Sunday, May 6, 2012

Wool "Natural Growers Pack" for Container Gardens

Portulacas thrive in hot, dry conditions (source)

I bought another impulse item from my online local-foods coop this week.

My understanding husband has taken in stride my purchase of red wrigglers for vermicomposting and wool dryer balls to replace fabric softeners in our dryer. But this week he actually raised his eyebrows and looked askance at me. There's a first time for everything, I guess.

The $8.00 purchase was a "Natural Growers Pack," a "sheep manure compost fertilizer and water retention system" from Breeze Hill Farm of Powhatan, VA. What arrives is a gallon zip-lock bag filled with unwashed, untreated sheep's wool and a small packet of composted sheep manure to use as fertilizer. It is meant to be used in container gardens. According to the packet:

Our product reduces the need to water the plant 
and provides one of the best all natural organic fertilizers 
available to feed your plants for the entire growing season.

I always have trouble keeping outdoor potted plants sufficiently watered in our hot, dry Virginia summers, so I am hoping the sheep's wool will help. And anyone who reads my blog knows I'm a big fan of composted manure! The directions are to line the bottom of the container with the wool, mix the sheep compost in with the potting soil, add the soil on top of the wool, then add the plant. 

That's what I did, except I sprinkled some seeds on top of the soil in my flower box instead of transplanting plants. The seeds are for dwarf phlox plants and portulacas, also called moss rose. Both are hardy, and I am hoping they will grow in the same container. The sheep's wool took up so much room that I wonder if there's actually enough soil in there for the plants. I'll provide an update on how the system works after my flowers are established.

Update on 7/21/12: The wool does seem to keep the planter moist for more time than I would expect, especially in our unbelievably hot summer weather, but my plants have failed to thrive. the phlox has all died. I am not sure if it is something I am doing wrong that is unrelated to the wool "growers pack" or not. If others have any experience with this growing system, I would appreciate the feedback.

 Update on 8/25/12: I moved the flower box into full sun, and the portulacas are thriving and blooming beautifully. I wish I'd planted more of them. And the soil does stay moist longer than I expect. I'm not sure what happened to the phlox, but the moss rose seems to be making up for it. Overall I'd say the experiment has been a success. I'd try it again.