prolonging a 5:1:1 mix (versus gritty)

maria_cJanuary 7, 2013

Hi all,
I've been reading a lot (a lot a lot) about the successes people have had with the gritty mix. I'm also a pretty hands on waterer/fertilizer of my plants, so a fast draining mix is probably a good option for me. However, there is a problem. I don't really think I can handle making and procuring the ingredients for a batch of gritty mix. I'm a student, low-income, and live in a 1 bedroom apartment with little room for gravel sifting, large buckets, etc.
However, it seems like the 5:1:1 mix, while much easier to make (I can buy smaller bags, there are only a few easily acquired ingredients etc.), doesn't last as long.
Is there any way I can prolong this mix? What can I add? Am I silly to think it's a good substitute for the gritty mix? I've always been a 1/2 peat + 1/2 perlite container gardener, and it's worked out well. But if I can do something better, I'd like to try.
Also, to emphasize, it really is going to be very hard for me to make a gritty mix (if I'm going by other tutorials I've seen on this site) so I'd like to make the 5:1:1 mix work if I could.

One final question...does the 5:1:1 mix work on everything? I've got high humidity plants that need to be moist often (e.g. fittonia), and easy plants (e.g. pothos) as well.
Thank you!!

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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Both mixes are exceptional.

In the first year, you'll probably see little difference in growth between the two mixes.
The Gritty Mix, however, really excels beyond that first year, and is especially suited to
woody plants that will spend 1 - 3 years in containers between re-potting...of course,
that doesn't absolve you of your re-potting duties if the plants outgrows the container volume
in that span of time ;-)

5-1-1 is generally more of a "warm season" mix because it provides more moisture.
But, as with the Gritty Mix, it is very adjustable - minor tinkering with the ratios or
ingredients can create the perfect amount of moisture retention for your particular climate.

To extend the life of 5-1-1:
1) Use an uncomposted bark.
2) Eliminate or reduce the peat moss.
3) Use fine bark dust instead of peat moss for "binding" and moisture retention.
4) Use durable ingredients such as turface, pumice, scoria instead of the peat moss fraction.
5) Use soluble synthetic fertilizer instead of organic fertilizer.

The outer limit of my particular long-life 5-1-1 is about 3 years, especially if the mix
is exposed to the elements (or if I use Fish Emulsion, as with my big outdoor Chainfern).


    Bookmark   January 8, 2013 at 1:26PM
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Thank you Josh! This is exactly what I was wondering :)

    Bookmark   January 10, 2013 at 12:47AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Here's a pic of some 5-1-1 from last year's containers.

If I were really pressed for money, I would simply screen and rinse this material
and then incorporate a fraction of this old mix with fresh ingredients. This year,
I even re-used some old mix directly for a Weeping Willow in a larger container -
Willows tolerate such awful soils that I have no doubt that mine will thrive even in
this recycled mix. I wouldn't do this with all my plants, though.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2013 at 10:59AM
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