al's gritty mix substitute questions!

pinkgnome412(6)January 4, 2014

I know you guys LOOOVE talking about this stuff!!! =)

So I'm getting ready to make some for the first time. But I want to modify it a little bit. I don't like peat moss. Could I make a bark/perlite/and some rocky turface-like substance mix?

And my second question... I just found this stuff on the HD website, called ViaGrow ViaStone. It says it's a hydroponic rock gardening medium. In the description it says it's clay. Has anyone used this?? If this isn't acceptable, can I just use aquarium gravel?

I'm sorry if I'm being repetitive, but no one ever seems to get tired of this subject on here anyway. =)

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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

There is no peat moss in the Gritty Mix. You must be thinking of the 5-1-1? If so, you're in luck. I've never used straight peat moss in my 5-1-1, either. I substitute with peat-based potting mix, turface, or a combination of both.


    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 1:37PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hey Josh!

I do the same for my 5-1-1. I use peat based potting mix for that portion. Works great!

"A bark / perlite/ rocky Turface -like substance" would be a Gritty Mix in a 1-1-1 ratio and screened in the right size .

Have you read this link?

It might help..

Good luck!


Here is a link that might be useful: Container soils -water movement and retention XVII

    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 9:17PM
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Thanks for responding guys! I did read Al's post on container soils, thank you Laura. That's why I wasn't sure if this was okay, I'm kind of thinking a hybrid of both recipes. I'm going to give this a try soon and I just have these horrible images of it going terribly wrong because I decided to wing it and do it a different way and me later having to come back and write a post on how i did it wrong and how all my plants are dead and then getting yelled at LOL. So to be a little preventative, I figured I'd check with the experts before I take the plunge. =)

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 5:07PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey, Laura!

Don't hybridize the two mixes, would be my advice ;-)

Here's the thing....both recipes are *starting points* - but they are designed with specific properties and goals in mind. In other words, if you make the Gritty Mix with water retentive ingredients, you'll be undoing all the hard work of ensuring no perched water in the mix. And so, if more moisture retention is what you're after, start with the 5-1-1.

The 5-1-1 is easier to manipulate, in my opinion. You can use uncomposted bark for more durability and longevity (just be sure to keep up on fertilization). You can reduce moisture retention by screening the bark and sifting out the fine bark dust; and you can also increase the amount of Perlite. Leave out the peat or the peat-based mix, and use a porous grit like turface, pumice, lava rock, or DE to modify moisture retention and make the mix last longer.

Anyhow, let us know what you decide to try.


    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 6:23PM
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I want to modify [the 511 mix] a little bit. I don't like peat moss.

Me neither! However, the mixes are not only about individual components but also about how they work together as a mix. Peat is only 1/7th of the 511 recipe, and because bark and perlite and not overly water-retentive, you do need something to hold more water and nutrients. There will be plenty of air in-between the particles of bark and perlite, more if you use coarse particles and less but probably still enough if you use finer particles.

If you'll allow me a comparison... I am a financial advisor, and when clients tell me they do not like bonds (it is most often bonds they do not like, because of the low interest rates and good recent stock returns), I enthusiastically tell them "me neither!", but that probably everybody should have at least some because they play a role (providing diversification/hedge and down market protection).

So, yeah, peat sucks (quite literally), but at 1/7th of the volume it's not going to be what determines the performance of your mix, and it does play its distinct role.

I would (and did!) start with the strict 511 recipe because so many people have used it successfully for so long, and only modify it later in a thoughtful way if for some reason something does not work for me.

An investing analogy again is index mutual funds, which is basically investing in the same proportions the market in its aggregate wisdom decided to invest. (Who am I to think that I can do better than all these smart people?) Then once you really learn the ropes and see how the mix behaves in your personal cultural growing conditions (something the market cannot know!), feel free to carefully modify the proportions going forward.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 4:29AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Good analogy!

I've never used peat, but I've always supplemented my "portfolio," if you will, with an ingredient that offers the same returns ;-)


    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 11:35AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Very informative. Thanks Josh and everyone else.

For 5-1-1 I have procured two kinds of bark materials:

1- mostly small nuggets up to 1/2" size .
2- The second is crushed pine bark which is a bit more coarse than peat moss.

So , I am thinking not to use peat moss at all. Incidently, I am also thinking about adding about 1/7th (15% or so) in volume potting mix which has nutrients and perlite in it too.

I will have to do a sample mix to see how it looks. I might play with the ratios to get an optimum mixture.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 9:46PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Make some smaller batches, water the material in a container, see how it behaves (wets, drains, and dries). Granted, mixes behave different when there are plants involved, but it really will give you an idea of the texture of the mix and how fast or slow you will need to water, et cetera.


    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 12:38AM
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