Getting Started (Newbie)

MLavoreJanuary 12, 2014

Hello All,

I am new to container gardening and will be going with Al's 5-1-1 mix. I have a few questions :)

1. After making the 5-1-1 mix the soil should be left so the lime can go through a reactive phase, does the soil need to be wet or dry during this time?

2. What is the ideal size for the pine bark fines? I have heard 1/8", 1/4" and 3/8"

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shazaam(NC 7B)

1. The mix should be wet/damp. That being said, it's not essential that you wait before planting.
2. Having a uniform particle size is more important in the gritty mix (turface/granite/bark) than in the 5-1-1 mix. For the latter, look for aged bark fines with a spectrum of particle sizes from very fine up to 1/2" (or even a bit larger).

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 9:14PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hi MLavore,

Good questions... ;-)

I and others like to wait a few days after making the 5-1-1 with the lime before potting up. If you use a fertilizer that gives the essential nutrients, then some leave out the lime and or gypsum . If you did pot up after mixing, I wouldn't worry, but we do like to give it a few days before we use. Some wait 5 days. I don't moisten my 5-1-1 before I mix. I do moisten the gritty to keep it separated a little more when mixing.

The 5-1-1 calls for dust to 3/8. Here is a copy from Al's post.

Hope this helps!


The basic soils I use ....

The 5:1:1 mix:

5 parts pine bark fines, dust - 3/8 (size is important
1 part sphagnum peat (not reed or sedge peat please)
1-2 parts perlite (coarse, if you can get it)
garden lime (or gypsum in some cases)
controlled release fertilizer (if preferred)

Big batch:
2-3 cu ft pine bark fines
5 gallons peat
5 gallons perlite
2 cups dolomitic (garden) lime (or gypsum in some cases)
2 cups CRF (if preferred)

Small batch:
3 gallons pine bark
1/2 gallon peat
1/2 gallon perlite
4 tbsp lime (or gypsum in some cases)
1/4 cup CRF (if preferred)

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 10:28PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

As mentioned, you don't need to pre water/wet the 511 mix. Just do it as you would with any conventional potting mix.

Lime or gypsum is added to provide Calcium, IF you can get a fertilizer that already has Calcium in it, in my opinion, you do not need to add lime or gypsum

Bark size, max 1/2", down to very fine particles. Remember that any conifer bark that is sold is intended for mulching and therefore they are all different and not consistent in size and quality. I have bough some that says "SMALL BARK" I can tell that better than 85% of it is 1/2" or smaller, with lots broken fines.
I have also found and bought some crushed bark (NOT SAPWOOD) which is close to peat moss but with more texture to it. So probably I will mix that with the nuggets.

BTW: I am also new to this potting mix. I have started using it in small scale for my seedling. But my main application/use comes when I do container planting outdoors.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 6:20AM
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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

Don't forget the primary reason for the introductory lime is not nutrients, but getting the medium pH quickly up to the healthy range for most plants. For azaleas or other "acid lovers", you can and probably should leave it out, but some plants (like geraniums) may suffer toxicity symptoms if you don't get that pH up around 6+ fairly quickly.

If your fert is acidic (ammo/urea heavy) and you water with rainwater/distilled, you really need that lime or your pH could remain at an unhealthy 4-ish indefinitely.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 2:45PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

It's my understanding that, in order for the lime to react with the media and raise pH, moisture must be present. Here's a relevant comment from Al in an old thread that I dug up (linked below)....

"The 5:1:1 mix would be better left to rest for a week (if it's moist) so the Ca can get through the reactive phase to where there is a residual fraction that is more readily available for uptake. That said, I very often plant in 5:1:1 I made the same day. I do try to use soil that I made a week earlier for anything prone to BER, though."

Here is a link that might be useful: Can I use 5-1-1 mix without Lime?

This post was edited by shazaam on Mon, Jan 13, 14 at 19:13

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 7:09PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Yes, the 5-1-1 mix ought to be moistened when mixing, and certainly prior to use. The ingredients bind together much better when moist, and wetting the bark ahead of time will help prevent dry spots in a container. Filling a container with dry mix, and then trying to water is going to be a slow process. The water will rush right through, leaving much of the mix dry - which is terrible for plant roots.


    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 8:41PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

When I make my soils, I put a bag of bark on a tarp and wet it lightly. Then I pour the peat on top - volcano-style, and leave that dry. On top of the peat, I sprinkle any additives - lime, fertilizer, Micromax ..... Then comes the perlite on top of the peat. That gets sprayed well. I then use the flat side of a garden rake to mix everything well (3-5 minutes). After it's mixed, I pull on the edges of the tarp to roll it around and mix it even more, before I roll all the bark into a neat pile in the center of the tarp. To protect the tarp, I use a plastic dustpan to scoop up the bark and put it in containers so I can start the next batch.

The advantage is ending up with some moisture in the soil is in the fact that if you don't, the peat will remain extremely hydrophobic and hard to wet when you pot in the new soil. By wetting the bark & perlite, the soil will contain enough moisture that, by diffusion, the peat will gain enough moisture to eliminate that tendency toward hydrophobia. Oh, and it does allow the lime to start reacting prior to the soils initial use.

In a perfect world, pine bark for the 5:1:1 mix would be slightly aged and in the dust to 1/2" size range, with most of the bulk being taken up by particles in the 1/8-1/4" range.


    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 11:16PM
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