511 for dummies...simple question about Al's mix

alderdwellerFebruary 28, 2011

Hi all,

I am an extreme novice to gardening. I have in the past couple of years tried a few tomatoes and pepper plants on my deck with somewhat good results with just plain old potting soil. My problem is that I didn't want to worry about my plants drying out if I'm gone a day or so.

I came to this forum looking for ideas about self-watering containers and low and behold, before long I found myself intrigued with Al's 511 mix. (I think that's it, although I get confused between that and the gritty mix).

I would love to give it a try, *if* I can find the ingredients.

My question is this....can you or would you want to use the mix in self-watering containers?

Thanks very much!

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Many use a slight variation of it. What will work best will depend largely on how fine the bark is, but something around a 3:2:1 ratio of bark:peat:perlite will give the extra wicking needed in a SWC.


    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 5:44PM
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Thank you sir!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 6:12PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)


    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 11:46PM
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Pardon me for jumping in (for my own use) but how close to the 3:2:1 mix would be 5:1 of commercial potting mix and perlite?

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 9:00AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

When you use a ratio of 5:1 potting soil and perlite, you'll get exactly the same amount of wicking and aeration as if you were using only the potting soil. It's only when you start getting up around a 60% perlite component that you would notice any significant change. Perlite reduces the o/a VOLUME of water the soil is capable of holding, but that is of no value in containers with an unlimited water supply because it doesn't change the wicking potential until you increase the particle size of the predominant ingredient(s).

Does that make sense to you, or should I illustrate further?


    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 12:02PM
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Quite honestly, I try to avoid using any bagged potting soils, at all. I rely on the larger particled ingredients, building my own medium, and I tweak the mix to suit my purpose and environment.

I suppose growing for a single season in a bagged mix wouldn't be the end of the world, but it surely puts my longer term plantings on precarious footing, health wise. I've lost too many plants to ever go back to using what the gardening industry retails to us. But then, to the industry, it's all about profit, not healthy plants.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 3:01PM
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Not sure if this has been discussed, how do you compare 511 versus Mel's Mix? Which one is better for raise bed and for containers? Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 8:06PM
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