Al's 5:1:1 mix when growing veggies in areas w/ alkaline water

roselane(5b/6a Kansas)March 10, 2011

I've read so many threads about Al's 5:1:1 mix that my head is starting to spin. Can somebody tell me if this sounds right for growing veggies (peppers, eggplant, cukes, zucchini, etc)? I get the pine bark fines, perlite, and peat and will mix those in the appropriate ratios, so here are my questions:

1. The water in my area is very alkaline, so I'm wondering if I should use gypsum instead of lime? I know that I would need to also add epsom salts to this.

2. If I go this route, how much gypsum and how much epsom salts to each 5 gallon bucket?

3. After mixing the soil, I only need to weakly fertilize with the Dynamix Foilage Pro (3-1-2) on a weekly schedule?

4. Pine bark fines, perlite, peat, gypsum, epsom salts, Foilage Pro. Is there anything else that I need?

Thanks so much!

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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hello, Roselane!

I think it would be easier to add white vinegar (or citric acid) to lower the pH of your water,
rather than add the gypsum to your mix and subsequently have to use epsom salts when fertilizing.
As far as fertilizing, "weakly weekly" is a good plan. If I recall correctly, a half-strength dose is
what you'll apply weekly, or a full strength dose every two weeks. I'm sure Al will correct this
if I'm off in my numbers.

Other than that, spinning head or not, you're right on the money! ;-)


    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 9:53AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The Foliage-Pro NPK % will be 9-3-6, even though the RATIO is 3:1:2. If you don't understand this, just ask. ;o)

I'd still use lime instead of gypsum, and do what josh says - add white vinegar or citric acid to your irrigation water to neutralize alkalinity and lower pH. You can get a pond or aquarium pH test kit to see how much vinegar or citric acid it takes to lower your irrigation water to about 5.0-5.5, then add that much vinegar to your water each time you irrigate.

I'm excited for you. ;o)


    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 2:24PM
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Don't feel bad... my head spun a time or two, also... but once you understand the concept of what you're doing, and you know what each ingredient brings to the mix you're building and using, it will all fall into place.

What I did is copy and paste the original article, "Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention", which has it's own thread here, to a text file on my desktop, and I refer to it when I'm not sure about something. After reading through it several times, everything clicked. I think once you get a little more familiar with the soil recipes and the concept of each, you'll do just fine!

And there's always a great support team here, ready to help in any way required! :-)

Here is a link that might be useful: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention 12

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 4:03PM
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roselane(5b/6a Kansas)

Thanks so much everybody! I really appreciate your advice and encouragement. I was glad to check this thread before I bought the gypsum!

It will be tricky to add the vinegar every time I water because I'm out of town 3 days each week and use drip irrigation to water my containers. I will do some research and see if there is a solution for this problem.

Al, thanks for commenting and for your all your great GW advice on this topic! I'm excited to move beyond Miracle Gro potting mix! I do understand about the Foliage Pro ratios. I had written "Foilage Pro or water-soluble 3-1-2" on my shopping list. I forgot to "translate" it back when I posted this thread. :)

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 10:13PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

It really is great to find a group where almost everyone is upbeat and positive - anxious to help. It makes our gardening adventures a lot more fun, knowing even people at a distance have a keen interest in our success. ;o) I'm certain everyone is glad you're here & hopes you'll stick around. Your kind words are appreciated too, btw. Thank you!

Best luck!


    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 11:30PM
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On the subject of alkaline water, which I, too, have to deal with, I hand water everything. I know it sounds time-consuming, but I enjoy this activity. It also gives me the opportunity to get "up close and personal" with my plants so that I can check them for insects and diseases early in the game, and I can do minor pruning as I go, too.

How do I know I am adding the appropriate amount of vinegar and not simply washing it out as I water when I add it? If I use a hose-end sprayer, will that work, in the appropriate ratio? I usually water until it is coming out through the bottom of the container and then some.

I know drip irrigation would be better, but I just don't want to give up this pleasurable time I spend with my garden plants.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 8:45AM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

They make drip irrigation fertilizer injectors which you can use with vinegar. The only problem you might have is that the injectors generally have a pretty small capacity (the ones I saw anyway) so you might be filling it up with vinegar pretty often.

Also if you get one of the cheaper kinds they will have a fixed rate of maybe something like 1:16 or close to that - which means you'd almost certainly have to dilute your vinegar with water - further reducing your ph altering capacity and increasing the frequency of refilling.

But if you just want a better pH with drip and don't mind refilling it often - or as often as you can - I would look at the injectors.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 11:29AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Susan - if NOT using DI, then get a pH test kit for under $5 from a pool/pond store or a pet shop (aquariums). Add vinegar or citric acid to your tapwater until the pH is about 5.0-5.5, and note how much acid it took to reduce the given volume of tap water to that pH level. Thereafter, add that amount to your irrigation water each time you irrigate. It really will make a difference in helping to prevent nutritional issues - particularly micronutrient deficiencies Remember, plants need ALL 12 essential nutrients they normally get from the soil (solution) to grow normally. If they don't get them, they start 'borrowing' the nutrients from other plant parts, then shed them, or grow with abnormalities/deformities.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 5:34PM
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roselane(5b/6a Kansas)

redshirtcat-thanks so much for mentioning the injectors. I saw something like that at the Charley's greenhouse site, but the one there couldn't be used with drip irrigation, so I thought they were out of the question. In case you or anyone else is interested in these, I found this one that can be used with drip irrigation AND is a large capacity. It's a little pricey, but I guess "in for a dime, in for a dollar"! :) Thanks again.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 11:04PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

On any siphon system (and I can't tell if that's one or not - it's built like it could be but I had read reviews of them somewhere that said the tank was taking on water - which a siphon system shouldn't) you want to make sure that you meet the pressure and flow requirements or you will not get the expected mix.

I was looking at systems like these but ultimately went with a hose end sprayer because I couldn't find good feedback on these systems - so let me know if you try it and it works :) The ones that looked like they would certainly work were the dosatron style commercial systems that are all ~500$ or in that price range - more than I could spend. I still check Craigslist daily for used ones ;)

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 6:07PM
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roselane(5b/6a Kansas)

I've ordered a 3 gallon fertilizer injector and I think I've calculated a formula to start with:
12 parts vinegar: 1 part foliage pro
I'll set the fertilizer injector at 250:1
This should deliver almost 1 TB vinegar per gallon of water and 1/4 tsp of FP per gallon. From what I've read the vinegar should lower the ph by approximately 1. Drip irrigation will be watering/fertilizing almost every day. On the weekends, I will probably hand water as needed, especially to flush out the containers. I'm sure this will need some tweaking, but that's my starter plan

Anyway, if anyone has advice for me on that, I'm all ears. However, my real question is whether it is safe to combine vinegar and FP. From reading other threads, it seems like people have done it with other fertilizers, but always diluted with water and used immediately. In my case, this injector would be sitting there with a full-on mixture of 12 parts vinegar and 1 part FP. I'm in Kansas where we are likely to hit 100 degrees during the summer. Is that going to be safe and effective or can the vinegar somehow "ruin" the fertilizer?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 3:09AM
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