Taking on Gritty Mix

sugi_c(9a)February 28, 2013

These are the times when the less you read, the better off you probably are. But I can't unread what I've read, so for the last few days, I've felt compelled to attempt this gritty mix.

I have mixed feelings about Al right now, haha. I love his brain and knowledge but I'm pondering not reading his posts anymore lest this kill all of my otherwise perfectly fine plants because I tinker with them again and again due to learning something new! :-D (Kidding, Al. About me not reading -- not about me potentially killing my plants, which I very well may do at this rate.)

Mind you, I live in a 2 bedroom condo. I have two small balconies, no hose, and slight and non-diagnosed OCD issue with keeping the house clean, and sifting or watering over the railing is not quite as easy to do with two layers of plants hanging off the railing.

But I'm nothing if not a glutton for punishment, so I spent 4.5 hours yesterday driving around the Bay Area to procure the components needed. It was quite a sight to see me, who friends normally label with "princess syndrome" or "prissy", at best, shoveling up ROCKS from piles high as buildings at a landscape supply company. Quite a sight. And, after two scoops, I'd also have to google something else about Al's Gritty Mix, unsure if I was really buying the right thing or not.

Anyway, below is what I did buy.

Does the sizing look okay to all who are familiar with this?

In the photo to the left, at 12:00 is the fir bark (1/4").
At 3:00, is the 1/4" quartz.
At 6:00 is a significantly more pricey but pretty La Paz 1/4".
And at 9:00 is the ever elusive Turface which I finally found at Ewing Irrigation after driving to TWO John Deere locations that didn't have them in stock.

My intent, for purely aesthetic reasons, is to mix the La Paz and Quartz for the gritty portion of this mix. I'm presuming this is not a problem, and I liked that these two had CONSIDERABLY less dust and "bits" than the crushed granite that was also available.

As mentioned, sifting the way you guys do is really not a viable option for me right now. I will wash everything and manually remove what I can that's too small. But otherwise, this attempt will be made without the exorbitant sifting portion. I did what I could to pick the most equally-sized bits I could.

I just repotted a huge majority of my plants in a variation of the 5:1:1 mix and I'll have to hold myself back from redoing those for the moment until I can see I made this mix properly. (Then, all bets are off and I will probably repot those, too. You see what I mean? I am killing my plants!) I do have some succulents, a young kumquat tree and a Croton that need repotting. Washing the soil out of these will be an adventure....

Wish me luck!!


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ADD: never mind re: my refusal to sift. I took a large kitchen colander I have and shook just a little to see what comes out, and clearly, sifting was going to be necessary, at least to this degree.
Couldn't believe how much "stuff" comes out of the bark, and Turface -- um, why can't this just be larger!?!! I wet that down first only to quickly realize I'd have to let that one dry out and redo a new batch post-sifting.

The stones, as expected, were much more manageable with very little sifting out. And so pretty! :-D

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 3:56PM
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I realize this is probably overly obvious, but I am confused about the whole sifting thing. Is the goal of screening the gritty mix to remove the fine particulates and to keep the larger stuff or is the goal to take what fell through the screen and to get rid of the large stuff?

Clearly I've never made a mix before and am using commercially available soils. I've been confused about all of this for a while but figured it would eventually make sense to me.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 5:45PM
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Hi R -

It's not obvious AT ALL, haha. I've been reading and reading on this forum for a month and finally felt like I (might) know what to do and attempted it. I'd have felt better if someone who uses it confirmed that I have the right pieces -- but alas, it was time to make the jump. :-)

So, to explain -- and if I am mistaken, I am sure someone will correct me....

You can see the differently sized pieces of Turface below:

All of the little pieces should be removed, and all the larger pieces -- you will keep.

And then as part of the mix I put together after sifting:

All three components used in the mix shown have a lot of dust, and "smaller than desired" particles. For example, when the bark was sifted, out came a mountain of "bark powder" and tiny bits of bark that were in the bag from, I assume, the shredding process. Planted in the ground, it's less of an issue, but for Al's gritty mix -- the concept is to provide air (and thereby "space") within the soil/medium so roots can freely and healthily grow.

So if you imagine a clear cup and you throw in some small rocks, small pieces of bark and small pebbles of Turface (shown at 9:00 in the original photo -- ridiculously small) -- then you can push it down, shake it down and still you will have space where the rocks are up against the bark, which is surrounded by Turface pieces, right? That's what you want with this mix -- room for roots to cleanly and swiftly grow within the mix.

If these smaller particles and powder are NOT sifted out appropriately (and by no means do I kid myself thinking I got it all out) and are just used in this mix -- then they (the small bits and massive amounts of dust/powder) will settle into those spaces, creating a more typical soil-like environment eventually -- and thereby defeating the entire purpose of this gritty mix. I think Al consistently notes that if this (or mixing in compost, soil or what have you) is what you will do, you might as well use potting soil as this mix will end up "perching water" at the bottom of the pot due to the density of the "soil" down there -- and not having perched water in this mix is the very objective of this mix.

So, while it was a step I had hoped to skip due to not wanting the mess (my place looked like a meth lab yesterday and I'm still cleaning), it quickly became clear that I could not. Also, with bark -- you sift and then you should also remove the oddly large pieces to keep it pretty uniform.

After half a day of it and transplanting/repotting a bunch of plants, I caved and invested in bonsai sieves to make this process easier and hopefully cleaner. I started with a kitchen colander, then ran to OSH and while looking at screens, I had this brilliant idea to use these extendable window screens that were really cheap as a rectangular sieve. It works -- but my GOD, it's messy. So by nightfall, I bought the sieves and hope to make plenty more mix next week when it arrives. God bless Amazon.

Anyway -- here are some images of what got planted yesterday and this morning. The Dracaena and pitiful Azalea are planted in Al's 5:1:1 mix, and the remainder are in the gritty mix -- I just chose based on my own discretion.

The azalea shown below (in 5:1:1) is the only one that I pruned pretty hard on top as my friend was on the verge of throwing it out last week when I took it. It's coming back okay but it did need better soil than what it was in.
So far -- nothing is suffering, nobody has drooped or croaked on me and after a massive watering yesterday, all are still nicely moist today! It's really quite beautiful -- much more so than soil -- and I love that it won't harbor fungus gnats no matter how wet.

I should have probably waited to repot the ficus but that soil was definitely a little too wet. As you can see, I tied it together a little bit because it's too top heavy to stand securely right now, but hopefully, when it begins to root, it'll become more secure.

I would be having a blast if I had (1) a yard and (2) storage to premake this concoction, but oh well.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 7:15PM
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Okay I think I have a clearer picture now. I think I'll take a stab at it as soon as I can get the stuff together. My apt doesn't have any outdoor access so basically I have to do all this stuff in the parking lot at work. Luckily everyone already thinks I'm a big old weirdo. Last month I started trying to grow oyster mushoorms in my office drawer. :)


    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 8:00PM
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Looks like you're in the Bay Area, Ryan? I'm in San Bruno. :-)

If you want to head to the Peninsula, I am happy to tell you where I got my stuff. That was the biggest chore of all--finding stuff!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 8:14PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey, Grace, it sure seems that you've got the right idea....and I heartily approve of those re-potted plants - that succulent planter is going to be sweet! And I see a Pachira in the background...will you re-pot that one later this Summer? Great color and texture to your mix. I'm sorry no one was here to confirm for you sooner :-(


    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 4:28PM
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Hi Josh,

Yeah - where IS everyone when *I* need them, right!?!! :-)

Thank you so much for providing confirmation -- I was getting really worried as I progressed forward in bed repotting over half of what I have without having received feedback.

The Pachira was one of the victims to my latest repotting frenzy.

I had a Pachira when I used to garden six plus years ago but if I recall correctly, it had a nice root system going, though I think I only repotted once. This one, while growing nicely, has almost no roots. Isn't that bizarre or is that the norm? That said -- it's constantly throwing new leaves so I guess it's nothing to be too worried about but hopefully, being in gritty mix will promote some strong root growth.

Removed the soil and barerooted all of these -- and made a new collection:

This mix just feels fabulous for succulents.... I'm totally convinced this will be great, even if they've only been repotted for a few days. :-)

I also transplanted the seedlings I had going of arugula and shiso into a planter box w 5:1:1 -- and threw in the jalapeno plant, though I'm thinking this might be too small in this full-sun location, possibly.

I also, for the millionth time, disbanded a previous succulent collection to create a new one with the cacti I just purchased; I'm seeing these living rocks actually SPLIT OPEN and push out a new one.....perhaps the most amazing thing I've seen EVER, haha.

There are plenty of geraniums and euphorbia, etc. that is just staying in their regular soil until officially time to repot, vs. all of these that I just redid solely because I wanted to, despite most of them being quite new to their pots.

What I have *NOT* repotted and am still mulling over are the gardenias and maidenhair fern, along with some other houseplants. I can totally see the drainage being a plus AND minus for these two....and am not positive the gritty mix would be better for them?
I could see 5:1:1 being better for them but I'm a little stumped on how to make the soil acidic enough for the gardenias? Add sulfur or...?
Then the remaining issue becomes.....their current soils are good, not bad at all. I'd love to make it better, but repotting these unnecessarily seems more dangerous than all the others, which I know to be MUCH sturdier and less temperamental than these two.


Thank you again, Josh - I really feel much better now that you've given the thumbs up on what the mix LOOKS like! :-D

Here is a link that might be useful: More photos

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 6:58PM
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I am no expert at all, but I think that lithops (living rocks)need different soil mix & watering than other plants in that container ...hope I am not misleading here.

Your mix looks great otherwise, I am sure plants will grow happily in it. Rina

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 12:04AM
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Hi Rina,

What should be different specifically? No problem pulling them out and moving them but for all succulents, cacti and I clumped these "rocks" in (these are my first ever despite having had succulents for so long -- I'd never even seen them before!), I just let dry then drench in water, and repeat. With this mix,I'll fertilize lightly every so often but didn't plan to do anything differently with them specifically.

But happy to learn if you have suggestions!
Thanks, Rina!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 3:39AM
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I am not knowledgeable enough to give advice, just remember reading on the Cacti&succulents forum; I recommend to search on this forum for lithops & you will find lots of info (there are few members very succesful growing them).

External link on subject (there are other available...):
click here

All your plants look really nice, and I like the bark (looks like a Repti bark that one can buy in pet supply stores and it is quite expensive since it comes only in small bags); did you buy it in bulk?

This post was edited by rina_ on Mon, Mar 4, 13 at 10:13

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 10:09AM
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Hi Rina,

All of the rocks did come with "do not water in winter" attached to the pot, so I guess I will water the cacti and that fuzzy thing and try to avoid the rocks when winter comes around. Given the gritty mix, and lack of absorption to the surrounding medium, I just might be able to do it. :-) but thanks for the heads up.

The bark, I found at a landscape supply company here called Lyngso and it's one if a huge variety of bark. This one was called "fir bark mulch" and it just happened to be 1/4". I still screen it at 1/4" and all I get is the massive amount of bark dust/powder with little to no actual pieces. $3 for what looks like about a 1 cu. ft. self-service bag -- not a bad deal! I've already introduced it to many local folks! :-)

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 2:52PM
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More gritty mix and 5:1:1 updates:

I have to comment that of the 30-something plants I must have repotted into gritty mix or 5:1:1, it is quite impressive how ONLY ONE suffered (and continues to suffer), and all have either adjusted nicely or are thriving in their new "homes". The one that's suffering is also below...but that one is most likely my own fault.

Al - thank you so much for sharing this with the world.

Since this either etiolated itself to near death or drowned (I still have no clue which) -- it's loving its new gritty mix home in a container full of succulents. I'm happy to see it coming back.

The Kumquat Tree. I took off the tag and then my boyfriend must have thrown it out, because the tag is now gone. So I have no idea which kind of Kumquat this is. For now, it's the kumquat that loves the gritty mix, I guess. Doing nicely -- and it seems completely unaffected by being transplanted. It seems to take 3 days before needing more water. It's a young tree, though.

My new gardenia. Perhaps by 201st gardenia in total count now, with 199 of them having met a less than pleasant death. Hands down, a healthy gardenia is my favorite plant. And apparently, I am deadset on having one at least one time in my life, given my propensity for buying these up again after a 6 year hiatus. This new one was clearly two plants when I lifted it out of the growers pot, so I took one and potted in the house, and then left this bigger one in its own pot to battle Mother Nature on its own. This one is in 5:1:1.

Best Success Story:
My pitiful Azalea seems to be loving life. She took a hard beating at the roots and on top -- and I figured, given how pathetic she looked, the worst case would be that I can reuse the pot and soil for something else. However, now a full week since being moved into its new soil, she looks like she's mending, doesn't she?
Despite the harsh pruning, I left a couple of the blooms on the shorter branches on, and she is even blooming now.
I have never much liked Azaleas, but now I'm kind of glad she's here.

I guess it could be one of a variety of things that went wrong. I made the soil exactly as I did with all the other gritty mix residents, but this Croton 'Mammy' that I had just bought was (1) in BONE DRY conditions in the pot it came in (and didn't rewet it before taking it out), and (2) I untangled the roots and gave it a tiny trim before repotting. Whatever the reason is, within hours of being planted, the once-erect plant went kaput on me. I used to have a pretty big one before, and noticed immediately that the leaves should not be resting on the container like that, floppy and droopy. The new green leaves were also laying down but I watered again yesterday, and those have perked up. The big leaves -- not so much.....
Oh well, I may have to snip those off if they don't erect themselves. My bad.... poor plant. That said, she looks a TINY bit better than yesterday as the tips of the leaves are no longer looking at the ground. Maybe??

The jalapeno, arugula and shiso container is coming along nicely. The photo, due to it being so bright and my not having adjusted my settings on the camera, looks like it's yellow but it is, rest assured, very green. This one is in the 5:1:1.

Arabian Jasmine with the smaller gardenia that was halved out of the one shown before. I can't wait for this to grow and bloom. Both are in 5:1:1, not gritty mix. I've also stuck some cuttings into the gardenia pot -- which may or may not take. I've had only 2-3 out of 20+ root this way but who knows...

And my biggest plant success ever!
I finally grew the audacity required to repot my ever-so-princessy Venus Maidenhair Fern. I dreaded repotting this one solely because she flinches should the phone ring too loud or if she doesn't like the food cooking in the kitchen, it seems. Despite that, I had been doing relatively okay with her in terms of growth though it was a part-time job keeping her happy --- so you can imagine that I feared the worst when it became her turn.
But -- despite having all of her roots untangled and trimmed, she seems to really, really like 5:1:1. And, it's so much easier to keep her "moistened" now without her screaming "I'm drowning!!!" or "I'm dying of thirst" all of the time.

I do have some questions, should any of you know:

1. With the 5:1:1 -- and I suppose I should have asked this before I repotted so much, haha -- but adding the lime, to my knowledge, ups the pH. As some of these plants require more acidic rather than alkaline soil -- I left out the lime and threw in some sulfur. Is that correct?

2. I bought the Foliage Pro that was recommended. For gritty mix plants, my understanding is fertilizing a tiny bit every time you water -- but what about 5:1:1? It does have some nutrients due to the peat and/or soil portion of things -- so does one fertilize with every watering or once a week? Less?

3. I have Miracle Grow Fertilizer for Azaleas, etc. here -- formerly known as Miracid, I would guess. If some of my plants will be fertilized with this, I am going to guess they don't need Foliage Pro (at all), correct?

4. Epsom salts: I know this is for the Mg part. But could some re-explain which plants will be receiving this again? The gritty mix ones -- and the 5:1:1 ones? This and a little vinegar, a couple drops of Foliage Pro and all is well with the world for all plants or only one particular soil type?

Thanks for any guidance you can offer!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 6:09PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Wow, you've done a lot of work in a short time!

For plants in the Gritty Mix, you don't need to add the Epsom Salts if you're using Foliage Pro as your fertilizer.

Dolomitic Lime provides both Calcium and Magnesium and I would recommend that you add it to your 5-1-1 mix. In the 5-1-1 without Lime, expect the plants to become pale and require some extra nutrition attention eventually.

If using a fertilizer that does not supply Calcium and Magnesium, you will need to supplement. That's why I like the Foliage Pro - one-stop nutrition.

During the Summer, I fertilize my peppers and citrus (in 5-1-1) with full strength Foliage Pro (or higher) once a week.

The fuzzy plant is Kalanchoe tomentosa, I believe. I have the same plant, from a cutting, growing in the Gritty Mix. It is thriving!


    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 7:45PM
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Thanks, Josh!
Hmm... I suppose the gardenias and azaleas will then experience some kind of an issue moving forward. Would tossing in lime now help, or should I just wait until the deficiencies arise?

I am using FP, though it's astronomical how much that little bottle cost! And I have Miracle Gro for Azaleas for the gardenias, blueberries and azalea I have....though to this point, I'm only using FP for them.

Thanks again, Josh -- you are my gritty mix guide!


    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 6:59PM
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Hi Grace,

So i'm piecing this together in my mind, you got bark at Lyngso (in Redwood City?), turface at Ewing (I think I saw one of these in the city but a yelp search just showed San Leandro), and where did you get the crushed stones?

Personally I like the idea of granite as it reminds me of Tahoe, but perhaps in practice it will be too messy.


    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 11:52PM
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Lyngso has the bark (and only the medium fir mulch fits this size) but -- they have every conceivable rock. The 1/8" in granite was the least appealing, I got the La Paz pebbles (expensive at $36 or something per self service bag - approx. 1 cu. ft. -- but what gives the great color -- blue/grey) and the 1/4" quartzc(much cheaper -- like 10% of the La Paz price but mostly white and ends up looking like perlite in my mix).. Next time I go I will probably try the red lava rocks; I believe those were reasonably priced too. It was my first time doing this so I wasn't sure what qualified as good replacement rocks. :-)

The Ewing I went to was in San Carlos. Nice place and great service. Barely $12 for a 50 lb bag!

Have fun!


    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 3:15AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey, Grace!
I'm not sure how good of a Gritty guide I am....
a fellow traveler, certainly ;-)


    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 2:38PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Josh is a great garden guide.

Remember Grace, you want to keep the inorganic fraction of the soil in that 3/32 to 3/16 size range, and the bark slightly larger. As your average size creeps up, water retention goes down. That's not necessarily all bad, but it will have an impact on how often you'll be required to water.

Best luck - love your enthusiasm!


    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 5:43PM
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Hi Al -

Yup, I remember you writing that. :-)
My La Paz pebbles are within that size range as is much of the quartz. My Turface -- filtered, is definitely in that size range. I know my bark claims it's 1/4, and many pieces fit just right to be 1/4, but there are some chunks in there that are bigger as well as some that are chips, and hardly chunks at all.

These days, I am basically using that new fabulous bonsai screen of mine (1/4") to screen out everything smaller, and then handpicking out everything that is clearly too big.

That said, I have no issue with watering daily or even twice daily, if it came to that. I have the opposite problem -- I'm always looking for something/anything to water! :-)

I could run a profitable business here if only I could figure out something wonderful to do with screened out Turface, lol. I have yet to do my seeds in them.....

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 7:21PM
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nitely2(9A, Las Vegas, NV)

Great find in sourcing the bark and granite in one spot with the turface relatively close by. I also recently took the plunge in trying out the gritty mix on my first maple acquisition. I am coming up a month now since bare root and transplant and its still alive and leaves are coming out. I posted in the maple section if you wanna check it out... http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/maple/msg0202192329912.html

Used to live in SF and will be visiting my cousins next week, might check out that Lyngso for the bark. Can't really find the right one here in Vegas. Ended up breaking up a bag of the small bark by hand last winter. And I am still short of the bark component for the other pots waiting to be used for my blue point cypress. Closest one will be the HD earthgro ground cover bark but its still looks too big. Got turface for 12 bucks too and I find you end up with 3/4 of a bag if screen through insect screen size. So Yeah I include the even smalller ones--too pricey not too considering my pots on the big side.

Its really exciting to see that after barerooting and transfering to a new planting medium that the tree is responding well....... so far. Much like your great looking pics.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 5:42AM
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Hey Nitely - did you make it to Lyngso? I did take a peek at your maple - it looks nice!

I wanted to show off this Dracaena. Holy cow, does this love its new gritty mix home. It sits near the kitchen usually and is no less than 25 feet from the south window, and since going into gritty mix, it's as happy as can be. Like, getting a bit too big at this point, that if someone creates a draft walking by, the thing may fall over. I had rehomed this one finally after losing one bamboo to God-only-knows-what, and not being able to find the best light source, watering amount or even humidity level. So I pulled it out, cleaned up the roots and stuck in GM about 3 weeks ago.

Here are some others that are thriving in GM:

My little ICU plant, recovering in GM:

Adenium -- which was yellowing, but I think I was just somehow managing to STILL overwater -- which I have since ceased:

Clivia in GM with Arabian Jasmine and a Gardenia branch I took out of another planting and brought indoors with me (the latter two in 5-1-1)"

The Azalea, pictured in the original thread and blooming gangbusters though still small:

Columbine putting out a bloom, even though it only really receives light rather than direct sun, grouped with the coleus:

Flapjacks and whatever that beautiful light green bushy thing is -- which I may have pruned too hard but it's hanging in there:

And of course, a bowl of succulents -- ideal for GM:

This Calathea's last chance -- being rehomed into gritty mix: if this doesn't work, she's going out to the bin. I'm done trying to cater to this one!

Last but nowhere near the least, Gardenia in 5-1-1:

It's blooming! I finally didn't completely kill one! :-D

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 6:15PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Look at you! ;-)


    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 9:50PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Grace: your plants look great (including the calathea)! Congratulations! Keep up the good work.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 10:13PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hi Grace!

I am really impressed at what you have accomplished... Your plants are just beautiful and I will say.. BRAVO!

Great job!


    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 1:00AM
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nitely2(9A, Las Vegas, NV)

Hey Sugi,

We stayed in Berkley and my cousin pointed me to a place nearby Richmond costco. Its called American Soil and Stone and they have the 1/4" fur bark for 7 bucks 2 sq, ft. bag. Cost a buck more but cheaper on gas. Did not need to drive down the peninsula this time around. I finished screening a bag and I got a full to the rim trader joe bag of the right size, quarter bag of > 1/4" and half a bag of the fines Your new pix looks great.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 2:08PM
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I have two crotons that need repotting. A banana one like yours, and the bushy variegated kind for sale at every home depot. You know, the one that drops leaves if you look at it funny!

I know they need to be potted into something different than what they came in.

I've been doing almost everything else in the gritty mix (other than ferns which I plan to do 5-1-1), but I'm wondering if the gritty mix can possibly stay damp enough for the finicky crotons.

Did yours finally recover?


    Bookmark   August 23, 2013 at 2:58PM
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Tara -

Yes, following the advice here of putting it in a baggie, it quickly recovered from the severe root pruning I gave it while repotting. :-)

It seems fine in the gritty mix. For now, it is outside in bright shade and seems to be happy there. It's not growing fast but it's not suffering in any way either. I really don't water it a lot (once a week?) but we have unusually cold weather here, even in August. (It's about 68 degrees right now at 1pm.)

In seriously hot weather, it may need daily watering, but other than that, it seems to enjoy its gritty mix home.

I, too, put my maidenhair fern in 5-1-1. It had a hard time adjusting indoors in bright light, dark light, medium light, etc. always drying up here and there. I finally threw it outside on my other balcony in covered partial sun, giving up on it and letting it die if it wants to die so badly.

Wouldn't ya know it, it is THRIVING.

It's a beautiful plant, but I've now categorized it as a gardenia. They all hate me.


    Bookmark   August 23, 2013 at 4:17PM
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After reading several posts re the gritty mix I decided to give it a try. I was able to purchase the mix from an online company. I started with one plant just to see how the process would go. I started with my Money Tree and now two months later the tree is dead. What did I do wrong? Is this plant not appropriate? I removed the plant from the old soil, soaked it in super thrive for 15 minutes, washed off any old soil and planted in the gritty mix. I did a light watering with dyna gro foliage pro as suggested. Light waterings with the same since. I do not want to repot all of my plants if they are all going to die. Any newbie help?

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 5:54PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Can we see a picture of what the mix looks like?

There are 2 things that come to mind immediately, your timing insofar as when you repotted (best to do in Jun if you live in RI), and I doubt that a gritty mix you bought online would incorporate the properties that make the gritty mix so easy to use and productive, that, because someone looking to make a profit is going to be reluctant to properly screen the ingredients to ensure it offers what a well-made gritty mix offers. In short, if you're going to cut corners (i.e. whoever is making the soil), you're going to end up with just another soil not unlike all the rest. If it IS a problem with the soil, keep in mind what someone else CALLs the gritty mix might resemble the real gritty mix in name only. I repot literally hundreds of plants every year in the gritty mix, and if I lost 1 in 500 I would say that's a lot, so it's not something you can actually blame the gritty mix for.

Appropriate particle size has always been a key element in getting all you can out of the gritty mix. I would suggest that you take some time to fully understand what properties a good soil possesses so you understand either how to make it yourself or determine for yourself the potential other soils do/don't offer.


Here is a link that might be useful: More reading

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 6:18PM
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Here's a pic Al...

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 7:02PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hello! I think there might be a couple compounding factors.
First, the vitality of the plant from the start - perhaps it was already going downhill. Then, secondly, the "light watering" after the re-pot. After re-potting, one must water thoroughly, keeping the mix uniformly moist for the first few weeks. Then, once the roots are established, you can allow the mix to dry out a bit more between waterings. Of course, light could also be a factor. These plants like as much light as possible when indoors, especially during the Winter.


    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 11:03AM
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Thanks Greenman. I watered the soil until water ran through. I contacted the co I bought the soil from and they do use a 1:1:1 ratio but I think the material size might be too small. Can you tell from the photo I sent? When I tossed the dead tree I found the bottom of the pot to be damp and compact. Top was dry and loose. I can see a lot of small turface that I bet I would lose if I sifted. I plan on getting a sifter and I'm going to sift the material and keep what's good. Do you recommend a 1/8 sifter or 1/4. The problem is once I sift the material it will no longer be a 1:1:1 ratio. Not sure how I can separate the material but I could try.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 11:26AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey! I would get a piece of aluminum insect/window screen and use that to remove just the finest material (under 1/16 of an inch). The large particulate in the mix seems to be decent. For a plant like Pachira, prepare the mix and moisten it ahead of time so that there aren't any dry spots. Water will run through the mix, but you want to really saturate it. I take mine to the sink and soak it.


    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 11:52AM
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Thanks Josh....I'll try that.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 12:18PM
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I just found this thread. Wow Grace, you did a great job with your gritty mix! Bravo!


    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 6:50PM
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Seven months late, but thanks, @the_yard_guy! ;-)
Gritty mix is wonderful.

Thanks to Al and his generous sharing of this mix and 5:1:1, I have become a better gardener overall. It's not just about having things in these particular mixes -- it's that even in the worst of soils, I understand plants a little better. Even when my brain is YELLING that something needs to be watered and that it's drying up --- my experience with these two mixes and how little water plants actually can live off of made me a much better plant mother!

This Pachira was one of the pots shown in the original "migration" to gritty mix. It's not enormous but it's never had a single issue or problem since, and it grows ever so steadily and healthily. I could bet that I'd have killed it about ~~~ 10 months ago if I hadn't switched to gritty mix. :) All it gets is some tap water whenever I remember, and a dose of Foliage Pro if and when I feel like it, which is usually no more than once a month. This gorgeous plant really needs for nothing more, apparently.

These days, I have quite a few things in 5:1:1 and almost all of my succulents that I still have are in gritty mix. Not having any more pebbles or bark on hand anymore (which must be replenished!), I've also potted in ProMix HP for a lot of my newer plants. But how I treat plant has changed drastically since learning more about roots and what they need, and what they usually go through to survive because of my torture, haha.

Especially over the last half year, there were many times I had to leave town for an extended amount of time, and it always intrigued me to see which stayed alive for 10 days without a drop of water -- and which, despite having been soaked before leaving, decided to sulk and/or die. Due to these absences, I gave a bunch of my plants away and kept mostly succulents and a few houseplants only, but it was a learning experience overall.

Anyway - -just wanted to give Al yet another kudos, thanks and a big high five for all the information he shares!


    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 3:44PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Your plant is a jewel. Be sure to take the lion's share of the credit for yourself. You did all the work and provided all the nurturing it took to bring along such a pretty tree. Strong work!


This post was edited by tapla on Mon, Aug 25, 14 at 21:44

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 7:15PM
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I could have lived 200 years and believe you me, the thought of putting my plants into wood and rocks, basically, would have NEVER occurred to me.

So while I'm always happy to take credit for everything, haha -- this one is you, sir.

I am still often mesmerized that these things are growing and thriving in a pot full of rocks and wood chips, lol. I'd have never thought I drowned all of my plants from years and years ago - but I see now that I probably did!


    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 6:08PM
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Yes you did a fine job with making your gritty mix as well as explaining how the gritty mix works. The plants you have in the mix look very happy, so congratulations on a job well done.

The La Paz rock and the reddish fir bark look great together, like something in a catalog.

Thanks again for sharing your success with the group.


    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 6:42PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Grace - I think your offerings are very convincing testimony to how important structure is to a growing medium and how unnecessary it is to rely on something that looks earthy, rich, and black to feed your plants. Good nutrition is only a measuring spoon away, and undoing something as simple as sound nutrition program by adding a little of this and that because (the collective) you heard that item X is the latest greatest thing is in almost every case going to be counter-productive.

Best luck.


    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 7:19PM
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rebuilder(7a-7b Snellville, GA)

Thank you Grace for the inspiration to continue striving for beautiful plants!


    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 6:19AM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Looking great!!

Strong work, Grace!!!


    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 12:49PM
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