Monday, April 22, 2013

Have Water Mats, Will Travel

One of my many passions is traveling.  And one of my other passions is growing delicious things in the garden so I can eat them when they're the freshest and happiest.  The trouble with these two is that they rarely get along.  One requires you to be at home (or so I thought).  The other requires you to be, well, away.

On a weekend roadtrip to Yosemite a few weeks ago, I almost resorted to taking my two-week old seedlings with me because I worry that they will shrivel up absent of their water source (i.e. me).  But I don't want to be that person who lugs around a small portable greenhouse around.  I refuse.  So instead, before I left, I nearly flooded the seed tray with water and crossed my fingers that they survive their temporary separation from their water supply (i.e. me again).  I came home to zero casualties that weekend but I could tell the little things were a bit pissed.

I was gone again for five days to languish in the Southern California sunshine.  While planning the trip though, it did not occur to me how the plants will manage without me.  And when it did, a tiny panic set in.

A search for commercially available self-watering seedling kits did not provide any encouraging prospects.  DIY self-watering kits did not seem appetizing either.  A little bit more research led me to capilliary mats or water mats purposely invented to keep moisture in plants while you're away!

A-ha!  I knew you did not have to be tethered to these seedlings!

Soil Moist Vacation Mats could be the solution to people who travel a lot who happen to garden.  Read along for a product review of Soil Moist Vacation Mats.

A Review of Vacation Watering Mats by Soil Moist
I give this product…
    Sunshine partially obscured by small clouds J  I do like that Vacation Mats take care of your seedlings’ watering needs while you’re out and about living life. 
What’s in the box?
Two Vacation Watering Mats.  They’re like paper towels that fluff up with gel once water is poured over it. 
Retail Price
$7.11 at Amazon.  They are supposedly also sold at Lowes, although I have not seen them. 
Ideal for…
… People who travel a lot who happen to garden
… Managing water needs of your seedlings
Loving it for…
… How easy it was to set up.  I did it in minutes.
… Keeping my seedlings alive while I was out of town for five days
… The retail price is pretty reasonable
…  It is made in the USA!
But I wish…
… It was made of organic materials
… There was more information about what the mats are made of, especially since I’m trying to grow vegetables organically
…  There was better availability.  I checked the local Lowes and did not find it on the shelves.
Do I recommend this product?
Yes, with the caveat that I am not certain how this product affects growing organically.  However, I travel some and this was the only way I could keep my seedlings alive while I was away. 

Also, these are supposed to keep plants watered for up to three weeks, but I think that is pushing it.  I was away for five days and almost all of the plants looked hydrated except for a week-old cucumber that was showing signs of dehyrdation and a couple of tomatoes where the first leaves dried out a bit.  But for the most part, I came home to happy plants, including some seedlings that sprouted in my absence!

As mentioned above, these Vacation Watering Mats were pretty simple to use.

Just add water.  It's that simple!

This is a close-up of what happens to the mat after it's absorbed water.  A gel-like consistency forms in the middle.

Next, just set your seedlings or pots on top of these mats.  Make sure your cups or pots have drainage holes where moisture can wick up.  Also, make sure you water your plants thoroughly.  Water molecules adhere with other water molecules so wicking will happen if your soil is already moist to begin with.

I also suggest that you pack as many seedlings next to each other on top of the mats as possible.  You're not supposed to use these mats in direct sunlight, but I totally defied that since these seedlings need, well, full sun.  By jamming them as snugly as possible, it decreases the chances of the mats drying out due to quicker evaporation in direct sun.

So with these Vacation Watering Mats, sorry, but you can no longer use traveling as a scapegoat to why  you're not growing your food yet.

Grow something now!  Go!

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