I kinda did an "experiment" and I think its kinda failing, so I need your help!

Trouble shoot problems you are having with your cactus.
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PolishGuy
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I kinda did an "experiment" and I think its kinda failing, so I need your help!

Post by PolishGuy »

Sooooooooooo

Where do I start this...
I put cotton wick on the bottom of my pots where it forms a tight spiral on the inside bottom of the pots and leaves in the middle to the outside (it also has a "tounge" reaching higher inside the soil from the other end of the spirral).

Why I did this?
Wellll to have easier time watering, and not even only from the bottom but also from the top, so it sucks out water, and in case of overwatering a plant I can just let it drip out and the gravity + capillary forces would draw water out, or so I can place it on some towel and the capillary forces will suck out excess stuck water.

Does it do its inteded job properly?
Hell yeah, it does it great there is just one problem... It does also another thing that I kinda hoped wouldn't be a problem since I tHoUGhT :happy8: I did necceseary precautions to avoid it.

So whats wrong?
Well it started getting all moldy but in a bad way, with some unknown black mold growing on it, which from what I understand, its not really a good sign since saprofitic and beneficial molds often have white color and there is a lot of root rot fungi that are black. I also emailed the myc. powder producer and they told me their product keeps the soil clean and roots white, so overall, the only color of a mold should be white. (unless I got some lazy responce but idk I dont think so)

Here is the important thing:
As I said I took the precautions to avoid it, I added to my coco gritty mix "great white mycorrhizae", which is a powder containg bacteria, myc. fungi and 2 species of trichoderma in it. So I thought that its gonna basically protect the plant from any bad stuff, and its (the beneficial culture) gonna basically just colonise the wick the same way it will coco coir.

I think I did few mistakes tho
I also decided to mix with my beneficial culture something called "bac sugar candy" and biohumus
First is a sugar mixture with I think some other things that is supposed to feed the microbes (I was hopping it will feed well the myc. culture I added)
Second is a liquid worm casting extract, basically organic fertiliser made from worm castings in a concentrated form, probably like evaporated worm tea or something, and the one I used was comercially made. (I used it to fertilise the coco coir with something that wont burn the beneficial culture I added, since Ive heard that inorganic nutes can actually harm those microbes, also since I was transplanting my plants I decided to use it instead of mineral nutes to not add too much salts into it that plants wont utilise since they havent developped a propper root system yet.
(I think adding it right with the myc. powder was a mistake since it could have contained something bad but hey... everyone says that worm castings contain beneficial bacteria and somehow the worms do their magic since they have the good stuff in their guts...)

another thing is probably that I did not inocullate the wick with the myc powder after boiling it and before drying it out.

Furthermore
I will mention that, yes I understand that those bacteria and fungi might not really help the plant much and I probably need the ones from native habitat, but that wasnt the point, the point was to add a product containing trichoderma and other beneficial microbes so even if they dont work that much with plant, THEY will colonise the soil before something else from the environment that might be harmful.


So now lets get to the point where I ask you what to do?
As I said, the wick started to get really moldy, I discovered it once I accidentally knocked one plant out and had to repot it. The whole wick was looking like a dalmacian dog or a cow, all in black patches and yellow discolorations, it also smelled super musty and so did the mix/soil (yuck).
I probably should have taken out pictures once I could but I didnt want to touch my phone with dirty hands. I decided to boil the wick, inocullate it, and put the plant together (for now).

I would absolutely hate to have to repot all the plants that I potted up like 2 or 3 weeks ago but I made a peace with myself and Im ready to do it if its necceseary.

The thing is also that the plants look healthy for now, and the mold on the wick could also be something harmless but I understand that things like that take a bit more time.

Also, If I need to repot it, should I clean or desinfect the rootball with something like hydrogen peroxide or just wash it and add some of that myc powder on the roots.

Before you scream at me for overwatering, I will only say that since the plants were repotted I had to provide them some moisture to shoot out new roots into and it takes time before they colonise entire pot with them and I waited the precautionary week. also the soil wasnt sitting in water and had perfect amount of moisture because the wick was regulating that.

So yeah... Should I repot the plants or what, I still think that the wick is amazing idea, but maybe one made from plastic or fibreglass would be a right choice next time.
Should I also desinfect the rootball?

Or maybe its something harmless?

Drying the soil completly to be bone dry might take a while, since the top might dry out but the bottom will still be moist mostly due the mix I used (30%coco 50%pumice 20% gray lava rock that is not porous) as well as the fact that there are no roots at the bottom to suck out the moisture.


EDIT:
Here are photos that I can give you:

This is how the wick is placed on a pot where I havent planted anything since Im rooting a jade cutting:
Image

Image

Here is how much I would have to potentially repot:
Image

Here is a mold on another wick, inside it probably is much worse:
Image


Also sorry if its wrong index board, if you are a mod feel free to move it, I honestly dont know if it should go into cultivation or diseases.
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greenknight
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Re: I kinda did an "experiment" and I think its kinda failing, so I need your help!

Post by greenknight »

A few points to cover here:

Trichoderma colonizes a variety of plant roots, and grows worldwide. Good chance will protect the roots of these plants from fungal attack. It also eats cellulose - if that's cotton cord, it will consume it. It's good for the plant roots, but you should avoid breathing the spores. It's not always white. See: https://library.bustmold.com/trichoderma/

The idea of the wicks is sound, but there's no point in using that much - I would use, at most, a single loop around the bottom of the pot, or you can just tie a knot in the end of wick that's big enough to keep it from falling through the drain hole.

I recommend using something rot-proof - I've cut up old nylon stockings and used them as plant pot wicks with no problems. I found one source selling polyester wicks, I've seen acrylic recommended as well.
Spence :mrgreen:
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BryanT
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Re: I kinda did an "experiment" and I think its kinda failing, so I need your help!

Post by BryanT »

IMHO, I think:
Firstly, the cotton wick as organic material (and will break-down in time), contacts with soil, it will absorb a lot of impurities, causing it to turned black. Maybe mold, maybe not.
Secondly the amount of wick inside the pot will hold a lot of moisture for very long time, because you didn't have proper drainage hole for the pot, I don't think it's a good idea for cactus. It might be useful if the plant needs consistent moisture all the time.
Lastly, the cactus might look OK at the moment, because you just repotted it. It will take weeks or months before you realize there are too much moisture in the pot, and the plant started to rot from inside.
Bryan
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gabby c
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Re: I kinda did an "experiment" and I think its kinda failing, so I need your help!

Post by gabby c »

I have macrame hanging outside which are also cotton cords, gets rained on but is in open air and sun blasted, still grew black colored mold in like a week. It is slowly getting worse though, not very fast. If thats any consolation :)
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PolishGuy
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Re: I kinda did an "experiment" and I think its kinda failing, so I need your help!

Post by PolishGuy »

greenknight wrote: Sat Jul 02, 2022 8:58 pm A few points to cover here:

Trichoderma colonizes a variety of plant roots, and grows worldwide. Good chance will protect the roots of these plants from fungal attack. It also eats cellulose - if that's cotton cord, it will consume it. It's good for the plant roots, but you should avoid breathing the spores. It's not always white. See: https://library.bustmold.com/trichoderma/

The idea of the wicks is sound, but there's no point in using that much - I would use, at most, a single loop around the bottom of the pot, or you can just tie a knot in the end of wick that's big enough to keep it from falling through the drain hole.

I recommend using something rot-proof - I've cut up old nylon stockings and used them as plant pot wicks with no problems. I found one source selling polyester wicks, I've seen acrylic recommended as well.

Thanks for reply, I was honestly expecting the wick to decay but at much slower rate, much slower more in line with the coir but I guess coir is harder to break down.

The fungi that eats the wick is definitelly melanin or some other pigment producing as the wick looked like someone splattered concentrated black ink on it (the last photo isnt the wick from the plant I unpotted as I said that I didnt take any photos of the wick from that plant, the one on picture is from a different plant).

I've googled pictures of trichoderma before posting here, as well as pictures of other molds and it definitelly shouldnt be this black, if this was trichoderma I would be expecting minty green spores,/mold or at least greyish green spores/mold, while a lot of bad fungi fit the pattern much better. The big problem is that honestly there is no way to identify what is actually on the wick without paying a lot of money to some lab or trying to put spores under microscope which is also not something I can do.

My only questions are:
1. Should I repot the plants? (I assume probably yes, but I still feel It might be helpful to ask)
2. Should I desinfect the rootball with something like hydrogen peroxide once I dig them up for good measure? (if yes then what concentration)
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PolishGuy
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Re: I kinda did an "experiment" and I think its kinda failing, so I need your help!

Post by PolishGuy »

BryanT wrote: Sat Jul 02, 2022 9:05 pm IMHO, I think:
Firstly, the cotton wick as organic material (and will break-down in time), contacts with soil, it will absorb a lot of impurities, causing it to turned black. Maybe mold, maybe not.
Secondly the amount of wick inside the pot will hold a lot of moisture for very long time, because you didn't have proper drainage hole for the pot, I don't think it's a good idea for cactus. It might be useful if the plant needs consistent moisture all the time.
Lastly, the cactus might look OK at the moment, because you just repotted it. It will take weeks or months before you realize there are too much moisture in the pot, and the plant started to rot from inside.
Thanks, I can add more holes in the pot.
The stuff that is turning wick black is 101% a mold no questions, Ive seen it, I can assure you that.

My only questions are:
1. Should I repot the plants? (I assume probably yes, but I still feel It might be helpful to ask)
2. Should I desinfect the rootball with something like hydrogen peroxide once I dig them up for good measure? (if yes then what concentration)

Since you are recommending putting less wick and more holes too I assume you recommend me to unpot the plants as well, but since Im assuring you its some kind of mold, should I plant in fresh mix and desinfect the roots too for a good measure?
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BryanT
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Re: I kinda did an "experiment" and I think its kinda failing, so I need your help!

Post by BryanT »

PolishGuy wrote: Sat Jul 02, 2022 10:54 pm
Thanks, I can add more holes in the pot.
The stuff that is turning wick black is 101% a mold no questions, Ive seen it, I can assure you that.

My only questions are:
1. Should I repot the plants? (I assume probably yes, but I still feel It might be helpful to ask)
2. Should I desinfect the rootball with something like hydrogen peroxide once I dig them up for good measure? (if yes then what concentration)

Since you are recommending putting less wick and more holes too I assume you recommend me to unpot the plants as well, but since Im assuring you its some kind of mold, should I plant in fresh mix and disinfect the roots too for a good measure?
Instead of waiting to see what will happen, since you sure is unwanted mold, I think if your weather is good at the moment, you might repot and disinfect now to be on the safe side.
If you don't mind to lose a few plants, as an experiment, then you can wait and see how it develop. :D That's what I did sometime, just to see how bad things can be. :D :D :D
Bryan
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Mrs.Green
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Re: I kinda did an "experiment" and I think its kinda failing, so I need your help!

Post by Mrs.Green »

BryanT wrote: Sat Jul 02, 2022 9:05 pm

Secondly the amount of wick inside the pot will hold a lot of moisture for very long time, because you didn't have proper drainage hole for the pot, I don't think it's a good idea for cactus. It might be useful if the plant needs consistent moisture all the time.
Lastly, the cactus might look OK at the moment, because you just repotted it. It will take weeks or months before you realize there are too much moisture in the pot, and the plant started to rot from inside.
I fully agree with BryanT on this. I haven’t been using the wick method myself, since I grow the plants on windowsills but I have seen how long it takes a rope to dry outdoors, even when exposed to sun and wind. That amount of rope , placed inside a plastic pot were ther is no other escape for the moisture ( apart from on top) is asking for trouble I’m afraid.

The wick/rope furthermore don’t seem to be hanging straight down but is rolled under the pot on a waterproof material( plastic?) which worsen the whole setup.

The soil/substrate looks like find sand but that’s maybee topdressing? In ny experience fine sand like that, keeps the moisture for a long time before drying up.

Since I grow on windowsills, I have a saucer beneath the pots. Plants that I am afraid would easily rot, is ‘balancing’ on top of small rocks , placed between the saucer and the pot. The idea is to assure there is no standing water and hopefully areate the substrate a bit. Take care that the rocks don’t blocks the holes in the pot.

That’s another thing, your pot seems to have only one hole, I would have used pots with several holes in it, if using plastic pots. And as mentioned, take care if the pots stand directly on a waterproof underlay. If I wasn’t growing on windowsills, I would have had the pots not on saucers but on some kind of grate, would that be possible for your setup?

And yes, I would have repotted unless you are willing to do this as a test.
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greenknight
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Re: I kinda did an "experiment" and I think its kinda failing, so I need your help!

Post by greenknight »

From the link I sent you about Trichoderma: "Colonies’ colors range from dark and light green to yellow and white. The green color, in some species, is sometimes only expressed after light exposure." You said "I accidentally knocked one plant out and had to repot it. The whole wick was looking like a dalmacian dog or a cow, all in black patches and yellow discolorations". The yellow could be Trichoderma. Probably other molds attacking that cotton as well, but Trichoderma species are very aggressive - that's what will rapidly destroy the cotton cord. Another site said Trichoderma often grows in irregular blotches, sounds just like what you described.

Bryan is correct that the excess wick will hold moisture - but if you use a towel to soak up extra water, like you said, or let the wicks dangle so water drips away, it won't be saturated (Mrs. Green is right, though, if you watered them as the sit in that photo it would be a disaster). Just being damp isn't a problem, it's when water fills the pore spaces and excludes air that problems occur. I don't think rot is likely to be a problem with the method you're using.

While I don't think there's a big rush about repotting, I think that when you do it you should wear a surgical mask to avoid breathing the mold spores, and do it outdoors.
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PolishGuy
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Re: I kinda did an "experiment" and I think its kinda failing, so I need your help!

Post by PolishGuy »

Ok, I took a bit of time to think about all of this and here is an update:

1.
I decided to repot my plants and add a lot of breathing holes, perhaps even up my lava/pumice ratio in the biggest pots, as yeah they hold a bit too much water perhaps

2.
BryanT wrote: Sun Jul 03, 2022 6:34 am If you don't mind to lose a few plants, as an experiment, then you can wait and see how it develop. :D That's what I did sometime, just to see how bad things can be. :D :D :D
I like experiments but not this type, I already did one recently by putting too much rooting hormone on a jade cutting (the one an empty pot from the picture was reserved) and since its trunk was too thicc and old in the area I applied it, the confused cell tissue ripped apart the trunk from the core and caused the wound to go all nasty and mushy and now its shorter lol (however it does work on young thin branches) hehe

I definitelly dont wanna lose the cactus plants I've got.


3.
On topic of watering I was letting the excess water drip out and they were watered only 2 times, also I will be putting a rack, it was just hard to find the right stuff to go on the windowsill, my neighbour thankfully gave me some old fridge/oven shelves (its this cool type of neighbour who has tiny scrapyard in their backyard and always some free cool stuff to give) but I have to cut them with anglegrinder and generally probably remove the paint since its peeling off and kinda nasty.


4 (and probably most importantly of this update).
I'm looking now for good synthetic wick, I've tested nylon stockings and they failed miserably by sucking the water up 3 milimeters when dry (perhaps they would work when wet but I think I need something better and hopefully a bit more aesthetic looking (ofc on plant pots :happy3: )

I've heard nylon rope with a loose stringy core could work, but its always hard to predict with stuff made out of plastic, its also very hard to find right stuff as usually the ropes are made and advertised to be water resistant, do you guys know how well it could work?

Also I have some unknown material plastic rope (too short to use for more than 3 plants, its also kinda ugly but it does suck up the water (altrough you cant see it), also it seems that the core seems to suck it up but not the sleeve, it works when submerged in water but would it work in moist soil from the bottom, can the capillary actions overcome the sleeve?

I still gotta test microfiber cloth altrough it would look kinda ugly, the rope wick would look much more aesthetic but perhaps it will be best option

Ive also looked at glassfiber rope... nope

it just seems like a disaster waiting to happen with those loose glass fibers sticking out of the middle of the rope (it definitelly would be much worse than any nasty glochids from cactus + its glass)


All this trouble with sucking up water through plastics + the fact that the ropes are often coated with some lubricants and other nasty chemicals to make them more weather/UV/abrasion resistant made me choose the cotton at first place but well mold and wick that wont last more than 5 waterings is not better...

Any ideas?
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Re: I kinda did an "experiment" and I think its kinda failing, so I need your help!

Post by Steve Johnson »

PolishGuy wrote: Tue Jul 05, 2022 11:12 pmAny ideas?
If you have your cacti on a rack, place a drip tray under it and skip on the wicks. Then when the plants are done dripping after you water, pour the water in the drip tray down your kitchen sink. IMO those wicks will cause problems, not the best solution when you're letting your pots drain through after watering. Any container will do -- whenever I water the cacti on the top shelf of my plant bench, my drip tray of choice is a cake pan.
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