Screening gritty mix

asaund(6)February 9, 2011

Hello gardeners! I am new to forum but have lurked for a while. Came across Al's water retention posts and am sick at how I have treated my plants over the years. So off I went to obtain reptile bark fir, manna pro poultry grit, perlite, and sphagnum peat. I had so much fun! It was like being on treasure hunt!!! Anyway, now I guess I need to "screen"? exactly what am I screening for and can I use a kitchen colander that has fairly big holes? Am trying to remember gardening is fun but trying new things can be a little scary and I don't want to hurt my plants. So sorry if these questions arerepetitive....

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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

Hello asaund,

I'm going to ask you some questions, to help narrow down where you'll need some help.

Fist, which of the mixes were you planning on making? The gritty mix or the 5-1-1.
You have materials for both, but not quite complete.

What kind of plants will you be growing.?

The gritty mix
gypsum (which I don't see on your list)

The 5-1-1 is
Sphagnum peat
Dolomite (sp?) lime (which I also don't see on your list)

As far as sifting, the only thing you have at the moment would be the perlite. The fines and powder should be sifted or rinsed out. Most use household insect screen, or a colander with more of a mesh, like the screen.

Don't worry about the questions, you'll find many here eager to help! ;-)


    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 10:58AM
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The Manna Pro granite chips could use a rinsing to remove dust, as well. Some bags are dustier than others, I notice.

I use the ReptiBark right out of the bag... that's always clean and dust free, and particle size is very nice.

Perlite could definitely use screening to remove the tinier particles and the dust.

You'll not want to breathe in any of the dust, so it helps to either sift and screen outdoors, if you can, or to wear a dust mask as you would for other dusty projects.

Insect screening stapled into a home built wooden frame is what most folks use... but a colander with metal screening will work, too.

The idea is to remove the dust and tiny particles that will clog the mixture and fill in the air pockets you're trying to create.

I'm not certain which threads exactly, but I know there's a gold mine of information here in this forum on the screens, the ingredients, where to locate ingredients, how to get started, etc... it's all here. Perhaps Al or someone can link a thread or two that will be helpful.

Once you get to know the "how" and "why" of the gritty mediums, and you learn to adjust your watering and feeding habits a bit, I think you'll love the results! I certainly do! :-)

    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 11:45AM
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Thank you Jodi and jojo for quick response... I thought gritty mix and 5-1-1same thing! Guess I should pay more attention..
Jojo - I will start several succulent cuttings, 2 jade plants, a coral cactus, young rubber tree, and possibly a dracenta in gritty mix or 5-1-1?? Either way need to get turface or there is a nappa close by.
Jodi - thanks for practical advise on chicken grit, reptile barf fir, and so on. Will def wear mask. It's 5 degrees outside today!
Thanks again! Rake care. Amy

    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 4:20PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hi Amy! When I saw your original post, I said to myself, "That's Amy from my email!" Glad to see you're no longer lurking & decided to join us here! ..... and glad to see you posting. ;o)

Maybe this will help: I decide what plants I use the 5:1:1 for and which go in the gritty mix by determining how long I intend to keep the planting. Anything I think might be in the same soil for 2 years or more goes in the gritty mix. This includes all my trees in containers, and all houseplants, including cacti/succulents.

All the plant material I will only be maintaining or growing on for 1 year, or a maximum of 2 years, goes into the 5:1:1 mix. These plantings are mostly the mixed flowery displays that are scattered throughout the gardens & beds, and the veggies I grow in containers.

There is a bonsai convention in Cinci I'm considering attending in June. If I go, I'll be able to bring along anything you might have trouble finding - so keep that in mind.

For the Turface, try Century Equipment in Hamilton (800) 346-0066, or copy paste this entire link to see if any of the John Deere dealers are closer to you:



    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 5:55PM
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Al, you're funny "Amy from my email". . . Yes there is a John deere landscape center @ 9 mi away. They are about to get a visit from me. Got a rayon mop too (for a wick- not cause I'm interested in mopping my floor ;- p. ). Since I'll be putting houseplants in it I'll be using gritty mix? Equal parts bark, granite, turface? With some gypsum thrown in? Got foliage pro at lowes. I'm on my way guys!!! I'll be reviewing threads tonight on root pruning and how to water gritty mix. I'm sure there will be more questions to follow. Take care. Amy

    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 7:31PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Yes - equal parts of each. Be sure to review the pictures on the thread so you have a good idea about the sizes of the particles (all around 1/8" or slightly smaller, except the bark is 1/8-1/4 if fir bark & 1/8-3/8 if pine bark. Keep us posted and DON'T be reluctant to ask questions. It's better to take your time & get it right to avoid any frustration that might arise because you were hurrying. Just trying to loom out for you. ;o)


    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 9:03PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)


..... look out for you.


    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 9:05PM
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Welcome, Amy! It's my pleasure to offer help, answer questions, or relate my own experiences with the gritty mediums... we all had to begin somewhere! :-)

I began with a lot of questions, too... I think we all did. The gardening industry doesn't come to our aid with products that help us maintain long life of containerized plants... that would defeat their purpose of making a profit. So, we're pretty much on our own in learning the basic science of how plants grow and what they really need to be healthy in containers.

Al has a wonderful way of breaking down all the complicated science and putting it into laymen's terms that we can all understand... and for that, I know I'll be eternally grateful. And he's given us great alternatives to what the industry offers. To me, it makes so much sense to build my own mediums, using ingredients that will help ensure the health of my plants' roots, and allow me the control over moisture and nutrition.

Don't worry... it took me several times of reading through the article on "Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention" before I fully grasped everything I needed to know. I copied and pasted that article to a text file on my desktop, and I refer to it from time to time, as a refresher!

Take your time... get familiar with the two basic recipes for gritty mediums, and the concept behind them. There's no rush. Once you understand how they work, and why they work... and what each ingredient brings to the mix, the rest is easy.

The only other thing that takes a bit is learning how and when to water using the gritty mediums, but it's nothing complicated. You simply need to make a little adjustment here and there. You'll be watering more thoroughly when needed, which is much better for plants.

Yes... ask away! There's a great support group here! We're always happy to share what we've learned, though it's Al that's the teacher. I'll always consider myself to be a student. :-)

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 8:49AM
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Thank you jodik. As you can see I used your receipe manna pro chic grit and reptile bark. Can't wait to actually get started. Will go on Monday to get turface, or play ball I think I saw al write somewhere that would be good as well. I think I read you are into cactus and succs
too. I love them and am excited to get them into mix. Take care. Amy

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 5:45PM
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Trying to upload pics
Not sure why it's upside down.....

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 10:50PM
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It's a lovely plant, Amy, no matter which way it's facing! Very interesting specimen! I'm not sure why it ended up upside down, either.

Actually, I'm into bulbs... but I do have a few small cacti. I started some from seed a few years ago... an assortment of tiny barrel shaped cacti. They're doing well. And I have a couple of the orchid cacti types and succulents. But my main interest is in amaryllids and other tender bulbs.

Yes, the turface is an important part of the equation... it holds some moisture for the roots. When you first begin using the gritty medium, you'll want to use wooden dowels or skewers inserted into the mix to test for moisture content. It's very helpful.

I use the little wooden skewers, available at any grocery store in the cooking section. I think they're about a dollar for a package of 50 to 100. I insert the pointy end into the mix and let it rest close to the lower center of the rootball area. When I pull it out, I touch it to my cheek, and if it feels cool and damp, I know there's still moisture for the roots. If it comes out feeling warm and dry, it's time to water.

You can also gauge moisture content by pot weight... you'll get a feel for how heavy or light the pot is when watered or dry. Or, you can stick a finger in as deep as you can, and feel for moisture that way.

I'm not sure of percentages, but as Al states somewhere in his writings, roots intake moisture in vapor form, so even if soil feels dry to the human touch, it may still contain a certain amount of moisture in vapor form.

Don't worry, though... it's easy. You'll get a feel for when your plants need watering. Feeding is easy, too. I use a liquid plant food at about 1/8 to a 1/4 strength almost every time I water... say, about 3 out of 4 times. On the 4th watering, I flush with clear water. This helps remove any salts accumulation that might happen. So, as you can tell, I'm in full control of moisture and feeding.

Nifty nail polish, by the way! I like black! I like the frog, too! :-)

For me, using a grittier, more aerated, faster draining medium means the difference between rotting bulbs and healthy bulbs. In the siltier, finer potting soils, my bulbs were remaining too wet for too long at the root level... and all that wetness promoted fungi and rot. It's no longer a problem!

I'm able to water thoroughly, too... and not just in small sips. I either provide deep saucers for the pots, or I take my plants to the sink and water there, so the excess can drain away. JoJo brings a bucket with a piece of grate on top to her plants, sets them on top of the grate, and the excess water drains into the bucket. However you choose to handle it, it's a much healthier way to care for potted plants.

I really enjoyed hunting down the ingredients and making my own medium! And my plants are healthier and happier because of it. I wish I had some current photos... but there's not much happening at the moment besides leaf growth. With any luck, a few of my bulbs will have set buds last cycle, and they'll be getting ready to bloom soon! When that happens, I'll be sure to share! :-)

    Bookmark   February 11, 2011 at 8:44AM
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Thank you jodik. I have really enjoyed reading your messages and get a real feeling of love for plants and people from most of those who post here. It's been a real life saver thru these dreary months of winter. So thanks to all.
I love frogs. Both the ones who sit proudly on display and those who are more bashful and peek out from their hiding places. Lol
I'll be going tomorrow to get turface and we will be off!
Looking forward to your pics of your bulbs in bloom!!!

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 8:34PM
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Thanks, Amy! Northern winters are so cold and dreary... it's wonderful to come here and talk about our plants and gardening, and just life in general, with other people who enjoy the same things! It helps winter fly by... and before we know it, it's spring again! :-)

I haven't noticed any of my bulbs budding yet, but I do admit to neglecting them last season... so I probably won't get as many blooms as I could have. I also had an infestation of the dreaded Narcissus Bulb Fly... so far, I've found 3 or 4 bulbs that were totally decimated! I used to fear bringing my bulbs outdoors for the summer, in case of that pest, but now I know that it doesn't really matter... if they want in, they'll find a way!

Anyway... even if none of my bulbs decide to gift me with blooms indoors, my gardens will soon be alive with the signs of spring! I always try to share photos of my spring blooming bulbs and roses outdoors.

Not only have I learned a lot by reading and posting here... I've also made some incredible friends! The people here, for the most part, are just wonderful... helpful and generous... and just plain, nice folks! :-)

We're really glad to have you join us! :-)

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 11:59AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

It goes both ways, Amy. We're all glad for your company, too! ;o)


    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 3:15PM
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Hey al - am digging the frog pics. Wonderful. Had to scroll back 5 times! Well folks - today was the big day! Got me turface all sport this morning and some insect screens and set to work. Rinsed the crushed granite. You were right jodik - dusty! Here is what we have.....

And here it is all mixed together...
Here is my little pot waiting for mix with screen and wick in place

And here is final result number 1

And my little jade friend..

So now what? I did water mix for succs a bit but not jade yet. Will prolly wait a while. Both grantite and turface were rinsed so they were kinda moist. Thanks again! Amy

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 5:48PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

It looks great, Amy. The bark might be a little on the large side, but it's going to work out just fine for your succulents. Be patient, and don't over-water. You're going to be pleasantly surprised at how easy things will be once you get your watering/fertilizing patterns down.

I'm excited for you! ;-) If you like succulents, I'll have some to share with you after the weather turns and I can be comfortable shipping them.


    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 6:04PM
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Thank you, al. And here's to hoping the weather turns soon!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 6:32PM
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Looks great, Amy! I agree with Al... the bark looks a tad large, but for cacti and succulents, it won't matter.

The Repti-Bark I've got is a little finer in size, but not by too much.

This is a handful of Repti-Bark, perlite, and crushed granite...

And another shot of what my mix looks like...

A view of all the ingredients I use... including turface...

Overall, it's so much easier to care for plants in these mixes... you may water a little more often, but you're able to water thoroughly, which is better for plants. And, you have complete control over feeding.

It's been a lifesaver for my bulbs... no more rotted roots!

So, now... you just wait for the medium to dry out... it helps to use the skewer method to keep tabs on moisture inside the pots.

One mistake I made early on was not watering often enough. It's my own fault... I have so much going on that I let it slip my mind, and I forgot to check a few plants. Once you get a feel for how often you need to water, though, the rest is smooth sailing! :-)

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 7:24AM
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Okay, good to know jodik. What is white stuff? Perlite? And you use that for moisture retention? I have some but when I tried to screen/ rinse it too much dust for indoors!!! And smaller bark also for moisture retention - The size of all the ingredients mixed together is what helps with lower pwt? I know all of this has been gone over but I learn better by doing. Not that i have not read and reread and truly enjoyed learning so much but for me a more hands on approach works well.... It is going to be more difficult to wait to transplant some of my others until spring, ESP with the temps up to 60 degrees this week.

I can't wait to see your roses either. I have a few - knockouts that are lovely and some others I got last summer. Wondering how they are gonna do this year. Okay I must get off gw and get some stuff done! Have a great day!!! Take care. Amy

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 9:26AM
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Hi All,
I'm new to this forum but have been fascinated over the winter reading about Gritty Mix and 511 Mix. I'm really excited to give this a try as I know that I have a problem with my citrus (soil too wet). All this great information seemed fairly straight forward while I was just sitting in my easy chair but once I went shopping for the bark fines and crushed granite, I had doubts about the particle size and more doubts when I started screening. I also noted in some of the posted photos that it looked like some folks were also using larger fur bark rather than fines.

Here is my plan. I have 1 Myer lemon, and 1 Lime started last year. This year, I want to add fruiting bushes (blueberry) and fruiting trees (peaches and plums) using gritty mix. I also have a few house plants that I will use the 511 because they're really not doing great.

I thought I understood the recipes for the mixes but when I went back over my notes and the threads about water retention, fertilizer, including the photo gallery talking about screening, I couldn't locate the specific info.

Here are my questions and thanks in advance for the thoughtful consideration that people have given to help those of us still trying to find the way.

The materials that I picked up just don't look right. Here is what I have which I'm thinking may be wrong.
Fur fines 1/8 minus. Screened through bug screen which have 1/16 openings. Lost about half of each bag
I think the fines were too small. Could I have used 1/4 minus and had more use of the material in the bag?

Crushed granite. 1/4 Monterey Gold. This time I think I picked the size that was too large. But if this is the correct size, does it need to just be rinsed or does it need to be screened? What size 1/4 inch or bug screen? The landscape materials place also carried a decomposed granite which had variable sizes around 1/8 with quite a bit of dust. I'm thinking that may have been the right size. If it is, what type of screening would it need?

If I have the fur fines, do I also need larger pieces of fur bark? From some of the photo's it looked like people were using chips, maybe 1/2? Again, what size screen?

Napa Floor Dry(DE based) This is for the 511 mix. Just rinsing or screening? Again what is the recommended size?

I still need to pick up the Turface, so haven't seen it yet but what size screening does it require?

My neighbor had given me some Sphagnum peat, but I noticed that it also contained fertilizer (various formulation of N) which may not be the best product. I should just find unfertilized peat.

I also have gypsum, and Epsom salts.

I'm sure this is all pretty easy once you've done it a few times. Now that I've posted the photo of my soil mixture, it looks pretty much like what I've seen on other photos except I only have bark fines. Thanks in advance for any thoughts on these questions. I'll post a chart with the materials, sizes and screening once I know what they are. It may help others find it more easily in the threads. Thanks again and looking forward to spring.

The materials I have so far:
From the top, 1/8 minus fur fines, 1/8 crushed granite (Monterey Gold), Sphagnum Peat, Napa Floor Dry.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 8:05PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Fir bark @ 1/8-1/4 is best (gritty mix). If you're using pine, pieces up to 3/8 are ok (the particles shape of the pine is flat and the fir is closer to even dimensional). 1/4 minus would have been a much better choice.

If using floor dry in the 5:1:1 mix as a perlite replacement, just screen out the dust (over insect screen). Your soil will hold a LOT more water if you swap DE for perlite - so keep that in mind when you add the peat.

Screen Turface MVP or Allsport for the gritty mix over insect screen & use the fines in your raised beds, in hypertufa projects .....)

You posted a photo? I think I missed it somehow? I think that if I didn't know what was in the peat, I'd skip it in favor of the bare bones version. Once you decide what fertilizer you'll be using, we can talk about what to do about your Ca & Mg source (gypsum/Epsom salts).

Before you take my advice as solid, maybe you should clarify whether you're making the 5:1:1 mix or gritty mix - you have ingredients for both listed. If you're making the 5:1:1 only, disregard my initial bark comments, or let's just start over.

..... very happy to help, but this is Amy's thread, so you should probably start your own so we don't hijack it - or take it over to the 'container soils' thread below. ;o)


Here is a link that might be useful: This one

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 10:06PM
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Yes, Amy... the white stuff is perlite. It's a very dusty product, so I try to screen it outdoors, if I can. It contains a lot of fine material and dust that I don't want in the mix. A dust mask helps... like the ones used for painting and drywall work.

Yes, the ingredient size is important... you want to keep particle size rather comparable throughout. Approximate is good... particles don't have to be perfectly sized.

That's a quarter in the photo showing the four separate ingredients, to give you an idea of approximate size.

I think the more you work with the various ingredients and mixing them, the more you'll notice what works, or "feels" best for what you're planting in it. I have a tendency to adjust the various ingredients according to what I'm potting, where it will be placed, etc... if I need more moisture retention, I add a little more turface in relation to the bark and other items. Keep in mind that I'm not following Al's recipe to the letter... I'm adjusting it for my own uses.

Don't worry, Amy... you're doing great! :-)

Understanding the concept, and what each ingredient brings to the mix helps a lot. I find myself going back to read the original article on "Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention" just to refresh my memory every once in a while. I want to be sure I'm using each ingredient properly.

Andetuna, I don't see a photo posted, either... are you sure didn't forget to add it?

Understanding the concept of each mix, and what each ingredient is used for in each mix, goes a long way in helping to choose the right ingredients and their sizes, I think.

The NAPA Floor Dry is usually used as a substitute for turface, if the turface can't be located.

I think the word "fines" is frequently misunderstood. A better description might be fir bark particles in approximately 1/8 inch... somewhere around the size of a dime, give or take, I'd say.

Keep in mind I'm using a variation of the gritty mix, not the 5:1:1... my descriptions may differ a bit.

Al is the guy to follow... let his advice be your guide! :-)

    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 4:26AM
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Thanks for the feed back. I'm so new here, I'm not sure how to start a new tread. And my photo didn't load, too large. I'll figure these out, I'm sure.

I'll be using both gritty mix for fruit tree and blue berry bushes and the 511 for indoor plants. Still need to pick up the Turface.

Just did the 511 and really need to speed up the washing and sifting process. Any tricks to that. I will have a couple 1/2 wine barrels to fill, so that seems like a lot of rinsing and screening to me.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 7:33PM
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Hello andetuna. I don't mind, at all if you post here. I have found most pretty understanding. More people might see it and maybe have answers if you post on "container soils- water movement and retention " If you post there, but really whatever is easier for you right now. Have fun!

    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 8:10PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

How did you make the 5:1:1 mix, Ande? Most people don't screen anything for that.

FWIW - I use the gritty mix for all my houseplants, too. They love it.


    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 8:45PM
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Hey al. Good morning. I have been doing some reading up on root pruning and transplanting and I have some questions, if I may....
Sometimes you advise to cut pie shaped wedges on opposite sides one time and finish job next spring. Other times you completely bare root plant. I'm wondering how you decide which approach to take?
The two I'm most worried about are rubber tree and scheff.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 6:20AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Lol - I had to scroll up to see whose thread this was to see if it was ok to go off topic. I discovered it was yours, so I guess it's pretty ok, hmm? ;o)

Sometimes how far to go with rootwork during a repot is a judgement call - other times it's species specific. I decide based first on experience - how the tree or other trees in the same genus have responded in the past. Then, I take into account the tree's natural genetic vigor, the type of root system it has (fine or coarse roots), the tree's current state of vitality and how much energy the tree might be holding in reserve. It SOUNDS complicated, but really all you do is ask yourself if the tree is a fast or slow grower, and is it healthy now, or WAS it healthy/growing well when it went dormant. After a few repots, you'll be able to make the decision when you're unconscious. ;o)

You should bare-root your Ficus & scheff at the first repot, unless one or both are in severe decline. Just after Fathers day and before the first of July is a very good time for you to do the repotting on those two.

I had a LOT of root correction to do on this horribly root-bound future bonsai (Ficus benjamina). It went from this

to this

in 1 20 minute root-pruning session this past summer. The tree recovered very quickly, even after having 90% or more of it's root mass removed at once. That was because the tree was extremely healthy and robust at the time of the repot. Had it not been so healthy & full of reserve energy, it never would have tolerated the indignities heaped upon it.

Got it? ;o)


    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 2:11PM
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Ha ha al. Was I off topic? I almost posted over on houseplants and then I was afraid Albert would think was taking over HIS thread so i came back here... I will Try to be mindful of the topic in the future, however...
Root pruning seems like it's just one of those things that I'll just have to get in there and do. It feels confusing when I'm just reading about it,but when I actually do it -I'm sure it will all make sense. Take care. Amy

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 5:17PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Noooo! I was joking about myself, Amy. It's your thread! Talk about whatever you like. ;-) We'll follow YOU. Lol Sorry - never even thought twice once I saw it was your thread. You're just fine - ask all the questions you want.

Take care.


    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 8:12PM
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Hi all,
I'm in the City to pick up Turface mvp, yea!

For the 511, I used the Al's small batch recipe: I mixed 3 parts bark fines, 1 part Napa floor dry, and 1 part peat plus I threw in 4 tbs.gypsom.

My fur bark fines are a Shasta product which the size was noted as 1/8 minus. It seems much too small, I screened it through a bug screen to get rid of the small particulate material. I'll take Al's suggestion and use that fur dust in my raised beds. The bug screen has 1/16 openings and after screening, the bark fines had a much more granular texture. I'm thinking even if the fur bark is too small since I'm using it on for house plant,it won't be too bad, I'll repot again next year and do it right then. At least for now it should be better than it was.

For the gritty mix, which I want to make next, I'm going to get the Shasta fur fines which are sold as 1/4 minus. I think that will be the better size. I will use the 1/4 crushed granite and the turface mvp. Is it better/easier, to screen first or rinse first? Am I correct that both need to be done?

My original plan was to fill 2 half wine barrels with gritty mix and repot my citrus trees. But maybe instead, I could start them off in smaller pots and work up to the wine barrels? I know with the gritty mix since the soil drains so well, it wouldn't be a problem to just start them in the container that I want to grow them in. I'm just wondering since I'm just getting started it would be easier to make less gritty mix, get the experience washing, screening, and mixing. And just get the citrus trees started growing in smaller containers of gritty mix. After they start to be more healthy, repot them as necessary into larger pots until they're ready for the wine barrels?

So, for the gritty mix, equal parts of crushed granite, turface mvp, and bark fines. With Gympsom added in about 1 tbs for each gallon of material.

If that is a good idea, I'll start my other project, blue berry plants and fig tree, in smaller containers as well.

Thanks for the consideration and helpful questions. I hope to gain more confidence as I go this a few times. Raining like crazy here in California and lots of stuff starting to bloom already.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 8:52PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Dolomitic Garden LIME is used in the 5-1-1, not Gypsum.

Gypsum is used in the Gritty Mix.


    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 10:44PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I use the Shasta fir in 1/8-1/4" size for the gritty mix. I used to screen pine bark & use 1/8-3/8" screens - sometimes just a little larger if it meant I didn't have to screen twice.

I also start LOTS of cuttings of many types of plants (herbaceous AND woody material) in the gritty mix. It's outstanding for cuttings. One of the primary problems with starting cuttings in peaty soils is it has such a high PWT. The proximal end of cuttings should NOT be in saturated soil. The film of water over the cutting end robs the cutting of O2, and the cutting very often rots. This rarely occurs in media that supports no or little perched water. Just be careful not to stick your cuttings too close to the bottom of your containers. Heavy soils and/or shallow containers = a greater probability of problems.


    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 3:25PM
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lilamy(zone 8a)

Thank you all! This thread is exactly what I needed. I have gone from having several acres of good soil and always ready compost in zone 8 to being in a very small place where I am lucky to have a spot for a few pots and to a zone 6! I am glad that I took the time to come back to GW to research! find containers to attempt a few roses and mixed annual pots with this gritty mix...

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 12:31PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If you do a little more reading or engage us in conversation, we're going to say yeah to the roses in the gritty mix, but probably try to persuade you that the 5:1:1 mix or similar is probably the better choice for the mixed annual/flowery display containers. ;o)


    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 1:17PM
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Most folks use the 511 for short term plantings, and the gritty mix for longer term plantings... or, the 511 outdoors and the gritty mix indoors. At least, that's the way I understand it.

I use the gritty mix for all my indoor potted plants. Most will have to remain in the same medium for a minimum of two years, possibly three, and the gritty mix is inorganic and durable enough to hold up for that length of time.

For roses... and I'm just thinking out loud, here... because roses are heavy feeders that prefer consistent moisture, but not saturation to the point of drowning... and they also require lots of full sun... I think I'm going to opt for trying both the 511 and the gritty mix, myself, in a comparison. Knowing how quickly a rose can colonize a pot with roots, I'm thinking most would require a re-pot after one year.

Al knows best, though... so if he recommends gritty mix for roses, that's where I'd begin if I were a novice grower.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 11:11AM
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I found the same ingredients that you use (Manna Pro granite chips, turface, and ReptiBark) and am going to try it this spring! I may not use perlite however, and was wondering why you use it in your plantings since its not part of the standard grit mix.

Also, does the Manna Pro granite need to be screened? The bag I have has particle sizes that vary quite a bit, but very little falls through insect screen. Your granite looks quite uniform so wanted to ask if you screened yours or not.



    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 7:25PM
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No, I do not screen the granite chips, but I do rinse away the dust. Manna Pro poultry grit does seem to be rather dusty, so I dump it into a colander with tight screening and give it a rinse under the kitchen faucet to remove dust. Doing so also removes the tiniest of particles, which is good.

I use a percentage of perlite because it's light in weight, and because I've got a large bag to use up. I could eliminate it from my mix, I suppose... but I already have it, and it seems to work well as a part of the mix, so... it's certainly not necessary, but since I've already got it, and I hate to waste anything, I screen it and add it in.

Will I obtain more if I run out? I don't know... the bag I've got is pretty large, so I'll be working my way through it for at least another season!

If I were a novice gardener, I'd stick with Al's recipe, and use it exactly as he recommends... but I've been growing, learning and tweaking my soil for quite some time, so I deviate from the exact recipe when I need slightly different qualities in my mix. If I weren't sure, I would measure my ingredients, and use them in the exact ratios Al recommends... but again, I find that I need slightly different qualities due to my own environment, the plant types I'm working with, etc.

Don't let what I do confuse you. Al's recipes are excellent exactly as written. He's spent a lot of time and energy perfecting them so they cover all bases and can be used by all growers as general mediums.

I mess with food recipes, too... adding a pinch of this or a tad bit of that, or eliminating an item... but I always keep in mind the main concept, and what each ingredient brings to the recipe.

I'm glad you've decided to give the gritty mix a try, Margo... the only issue you should have is the slight adjustment you'll be making in watering. The wooden skewer method will be a safe guideline to follow, and once you get a feel for how often the plant will require water, everything will fall into place and your plants will thank you! :-)

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 9:12AM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

It sounds like your good to go! I'm glad to see your going to give the mixes a try too! I'm sure you'll be happy with them, and the support here is endless if you have questions! :-)

I'm going to try a rose in each mix too. I have some mini I got recently and i'm combining them with strawberries and a few other plants. I just put one in the 5-1-1 and i'll get the other in the gritty mix too.

My Manna Pro was very dusty too, so I rinsed it.

I just put Lavender, Sage and Thyme in a mixed container using the gritty mix and they are doing very well! I'm please considering the lavender took a real beating trying to get all the junk/old soil off the roots.

Jodi~ I too have to 'adjust' recipes when I cook! ;-)


    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 9:40AM
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Thanks for reminding me, JoJo! I almost forgot! It's got nothing to do with this thread... but I DO have to drastically cut back my Lavender patch this year in order to renew its look! It was getting very leggy and "stemmy" looking, and it's front and center in the garden bed most seen! So... thanks for that! :-)

Whew! I almost completely spaced that little chore!

I'm interested to see how the comparison goes, JoJo... though, I'm thinking both mediums will be good choices for roses. I think the only difference will be the amount of water used with the gritty mix, as compared to the 511. I was going to use 2 full sized rose plants, myself. We'll compare later in the season, then... and see how we each did, keeping our very different environments in mind!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 11:03AM
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Thanks very much Jodi and JoJo. I will rinse the Manna granite chips before using them, but not try to screen them.



    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 12:26PM
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Jodi, so the perlite in your mix is really only because you are trying to use it up and not really because your plants need it in the mix. I know Al mentioned adding perlite in some mixes in other threads, but I probably wont use it. If I can keep it simple and use the 3 basics (fir bark, turface and granite chips) that would be better for me.

BTW, have you found out any more about the ReptiBark coming in different sizes? I read that someone bought a big bag of it and the size of the bark was much larger. The small bags Ive used have all had pieces about 1/4" in size and normally don't need screening. Just wondered if anyone else has run into this issue.

Thanks again!


    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 2:18PM
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At the grocery store today I noticed they had their summer outdoor grilling tools out already. One thing I saw was a metal (stainless steel?) cooking basket that is used on outdoor grills, maybe for veggies or similar things. The basket is only about 2" deep but about 12 or 14" across and the mesh looks to be about 1/4" in size, or maybe a little less. It also had handles on each side. I'm wondering if this might be a good tool for screening materials for gritty mix in small quantities?

The basket mesh was quite heavy and study not flimsy like insect screening. More like hardware cloth I believe or even harder. The cost was about $10, so not too expensive. It might work for people like me that only need a small amount of grit mix at one time?

From what I have read I would use this type of screen first to remove the large pieces (1/4" or more) then use insect screen to remove the very fine dust sized pieces.

So maybe I should try this rather than construct a frame for screening?

Thanks everyone.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 1:02PM
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when referencing insect screens, literally like screens from a window? It seems as though not much would pass through them (the holes appear less than 1/16 but i have never measured them).

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 1:54PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

They are - we cheat a little so more of the Turface is usable.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 3:11PM
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What does that mean exactly? The holes are 1/16? Do you wet it prior to screening or after (if prior to it would seem that even less would pass through) Also, I resent you an email that included this question among others.
THanks as always

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 4:21PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

It means we use Turface even though a fraction of it isn't what would be considered in the ideal size range. We get away with it because the bark & granite are usually larger and make up 2/3 of the whole. I'd LOVE it if Turface MVP was more concentrated in the 3/32-3/16 size range.

I don't wet or rinse my Turface or granite - I just screen them over insect screen to remove the dust. It's a little better to rinse so you remove even more of the dust, but I use soo much gritty mix that I'm not willing to go through the extra trouble.

I may not get to the email for awhile, I get at least a dozen emails each day from GW members alone, and it's been getting increasingly difficult to keep up. The forums always come before the email because I think it helps more people, and I only have so much time. Asking questions on the forums, and one of my threads in particular if you want me to respond, is a surer way to get a quick response. I need to change my user page to reflect that thought. ;-)

Best luck!


    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 6:10PM
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Discovered a perfect little sifter at Target on the shelves of interesting cheap junk they display up front. It is a wire basket with 1/8" grid, 9"x9.5", 5.5" deep. I only paid $2.50 for it. I'd seen similar baskets in office supplies, but I wasn't thinking "sifter" at the time, so didn't pay any attention to grid size. Price tag was considerably higher, too. I'm going to have to look closer at wire waste baskets and storage boxes. Maybe I'll find something with 1/4 inch grid.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 9:42AM
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1/4" screen is no problem to find (in hardware store); and insect screen is available too. But anything in between I am having difficulty to find, especially since I want only few feet. Found one store that carried 1/8" screen but they would not cut, had to buy 50' no, thank you.

Any chance of posting photo of this basket you found?

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 12:52PM
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joshuac1v8(6b-Lower Mid TN)

I found a colander at Wal-Mart that is 1/8 grid size, Metal woven wire and is a lil over 12in oblong.. It has worked perfectly for all material and is very sturdy. I'll bet its at any Wal-Mart too in the cooking utensil isle.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 9:59AM
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