Growing Medium?

brkieffner(5B)March 8, 2013

Al's Gritty Mix and the 5-1-1 are generally useful for woody plants or plants that will be grown for a while in the same container.

I'm looking for a growing medium other than just plain dirt that will drain well and isn't too expensive to either buy or make that I can use for my growing enclosure. I will be growing vegetables so hopefully something that can come off roots easily.

My watering schedule will have a weak fertilizer solution every time I water so SOME moisture retention would be nice.

I recently made Al's Gritty Mix for my Tarocco Tree and Grape Vine and it wasn't cheap or easy to make.

Thank you for all suggestions and help.

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Correction: I believe gritty mix is used for long-term plants. The 5-1-1 is completely suitable for short-term plants.

It's also the easiest mix to make. I've taken longer trying to amend my previous potting soils. 5 parts bark, to 1 part soil-type something (peat? soil?) and 1 part perlite is about as easy as can be. :-)

For vegetables, herbs and other plants that hover close to death on the off-chance they do dry out, I'm using 5-1-1 for all of them. It's stays moderately "moist" without ever feeling "WET", if you know what I mean. For my outdoor plants, I freely water every 3 days right now in cool 60-65* degree weather here in CA -- and even then, it's not because it's completely dried out. Come the heat of summer, I don't expect it to be any more than once every 2 days for most plants.

I, too, thought, the gritty mix was incredibly difficult and labor-intensive, especially considering I don't have a yard so had to make do on a balcony or my KITCHEN -- that was a mess!
But, I've now realized it's actually quite simple -- but like everything else, you need the right tools or else it's exponentially more difficult.
I ordered a bonsai sieve with four different sizes, and using the 1/8" sieve -- it's built to pour in Turface, etc. to quickly and efficiently shake and remove all small particles. Shake and dump -- fill, shake and dump. Quite fast, and super easy! I do the same for bark, and the only thing I do that does require a little more effort is taking the quartz and pebbles inside to give them a thorough washing -- which takes all of 3 minutes.

But I will say that for vegetables and some plants that border on life/death when it comes to available water, I'd just go w/ 5-1-1 each time. It's wonderful for that, vs. gritty mix, I could totally see myself killing off a few more sensitive/temperamental plants because I missed the deadline by half a day. :-)

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 6:02PM
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Thank you for your reply. I think it's peat if I remember correctly. I think the bark has to be fine though? I remember reading Pine Bark Fines. I am going to order a bonsai sieve as well. I've read nothing but good things about them. Peat and Perlite are a cinch to get but does anyone know where the bark could come from? I have no issue blending it myself if it actually has to be "fine" since I have a very strong blender. Hopefully that doesn't sound retarded.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 7:17PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

The bark is often found as mulch or bark nuggests - I use a product called Greenall Micro Bark. Particle size is very important. You use bark that ranges in size from fine dust up to 1/2 inch.

The original 5-1-1 recipe calls for 1 part peat, but you can use 1 part peat-based potting mix, appropriate compost, turface, or even coco coir. The function of this portion is to help "bind" the ingredients and homogenize the moisture retention of the enitre mix. If, however, the bark you are using is well-composted and has a lot of fine dust, you may wish to eliminate the "peat" fraction entirely.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 7:57PM
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Hi all, I'm new to this site, and came across your postings. You have been so knowledgeable and helpful in your posts, I was hoping that you could help us with a little feedback.

We're currently finishing our "earthship" hybrid retirement home in the Colorado mountains at 8000". We are off-grid using solar, our water is from a deep well. We will be growing inside our ship in sealed 12" deep, 18" wide by 16 feet long beds made of marine plywood and marine epoxy with drain pipes that go outside. I hope to start building the beds in the next month. We will ultimately have 180 sq. ft of garden space to grow our veggies and herbs to be more self-sufficient. I will also be setting up a pvc pipe watering system.

We are in a forested area surrounded with pinon pine, juniper, cedar, and a few ponderosa pine. Because of fire danger I am clearing out a few trees and running them thru a wood-chipper. Instead of 5 parts pine bark (in your 5-1-1 mix), could I substitute my above mix of trees (mostly pinon pine) in fresh woodchips? or would I need to be more selective? chop the woodchips into a smaller size?

I have also been researching the Mittleider method and thought that your mix looked better than the 75% sawdust/ 25% sand mix that they recommend. We are thinking of following their protocols.What do you think about their fertilizer / micro-nutrient mix used weekly to maximize growth of our veggies?

Any feedback or guidance would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks, Tony

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 2:24AM
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No you dont want wood chips due to the fact it will break down too quik. There is too much sapwood. If you use wood, it has to be just the bark.

You know, you dont have to use bark in your mix...

For veggies I found a 90/10 peat/composted horse manure grew plants just as quik as potting mix.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 12:06PM
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