Gritty Mix + Citrus Plants + Foilage Pro - Questions

redshirtcat(6a MO StL)February 16, 2011

Hi - I have some bare root plants on the way that I'd like to try in the gritty mix and I just want to be sure that I have things ready for when they arrive. I'm hoping al or someone more experienced than me can shed some light on the situation..

My basic setup:

- I'm using reptibark for the pine fines (I actually have access to pine fines locally but they are slightly larger - however they will be partially composted, should I use that instead?)

- I have several bags of #2 cherrystone grit ("Traction grit" and "#2 medium") which I will wash. This was expensive and I'm wondering if I can use what my local guy calls "trap rock" in the future?

- I have screened turface

- I have a bag of "Gypsum - Calcium Sulfate" (though I'm not sure exactly why).

- I'm using poly teracotta-colored 5 gallon (12") pots with the built-in drip pan below. I have screens for each pot to prevent the mix from falling through. (Should I remove the drip pans?)

I've decided to try to use Foilage Pro as my fertilizer as it is 9-3-6 (close to the 5-1-3 for citrus), can be mixed into water, and contains micronutrients.

My local water tests at an absurdly high 9.7 ph (is this normal?) I read that citrus prefer 5.5-6.5 soil ph. Is this mix ph neutral to the point that I need to be making sure the water I'm adding is in the 5.5-6.5 range? Do I do this with vinegar as I have read in several places here or with magnesium sulfate (as my local nursery guy said) - I've tried lowering water ph with the epsom salt and it didn't seem to do anything, maybe it doesn't work in water, just soil and mixes?


I have the following additional questions:

-Any glaring errors in my setup?

-Do I need to moisten the mix before I put the plants into it so that the turface doesn't suck all the moisture out of the roots before I get them situated?

-How should I be using this gypsum? What quantities per 2-3 year old citrus tree in a 5 gallon (12") pot?

-Will things like beneficial bacteria that I use in soil work in this mix?

-Where does the fertilizer end up being stored in the pots? Does the turface or bark suck it up? Do I need to fertilize with a weak solution every watering since a lot will drip through or foilar feed or etc?

-Are there any chemicals to leach out of the turface that won't be good for fruit?

Sorry - it's a lot of questions but I've never tried anything like this before and just want to be sure before I have some more dead trees on my hands (this time my fault).

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I will let others weight in on most of this, but I will tell you that in my experince, using a good soil composition & the FP 9-3-6 has worked exceptionally well for my citrus (and berries). I feared overfertilization with them (not sure why...probably something I read or heard), so I gave them only half the FP that I gave my veggie plants, but they still responded very well to it. Hope this helps you somewhat. :)

    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 2:37AM
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I can help answer a few of your concerns...

It helps to pre-moisten the medium mix before potting, yes. Since I rinse the granite chips and other ingredients to remove dust, and I make my medium in smaller batches, most of it ends up pre-moistened anyway. I'd pre-moisten any medium I was using, though, so it's really no different.

I feed a weak solution of fertilizer almost every time I water. Foliage Pro is the preferred fertilizer, according to most folks, mainly because it's complete and immediately accessible to the plant. It already contains the micro-nutrients that other liquid plant foods lack. I'd love to be using FP, but I'm stuck using up the Miracle Gro liquid I already have. I add micro-nutrients. I mix it all in a weak solution of about 1/8 to 1/4 of the recommended strength, and I use it to water with about 3 out of 4 times. On the 4th watering, I flush with clear water to remove any accumulated salts.

Since plants uptake moisture and nutrition at the same time in vapor form, from my understanding, there's always a supply available. It doesn't need to be stored anywhere because you're giving it a slow, steady supply.

Turface is basically inert, I do believe... so there aren't any chemicals leaching out of it. None that I've heard of, anyway.

I think the first thing to understand is that growing within the confines of a container is extremely different than growing in the ground. Mother Nature provides a varied army of worms, insects, nematodes, bacterias, fungi, and other microscopic creatures that continuously work to break down organic matter into usable food and to aerate the soil... all of which helps maintain a balance of good and bad, so to speak. This same army and the same processes aren't present within containers, and it's next to impossible to maintain the same balances. Therefore, a more inorganic approach works better in containers, and allows us to control the moisture amount, aeration, drainage, and nutrition.

The only real adjustment you'll need to make is in how often the medium requires watering. It's a very durable medium, so it won't break down and compact. It won't hold too much moisture at root level for too long, as the finer textured, siltier potting soils tend to do. You can typically keep plants in it for 2-3 years without re-potting. Watering can be done thoroughly every time you water, so the accumulation of excess salts and minerals will not be an issue, and you'll be allowing the roots the exchange of oxygen and gases that they require.

Most newcomers to this type of medium will insert a pointed wooden skewer or dowel into the mix and allow the tip to sit around lower center of the root ball area within the pot. When pulled out and pressed against your cheek, cool and damp will tell you that there's still moisture at root level, while a dry, warm skewer means it's time to water again. Pot weight or a finger inserted as far as you get it into the mix are also indicators of when to water, but you'll quickly get a feel for when watering is required.

I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is under or over watering this type of mix, although it's a lot harder to over water than to under water. A lot will depend on the environment the container is kept in... indoors or outdoors, sun or shade, etc...

I hope I've answered at least a few questions for you. I'm sure Al or someone will be along shortly to answer anything I've missed, or am not sure about.

I wish you the best success in your growing endeavors! :-)

    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 3:44AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

MgSO4 and CaSO4 are essentially pH neutral, so please don't think about using either to either raise or lower pH. It will be fruitless.

Get a test kit and determine how much white vinegar or citric acid (where they sell wine making supplies) it takes to lower your tap water to a pH of 5.0-5.5. Make a note & water with the treated water each time you water or fertigate.

* Don't let the roots dry out - ever. Keep them wet all the while you're working on them. I put some soil inn the pot, then situate the plant, PARTIALLLY covering the roots a little at a time - working the soil into the roots. If I think there is any danger of the roots drying out, I'll spritz. You'll only need to do this at first because your progress will be slower that it will after you get proficient.

IF your fertilizer doesn't contain Ca, add 1 tbsp of gypsum per gallon of soil. If it does contain Ca (like FP), no gypsum required. The same with Mg/Epsom salts. Ask if this isn't clear.

Plants form partnerships with lots of soil life. I often find certain types of fungi growing in the gritty mix when conditions are favorable, but I rely on the fact that all the essential nutrients will be in the soil solution and readily available for uptake at all times. Try to think of growing in the gritty mix as one step closer to hydroponics than growing in sludgy soils, which are already well-removed from growing in the ground. If you can grow perfectly healthy plants hydroponically w/o fungal symbiosis, you can do the same in container culture with a good nutrition supplementation program (right pH and fertilizer).

Fertilizer ions anions are held on colloidal surfaces at attachment sites. (look up CEC or Cation Exchange Capacity) A LOT of people think that because you water more often & the water runs through the soil that you are flushing the soil of all fertilizer, but it doesn't work that way to the degree most think it does. You can fertilize however you like. Weak doses each time you water - weakly weekly - every 2-3 weeks. I fertilize every time I water in the winter (houseplants/bonsai) - even the plants in weak light. Water use is determined largely by growth & transpiration rates, so fertilizer rates that are tied to the water supply are pretty much self-regulating - another fact that many fail to grasp. This only works with soils that allow you to flush the soil when you water. Sludgy soils that are watered in sips virtually assure a steady increase in the level of solubles in the soil solution,. unless you make the concerted effort to remove them regularly by flushing; but then you have the excess water retention to deal with .....

Turface is baked clay - dirt. It id fired to the melting point so it expands & fuses. It's inert, so there is nothing in Turface you wouldn't find in clay soils.

After reading what everyone offered - if you still have questions, don't hesitate .....

Good luck!!!


    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 11:24AM
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I must say, such fantastic advice givin here!

Thank you from me too. It is people like this that have made my best positive, succesful and great wonderful experiences growing citrus!

Looks like Jodi is ready for her first citrus, as I will chat with you later about this, and Al and is just wonderful at helping anyone grow any kind of tree, yes even citrus as I have witnessed.

Thanks for the refresher Al:-0)

Hi Tnveggie!:-)Look at you go:-)


    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 5:35PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

Thanks for the information and advice. It looks like I'm mostly good to go. Just have to wait for the plants and hope I don't screw up the new watering cycle

    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 8:35PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Most welcome, Mike. Take good care & a hug to Sissy, please?

Good luck, RSC - we're pulling for you. ;o)


    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 8:42PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

Al I'm not sure if you're still reading this thread but I was wondering about Axis. I've read a few threads where you discuss it briefly and one where you said a learned friend of yours had some comments that you would forward but I can't find the comments.

I ask because Axis was available where I purchased my Turface and I went with Turface instead because it was discussed more often (though the nursery guy told me that Axis holds more moisture). Are they generally interchangeable for these purposes? If so, and the Axis holds more moisture I might use that going forward to give myself more of a watering buffer.

Am I correct in assuming that since there is no perched water in the mix that the added moisture in the DE Axis product will have no ill effects and will just extend the time between waterings?

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 6:58PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I don't remember if Axis or Play Ball was the larger product, but only the larger of the two was appropriate for the gritty mix. You must have dug WAY back into the archives to come up with those comments. ;o) Funny that you should mention my friend. I just accepted an invitation (yesterday) to sit on a panel discussion about soils at U of M's Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum (in Ann Arbor) in August. I'm sure he was instrumental in my being invited, though I haven't talked to him about it yet.

Whichever product is closest to but not smaller than Turface in size would be appropriate. Other calcined DE products often discussed here are out there, too. You're correct in thinking that Axis and similar products when large enough in particle size, hold almost all of their water internally, which doesn't contribute to any reduction in inter-particular (between particles) air porosity.

Calcined DE on a size for size basis holds more water than Turface. It also has a higher pH - 7.0 as opposed to 6.2, and a little better CEC, which I don't look on as a significant advantage for container culture.


    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 8:06PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

Thanks so much. I'll grab a few bags tomorrow and check the size compared to turface.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 8:22PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

If these plants seem to do well in the mix I am considering repotting (with your root pruning recommendations) a large number and variety of plants that I've grown in soil for a long time. However I'm concerned about the time it will take to feed all of these. Typically I use osmocote or miracle grow timed release and then I can just water all of the pots with a hose outside (maybe 60-70 plants a year). I can stay on top of hand feeding 4-5 with no problem but all of them will take more time than I will likely have every few days.

Is there a spray or hose attachment that you use with Foliage Pro that you recommend? Or are such systems unreliable in terms of making sure we get the right amount of fert / gallon of water?

I also wonder if large amounts of rain become an issue with this mix - not in terms of perched water since it will drain out - but if I'm fertigating then should I just do so the day after a heavy rain anyway even if the medium is still moist? If it rains for weeks at a time do I just skip feeding those 2 weeks?

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 11:14PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

hmm and come to think of it this is getting more and more complicated. If I use something like an EZ Flo injector then can I still somehow manage my PH? I wonder if adding vinegar to the Foliage Pro will harm it in any way or if the vinegar will degrade over time if left outside in high heat (supposedly the container is UV protected).


    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 12:54AM
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Please let me share with you from my experience, perspective and view.

I have well over 150 potted plants that I summer outside, and it only takes about 15 minutes to fertilize them all with a watering can. Much easier outside.
If I should not water them for days after that, they all do ok. I had a summer when it rained almost everyday for 2 and a 1/2 months, and forgot quite often to fertilize, and they did just fine.

It may not be convenient to feed them as so for some, or more often, but that is what I am willing to do, even enjoy as a matter of fact. I guess I am willing to do for the extra mile to keep my plants in the best possible health they could be in.
It is what I want for myself that drives me to make time to hit the gym a few times a week.:-)

I have noticed it can be weeks before any of my plants show any signs of nutritional deficiency.
I actually feared that leaving them in the care of someone for a bit would cause a problem since I do not trust anyone else feeding them, and that person would only hose them down everyday, so I used slow release pellets, and saw no signifigant difference in the plants I did not use them in.

You have to understasnd that the risk you run of your plants being nutrient deficient runs significally higher in bagged mixes or other mixes that degrade, compact, build up excess salts and suffocte the roots within short period time ,which limits the ability for your plants to draw up water, let alone fertilizer.

It is not that complicated really. :-)

All you have to do is use a watering can, fertilize at least once a week or more if you would like.
I look at it as something I LOVE to do.
What you use for dosage or their enviroment, will determine how often you fertilize.

I use vinegar at every watering with great results!

If you have had your water tested and find out that it is on the acidic side, which is highly unlikely, you would not need vinegar at all. I could be so lucky.
I have never had vinegar degrade in the hot sun left outside all summer.

Al or any one else with great experiences could expound on what I have shared.


    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 8:50AM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

So the Axis Regular is the correct size. The stuff is pretty vile. I made the mistake of not using a respirator (just a rag tied around my face) - nor did I wear gloves. I started out wearing my glasses but then had to get goggles after about 2 minutes of screening. After screening my hands are covered in microcuts and my throat is on *fire*. In the future I will cover all my skin and use a respirator... eek

Here's what the Axis mix looks like (sorry for the bad pics, had to use the flash in the garage) From Al's Gritty Mix From Al's Gritty Mix

Screened Axis:
From Al's Gritty Mix

I also picked up some citric acid for adjusting pH and I think I've found a good sprayer - it was pretty well reviewed at Amazon as well as in this forum. I will be sure to test it to make sure it isn't diluting or etc.

Thanks for the encouragement Mike - I don't know how you get all that done in 15 minutes I must just be slow. If I had to mix a gallon of fert for every plant (they are almost all very large trees... well large for containers anyway) it would take me a lot longer. I'm going to try the sprayer first and see how it goes - if it isn't consistent I'll see if I can speed up my watering habits lol

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 11:27PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

FWIW - I do all my screening outdoors when there is a good breeze (at my back). I usually slip on a paper mask on for the actual screening op.

Your soil looks GREAT! Very nice job! You'll be well-pleased.

Best luck to you!


    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 11:54AM
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Gorgeous medium! Well done!

I, too, think you'll be very pleased with its performance! :-)

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 12:12PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

Mike I've seen a number of threads from 2010 where you talked about using Osmocote Plus on some of your citrus trees in Al's mix. You seemed hesitant in all of them and I never saw a post saying how the plants did. So... how'd they do? Come to think of it I never actually read that you had them in Al's mix I guess I'm just assuming you did?

I was looking at timed release just in case the hose-end mixer I've ordered doesn't pan out. The NPK ratios seem less friendly to citrus but this might not be a big issue in a well draining medium? I've also read Al saying in several places that the Mg/Ca ratio is backwards and that I might need to use the gypsum along with this fertilizer?

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 2:12AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I have a similar problem with a lot of pots and the refilling of a watering can several times for one pass. I now have what is know as a "spot sprayer", in my case a fifteen gallon model, that I make the fertilizer liquid mix in. The sprayer fits in a garden cart with its 12 volt auto battery. I remove the spray head from the wand and with the 20 foot long 3/8 inch hose can water hundreds of pots by moving the garden cart as needed without having to carry a watering can or keep mixing as I go. Al

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 9:36AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Redshirt, Mike's citrus are all in Al's mixes, either Gritty or 5-1-1.
I can't recall if he's using Osmocote in all of them, but I use the 4-month
release in all of mine - in addition to the Dolomitic Lime (at mixing time)
and the Foliage Pro + white vinegar when I water.

In fact, all of my conifers and maples (and Osage) get the same treatment.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 10:47AM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

Like Josh said, all of Mike's plants are in one of Al's mixes. Sometimes it just depends on what materials Mike has handy as to which mix. But I do know he has citrus in the gritty mix.

Because of his beautiful tree's many of us, myself included are using the gritty mix for citrus. I just got 2 new trees last week.

If he seems hesitant about something, it just may be his writing. Mike tends to post from 'work' and gets in a hurry. ;-)

All of his plants are just beautiful! There are some recent posts, but at the moment I'm not sure where off hand.

I've only seen Mike post once about a tree with problems, and that was when he did an experiment with a different mix. It didn't go well. lol.. so right back to the gritty the tree went. :-)


    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 12:13PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Redshirt - you must have misunderstood about the Ca:Mg ratio of FP 9-3-6. It is perfect insofar as the Ca:Mg ratio goes, AND it is also perfect relative to the % of N supplied. The most important considerations for fertilizer from the plant's perspective is what is available and when, and how much of each nutrient is present in relation to other nutrients. I can see there was a lot of thought that went into developing the fertilizer because the 3:1:2 ratio is about as close as you can get to what plants actually use (a decided advantage when it comes to our trying to keep EC/TDS levels low and still not have our plants suffering deficiencies), and because all 12 nutrients plants take from the soil are present in a favorable ratio to each other.

The rule of thumb: Use dolomitic (garden) lime in the 5:1:1 soil except under unique & specific circumstances that are prolly not worth mentioning now. For the gritty mix, use gypsum as a Ca source IF your fertilizer does not contain Ca. Most soluble fertilizers do not, because they use urea as their N source. Ca nitrate is the only suitable soluble source of Ca and it is much more expensive than urea. Plus, most container soils are pH adjusted with dolomitic lime, which acts as a Ca source. The gritty mix would be too high in pH to be optimal if we added lime, so we limit the Ca source to something that is pH neutral - gypsum. Foliage pro does have Ca, and all the plants I've grown so far show no signs of Ca deficiencies if I use 9-3-6 and leave the gypsum out, but you DO need it if you're using MG, Schultz, Peter's ...

IF you use gypsum and your fertilizer does NOT have Mg, you need to supplement the Mg by adding Epsom salts each time you fertilize. Do this by including 1/8 - 1/4 tsp of Epsom salts per gallon of water each time you fertilize.

FP sometimes shows a tendency for the Ca to precipitate out of solution at times - especially when it gets cold. Warming the fertilizer before using it, and diluting it 1:1 with water before using it in your injector system will ensure the Ca stays in solution. It will also ensure the added MgSO4 (Epsom salts) you add to your fertilizer solution will dissolve properly and not cause additional Ca to precipitate out of solution.

I really need to get an injector system to both acidify my irrigation water (mine comes in at a pH of about 8.5-8.8) and to speed the fertilizing process. I actually fertilize 300+ containers in the summer by hand (2-1/2 gallon watering can) on pretty much a weekly basis. It's a drag ..... but a good thing I love being outdoors. I could probably spend the 3+ hours it takes to fertilize every weekend doing something not so tedious. Note: I could easily take the easier road & fertilize at a higher, instead of at a reduced rate, & extend the interval to 2 weeks instead of weekly, but the plants keep telling me they like the more frequent low doses (especially when it's rather hot or quite cool), so .....


    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 12:20PM
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Hi Redshirtcat:

I really can't give you concrete proof what teh slow release does, because I have nevr solely depended on it for more than a few weeks.

I was always hesitant to use it because my FP was doing such a fantastic job alone and I saw no need for it.
All I can tell you is that I have seen no negative impacts using Osmocote and yet all the plant citrus I did not apply Osmocote to are doing just as fine as the ones with

It was available at the time, and I was only using it for my convenience as I was not going to be able to fertilize with FP as often as I wanted too. Sort of back up plan.

I, just like Al, LOVE to fertilize often no matter how long it takes me because I find it relaxing, I get to see my plants up close more often while I can tell what is going on with them, but most importantly, my plants to love and react better to small helpings more often.

In a nut shell, if you plan on doing what is best for your plants, then try and find a way to make time to water in small doses and regular intervals.
If you plan on going farther between intervals, go up in dosage.
If you plan on barely fertilizing with FP as we do, then try the Osmocote and "YOU" tell us how it does for you your plants..:-))))
Your well on your way to some of the happiest trees you have ever seen coming here and working with many wonderful and knowledgable people, and sorry to say, especially Al!
We owe him our success and our selves for apllying what we have learned.

Jojo: How well you know. I am at work and here I am posting away. Good to see you friend! You always have such kind comments for so many of us, and yet your plants are just as wonderful if not better than ever before. Bravo!

Josh: I actually got my idea from you because your plants always to see just perfect! Always perfect!:-)

Al: Thanks again for such a detailed explanation! As it seems, my plants do just fine with regular doses of FP alone.
If it were not for you, I would of known none of this, in the dark, nor would I have known the fertilizers that contain everything needed for optimum health>:-0)))

Hi the other Al:-)

Have a great day all!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 12:56PM
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Ok. Lets' try this again since my head is still pounding!

In a nut shell, if you plan on doing what is best for your plants, then try and find a way to make time to "FERTILIZE" in small doses at regular intervals.
I fertilize 1/4 strength at every watering unless I should forget too, or not have the time here and there which can happens at times.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 1:06PM
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I pre-mix my fertilizer to make it easier and quicker for myself. I keep several large containers filled with water, and as I'm filling them, I add the nutrients necessary. Then, when it's time to water, I simply pour out of one of the containers of pre-mixed fertilizer water. Couldn't be easier. And, the water gets a chance to come to room temperature, which is less of a shock than water that's too cold or too warm out of the tap.

To me, growing plants and gardening isn't a study in convenience. It requires patience, a love of flora, and the want to nurture... to commune with nature. I want to watch the beauty and wonder of nature unfurl under the care of my hands, through my knowledge and patience. If it seemed like work, or like a job or a chore, I wouldn't bother. I'd replace all my real plants with fake ones and call it a day.

For myself, it's about doing what's best for the plants I have... it's about learning the basic science of how plants grow and what their requirements are, and putting it all into action. It's about the satisfaction I get when I see new growth, or flower buds or fruit forming, or when I re-pot and I see the network of healthy roots I've helped that plant grow. That's what it's all about!

And if it takes a little time out of my schedule to do all that I do for my plants, well... that's ok. It's my time to relax and commune with nature! It's a hobby, not a job!

Life is short... it passes us by in the blink of an eye. It really is important to take time out and smell the roses, so to speak. Gardening and growing should be relaxing and satisfying.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 10:02AM
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penfold2(4b, MN)

Jodi, I will just add a warning not to premix your water if you're also adding vinegar, as many people do. The vinegar provides a carbon source, which is the only thing limiting bacterial growth in fertilized water. When I've left containers of water, fertilizer, and vinegar sitting out, they've turned cloudy and a bit slimy from bacterial blooms.

Kind of gross, plus it's probably reducing the nutrient levels.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 1:24PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

I'm glad you said something I had planned on calculating the correct amount of vinegar + Foliage Pro and putting it in the hose end sprayer and just using it when needed.

Would about a week or so would be too long to store such a mixture without significant bacterial growth? Would the same be true of citric acid?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 6:59PM
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penfold2(4b, MN)

I'm not sure about mixing concentrated fertilizer and acid. It's something I'd like to do since I use an injector to add acid, but I don't know what would happen at high concentrations. As for citric acid, I can vouch that it will induce a bacterial bloom. My watering can would turn cloudy within a day or two with citric acid + FP.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 7:32PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

FWIW - My plants in the basement are on a 4 day cycle. Most plants get watered/fertilized every 4 days, some every 2 days, and a very few every day (those in very small containers). It takes about 5 gallons of fertilizer solution to fertigate everything. I mix 12-15 drops of 9-3-6 and 4 teaspoons of vinegar in each of 5 clear plastic gallon jugs. These containers then sit for 4 days on the basement floor under the grow benches out of direct light. I'm not sure what the temperature is on the basement floor, maybe 60*, but I haven't noticed any issues with cloudiness or odors in recent years, either with citric acid or vinegar. When I grab the jugs to pour the water into the Dramm can I use to water, it appears to be as clear as the day I mixed it. Maybe if they were warmer and in some light it might make a difference, but so far, no problems at all. I would have to believe that more concentrated solutions would be even less likely to create issues - as in straight fertilizer and vinegar. I'm sure though, that summer temperatures are going to play a roll if you leave dilute solutions unused.


    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 9:47PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

Well the vague plan I had formed involved mixing the vinegar and FP in the hose end sprayer container. This should stay concentrated since it uses an adjustable siphon. I'll give it a try when it gets warm enough and see if I have any issues with cloudiness.

If so maybe I will try 2 siphons - 1 at the faucet with vinegar and then the hose end sprayer will just contain the FP. I might not have the required pressure/flow for that to work.

Each of my larger trees used about 1/2 gallon of water per watering when they were outside last season. In the summer when they are in full sun they need to be watered daily before they start wilting - sometimes twice daily if the temps get up around 90+. Mixing it all by hand in 1-2 gallon watering containers seems daunting... if all else fails I will buy one of those expensive automatic injection systems and then have an excuse to buy many many more trees :)

It is possible that they didn't need that much. It will be easier to tell, I think, with the new mix since huge quantities of water should come spilling out if I'm using too much. Currently it just sat on top of the concrete-like soil mixture for 30 minutes before it was eventually absorbed. I have to water before work so I can't really tell how much ends up leaking out. So glad I have this new soil mixture to try...

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 10:07PM
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penfold2(4b, MN)

My bacterial blooms did occur during warm temperatures, so that is probably a factor. My other concern about injecting fertilizer and acid together was whether there would be any unwanted chemical reactions (like precipitation) when mixing them together at high concentrations.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 10:25PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hello Everyone...

I just wanted to say..Jodi...what you said about growing and taking care of your plants and why we do it....
couldn't have been said better!!!..."Bravo" : )

( I hope you are feeling better...)

Laura in VB

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 10:36PM
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Mike! Good to see you again, my friend. BTW, my lime tree is still doing great & now about 3 years old. I'm hoping for a lime or two off it this year. I'll have to take a new pic of it & let you see it, so you maybe can give me an estimate if you think it will fruit this year. I'm quite sure it needs to be potted up too. Any reccomendations/specifics I need to follow when doing so? Sorry all if I kind of broke into this thread a =)

- Steve

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 1:44PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

So I called DynaGrow today and the woman I spoke with said that so long as the 2 solutions are both acidic there should be no problems with precipitation. Since FP and Vinegar are both acidic she says there should be no issue in terms of mixing the concentrates.

I'll test it in a small bottle and see if I get any precip or cloudiness and let you know.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 6:27PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

Well my trees from Four Winds still aren't here yet but it was overcast and 60 degrees out today so I tried to bare root and repot one of my larger lemon trees. It was in an 26qt container and was completely root bound. It had been "potted up" for 8-10 years and hare a core of clay and toward the outside compacted sand. Water sat in the top of this pot for maybe 20 minutes before draining.

I did the best I could getting all the soil off (really a huge amount, only a little bit left in the core). I didn't trim off the bottom third as that seemed to just happen naturally in the process of bare rooting it. I made sure to keep the roots wet... I hope I didn't shock it into oblivion by doing it all at once.

It is now in a 38qt container. I put a thin layer of pine bark on the top just to make it look nice - will that cause any problems? Will it make it more likely to harbor pests or anything?

Here are some pics: From Al's Gritty Mix From Al's Gritty Mix From Al's Gritty Mix

    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 1:02PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The pine bark on top is ok - especially so if everything was screened. If that's the plant after repotting, it looks pretty good so far. Did you add a little soil and work it into the roots before adding a little more and working THAT into the roots, too - so there are no air pockets in the soil?

Good job!


    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 1:27PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

I did my best to work it in with a little skewer. That was by far the most difficult part. The root ball was pretty large and I'm not 100% that there are no air pockets. I worked at it for a good while though.

I have several more like this to do (if this one makes it) and I think that I will look for some kind of cloth mesh that will hold the soil so that I can turn the tree over, work in the soil really well, then put on the mesh to hold it in place while I flip it back into the pot. Does that sound like it might work? Something like 1/8" mesh should hold everything and also let roots develop? Or would that maybe somehow mess with the drainage or create a PWT?

    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 1:42PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

When I repot, I usually concentrate on removing all the roots immediately under the trunk, so that all the roots growing off the root flare are growing horizontally. Initially, I was doing this because 95% of the trees I'm growing are being grown on as future bonsai and will need to fit in shallow pots. I discovered though, that if you DO remove all the roots growing downward off the trunk each time you repot/root prune, it makes repotting MUCH easier - there IS no 'middle of the root ball' to fuss with, because it's just fine roots growing off the bottom of the trunk, that you prune each time you repot.

ALSO, it allows you to mound the soil in your container, like a volcano. As you settle the plant over the 'volcano' and twist it to settle the soil in the cone around the roots, a LOT of the effort is suddenly missing from trying to ensure that you get soil worked into the middle of the roots. Just a little something I've learned .... As you guys progress, I'm sure you'll find many of your own short cuts/time savers you can share with others. I'm just happy that people are embracing the concept that root-pruning of perennials is essential to the health and vitality of your long term plantings .... 'crossover' information courtesy of the bonsai community, that only a very tiny fraction of growers even know about let alone understand.

Good job!


    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 2:09PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

Thanks for all of the help here and in other places Al. I'll post a few follow up photos in a few days to follow up. I salvaged that 5-1-1 and now have 4x the mix I had before... a good excuse to start more seeds :)

    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 2:47PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Love the attitude - the positive approach!

.... appreciate the kind words as well. ;o)


    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 10:53AM
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Nicely done! I, too, love the positive approach everyone has going on! It's great! :-)

    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 11:38AM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

The plant is still looking good a day later. I have the humidity up around 55% in that room so hopefully that will prevent it from going all limp like I've seen happen before.

It strikes me as I think about it that things in the gritty mix will be much harder to pot up? I can see how repotting will be easier since the soil should fall off much more readily - but if a year from now I just want to pot this up what would be the best way of going about that? Is there some way to avoid all the soil falling right off and having to re-work it back into the roots at that time?

I picked the biggest pot I could find so it might never be an issue but just figured I'd ask.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 1:57PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

You'd be surprised at how it all stays together once the roots have filled a container.

I'll share a picture of a bulb i re potted not to long ago.
No roots when I planted it, and 9 months later looked like this below.

The tree's growth will be slower i'm sure, but this will show how it holds up. ;-)

It lifted out in one piece.

By the way, great thread everyone! I've really enjoyed this one!


    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 2:16PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

It's quite fine if some, or even a good portion of the soil falls off the roots when you pot up - a GOOD thing, even. Of course, if that happens, there was probably no reason to pot up to begin with because the plant would still have been growing in to the pot (like a kid grows into his snow suit). ;o)


    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 2:19PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

What's a snow suit? ;-)

    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 2:30PM
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Well done! Well done!

Jojo..A snow suit is what a snow man wears to his prom!:-)



    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 2:51PM
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Too cute, Mike! :-)

A snowsuit is a one piece, zip up, insulated, coverall-like suit that kids wear in winter, JoJo! Some have hoods, and Moms usually attach the mittens to the sleeves so you don't lose one! :-) There are adult sized snowsuits, too! Kind of like footie pajamas without the feet!

Speaking of snowsuits... I just looked out the window and we're in the middle of a blizzard! It's March! How about a little spring, Mother Nature? We're definitely ready!

Strong growing on that bulb, there, JoJo! Nice!

    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 4:10PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Rain/snow/freezing rain/sleet here. Gore Tex snowsuit weather.


    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 4:14PM
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Yes... don't put away those winter clothes just yet! Every year, I get a lot more tired of cold weather a lot sooner! I think we could use a group prayer for earlier spring! :-)

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 8:16AM
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Wow! What an awesome thread, and perfect timing! I am on the cusp of transplanting my Meyer too! This thread could not have come at a better time!

I do have a question though. I am curious about pot material preferences. Clay/terracotta vs. plastic? I want to keep the weight of my pots down so I can easily move them in and out in the summer and rotate them in the window in fall/winter so I was leaning toward a plastic pot. Is there some reason I should reconsider clay?

Once again, thanks for all the advise all!


    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 1:11PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You're considering two different perspectives, so have to weigh things in the balance. From the perspective of plant health/vitality/growth rate, the terra cotta definitely gets the nod over plastic. Its walls are gas permeable, so the soil dries down faster (a plus), the evaporation of moisture from the outside of the pot cools soils considerably in summer, but because evaporation is slow in cool temps, has almost no impact on soil temps when it's cool. It also allows gasses like CO2, methane, and sulfurous compounds to pass out of the soil through the container's walls. The more frequent watering required when growing in terra cotta is also a plus from the plant's perspective because that too forces soil gasses out of the soil every time you water, pulling fresh air in as it exits the pot.

Plastic and vitrified pots don't do any of these things, but plastic IS lighter and it can be more attractive, which is pretty much what hangs in the balance unless your goal is to extend the intervals between waterings for some reason.

Is using plastic or glazed clay the end of the world? NO. But if you were using terra cotta vs plastic and all else was equal, including watering/fertilizing appropriately, you would almost undoubtedly see a noticeable difference in a side by side comparison. I do grow a TON of plants in plastic and and glazed clay, but when I want stuff to grow fast & healthy and don't particularly care about 'presentation', it goes into a container with gas-permeable walls, that being terra cotta, wood, or some sort of mesh material.


    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 1:34PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

Hi Jessica,
I just asked Mike in another thread about the pot sizes he's using.
I believe he said 12", and I know he moves his in and out, and they are terra cotta.
If your going to bring the tree in come winter, your not going to want a huge tree, so I could see where a 12" would work out. :-)

I plan on bringing my Meyer in come winter, and am going to use a 12 or 14" terra cotta. And maybe my pink lemon. May have to move hubby's recliner outside.;-).he he..

As far as year round use, I feel the same about terra cotta as Al does. In my corner of the world I need the cooling effect!

Almost all my outside tree's will be in terra cotta.

I have one huge plastic that I bought before getting here and learning the benefits of terra cotta, that I will use. It's 16" and cost me a few pretty pennies. lol..

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 1:48PM
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Hey everyone..Hello!!!

Look at Jessica go..:-) I am so proud of you.

Al couldn't of said it better Jessica. After all, I owe much I know to such a remarkable teacher!

Please post your pictures once your done, and you might like the thread I am going to link you too. Have no fear if your tree does not react the way you want right away. If it does react well right away, the all then more exciting!

Many here will help you alleviate any fears you have if you stumble over a stone and pick you right up.

Citrus are much more tough than a Mango:-)

We shall chat later. I hope you got my e-mails.

Have a great night my dear friends.....:-0))


Here is a link that might be useful: Pugs experience with a repot into the gritty mix.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 3:06PM
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Hi, Jessica!

I would opt for unglazed clay pots, myself... because of the reasons Al gives, and because I like the look, too. You could always use the small plant dollies sold at most garden centers, and the small wheels would make moving and turning the pots much easier.

I use a moving dolly to cart my large pots around the yard outside. It's much easier than trying to wrestle with them! :-)

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 8:36PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

The dolly is a life saver!

Hubby needs to air up the tires on ours and i'm good to go.
Due to our yard being gravel, were setting the pots on boards to make it easier to get the dolly under them.


    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 8:50PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

For anyone interested it looks like FP and 5% vinegar (the regular white stuff from the store) will hold together in 1:1 without a bacterial bloom or any precipitation that I can see.

So if like me you need 1 tsp per gallon of vinegar and another tsp per gallon of Foliage pro you should be able to mix them both into a hose end sprayer in 1:1 without issue. It's been a week now in a sunny (though indoor) spot without problems.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 8:41AM
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Thanks Al, Jodi, JoJo And Mike!

In order to provide my trees with the optimal amount of light each day they are upstairs in my home.

Right now my Meyer is in a 16" plastic pot, but it is too big for me to move comfortably up and down the stairs, so I want to downgrade a bit if I can without upsetting the tree too much.

I will most likely go with Terra cotta or some sort of clay material I think. I am really concerned with weight, so I will make a decision when I get to the hardware store tonight. I do not need to worry too much about the additional cooling effects of clay either because we rarely see a hot summer here (last year being the exception with 4 or 5 days in a row at 90 degrees) we usually stay around the low 70's and summer only happens here in the later part of June and the months of July and August (if we are lucky´┐Ż).

My vanity may get the best of me on this one. We'll see when I get to the store tonight.

I am picking up my Turface today after work so I should have photos to share in the next 48 hours or so!


    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 2:25PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hey, look! - someone's doing the happy dance for you!


    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 2:59PM
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We're more than happy to help, Jess! There's a great and positive support team here! :-)

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 3:57PM
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There sure is a positive support team! This is how it is suppose to be and these are the very same ones that got me to where I am today Jessica.

I love the happy dancer! Sort of the dance I did when I finally picked up the last ingredient after looking for weeks for it.. The fir bark..:0)

Great work and thanks for supporting my friends and me everyone!

Can't wait to see the pics Jessica. I am very proud of you as is everyone else as you can tell. Now we need to get Laura's plants into the mix and groove too..:-)

I think Jojo and Jodik are still doing the dance too. Much worth while and very rewarding work ahead of us all. Hey, i am still doing the groove thing overtime I see one of my plants react wonderfully to the mix as soon as I switch it from the bagged garbage.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 4:31PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

The Four Winds trees arrived today and I got them potted into the gritty mix. I have a few questions:

Has anyone else noticed that the bark behaves oddly in this mix in terms of staying homogeneous? When I shovel or pour it into containers I seem to get very uneven bark distribution. Is this a problem? Should I get smaller bark next time? Or does this happen to everyone?

Did I use the wick correctly? I didn't pull it up into the pot, I just circled it around the bottom and pulled it through the drain hole. I suppose this will help get any water sitting in the bottom of the pot to drain out into the catch pan? Was I supposed to pull it up into the pot?

The Four Winds documentation says not to plant the trees too deep - they say that the feeder roots should be visible and not covered. But the feeder roots are white and were clearly buried before as the tops have no bark covering them - should I still leave these visible or just plant at the same level they had been (which is what I did)?

Anyway, some photographs (blurry because I left macro mode on, eyeroll):

From Four Winds Citrus Trees

Here you can see my mix and the size of the bark - is it too big and is that why it's behaving oddly? This is the same mix I uploaded a photograph of up above
From Four Winds Citrus Trees

From Four Winds Citrus Trees

She thinks it's a new litter box...
From Four Winds Citrus Trees

Gold Nugget
From Four Winds Citrus Trees

Root System of the Bearss before I washed some more chips out:
From Four Winds Citrus Trees From Four Winds Citrus Trees

I somehow forgot to take a picture of the Meyer? It had a massive root system I was probably too busy trying to figure out how to fit it into the pot.. tiny top growth for the size of the root system I guess they pruned it back pretty heavily.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 7:05PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If the fir bark gets much larger than 1/4", it's more difficult to keep it mixed. Pine bark isn't as bad because it has a flatter shape & stays mixed better.

The wick is fine just lying on the bottom of the pot.

I probably would have ignored or removed the fine adventitious roots that radiate from the trunk above the larger roots, and potted the plant so the larger roots were partially exposed.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 7:42PM
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Redshirt, I've many Citrus trees (4W and other) in the gritty mix. If you have any questions you can email me via this forum.

Al is correct, if the size of the bark is too large, it exhibits the behavior you are witnessing. If you have an Orchard Supply Hardware near, buy 1 bag of their WonderBark "Fines"/Smallest size. This is a great example of bark that are the right size and have minimal woody material.

The vast majority of the bark components should be no bigger than your pinky fingernail.

I would not suggest you use a wick with the gritty mix. I only scanned the thread and I couldn't find why you were doing this. It's not necessary but I guess if I were in Zone 6 then I might try it, too (JIC).

Foliage Pro is excellent, but Citrus are heavy feeders and I have trouble keeping anything in the gritty mix well fed if you don't do the "feed at every watering method" which takes lots of time. I would strongly suggest you use your Slow Release pellets (at 100% the rate suggested for typical outdoor plants) and then supplement with Foliage Pro perhaps every other watering. If you go with ONLY CRF to make it easier on yourself, then you need to use many more pellets for outdoor citrus in the gritty mix, even if the warm season is shorter in your area. But as stated above, you'll need to provide Mg if you forego FP.

You can ignore the typical concerns about "don't plant too deep" that you usually hear (which are mostly for in-ground citrus, but also concerned for heavy mix in containers) because the gritty mix will always be dry in the top 1/2 inch of soil for outdoor citrus in direct sunlight. In my zone9, it dries almost immediately due to heat and arid. But in your zone even the sunlight should dry it out fast and it won't be a problem for those roots under the flare. You don't need any top roots visible in the gritty mix, whereas in regular mixes I do keep the "gap" right under the basal flare visible above the soil line.

I can imagine you probably had to wrap those long roots around the bottom of the container. You could have trimmed the longest ones. Ideally you want to trim them so when they lay outward toward the edge, they don't wrap from there .. so they'll sub-branch more roots before hitting the edge. But I'm not in favor of eliminate large root masses on citrus trees. But the gritty mix, when trees kept watered and fed well, is a very productive place for root growth. Everything Al has preached about the mix being excellent for roots has proven true in my case. The amount of fine rootage developed in one season of gritty mix was beautiful.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 12:01AM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hello Everyone...

Hey Mike...i want to get the "groove going" LOL...i am hoping to get my act together soon...

My mother is staying with me for awhile...due to a i have been pretty busy.....but all is fine...

I want to get into repotting as soon as i i will take pics as soon as that happens...

Hope all is well with you and your mom..tell her that i said hi...give her a hug for me and let her know that my feet are warm from here kindness...tell her thanks again for me!!!

AL....LOve the happy dancing flower...LOL...

Take care everyone... : )

Laura in VB

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 12:34AM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

Thanks Al & Cebury.

I do plan to fertigate and feed with every watering with the hose-end sprayer setup I've worked out. The package suggests 1 tsp per gallon once a week for "production."

I know that I will have to water daily in summer when the temps get up past the 90s - is the rate of 1 tsp per gallon far too much for those situations? Should I cut it back to 1/4 tsp per gallon?

If I do end up having to go the way of CRF do you think I can scratch it into the top inch or so or will I have to repot them completely?

I've found the mix to be hard to judge so far in terms of watering requirements. Before switching one of my large trees over it would take about a 1/4 gallon of water every 2-3 days according to my moisture meter. Now it looks like the *vast* majority of that water just drains out into the drain pan. I end up just giving it a tiny sip every day so that I'm not picking up the tree to drain the pan at every watering. Is this normal? Was I just massively over watering before? Or maybe I took off more roots than I thought and it's not using as much anymore? It just feels like I'm using maybe 1/10th the water I was before and even still most of THAT is draining out as well.... kind of scary.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 10:11AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Great job, and great plants, Redshirt!

You can reduce the fertilizer rate per application during the summer, yes.

I, too, use a controlled-release fertilizer in my soils, in addition to Foliage Pro...
but I don't fertilize at every watering (though I am getting better/more consistent).
You can certainly scratch it into the upper inches of soil.

To judge when to water, use a chopstick or kabob skewer stuck deep into the mix.
When the stick comes out dry and clean, it's time to water. It's suprising how much
moisture is actually available in the deeper part of the container.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 11:56AM
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What Josh said!
And yes, you'll need to water much less. Though still the method of "water until it starts draining from the bottom" instead of just sips. But you'll need to water around the entire top area (ie hold and move the hose around the entire surface), you can't just plop water in one section and have it work it's way around.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 11:02AM
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Your plants are beautiful. Way too go! Very nice:-)


    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 12:44PM
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Hi Laura:

Yes. i will tell my mom you said hello and give her a hug. She could use one. She has been helping foster children for years and sometimes in can be taxing on her. But there is no stopping here from helping unwanted by children, by their own mothers and fathers.

Stay nice and toasty until next week when your temps are in the 80's, I think:-)

Thank you for your thoughtful words of kindness as always.

Hi Josh and Cedbury!


    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 1:32PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

Responding to you here Mike so as not to hijack the gardenia thread:

I did not miss a step. I have been watering regularly and the plant is indoors in a sunroom with the supplemental grow light off for a week. The roots were all filled in and I did not let them dry out. I did not use gypsum as I was told not to since I am using FP. The components are the correct size - pictures above in this thread.

I didn't post sooner as I assumed it was just stress from the repot and the full bare root. The tree is very large for a potted tree and was in a terrible soil and went from that to complete bare root to gritty mix.

Note that I did not claim the mix is the cause of the demise - I think I did everything correctly except that I did bare root it all at once as opposed to in sections over 3 years/seasons.

The 4winds plants that I purchased are all doing fine in the mix.

I think the old tree that was repotted is just in shock it did lose quite a few roots during the bare rooting process (was as gentle as I could be raking - I hardly raked any and then I used a gentle water spray).

Hopefully it will bounce back - I thought this was pretty normal for a fully bare rooted tropical? Your trees don't lose any leaves when you repot them?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2011 at 7:19PM
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Hi Redshirtcat:

I never loose leaves due to a re-pot and that is why I questioned it. It just never happened to mine and I was wondering if there was something more to it.

Maybe that tree is being a stubborn thing for you. I Hope it stops soon. If you are not loosing branches themselves, then I would assume it will come back in full leaf again , and even more so because of the time of year.

Do you ever expose your trees to sunlight by now? Supplimental light can never compare to good warm sunlight.

Let us know how is goes. I am happy your others are doing ok. I hope it gets strong for you again:-))


    Bookmark   March 16, 2011 at 7:48PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

This particular tree is one of my larger trees and they go in and out only once a year to minimize damage getting them in and out.

The 4winds trees are all small enough to be moved in and out daily which is what I do if the temps are 60 or above.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2011 at 9:46PM
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Al, is the ideal pH you mention of 5.0-5.5 a standard range you use for all plants in the gritty? I've seen other threads where 5.0-7.0 was mentioned as ideal also, those were older threads though.

I'm using a cheap pH test kit that I linked down below. My kitchen faucet that I use to water the houseplants has a reading just above neutral according to that. One tbsp of vinegar in a gallon of water brings it to 6.5. If that's accurate, it looks like I'll need a bit more vinegar.

Here is a link that might be useful: pH test kit

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 4:49PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Beyond liming the 5:1:1 mix, I rarely give media pH much consideration. Using fast (well-aerated/free-draining) soils in our containers moves container culture even closer to hydroponics (as opposed to growing in the earth) than when using the more common commercially prepared soils based on peat and other composted products; so, if you supply a nutrient in solution, it's going to be available, almost no matter WHAT the pH is, within reason. That's why the pH of the fertilizer solution is much more important than the pH of the medium itself - especially in light of the very low buffering capacity of container media as compared to mineral soils, due in large part to their much lower bulk density.

Here, you can see the difference in nutrient availability based on pH between mineral soils and container media:


    Bookmark   December 8, 2012 at 11:17AM
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So what do you suggest to test the water PH? Should I also check out the water quality report too? Where's the best place to find that out? I went to the water site for my city (Austin, Tx) but I'm not sure if I need to narrow by zip code?

Here was the report:
Davis WTP Ullrich WTP
Parameter Units Method Cd T2,T2H T3
----------------- ----- --------------- ----------- -----------
pH SU SM 4500-H B AVG 9.7 AVG 9.6
MAX 9.8 MAX 9.8
MIN 9.5 MIN 9.4
Total Alkalinity MG/L SM 2320 B AVG 61 AVG 67
MAX 65 MAX 72
MIN 56 MIN 62
Total Hardness MG/L SM 2340 C AVG 94 AVG 102
MAX 99 MAX 106
MIN 89 MIN 96
Total Solids MG/L SM 2540 B AVG 188 AVG 198
MAX 204 MAX 202
MIN 168 MIN 188
Total Chlorine MG/L SM 4500-CL F AVG 2.93 AVG 2.61
Residual MAX 3.25 MAX 2.80
MIN 2.70 MIN 2.30
Sulfate MG/L SM 4500-SO4 E AVG 36.4 AVG 34.4
MAX 37.5 MAX 34.4
MIN 35.3 MIN 34.4
Total Organic MG/L SM 5310 C AVG 2.70 AVG 2.60
Carbon MAX 2.96 MAX 2.73
MIN 2.45 MIN 2.46
Conductivity UMHOS/cm SM 2510 B AVG 335 AVG 354
MAX 335 MAX 354
MIN 335 MIN 354
Total UG/L EPA 524.3 THM AVG 28.9 AVG 35.9
Trihalomethanes MAX 32.4 MAX 42.9
MIN 24.8 MIN 30.8
Turbidity NTU SM 2130 B AVG 0.06 AVG 0.04
MAX 0.10 MAX 0.06
MIN 0.03 MIN 0.02
Drinking Water Quality Report
Date Range: 01-SEP-2013 to 30-SEP-2013

Now what if I repotted plants from soil that had a bunch of fertilizer salts on the top despite not fertilizing?

I'm using 5-1-1 mix, should I add dolomite lime or not because the water is too alkaline? Or is the problem that I haven't been fertilizing regularly?! AAAAh! I don't know where to start! lol!

    Bookmark   December 3, 2013 at 10:38PM
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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

Water pH can be tested with kits purchased from pool supply stores, aquarium stores or online.

Yes, you should be familiar with some basics found on your local water report. The important items to know are alkalinity, pH, dissolved solids/salt content and nutrient readings (in that order).

I don't know what this means "a bunch of fertilizer salts on the top despite not fertilizing?"

If it's a new batch of 5-1-1, adding lime is always advisable to get the pH up as quickly as possible to lessen plant stress. Be aware however that using high-alkaline water consistently to irrigate will quickly take that soil pH past the optimal plateau established by the lime and into the high 7s or even 8s -- especially if you don't flush liberally with each watering.

That said, if I'm reading your report correctly and alkalinity ppm = mg/L, then your alkalinity in the 60-70 range is actually pretty acceptable despite the high pH.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2013 at 1:13PM
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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

Correction -- I said "If it's a new batch of 5-1-1, adding lime is always advisable" but that's not necessarily true if growing low pH "lovers" like azaleas or blueberries. I just potted some azaleas in fresh 5-1-1 and passed on the lime altogether. The important caveat is: if you do need to pass on the lime for some reason, make sure you get some Ca and Mg into your pot fairly quickly -- either through the irrigation water, liquid fert or some gypsum/epsom salts added in.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2013 at 2:25PM
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Thanks Oxboy!

I'm growing African Violets, which I think prefer a PH of 6.5 or so, there is variation from what I've seen in different sources.

I had AVs that had orange crystals forming on the top of the soil, the "fertilizer salts" of the pots. These pots were SOLO cups so they were pretty small. I had them wicked in a self-watering system so I think the salts built up. What's strange is that I would repot the babies with no salts and then a bunch of salts would just pop up in the middle of their crowns! I have no idea why considering I added no fertilizer when I repotted them.

In an effort to narrow down variables, I'm trying both the 5-1-1 mix (if I can get it the right size without a screen!) and LECA pebbles as a seperate medium that I will try as well so I'm just dealing with the PH of the tap water.

I will then have another set of plants with just Reverse Osmosis water, LECA pebbles and dyna-gro, so I can also see how those do.

This post was edited by plantcrazed101 on Wed, Dec 4, 13 at 16:46

    Bookmark   December 4, 2013 at 4:44PM
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Oh and also,

How do you know what is normal for the amount of alkalinity, salts, nutrients, etc. and how your water compares?

What are the averages that don't affect growth/ph/etc versus the extremes of different nutrients?

    Bookmark   December 4, 2013 at 4:58PM
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old_eagle(7b - North Texas)

I have two questions.
First, Al suggests flushing the salts etc out of potted plants. How often?

Second, a Ph meter is suggested. I found many online from under $2.00 to $outrageous. Any preferences?

    Bookmark   January 9, 2015 at 1:28PM
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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

In general, every month or two. You can probably get away with one good flush as spring warms up and one at the end of summer. Keep in mind there is such thing as over-flushing, meaning you flush out your fertilizer before it has a chance to be taken up.

The only time I'd use a pH meter in a container is with a peaty, heavy potting soil. Good news - you'll get a more accurate reading in this mix than with 5-1-1 or Gritty. Bad news - you have bigger things to worry about than pH in a peat-pudding mix. If you really need a pH meter, the more expensive the better...I would think.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2015 at 12:42AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I flush the soil every time I water by using enough water so at least 15-20% of the total volume of water I applied exits the drain. This not only flushes accumulating salts from the soil immediately, it's like pushing the fertilizer 'reset' button. This can be especially important if you're using a fertilizer that is nowhere near the ratio at which the plant actually uses the nutrients. Skewed fertilizer ratios in soils can be severely limiting, even if the o/a level of fertility (EC/TDS) isn't dangerously high. Yes, you'll need to fertilize more frequently, but fertilizer is very cheap on a per dose basis.

I've never owned a pH meter. You're not going to be able to actually control pH other than by the simplest methods - like adding vinegar, citric acid, or maybe sulfuric acid to your irrigation water on a regular basis. Try pH strips to test your water, then to see how much acid or base it takes to bring a given volume of fresh tap water to a pH level around 5.2-5.7, then add the appropriate amount of acidification to your water & use that water to irrigate.


    Bookmark   January 15, 2015 at 3:57PM
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