Peat-based mix in smaller containers?

marc5(6aOH)February 10, 2013

I am new to these concepts here and working hard to catch up. I now understand that peat-based mixes in general are not conducive to good plant growth. However, I am wondering if they might ever be applicable in the case of small or heavily aerated containers. Last year I started pawpaw seeds in small RootMaker propagation containers (air pruning). These are 25 cubic inch cells, approx 3"x3"x3", with holes throughout the sides and bottom. RootMaker suggests a mix of 40/60 peat/perlite, which I used. For many reasons, I didn't get the growth I had hoped for. I think much of it was water management. It seems that for containers this small size, it's not easy to keep up on the watering. They dry easily, and then the peat is difficult to re-wet. This season I plan to have automatic misters take care of the watering duties, misting several times a day if necessary.

Does anyone here have experience with these or similar containers? I am wondering if 5:1:1 might be an improvement on the recommended mix. Jason, I think you have done some prop work with Gritty or 5:1:1, correct? How would it change my water management? For containers this small, does it make sense to work with a peat/perlite mix?

Thanks for all ideas,

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zzackey(8b GA)

I don't like and I have never liked peat mixes! I've been at this since 1990. Promix is the best of any of them.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 12:46AM
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Yes I am a big fan of growing large plants in small containers using heavy mixes. I use #1 nursery containers for jalapenos and get quite the harvest. I have used mixes like 50/50 potting mix and peat which is what I will use for my #1's this year. . These small pots works well with habs and jalapenos. I have used bark based mixes and noticed the roots in the bark mix where healthy. The roots in the soil mixes where thin and not looking as good. The strange thing is I noticed not much difference in harvest though.

This post was edited by TheMasterGardener1 on Fri, Feb 15, 13 at 11:55

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 11:45AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Marc - a very high % of the problems people bring to container gardening related forums seeking resolution for are directly related to soil choice ("heavy mixes"). Some might argue for watering habits as the most important, but watering habits are inextricably linked to soil choice, so you might as well lump them together.

Soil aeration doesn't depend on how many holes are in the pot, it depends on how many holes (macro-pores) are in the soil. A soil that supports perched water (PW)will support a PW column of exactly the same height in any container, regardless or the container's ht or shape. If a soil supports 3" of PW, when used in a 3" deep container, the soil will remain 100% water-filled after having been saturated. In a 12" deep container, the PWT would only represent 25% of the soil volume being water-filled. So, plants in smaller containers, and particularly shallow containers, are much more likely to exhibit ill effects related to PW.

The 5:1:1 mix, or the gritty mix, combined with mist emitters and a CRF fertilizer would be a pretty easy system, once you got the watering intervals down.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 1:11PM
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