Water Socks?

For some reason, I found myself wondering this morning if I should create a new category on the blog called “Hair-Brained Ideas”.

So yeah, remember how I said that it was finally raining yesterday? Well, as it turns out, Mother Nature and the Weather Network were just teasing us! Funny…my understanding of weather forecasting was that “100% chance of precipitation” means there’s a reasonable chance it might rain – not that it’s going to be clear as a bell and sunny. lol (Ok, ok – we DID get a teeny bit of rain in the morning, but not the 20-30 ml they were calling for, that’s for sure)


For those of you just tuning in, it’s been really really hot and dry in my region this summer, so I’ve naturally been thinking a lot about ways to conserve water as much as possible while still keeping my garden plants alive. Over the years, I’ve had great success with using straw mulch around my plants – and it’s certainly helped this year – but the combination of crazy hot temperatures (for up here, that is) and zero rain has the potential to really take a toll on the plants – especially if I happen to be away from the house for a day or two (stranger things have happened during the summer months – haha).

SO…I decided to test out a new hair-brained idea!

I tend to be a bit of a pack-rat – always trying to find uses for a lot of the stuff we no longer want/need. My wife likes to call me a “hoarder” (lol), but from time to time, my hoarding tendencies do actually kinda pay off (well, I think so anyway! haha). A little while back, my wife handed me a garbage bag of old clothes that she no longer wanted, and which were not really well-suited for donation. Of course, my first thought was – COMPOSTING! Specifically, I knew that old (moist) clothes would likely make for a nice composting worm habitat. I can’t say my wife was too thrilled with the idea of some neighbor (or future house occupant) potentially finding a partially composted piece of…uhhhh…”clothing” in their yard – but I did my best to assure her that the worms and bugs would ensure that there was no (biodegradable) evidence left behind.


I may still using some of the old clothing for vermicomposting at some point, but given the fact that there were many pairs of old socks in the bag, I came up with what may very well be a much better use for all that cotton!

I stuffed some socks full of other garments and tied off the ends. These “water socks” were then soaked in a bucket of water until sopping wet.

The idea here is to provide slow-release moisture for those plants/gardens with a greater tendency to suffer from the hot dry weather. In my mind, the ideal location for one of these water-logged cotton sausages is underneath dense vegetation, or some sort of mulch. Obviously it doesn’t make too much sense to use them if most of the water just ends up evaporating away (although in certain cases – such as small container gardens – if it allows you to keep your plants alive while you are away, I figure it’s worth a little bit of lost water).

Of course, I couldn’t just share this water socks idea and leave it at that! This is a vermicomposting blog after all!

One thing I’ve noticed about the (good quality) vermicompost I happen to have an abundance of this year is that it can work really well for creating watering “dams” at the base of my plants. We have heavy clay soils in my region, and as anyone who has dealt with these soils in the summer can attest, they can harden when drying out – making it very difficult to water without 3/4 of the water running off on you. With a nice handful of vermicompost at the base of the plants it becomes much easy to rein the water in and keep it where it’s needed. Having water percolating through the vermicompost on a regular basis can obviously provide the plants with a mild “vermicompost tea” application as well.

The only issue, however, is that the vermicompost can dry up and/or slowly get washed away – reducing it’s effectiveness over time. I thought perhaps that if it was sitting inside a sock instead, it might provide benefits for a fair bit longer. Like the cotton water socks, it would certainly be a good slow-release water source – but with the added benefit of providing the plants with the “tea” instead of plain water. Each time you water you could simply pour it directly onto the sock, soaking it in the process and sending good stuff down to the roots as well.

I made up a couple of vermi water socks this morning so I could test them out.

Boston Brown Socks??

I soaked them in water (making myself a nice simple tea in the bucket at the same time), and then added one to my big potted Sungold tomato (sitting on my deck), and one down at the base of a clump of Echinacea that have been suffering a bit with all this hot dry weather (they are just starting to flower so I’d like to help them out a bit).

Of course, there are lots of different materials that could be stuffed into socks and used for water-holding and slow release moisture – it would actually be really interesting to compare different materials. I wonder, for example, how scrunched up newsprint would compare to cotton? How about paper towels?
Perhaps something I can test out at some point!

Anyway – I will keep everyone posted!

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    • John Duffy
    • July 20, 2011

    Waste not, want not…Seems like a reasonable idea to me

    • Sharon
    • July 20, 2011

    Hey, I actually think the vermisock is a pretty good idea. I think I might try that. it would be more convenient than making the tea and each plant could have their own sock. At the end of the season you could just dump what was left in the sock in the plant pot and start again next year. Yes, I like this idea Bentley!

    • julie
    • July 20, 2011

    i like it too 🙂 it’s the little things. I was reading this and going : wow… duh…so simple… so common sense, when you think about it, yet, I haven’t …

    curious to see how it evolves over time and the effects of soil, plants,etc around it… can’t wait to try it out too in my container tomatoes and in my clay garden

    I’m already sifting through a bag of clothes I didn’t dare donate but didn’t want to throw in the thrash either.

    also curious, what happens to the vermicompost after having been soaked, watered, and leaking all the nutrients out for a long time… what’s left, is it re-usable? does the micro-fauna/flora replenishes itself? does it die out? do worm cocoons hatch and do worm live in it happily?

  1. Thanks for the input everyone!

    JULIE – The material left over would be nice, rich humus and would certainly be an excellent material for your soil. A lot of the nutrients and microbial potency will be gone by then – but it will still improve the porosity of your clay soil and help to boost/support the soil ecosystem.

    If there are cocoons in the material I suspect they would hatch out before too long and if the worms don’t find any food value left in the material they’ll likely find some way to get out of the sock (pretty good at squeezing through small spaces).

  2. I have used a similar trick for slow-watering particular plants that need deep watering, such as celery. For each celery plant, I take a plastic gallon milk jug and poke a small hole in the bottom corner. It is easy to fill this jug with a garden hose and it will then take several hours to drip. If the flow is too slow, it is easy to enlarge the hole with a stick or screwdriver. I haven’t tried using compost tea, but as long as the hole doesn’t get plugged, it should work well. The sock approach allows you to use more concentrated vermicompost while a milk jug allows you to quickly see if a refill of water/tea is necessary.

  3. You could call that one”The Boston green socks” or “Tea party”.
    That is what our feet feel like all summer down south! Hope you don’t get too toasty up there! Now i know where our weather men moved to.We got one who had a window installed in his new broadcast location a while back.He doesn’t even go outside any more.I’m better at predicting weather than he is.He predicted snow one year and was right.He hasn’t been right since.And that was in the eighties! LOL!

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