Comments and questions on Al's Gritty Mix

wiguy12(4b/5a)February 27, 2012

Hello everyone!

I am relatively new to gardening, (I am 18) and to this forum, so I am sorry in advance about posting on a subject that has been discussed a lot already. After reading more pages than I can remember, the confusion about Al's (Tapla) soils was enough to make me start a new message here. I am also sorry to be posting another message about my gardenia and coffee plants so soon after my other message, so here we go. I have read a lot about the Gritty mix and the 5:1:1 mix, and have been getting quite helpless in my search to understand them. I read that nearly everyone uses them, and so I gave it a try (I respect all that you guys do, really it is amazing)especially Al for your expertise in this subject. I am new to growing most plants in a soil that is not miracle gro. I had attempted to make the gritty mix for my gardenia, coffee and citrus plants, and made the terrible choice to re-pot them now, especially my coffee plants. They had not been repotted in three years(previously grown in our nearly pure sand native soil pH 4 and black soil pH 6.5 that had been brought in), and were very root bound. First,I would like to say that when I made Al's mix, I must have combined the wrong materials. I do not know what had me thinking that I needed to combine sifted floor dry, sphagnum peat moss, .75'' bark and perlite together in a 1:1 mixture for all of them. I also forgot to add gypsum to the soil and now realize that I have sadly killed all of the plants that I re-potted. I have not been this frustrated with myself and gardening for a long time. These are my questions.The plants that I want to try are: citrus, gardenia and coffee plants, however I will also be trying to grow vinifera grapes as well for my Biology project, but that is a whole new topic.

1.For which of these plants do you recommend the gritty soil?

  1. Which of these do you recommend the 5:1:1 soil?

  2. What are the correct products in each?

I have read that repti-bark works well; as does pine bark fines, but none of these are available to my knowledge here. I will keep searching for them, it is possible that I can find them only in summer. I think I had taken on more than I could handle. I want to set this all straight, so that I can start feeling confident in my future planting efforts! Once again, I am sorry for posting on a topic that I know has been talked about a lot already. Your wisdom and help is more appreciated than you know! Thank you to everyone for helping me through this challenge!

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Have you read the link below?


Here is a link that might be useful: About soils .... if you click me

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 7:48AM
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Thank you very much Al! That was very helpful! Do you think that these plants should all be grown in Gritty mix then, or do you believe the 511 would work better?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 10:44AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

They would be better in the gritty mix. It's more difficult to find the ingredients and more expensive to make, but it lasts longer, is healthier for your plants, and makes it much easier on the grower by increasing your margin for error when it comes to watering and fertilizing.

FWIW - ALL my woody material and long-term plantings go in the gritty mix at the first opportunity.

I see you're in WI - how close to the IN border are you? I get my fir bark in Dundee, a little NW of Chicago. You should be able to find #2 cherrystone or (grower size) Gran-I-Grit there with little trouble, too.


    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 11:03AM
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Thank you very much Al, I really do appreciate all that you do! Hm I will have to make sure I follow your directions completely! Also, I think I will be making large batches of this for our greenhouse plants (we have more that need planting) I am about 4 hours from Chicago, but I make occasional trips to Milwaukee, and so I will have to check out Dundee when I get a chance! Thanks again for your help! I am also going to be trying Plumeria and Vanilla orchids once it is warm enough to have them shipped. Would Plumeria do well in the gritty?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 1:30PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Yes - I grow plumies that were gifts from a friend, and the plumie forum is just getting into the gritty mix. One of the alpha posters ;-) over there has been using the gritty mix with great results & I see many others now converting, prolly based on her success. BTW - the place in Dundee where I buy the bark (Oak Hill Gardens) is a business devoted to orchids in a big way, so I hope you make the trip and find it fruitful. I also grow terrestrial orchids in the gritty mix w/great results, and have had many others report great success with their orchids in the gritty mix, though I freely admit to not knowing enough about orchids to offer anything more specific. Maybe someone else with more experience can pick up where I fail you on that ...... I hope ......


    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 1:55PM
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Hm that is some great news! Only I have been having a difficult time finding a source of Plumerias that do not cost at least $40. Do you know where most get their from? I am really looking forward to all of this, I shall post pictures of my plants in this soil when I get it mixed and planted. I will for sure check out Oak Hill Gardens, it sounds interesting! Do you have any pictures of citrus growing in the gritty so that I can have some inspiration lol ?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 2:44PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

My focus is on bonsai, so all my woody plants are those that lend themselves well to that practice. There are few citrus that make convincing bonsai, so after I found this out, I gave the few trees I had away, so no pictures, but I'm sure others will lend some support if they see this thread. Mike has a lot of citrus in the gritty mix.

I bet I know someone who will send you a plumeria or two, once the weather changes. ;-) Let's see what we can do about getting you one. First we need to find a kind soul ...... I'm on it.


    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 3:14PM
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My plumeria is not big enough yet otherwise I could have sent you one. I got it as a cutting that was about 8 inches long and may be around 1 inch diameter from a garden show for $9. After two years of growing, the third year (last year) it produced about 10 flowers. Very pretty. It is in a sort of gritty mix but not exactly Al's recipe. It does very well when outside. Inside during winter it drops all the leaves over a period of a month even though it is under lights. I just do not water it anymore. Just mist it a bit once a week may be. But it is alive and ready to leaf out.

Also plumeria cuttings are cheaper but shipping is expensive as usual.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 3:59PM
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Thank you so much for your replies guys, you are all awesome! Al, I think that Bonsais are really cool! I think it would be fun to start some, but the time they require is an issue. At the moment I am busy planning our Earth Day celebration at our high school, as I am the president of the ecology club :) It will be a great year, as I hope to promote home food growing as a method of keeping local farmers in business! Tropicofcancer, That is very nice of you! Do many gardening shows have plants for sale? I do not know if there are any around me, though I think they sound like an amazing experience! Keep me updated on how it does, I think they are fascinating plants!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 4:13PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hi Wiguy!!

First of all Welcome!!!

I do grow "a few" : ) Plumeria in the Gritty Mix and i have had great results with this mix.

Some of my trees will be pruned around the end of March. If you would like to have a cutting or two, i will be glad to send them to you once it warms up so they will be safe in the mail. It is really to cold to send to your area until April.

Here are a few pictures of my trees..

I just want you to know that these trees are very addicting!!! : )

Your cutting will probably be One of my first trees that i brought back fromm Maui and it is labeled a Noid Pink (meaning no identification) most of my trees are named varieties and i will send you one that is named when i send them. I just dont know which i will prune until later.

Here are a few Places that i have purchased trees from. Cuttings and rooted trees. Rooted trees are more expensive but sometimes it helps to buy a rooted tree and you can have a jump on the time for the beautiful blooms. Cuttngs can take a year or two to develope blooms.

Jungle Jacks in Orange County
Brads Buds and Blooms
Florida Colors

Here are some of my pics...

Royal Hawaiian

This is one of my favorites...Lani

My Noid Pink

Hope you enjoy Wiguy!!!

Send me an email!! (My page)

Take care,


    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 3:41AM
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What beautiful pictures to greet me with my waking eyes this morning!

Hi Laura! Oh, I would love to be there right now with you. Been sick and sick and tired of a lack of sunny warm days. I need a rest bit and a place to sit by a pool surrounded by such beauty as yours!

I hope you have a wonderful day dear friend:-)))))


    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 5:37AM
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Wiguy, Check out for any garden/bonsai/orchid shows in your surrounding areas. In Pittsburgh, we will have "Home and Garden Show" starting this weekend. They will have plants for sale there but there is a $10 entrance fee. Most other shows do not have entrance fees. Look out for events coinciding with earth day, mothers day, fathers day and even 4th of July. Checkout any conservatories or botanical gardens for sale.

Laura that is absolutely beautiful. I am jealous. My home town is in India (1 degree south of tropic of cancer). I miss my 20 feet Plumeria tree outside my window back home. In season there will be literally hundreds of flowers on the ground.


    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 9:14AM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hi Mike,

Thank you!!!

I can't wait until the flowers are blooming and the pool is open too! How i love summer...

Hope you are feeling better my friend!!! : )


You are so kind, Thank you as well!!!

I would bet you do miss your 20 ft tree... Im sure it produced many blooms and had the fragrance of the "tropics"
The only place i have seen such large trees is out in California and in Hawaii.

These are my babies and i do love these trees!!!

Take care,


    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 9:54PM
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Sorry for my delay in response..... it is busy with this snow! Laura (loveplants2) thank you very much for your kind words, offer, pictures and advice! You have amazing looking plants, I would love to try them! I will send you an e-mail shortly regarding this. Thank you very much! Tropicofcancer, that is fascinating that you are from india, I love the culture there! I think you must really miss the plumerias! Thank you for your advice as well on garden shows, I will keep an eye out for them!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 2:41AM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Sounds good!!!

Ill be waiching for your email Wiguy!!!

You are more than welcome!!!


    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 12:49AM
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Well, I must have done something wrong because 1/2 of my plants died immediately after being transferred into this mix. I made it up according to all the instructions; I screened the parts that needed screening and sprayed down and let the mix dry out before use to get rid off dust.

BUT, I moved my large jade plant, about 10 little Christmas cacti, and several spider plants into this mix. Within a week all of the Christmas cacti were dead, their insides turned almost liquified. The jade started getting soggy inside and dropping branches like crazy. Mind you, I had only watered them ONCE in well-draining pots, so I doubt root-rot or anything set in that quick.

I am really disappointed and really disheartened. I've had that jade for about 10 years and am currently trying to salvage the remaining hardy branches, and my many-colored Christmas cacti are all completely dead; I couldn't save any in time.

Does anyone have any clue what is happening? I'm planning to go back to bag mixes this weekend since they've worked for years for me, even though (especially as a scientist) I know that the gritty mix makes more sense...

PLEASE help or offer advice if you can. I'm incredibly bummed out by this. I would love to get the Gritty Mix to work for me!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2013 at 9:35AM
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What exactly, step-by-step, did you do?

I did a massive repotting into gritty mix and 5-1-1, including all woody, succulents, edibles, etc. starting Feb/March and I have yet to lose one. A couple, out of some 60 (?) plants showed a little shock due to severe root pruning by me, but recovered, and the remaining are doing wonderfully.

While there are some real experts on this mix in this forum, I think it would be easier to see what went wrong if you list what you did precisely. It's unfathomable that so many of your succulents were lost (vs. had you lost annuals or anything else) and I don't even know what a liquefied plant inside looks like -- but I can imagine how disheartening that would be!! :-(

I'd recommend starting a new thread in this forum and listing out specifics: what it was in, how you made the mix, which part you screened out, what you added, etc. The more details, the better -- and I'm sure someone will pinpoint what went wrong where.

Hang in there!!


    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 1:56AM
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