Out Too Fast In The Garden

Is your garden soil drying out too fast? Many of us with dry, sandy soil know the frustration of watering thoroughly in the morning, only to find our plants wilting by the afternoon. In areas where city water is costly or limited, this is especially a problem. Soil amendments can help if you’re soil dries out too quickly. Continue reading to learn about retaining moisture in the soil.

Retaining Soil Moisture

Keeping garden beds weeded helps in retaining moisture in the soil. Excessive weeds can rob soil and desirable plants of the water and nutrients they need. Unfortunately, many weeds can thrive and flourish in dry, sandy soils where other plants struggle.

If your soil dries out too quickly, mulch can also help with retaining soil moisture. Mulch helps prevent water evaporation. When mulching for moisture

retention, use a thick layer of mulch 2-4 inches deep. While it is not recommended to heap thick mulch around the crown or base of plants, it is a good idea to mound mulch in a donut-like fashion a few inches away from the plant crown or tree base. This little raised ring around the plants encourages water to flow down toward the plant roots.

Soaker hoses can be buried under mulch when soil still dries out too quickly.

What to Do When Soil Dries Out too Fast

The best method of retaining moisture in the soil is by amending the top 6-12 inches of the soil. To do this, till or mix in organic materials that have high water holding capacity. For instance, sphagnum peat moss can hold 20 times its weight in water. Humus rich compost also has high moisture retention.

Other organic materials you can use are:

  • Worm castings
  • Leaf mold
  • Straw
  • Shredded bark
  • Mushroom compost
  • Grass clippings
  • Perlite

Many of these amendments have added nutrients that your plants will benefit from too.

Some outside-the-box ideas for retaining soil moisture include:

  • Creating moat-like basins around planting beds or cross-cross irrigation ditches.
  • Burying unglazed terra cotta pots in the soil with the lip sticking just out of the soil surface.
  • Poking holes in plastic water bottles and burying them in the soil near plants with the bottle top sticking out of the soil surface – fill the bottles with water and place the lid on the bottle to slow the seepage of the water from the holes.

As summer heats up you don’t have choose between conserving water or letting your garden cook in the summer sun! Use these five tips to maximize your watering potential and keep your home garden hydrated.

1. Mulch, mulch, and mulch some more!

Cover your soil with a blanket of organic material such as straw, leaves, shredded paper or cardboard, or bark. This will moderate soil temperature, prevent runoff and evaporation, and hold moisture in the for longer periods between waterings.

2. Water deeply.

Less frequent, deeper waterings are more effective for most plants than frequent, shallow waterings. Plant roots will grow stronger and healthier, and you will not need to water as often.

To check whether it’s time to water, push your finger down into the soil. If it is still moist a knuckle or two deep, then it doesn’t need water yet. If it’s dry, then give the soil a nice long, deep soak so that the water reaches the root zone.

3. Use drip irrigation and an automatic timer.

Large amounts of water tend to run off the soil surface rather than being absorbed into the lower layers. For this reason, it’s best to water slowly, allowing the moisture to soak into the soil and permeate down to the root level of the plants.

Drip lines, which are available at nurseries and home centers, provide very slow and effective irrigation. If your plants suffer from various leaf diseases, drip watering may help to prevent these diseases by keeping the leaves dry.

An automatic timer can be used for watering your garden, as well. Whether you use a drip system or a sprinkler, both can be attached to timers, which you can set for automatic, daily or regular watering cycles.

4. Mix water-absorbing materials into your soil.

Organic material, such as coconut coir, peat moss, or even compost, will absorb water, retaining moisture that plants can use during dry spells. Organic material also improves the structure, aeration and overall health of the soil, resulting in better long-term success for your garden.

5. Check your weekly watering number!

The Weekly Watering Number is the amount of water in inches that your lawn will need that week. You can also use the Weekly Watering Number (WWN) for watering other types of plants, by using these general guidelines.

  • Shrubs: 50% of the WWN
  • Perennials: 50% of the WWN
  • Vegetables: 75% of the WWN (new starts may require more water)
  • Trees: Newly planted trees need regular watering for up to the first couple of years, while established trees may need a deep soak or two in summer.

Be sure to check with your local garden center or landscape professional for more information that is specific on how much water your plant needs.

Where Does The Weekly Watering Number Come From?

The Regional Water Providers Consortium ( contracts with a weather forecasting service to provide a free weather forecast and Weekly Watering Number each Thursday (April ‐ September). The WWN is based on historical data (evapotranspiration, rainfall, and other data points) from the previous week, but it is used to determine how much to water lawns and landscapes during the current week.

You can find your weekly watering number at or right here on CRW’s website at

Soil Wetting Agents and Gels

SERIES 19 | Episode 16

Gardeners with pot plants, or a sandy garden, are likely to have experienced water repellent or hydrophobic soils. Soils become hydrophobic when they are dry for extended periods – particularly when the dryness is combined with a high organic content.

But these days there are many soil wetting agents on the market intended to help soil absorb water. According to soil scientist, Dr Peter May, there is a simple experiment people can undertake at home to see whether they have hydrophobic soil.

“Take some dry soil and place it in a dish. Make a well in the top and then pour on some water. If the soil is hydrophobic, the water will pool on top. In contrast when you wet soil that is not hydrophobic, the water is quickly absorbed,” he said.

The simplest way to improve water take up by hydrophobic soils is to use a soil wetting agent. “We believe that what happens in some soils when organic matter breaks down is that it leaves a waxy coating on the soil particles. Wetting agents are like detergents. They overcome that waxing coating and allow water to penetrate into the pore spaces between,” Peter said.

“Most potting mixes, if they become dry, will also become water repellent,” he said.

This means that when people say that their plants need watering every day in summer, it might just be the way they are applying water, and the mix isn’t taking up moisture.

“It is certainly possible. I think using wetting agents in pots or containers in summer is a good idea,” Peter said.

Another different product on the market, designed to help gardeners improve the water holding capacity of their soil, is a water-storing granule or gel. These are small crystals of polymers that are designed to absorb up to four hundred times their weight in water.

“A spoonful of crystals, which is about what you’d put into a pot if you were mixing it in potting mix, will absorb about a litre of water if left overnight,” Peter said.

He said the crystals did not save water. “But they increase the water holding capacity of the soil. This means that more water is held for plant use, and that also means plants can go for longer between watering. It will not change the amount of water that a plant uses, but it will last longer between drinks,” Peter said.

The crystals don’t help with water uptake in hydrophobic soils. “That’s a completely different property. The crystals increase the water holding capacity of the soil. But the soil wetting agents overcome hydrophobic soil. It’s important to sort out which problem you have got in the garden and specifically treat it,” Peter said.

To sum up what Peter has discovered.

  • Gardeners with water repellent soil should use a soil wetting agent. It will help with water absorption, particularly if you have sandy soil or pots that are filled with potting mix.
  • Remember if you want to use a water storing gel, remember, it will eventually dry out. You might get an extra day or two between waterings, but beware of products saying they will save you water, because there is nothing to suggest that they actually have a water conservation value.
  • And finally, remember to differentiate between the two products and choose the product that’s suitable for your purpose and your soil.


SoilMoist is one of the best-known brand of hydrogels.

(George Weigel)

Q: You mentioned in an article once about using polymer crystals as a way to help with keeping potted plants watered. I’ve never tried them. Do they really do much good? Are they worth the price? They seem kind of expensive.

A: This is one of those products that seems like it should work pretty well but only ends up making a marginal difference – at best. And some of them pose potential safety problems, according to one university horticulturist.

Polymer crystals are also known as “hydrogels,” and they’re clear or white dry crystals about the size of coarse salt grains that get worked into potting mix before planting.

They can absorb and hold up to 600 times their weight in water and then return it to the soil when it goes dry.

Hydrogels are marketed as ideal for helping to get pots through a dry spell, such as when you go away and miss a day or two or three of watering.

They’re sold under such brands as Soil Moist, Terra-Sorb, Miracle-Gro Water-Storing Crystals and Hydrosorb.

Dr. Jeff Gillman, author of “The Truth About Garden Remedies” (Timber Press, 2008), tested five brands of hydrogels while working as a researcher at the University of Minnesota. He concluded that none of them kept plants supplied with moisture any longer than soil without anything added.

Other studies have found similar results or only marginal gains in water-aiding.

“In most cases, hydrogels just don’t work very well,” Gillman writes in his “Garden Remedies” book. “While these products have shown themselves somewhat useful in some tests, they haven’t proven themselves on a consistent basis, and when they have reduced watering frequency, they haven’t reduced it by much.”

I’m more concerned by a warning from Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, an associate horticulture professor at Washington State University and author of “The Informed Gardener” (University of Washington Press, 2008).

She says that most hydrogels are made of polyacrylamides, which break down into acrylamides, a known human neurotoxin and carcinogen. Because it’s unknown how long that stage persists or what effect it may have on health and water supplies, she recommends against them. (She adds that the occasional hydrogel user is probably not at much risk.)

If you’re at all concerned, manufacturers have begun making hydrogels out of starch instead of polyacrylamides.

I agree the crystals are expensive. You don’t need much (too much causes pots to bubble up and overflow as the crystals swell), but at $8 for a 3-ounce pack and $40 for a 3-pound canister, that seems like a lot of money for little or maybe no benefit.

You’ll get more return for your money by topping the potting soil with an inch of mulch, by lining the insides of the pot or basket with plastic (but not the bottom), and by using thicker-walled pots instead of fast-drying terra-cotta.

Or spend that $40 on a drip-irrigation pot-watering setup with an automatic timer to keep things moist when you forget or go away.

What’s It For? – Phostrogen

Phostrogen is a specially formulated all-purpose plant food in the form of a white, water-soluble powder. It contains nitrogen to promote healthy green foliage; potash to develop abundant flowers and fruit and make plants drought and disease resistant; phosphate to encourage a strong, healthy root system; and essential trace elements to keep plants healthy.

For convenience, it is normally applied as a solution in water. It can be used regularly throughout the growing season for all types of plants, both indoor and out. Apply plant food solution round the roots of plants as far out as the foliage reaches, using as much solution as when watering thoroughly.

How much and how often?

Container plants and young plants and seedlings: 1 level 5ml teaspoon in 10 litres of water, at every watering.

Flowers, shrubs trees, lawns, fruit and vegetables: 4 level 5ml teaspoons in 10 litres of water, every 7-14 days.

Tomatoes: 4 level 5ml teaspoons in 10 litres of water, every 7 days after first flowers have set.

House plants: 3 pinches per litre, at every watering.

Powder application, apply 2oz per square yard as a soil dressing in spring and repeat in the summer. Alternatively, to feed your garden in minutes, use a Phostrogen ‘Handy Feeder’, ‘Easy Feeder’ or ‘Thru Hose Feeder’. Simply pour 250g of powder into the feeder bowl and use as directed in the feeder instructions.

Information can be obtained from the TradingHut on Sunday mornings from 10.30am to 12 noon.


Phostrogen – All Purpose Plant Food

If you are a gardening enthusiast, maintaining the balance of your soil might just be one of the more frequent concerns you have.

The good news is that if you keep up with regular compositing of your garden soil, then you may not require garden fertiliser per se.

But don’t get too excited just yet; where compositing can contribute extensively to improving your soil, it is not sufficient enough to provide the nutrients that a garden fertiliser does. A garden fertiliser is able to add essential nutrients to the plants such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Phostrogen is a formulated all-purpose soluble feed that can be used as an organic fertiliser to maintain a healthy garden. It comprises a balanced amount of nitrogen, potassium, phosphate, and other essential trace elements.

These nutrients ensure the healthy growth of your garde. Phostrogen is effective for all kinds of garden plants including edible crops, fruit trees, young plants, and houseplants.

Why Use Phostrogen?

Phostrogen is a well-balanced plant food that provides all the necessary nutrients that are essential for healthy plant growth. It constitutes organic components that are beneficial for your garden and are sans any negative impact.

The major benefits of Phostrogen are:

  • It is easily dissolvable in water.
  • The nitrogen in the soluble food promotes healthy green foliage.
  • It promotes the development of flowers and fruit.
  • It helps in making the plants resistant towards disease and conditions like drought.
  • Phostrogen strengthens the root system of the plant, promoting its healthier growth.
  • This organic fertiliser can be used for all sorts of plants, indoor and outdoor.

How to Apply Phostrogen?

Phostrogen – All Purpose Plant Food is extremely easy to use. All you have to do is follow these three simple steps:

  1. Measure Phostrogen – All Purpose Plant Food into a watering can.
  2. Dilute the feed with water.
  3. Apply the solution generously around the roots and the extended reaches of foliage.

You can also use this feed in powder form and can apply 2oz of Phostrogen powder per square yard. This can be effectual as soil dressing in spring and summer.

How to Purchase Phostrogen?

You can easily get your supply of Phostrogen – All Purpose Plant Food by visiting our website, Little Fields Farm. You can place the order by following a one-step check-out process and choosing your preferred shipping and payment method. You will get your order of Phostrogen – All Purpose Plant Food within 3 to 4 working days.

So if you are still wondering about how to regain the beauty of your garden and maintain healthy growth of your plants, contact us today to have the best gardening products delivered at your doorstep.

#fertiliser, #garden compost, #phostrogen Posted in: Gardening – Tips

Outdoor toys

Encouraging kids out into the great outdoors has never been easier with our fantastic collection of outdoor toys. There’s no better way for kids to burn off some of that boundless energy than by getting outside to enjoy the fresh air, and with our amazing range of options you’re sure to find more than a few things that will tear your child away from their tablet or PlayStation for a while. For warm weather days spent out in the garden, it doesn’t get better than a paddling pool – and how about our super soakers too? For some brilliant all-year-round additions to your garden, check out our swings, slides and seesaws – and when it comes to family days out, you’ll all have great fun flying a kite at the park or beach.

Kids’ imaginations know no bounds, but a few props will never go amiss. Check out our selection of playhouses – one of these is just what your little one needs to enjoy playing out endless scenarios in the back garden. We have lots of durable plastic designs – and there’s even options that’ll let them be the king or queen of their very own castle! Kids will love battling it out with Nerf guns and they could use one of these as their fortress while they re-load. We have you covered with classic wooden Wendy houses too – and our larger lodge-style designs are the perfect place for your little one to create a hideaway haven where they’ll love spending their time, whether they’re playing house or indulging in their favourite hobbies. If they have a creative streak, shop our craft ideas for kids.

How about our range of ball pits? We’ve got plenty of great pop-up styles which are really easy to put away when they’re not in use – and lots of our designs are a great choice for toddlers so you can introduce them to their very first game of catch and help them build their hand-eye coordination skills. And check out our trikes so they can start to explore the world on wheels.

If it’s scooters you’re looking for then you’ve come to the right place for an array of quality options – including themed designs for superhero fans and Disney lovers alike. There’s something here for all ages and budgets – and thrill-seekers will love a speedy electric scooter. Why not shop our selection of skateboards as well? We have options that are perfect for tiny feet, but we’ve also got teenagers covered too, whether they’re headed to school or hitting the skatepark.

When it comes to outdoor activities the whole family can get involved in, kit your child out with one of our kids’ bikes so you can all head out on family bike rides together. While they’re learning, stabilisers are what they’ll need at first – and we have some lovely designs featuring popular characters like Peppa Pig and the PAW Patrol crew. And for older kids with a growing sense of adventure, browse our great quality kids’ mountain bikes from leading brands like Piranha.

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