Our wet weather has brought out the odd in several areas. The winner of this week’s Garden News of the Bizarre is a post from Dr. Whitney Cranshaw, professor of Entomology at Colorado State University.
Whitney, for those who don’t know him, is a very funny guy. His passion for insects is almost as legendary as his red, high-top converse sneakers. You’d think a fellow who spends his days surrounded by bugs would be immune to the creepy or gross, but it turns out he loves it when weird things happen.
Here’s his post from today on Pestserv, a list for folks like me who keep up with bugs and thugs that attack plants. He’s talking of the water-holding crystals you can put in your potting mix or soil to keep water from evaporating too quickly:
“A few weeks ago I repotted some plants with Premier Pro-Mix for Containers, a soil media with some polyacrylamide crystals in it. One of the pots where I used the soil mix was a sapling tree that I left outdoors – where it subsequently received the full benefit of the marvelous snow/rains that came through Friday and Saturday.
“Well, they say that those crystals can absorb many times their original volume of water – and they sure did. I am attaching a couple of pictures of what it looked like this morning.
“It looks to me like the flower pot barfed.
“Pretty gross. It is sort of subsiding now and I suspect it should be normal after a day or two without more water. But 2 days of 100% humidity and steady precipitation created a monster.”
Whitney Cranshaw, Fort Collins
As if viewing his gelatinous ooze-spewing pot wasn’t interesting enough, a few of his colleagues on campus – professors in the Horticulture department – weighed in with tidbits of information on this wonder gel.
According to Dr. Steven Newman, greenhouse specialist and guru-in-the-know for all things potted: “This is a typical response of these gels. They all will eventually migrate to the top of the container.”
This is where I say “you learn something new every day.” Today, it’s that these crystals will slowly worm their way upward until they crest over the top of the pot in a gooey cascade. Probably during a formal cocktail party you’re holding in your garden.
Says Dr. Tony Koski, turf specialist who answers a lot of questions on whether adding these to your lawn will help (they don’t, not really), “Salts from fertilizers or inherent in your water NORMALLY reduce the degree of water absorption/swelling with these gels. The amount of precipitation, combined with its purity/absence of salts, caused the gels in this case to swell to abnormally large size.”
No kidding! Thank heavens this didn’t occur to Whitney’s lawn, or the kids in his neighborhood would have had a whole new game playing slip-slide across the grass.