Mixing batches of growing medium

avepico(5)January 26, 2011

After a late summer outside and a half a winter indoors growing with the 5-1-1 mix I am preparing for summer and a whole new batch of rewarding work. I am going to be bit more ambitious this year and plan to start with 10 cubic yards of bark fines and the appropriate (still determining) amounts of the other bits.

I am mainly wondering what vessel and tools people use for the actual mixing of the mix. I used a 35 gallon tote and my hands to mix my previous batches and that just does not seem adequate for the amout I am planning on doing this round.

On a side note, I am going to try the gritty mix for the budha's hand I plan to get in spring, seems more appropriate for the venue.

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I think Al has said that he uses a large tarp for mixing. Even if he wasn't the one who said it, whoever did sounded like a great idea. I got a couple tarps this past year for hail protection, so I'm definitely going to try it. I used a 40-gallon trash can, and it worked "ok," but was a real pain.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 7:21AM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

I have mixed as much as 30 cubic feet of potting mix on my asphalt drive way using a snow shovel. I lay the largest portion (pine fines in the case of Al's mix) down in a roughly flat oval and then cover it with a layer of the next ingredient. I then wet it very lightly, just to keep the dust down, and then use the shovel to roughly begin mixing the first two ingredients. On top of that, I add the last ingredient (usually perlite) and wet it down lightly with a fine spray of water. At that point I try to evenly layer everything else, like fertilizer and lime. Finally, after a break, I use the shovel to turn everything over several times to mix. This whole thing takes at least two hours, and goes better if you can enlist someone with a strong back. I always use a face mask or at least a kerchief because I don't want to breathe any of this in. (I dream of finding a friend with a cement mixer, but I never have.)

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 10:02AM
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Some folks use tarps, others use small cement mixers... I use the rigid plastic kiddie pools, available almost everywhere during the summer months. I dump in my ingredients and mix it all with an estate shovel or a rake, or whatever I happen to have handy.

The pools are great tools for gardening use. I use them over winter to group my deciduous trees and potted dormant plants, and I close them in a garage. I use them for potting in spring, and they help keep the mess contained.

I keep a few of both sizes around for various uses. They make great pools for ducks... we have Muscovy ducks. And when not in use, I keep them hung on nails on the wall of the garage.

I would think, however, that tarps would give a greater amount of uses, and would make a relatively cheap and easy way to mix the gritty mix ingredients together... by dragging and rolling the corners and edges so the pile rolls over itself.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 10:22AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

10 YARDS!? Holy smokes - that's a dump truck full. 270 cu ft or about 2,500 gallons by the time you mix in the peat and perlite. That's some AMBITION!!! ;o)

I use the tarp method, but that only does about 3-4 cu ft at a time. Smaller batches can be made in a wheel barrow or a tub, or by way of any of the other suggestions the good folks have offered.

I want a portable cement mixer too, but the better half ain't buying it. Lol Maybe I'll wait until we need something for the house - real bad - & then work a deal. She's the type that thinks you build a huge garage so it can sit nice & empty; so we always go to (a little) war every fall when I bring all my trees & nursery wagons & stuff into the garage. Women! ;-)


    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 2:42PM
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Bit of a mistype, only 10 FEET, these six day work weeks turn my brain to jello. Still, I am looking to probably triple my amount of plants this year and judge if it is a workable amount for me.

The tarp method seems like the winner for me, I have several around already and used them when I repotted out of miracle gro potting soil.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 3:29AM
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I count myself lucky to have married a packrat of sorts, Al... he can't say a word about my plants or growing supplies, lest I remind him of his technology piles! :-)

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 9:26AM
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ykerzner(9 TX)

What a great idea, Jodik! I never mix batches larger than about 8 gallons, but a tarp sounds best.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 10:15AM
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When mixing cement mix for a shower pan (sand and portland cement) we use about 4 methods.
1. mudbox or wheelbarrow/ smallest batches (kiddie pool)
2.directly on the slab or tarp (2 people can grab opposite corners to toss it around instead of a shovel with the tarp)
3. cement mixer on the bigger jobs (can be rented for the day for around $60-$70. Use only for really big jobs 2 cubic yards or more)
4.The tool you most probably already have: ROTOTILLER! Very quick used on large commercial floors 1000 sq. ft.+
If you have a tiller, use it. You should be done in way under an hour.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 12:24PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

I have a big 55 gallon barrel that has a screw on lid. We measure out our ingredients and layer them as we dump them in. Then I have the kids push it around the yard. I come over and flip it a few times and it is mixed really well. Then I dump it on a large tarp, wet it down and then use it and put the rest back in the barrel for storage.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 6:09PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Great idea!


    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 9:27PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

HI Everyone!
There's some great Ideas here, but I love Jay's! :-)

I just do mine by hand in small batches in a tupper tote. Bout the size of a medium cooler.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 9:41PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Whatta lightweight! ;o)


    Bookmark   January 29, 2011 at 9:40AM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

Light weight! Na...pretty tough cookie here. ;-)

It makes enough for a 14" terracotta and left overs. ;-)

My wheel barrel is a mess! Not going to use it. lol.


    Bookmark   January 29, 2011 at 10:00AM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

What do you consider a med. size cooler.?

I have one cooler almost 4'long. ;-) lol!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2011 at 10:06AM
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With my ease of injury, I'm with JoJo... it's best if I work with small batches! ;-)

I like the barrel roll idea, too! I wish I had a 55 gallon drum with a removable cover...

    Bookmark   January 29, 2011 at 10:06AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a


Wouldn't those 4 foot coolers be about 90 gallon?


    Bookmark   January 29, 2011 at 12:15PM
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