I read so much about this Al's gritty mix..exactly what is it?
Equal parts by volume of:
pine or fir bark in 1/8-1/4" size
Screened Turface (may substitute calcined DE, such as NAPA floor dry)
Gran-I-Grit (crushed granite in grower size or #2 cherrystone)
It is a mix that will make you wish you had been using long before our common era!
It is a mix that your plants for ever will be indebted to you for!
It is a mix that will stand the test of time!
It is a mix, that will satisfy your every plant need, once you find everything you need for it!
It is a mix, that is virtually impossible to over water in!
It is a mix that allows GREAT root developement!
It is a mix that will help you see your plants grow to their full potential, and great vitality!
It is a mix, that you can leave outdoors, even in the rainiest of season, without fear of loosing your plants to rot!
It is a mix that "fungas gnats" can't stand, hate in fact!
It is a mix, that will convince you that bagged soil mixes are a joke and a waste of money!
It is a mix that easily comes of the roots when transplanting!
It is a mix that lasts for several seasons without compaction, breakdown of structure, and poor air exchange eventually in the root zone.
It is a mix that does not allow salt build up from fertilizers or water deposits!
It is a mix that drains freely and stays evenly moist!
It is a mix that gets PICKED ON by those that don't ever give it a try, and who would never abandon bagged soils...
It is a mix that bonds many of us plant lovere together!
This is just a few examples of what this gritty mix is, for me anyway..
I hope you see that finding the ingredients that are needed for it, are far worth your investment of time, searching and questions...
Because 90% of my potted plants will not be in containers for more than six months, I use for those a mix made for the propagating wholesale nurseries. However for my cutting propagation business the gritty mix is the best I have ever tried. Also for my own longtime container plants is is very good. During the last summer I was able to buy two Dwarf Mugho Pines in three gallon pots from a fair exhibit for 25% of their retail price. I installed them "as is" in their pots within another pot in a commercial location. during the winter I noticed one getting brown needles. I brought them both back and repotted one in my commercial mix the other in the gritty mix. In the commercial mix the decline continued while the one in the gritty mix quickly started putting on new growth. Both were fertilized the same. The lesson I have learned, is when buying an expensive plant for longtime container use, I will immediately bare root it and repot in the gritty mix before installing it on site. Al
"Equal parts by volume of:"
...Except the gypsum! Don't include an equal volume of gypsum, just mix in 1 tablespoon to each gallon.
Trust me on this. 8D
Arghh! THANK YOU!
Gypsum IS added at 1 level tbsp per gallon of soil or 1/2 cup/cu ft.
I've been digging through all the relevant posts on Al's mixes the last few days, and I'm basically sold. I just have one question, as a total literalist --
A lot of the info *seems* to boil down to, it's pretty much impossible to waterlog your plants with this stuff. But there's also so much concern about moisture testing before you water (fingers, skewers, whatever). Obviously, I don't want to waste thousands of gallons of water. But if I have a container with no PWT -- possibly even wicked, to be totally sure -- is there some reason I can't just dump a gallon of water in there a couple times a day and otherwise not worry about it?
Well... the turface holds ALOT of moisture.
Just be careful...
You "CAN" overwater even in the gritty mix if not careful. Your chances are a lot less likely though, compared to bagged mixes or any other mix with fine partitcle sizes..Rememeber your particle size plays a crucial role..
You would be suprised how much moisture this mix holds, even when you think it is bone dry..
Thanks, Mike. I'm also in Phoenix and it's going to be 110 and bone dry before long, which makes me worry even less. I'm almost thinking I *want* something more on the "airy" side than the moisture-retentive side, because evaportive cooling will probably help my cause more than hurt it.
One more question if anyone has thoughts on this specific scenario: I have some band-size roses (about 2x2x6" pots) in whatever medium the grower used -- it seems very dense. I'd like to grow them a bit more before they go in the ground. But (again, Phoenix) I don't want to plant them in the ground much later than early April. So I have about 6 weeks. Would it be worth washing off as much of the "dirt" as I can and repotting them into gallons (probably with 5:1:1, I'd be careful with the watering) for only 6 weeks? Or am I better off splitting the difference, leaving them in the bands for maybe 3 weeks, and then straight into the ground? Leaving them in the bands for 6 weeks seems like a bad idea, but disturbing the roots to pot them up in "the same dirt" for only 6 weeks seems a little pointless.
You guys are great. :)
What are "bands"? As long they do no harm, I would leave them as they are until I could get them in the ground. Several more weeks shouldn't make much difference. I imagine they're just coming out of dormancy.
Sorry, I wasn't quite specific enough. The 2x2x6" (ish) pots are called "bands." The roses are breaking dormancy and starting to leaf out. Several of them do have significant roots escaping the bottom of the band (bands don't have the typical "solid" bottom on the pot, just a sort of cross-bar for stability) which is why I don't really want to leave them as-is for 6 weeks. It'll be 70-80+ degrees soon and they're going to grow pretty fast.
So I'm conflicted between not wanting to mess with the feeder roots they do have, vs. getting as much root mass as possible before they go in the ground.
Gotcha ya... you know, here in MI were it is much colder than AZ, our roses go in early - like April and preferably when they're still dormant - this would be 6 to 8 weeks before we would dare plant any tenders. I'm thinking you might/should be able to get them in sooner than you think. I'd jump over to the roses forum and post your question there. Good luck and let us know how it goes.
I'm in Tucson, AZ. around here they are to be planted in Jan and Feb. At least the bare root. I'm not sure about the band size rose, have never heard of anything like that.
I was just at Lowes yesterday and they are about sold out of roses.
Besides the rose forum, there is also one for Arizona. Maybe they could help.
But like monet says, I would think now would be O.K. and just protect them from any last frost.
Were known to have one last blast in march.
Thanks, JoJo. I only moved into this house 2 months ago and haven't tried roses in AZ yet, so I'm a bit lost. Mine aren't bare-root and are quite small, so they'll be easy to frost-protect should that be necessary. Mostly it makes me a little nervous to plant something little in the big nasty desert. ;)
I already know that the rose forum will have a complete heart attack if I don't put them into gallon containers with potting mix, then 2-gallon containers with potting mix. By then it will be July and I'd have to hold them in those little pots through 4 months of 100+. Not appealing!
If it quits raining (we've gotten several inches in the last 3 days and we're waterlogged) I may just put them out this weekend. Yikes. :)
Thanks again for the suggestions, everyone.
Welcome to Arizona..:)
Now the Desert really isn't that scary, it just takes a little getting used to..:)
It's been pouring here all day too.
"curiosity killed the cat!" What is the reason for the quarter in the middle of the plate or pan; also there's a nickle beside a plate or pan in another picture.
Actually it's a dime, and it's there to help show the proper size of your materials. Mainly the bark.
Al, why exactly do you use 5-1-1 for single-season plantings instead of the gritty mix? I may have missed the answer to this in the threads I've read so far. I have gotten the impression that the 5-1-1 is a cheaper mix and that the more expensive gritty mix isn't necessary for a shorter-lived planting. But on the other hand, it sounds like you change the gritty mix every year anyway? Do you discard the used gritty mix each year?
I use it for single season plantings because it's less expensive and it holds up (to my standards, which are actually pretty demanding) very well for the first year. It actually holds up well for much longer than that, but I think the gritty mix is enough superior in the long stretch to the 5:1:1 mix that I'll use the gritty mix for all my woody material. Remember too, that most of my material is being grown in shallow containers (growing on for bonsai), so drainage is more critical. So - veggies & all the pretty garden display material usually goes in the 5:1:1, while long-term plantings like houseplants (including cacti/succulents) and my woody stuff gets the gritty mix. Also, I root-prune most of my plants, and the gritty mix makes that chore MUCH easier.
I only repot plants in the gritty mix if I suspect/know they are becoming root-bound. I sometimes discard the soil, but usually I add it to my raised (nursery) beds that have potential bonsai material in them.
Thats fine , but good luck on finding anything barkwise that small.
Good luck, indeed.
I use a product called Micro Bark, which comes in 2 cu. ft. bags. It does require screening,
but it is smaller, more consistent, and less costly than the fine "Orchid Bark."
I got a 2 cu. ft. bag of what is called "pine bark fines" from John Deere Tractor. I'll have to ask them about the micro next time I order.
It too needs screening, but the leftovers will become mulch in the garden. No waste!
Would you use the gritty mix for non-container plants (perennials) growing outdoors in zone 6? Or is there something more cost effective and/or a different mix for this type of planting?
Are you asking if I would use it in the garden/raised beds?
Nice "Ode to Al's Mix" Mike! ;-)
Any suggestions for someone with no access to most of the ingredients above? (In Thailand I can get coconut husks of various sizes, coir, rice hulls, etc.) Is there a primitive, quick and dirty version of Al's mix? Or a way to mix something or another in to improve "dirt?"
Yes. I wanted to know what mix you would recommend for outdoor perennials growing in raised beds. After seeing a picture of the gritty mix I realize it is not suitable or affordable for this use. Will the 5-1-1 work, or is there something cheaper?
Thank you - Rob
You could mix about 1 part of compost to 2 parts of native soil (or good topsoil if your native soil is unsuited) and call it good. This is fast & easy, and shrinkage won't be much of a problem. I will say though, that if you are not growing plant material that needs renewing each year (annuals & veggies) the shrinkage you DO get will cause the plant's roots to become exposed, unless you stay right on top of adding additional soil or compost.
Here is a picture of the soil in my raised beds:
It's a very productive soil and abundant with all the tiny denizens that make up soil life. You can see it also has excellent tilth. It drains well yet still holds lots of moisture. The soil is comprised (originally) of approx
5 parts partially composted pine bark fines
2 parts sphagnum peat (could also use 2 parts Michigan or reed/sedge peat, leaving out the sphagnum)
1-3 parts Turface or NAPA floor-dry
1-2 parts builders sand or native topsoil
but I could easily have used more sand or topsoil in this soil.
I'm not a regular on this forum, but from browsing the archive, I do know that from time to time people have posted about difficulty finding some ingredients for the gritty mix. This may be a slightly pricey option (I don't know, I haven't researched what gritty mix should cost), but I'm pretty sure all of the ingredients are available at repotme.com. I've bought a number of things from them over the past couple of years and I've always had a good experience with them. Maybe this will be useful for someone.
Here is a link that might be useful: Gritty Mix Source
Argh, I've potted several of my plants in the gritty mix with an equal part gypsum. Is this going to be seriously detrimental to the plants? What's the worst case scenario? I've got a rather large mix in a tub in my garage: does it need to be corrected?
You mean you have a mix of 1:1:1:1, screened Turface:crushed granite:screened bark:gypsum? If so, probably anything you plant will die of plasmolysis (commonly fertilizer burn, which is sort of a misnomer for a reaction attributable to a high level of anything soluble in the soil solution. Sugar or excess gypsum can cause plasmolysis/fertilizer burn as quickly and as assuredly as an overdose of fertilizer or table salt.
How fast would the gypsum leach out if blankpages were to flush the medium heavily? Probably wouldnt save the plants, but maybe this could at least save the mix for later use..
Okay (you can disregard my email now). I was confused by the original 'recipe' at the top of this message and I didn't read down far enough to see that the gypsum should be added in a smaller dose. I went ahead and took my original mix and diluted it substantially. The gypsum also seemed to 'muck' up my pot creating a clay-like mess. Since I sent that message I re-potted a few of my plants and I'll do the rest tomorrow. Glad I caught this in time, the root structures had already been affected.
My 'diluting' was not all that mathematical. I took one part of the original 1-1-1-1 mix and added 2 parts of bark, granite and turface. I can already see that it runs clearer. If you think I should stick more closely to the 1 t. rule let me know. Otherwise I'm hoping I can save them this way.
Without resorting to math, I think I would flush as much gypsum from the original batch as possible, then let the soil dry. I would then mix fresh batches of soil w/o gypsum and incorporate maybe 1 cup of the original hot soil as a gypsum source with each 1-2 gallons of fresh soil sans gypsum. My sense is that you'll still have high TDS issues with your new plan.
Can the gypsum be added to the surface later, or added to the water along with other nutrient sources? I often forget to add it, and only realise once I've done the potting.
Sutrmaine, if you are not using fp or a fert with ca and mg, you would probably be better off supplementing with a ca mag solution.
I hope this isn't a ridiculous question, but can this Gritty Mix be used with vegetables or even fruit? I stick to square foot gardening and container gardening, and something tells me the answer is a big fat NO. Please enlgithen me, GW.
That would be a big fat YES! ;-)
I'm growing a Black Pearl pepper in 1 gallon of Gritty Mix right now.
Myself and many others also grow citrus and tropical fruits in Gritty mix.
Josh, this sounds incredible!! What about nutrients for the vegetables? Do I need to use fertilizer? Is it obligatory while using the Gritty Mix?
Also, I"m assuming this can be reused again and again? Can I grow any vegetable in this Gritty Mix? (I tend to stick with greens, okra, and beans. Please let it be true.
Fertilizer is an absolute must.
I do believe you can grow just about anything in Gritty Mix.
You can recycle the grit from the Gritty Mix - but the bark will eventually need refreshing.
I grow most of my vegetables in 5-1-1 because it is easier to make and more economical for plants
that typically only last a season. I bring certain peppers indoors during the winter, however, and I use
the Gritty Mix for these. I've maintained a Hungarian Wax pepper for four years now.
I decided to grow the Black Pearl pepper in a small volume of Gritty Mix to make a point.
I wanted to show that the mix is good for peppers; that a small volume will still support
a healthy, producing plant; and that the mix doesn't require excessive watering.
I water every 1.5 days on average.
I have a need for this mix in larger doses, which behooves me to look for the largest sizes/least expensive effective materials. As a replacement for Turface (which was more dust than granules that I needed), I found a product called Safe T Sorb is "100% Fuller's Earth", which is Montmorllinite Clay, which is what Turface is. Very little dust, nice sized particles, and less than half the price of Turface.
Instead of buying crushed granite grit by the 40lb. bag, what about buying crushed stone in that pebble size? It is still the cracked, irregular pieces and it costs about the same for a ton as for a bag. My only concern is that my quarry is a limestone quarry, so the stone would be limestone (but washed and essentially as inert as any other stone--granite or other.
Any thoughts or personal experience are welcome!
I am new to GardenWeb but an avid grower of all things green. I've been reading through these posts about Al's Gritty Mix and the 5:1:1 but I have some questions that I haven't seen answered yet. So many threads that I might be asking questions that have been answered 100 times, if so, sorry. Is there a list of the types of plants that each of the mixes are good for or am I reading one of Mike's posts correctly that you can't really go wrong with the Gritty Mix? Can I use it for potted vegetables and herbs (anything that we are going to consume?) Right now I use an organic potting soil with perlite and some bark on a base of fairly large limestone. I think I am doing everything wrong but with the exception of an arboricola that I am not sure what happened to, everything else is thriving. Any suggestions?