“Escape Life!” with the joys of a Capillary Mat

Yes, it’s true. You can’t escape everything, but you can shirk some responsibilities with some light moderation. Sometimes you just have to do it. So today, I’ll tell you about the Capillary Mat, so you can worry a little less!

Let’s first talk about the science behind the mat. I am not a scientist, but I can describe to you the way it works. It is a material that looks a lot like felt material. Once the entire mat is soaked with water, along with the soil of the seedlings in cell packs, or pots, it all connects like a type of surface tension. The roots drink, pulling water from the soil, and the soil then pulls the water through the mat. The mat pulls the water from the water trough.

Since this is such an exact process, there are rules.
The second rule is, START IT UP BEFORE YOU ABANDON IT. That way if there is a problem, you can troubleshoot and verify if it is working before you go away.
The third rule is, Don’t let the water get too low in the trough, or it will not work!

So let’s start with the setup. I will walk you through it.

The first step is to source it out from a retailer. You can probably get it at several different garden centers, but I got mine from Lee Valley. It gives you enough material to do a fairly large table.

Penny demonstrates her disinterest in both the plastic sheet and the trough setup.

So you might remember when I set up my grow op, i started with the plastic sheeting. That came with the kit. It also doubles as a very good water spill protector before i set it up. You need this sheeting. It keeps the mat from drying out from below, and also it will probably destroy anything it sits on as it is absolutely saturated with water, and has to be.

After the plastic has been laid down, I then had the trough set up. This involved installing some brackets to the table legs, and a shelf on the bracket. According to directions, the trough needs to be below the table/mat level. The other thing to remember is, the capillary action will not work below 4”..that’s just too much pull. We measured the depth of the wick in the bottom of the trough, and as long as it stays at a certain water level, it is only about 2”.

20160412_164206.jpgNow, we fill the trough, and wet the mat. The mat will need a LOT of water. You could submerge it and really massage it to push out all the air pockets. What we did was water the mat on the table, since we didn’t want to mess up how it was laid out. You need the mat to be flat on the table so it does not drip. And make sure every edge and tip is completely wet. If you’re in doubt, continue to add more.

You need to cut a small piece leading from the trough to the mat. Make sure this is very wet. This is the feeder piece that will supply your mat with water constantly.

We placed all the cell packs back on the table, and then, the final step, is to water each and every pack. This ensures the seal will be made, and the soil will then be able to draw water from the wick. If it is dry, there would be air pockets breaking the capillary action.

Now, it should work! We wait and watch, to ensure it will continue to pull water from the trough, thus eliminating the need to water the cell packs every day! Hooray!


So, I hope this all made sense. Like I said before, I am not a scientist, but this is my understanding of how the mat works.

As I said, it’s a great thing for us, as we both have full time jobs, and it eliminates the worry while driving to work… Is anything too dry? Nevermind leaving the oven on. Are the seedlings hydrated??

That’s all for today! Next week, another garden agenda and update. I will be back and ready to tackle the spring plantings! This is the part I really can’t wait for!  (And the blackflies, mosquitoes, and ticks, oh my!)

Happy capillary-ing!


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