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Wicking 101

by Nancy Robitaille
There are many methods growers use for watering their plants.  One of those which saves lots of time is the wicking method.
First you need a container.  That's easy enough.  Search though your refrigerator.  You can use margarine containers, pickle bottles, or refrigerator containers.  I use all types of containers, mostly Glad refrigerator containers.  The different heights of the pickle jars and other plastic containers give different heights to your plants so spacing is easier.
Once you have a few containers on hand, cut a small one-inch circle out of the lid.  This serves to slip the wick through and to refill the container when necessary.
Wicks can be made of knitting thread, either acrylic or nylon.  Cotton or other natural materials seem to rot much faster.  The easiest and cheapest for me is cutting up old nylon stockings—pantyhose.  Just cut off the toe of each leg, then cut half inch strips going across the leg of the pantyhose.  This gives a nylon circle which can be cut and stretched to about 6-8 inches.
Wicks must be soaked in water before using or the capillary action will not begin. Take a wet wick, put it on the end of a wooden barbecue skewer and from the bottom, push up through the soil on the side of the pot.  When the wick has reached the top, grasp it with two fingers while taking the skewer out with the other hand.  Now the plant is ready to be set upon the container which holds water and fertilizer.
A second way to insert wicks is to thread the wick through an empty pot then place the plant in the pot.  Arrange the top of the wick so that soil covers it; otherwise it could dry out. 
Water in containers lasts about two weeks.  Check occasionally to make sure the wick is damp and working as it should.  Wipe green algae from pots when refilling.