Water Retention

  • Water Retention

    Posted by crazy.couter on March 24, 2023 at 7:38 pm

    I grow mostly in raised beds. We started with a half & half mixture of soil & mushroom manure compost. We also did half & half mixture of soil and leaf compost. We added some compost each year to the beds but we seem to have developed a soil that does not retain water well. Any suggestions as to what we can add to get it to hold water better. We moved last year to a new place. We now have enough room to build a compost bed to make enough for the whole garden. We have a horse stable nearby that allows you to come pickup from a pile they have near the road. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Life-with-Mike-and-Jenn replied 1 year, 4 months ago 8 Members · 10 Replies
  • 10 Replies
  • Hippocrates_Garden

    March 24, 2023 at 7:42 pm

    Look into “Core Gardening” (basically burying all or most of a bale of straw in the middle to act as a sponge)
    Wicking Beds (specific container system)
    Drip irrigation

    Raised beds just dry out faster, that is one of their positive points (positive when needed, a negative when not needed”. Thus best used in places where water-logged soil is a problem, or where there is little to no soil (or horrible soil). Totally inappropriate in dry areas as they are just dry-er.

    The other good reason to use them is for physical mobility issues.

    • crazy.couter

      March 24, 2023 at 8:05 pm

      I have seen the Straw bale in the bed and thought about trying it, just never had aged straw when starting the beds. We live in northwest PA so a lot of dry weather is not a normal problem. I have thought about drip irrigation. We have a tank to gather rain water so water would be free. We have a well but recently found out its high in Manganese which may affect water uptake of plants. We moved last June and put in a few raised beds to grow a few things after our move and 2 beds to plant garlic. We are reestablishing the rest of the beds this spring. Spinach, Chard, Kale, Cabbage, Broccoli and cauliflower seedling are about ready to be planted outside. I have been considering doing ground raised beds like Charles Dowdling. Would be much cheaper since most of the wood from old bed had to be burnt. Would probably have the same advantage as regular raised beds but possibly solve my water retention issue. I grew up with the large garden of rows method and weeding was something I did not enjoy. My favorite part of raised beds is how easy weeding is. Thanks for the Information.

  • NonaLee

    March 24, 2023 at 7:50 pm

    I saw a great video where they actually put a really heavy liner near the bottom of the raised bed and extended it up the sides a bit. This acts as a reservoir.

    • Hippocrates_Garden

      March 24, 2023 at 8:10 pm

      Just remember when lining a bed, or putting something like landscaping fabric at the bottom to “keep weeds from coming up”.. the thing that prevents weeds from coming up, also keeps roots from going down (and is a pain to pull out later). It really restricts what you can grow successfully in the bed as the roots cannot continue down to find water and make friends with the soil microbiology get nutrients, otherwise you are forced to do more of the “feeding”(fertilize). Just a thought.

  • tberi

    March 24, 2023 at 8:01 pm

    You can try lining the bottom of your raised beds with tree limbs, as in hugelkultur. It is supposed to help retain moisture for the roots.

    P.S. Be mindful of Grazon as a possible contaminant in the horse stall products. Ma ny people have lost their entire garden to this awful chemical, and then you still have to remediate the soil for a year or more before you can try gardening in that same soil.

    • crazy.couter

      March 24, 2023 at 8:47 pm

      We have one bed we built with metal on inside and treated boards on outside, about 26 inches high. We used logs, limbs, heavy brush, grass to fill it about 2/3rds. I planted peppers in it and they did really well. Going to have to add soil in this spring it has dropped quite a bit.

      Thanks for the reminder about the grazon. Couldn’t remember the name but saw video done by Danny on deep south homestead when he fed hay to his cows and used the manure on his gardens and had problems. I will ask stable owner about if the hay is sprayed.

  • Goatlover

    March 24, 2023 at 8:18 pm

    My sandy soil in Florida needs help to retain moisture, so I use peat moss mixed in with my compost before planting. Do be careful using horse manure….Grazon can poison your garden and kill all of your plants.

  • Squeeze

    March 24, 2023 at 10:46 pm


  • Susquehanna-Homestead

    March 25, 2023 at 10:35 am

    You can use mulch. You can try using polymer moisture crystals such as SoilMoist or Watersorb, which I have not used myself but have heard good things about.

  • Life-with-Mike-and-Jenn

    March 25, 2023 at 12:20 pm

    I recently relocated from the desert SW back home to Arkansas, I grew in 10x10x2 keyhole raised beds with cattle panels and shade cloth. I added vermiculite for water retention, mushroom compost for aeration, buried ollas with drip irrigation to water at the roots for less evaporation and heavy mulch on top.

    I would also caution about the use of spent hay. I made that mistake in 2014. Called the guy that delivered it to get the phone number for the horse ranch, then the hay supplier, then the grower to find out if it was sprayed. It took weeks for responses between calls and ultimately had to empty most of the soil and then remediation with mushroom compost. Then there was the orchard… over sixty fruit and nut trees. Thankful that we only lost about 11 trees. What shocked me was that the horse breeder raised $100k plus horses. They went to the Middle East and such. I’d have thought they would feed them better. Be blessed ❤️🌿

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