Meters for PH and TDS (total dissolved solids)?

maryartist(10b)March 18, 2014

My new plants are dying, drying to death from the bottom up. I suspect TDS...Do you use meters? Which ones? Where to buy online? I found TDS meters from $12-$75.

I'm using (the best I could) Tapla's 5:1:1 mix:

5 parts Orchid Bark fines
1 part sphagnum peat
1-2 parts perlite (more like 2...)
1 T per gallon Espoma Organic Traditions garden lime pellets
1 T per gallon Ozmocote 14:14:14 controlled release fertilizer pellets


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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

Mary, post a pic of your soil mix if you can.

TDS won't affect a new planting in fresh 5-1-1 for a while, unless you hit an azalea with 300ppm alkalinity water from the get-go. The most important water quality metric is probably alkalinity. You can buy cheap test strips from a pool supply store. Make sure they are specifically for ALKALINITY measured in ppm. pH is also good to know. Hardness, TDS and nutrient/mineral content come in third.

A wild guess to your problems is your new plants weren't receiving enough nutrients early before the CRFs kicked in. Did the leaves yellow at all from the bottow up? Orchid bark can suck up a lot of nitrogen fast. Were you using any liquid ferts along with the pellets? Rosemary and lavender aren't considered "heavy" feeders but they do need light, fairly frequent fert in containers like most other plants. Does that Osmocote contain all the required micronutrients?

Finally, those herbs need plenty of sun, not just "bright indoor light."

good luck!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 7:21PM
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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

Oh, another thing -- you might be able to get baseline metrics on your irrigation water from your water supplier/county. Call or go to their website to see if they put out an annual report.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 7:40PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Q: What are you growing ?: What are your plants

BTW: you did not mention adding lime to your 5-1-1 mix. You will need that to boost the pH to about 6.5, or highr for things like herbs. Otherwise, things like tomatoes can grow fine in a wide range of pH (5.8 to 7.2).

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 3:18PM
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    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 8:25PM
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Here's a photo of my current lavender plant dying in my 511 mix, Oxboy.

Here's an earlier dead transplant of mine:

I have been putting all plants in our bay windows since that's the best source of sunlight I can give them. I wonder if I need to buy fluorescent lighting for them⦠My plants can't go outside. (I don't have access to a yard or any outdoor space for plants to live, unless you count the back stairwell in the middle of my building's lightwell.)

I have not been using any liquid fertilizer, but I will soon be buying FP 9-3-6 online. I figured that the controlled release fertilizer pellets would do enough for now. (The Ozmocote I have says it's for flower and vegetable plants 14-14-14. Not the best⦠Not Ozmocote Plus.) I'm afraid that my plants are actually getting burned from too much fertilizer or lime, but that's really just a theory based on advice found here in these forums. That's why I wanted a meter - to measure my soil's runoff.

~ Mary

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 3:59AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

I don't know about TDS, but I have a Rapidtest pH meter. Damn thing ALWAYS registers 7.0, even if I stick it in wet peat. Not very useful.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 2:09PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

Your poor lavender! I don't feel confident enough to try and diagnose your problem, but, since I've had good luck with several lavenders that I potted at about this time last year, I thought I'd share what's worked for me. They're potted in a 3:2 mix of turface and granite grit (I removed all the original potting mix from the roots at the time of planting), they receive a weak dose of soluble fertilizer (Foliage Pro or Peter's Special) at every watering, and I don't use a CRF or any other type of dry/granular fertilizer. This approach is my attempt to replicate the soil conditions to which they're adapted -- well drained, frequently dry, and nutrient poor. As far as sun exposure goes, they spent the warmer months outdoors in part to full sun. I brought them inside in late fall, and they've been very happy in large, east-facing windows that receive a couple of hours of direct sunlight in the morning.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 3:06PM
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I'm going to go out on a limb here, but that looks like lack of water. Not even carnivorous plants like sarracenia go that fast with high TDS water. (I know this from experience.) Lack of hydrostatic pressure causes the plants to wilt from top down and outside in. Honestly I think this mix is a little light unless you water more than once a day or have low temps and high humidity. I know I'm bucking the trend here but for basic perennials, herbs and bedding plants in containers its easier to use some Happy Frog and a possibly a handful of perlite. Water when the pot feels light.

Lavender is a very tolerant plant. The main plants where water quality really matters are carnivorous plants and orchids. You can grow sarracenia in SF tap water because the TDS is so low.

Most plants grow better with water that is slightly acid to neutral pH. I acidify my water because my pH is around 8. You might want to try adding a little vinegar. Do get pH test strips if you do. A little goes a long way.

Using the mix you have it would be nearly impossible to water too much which can sometimes mimic the signs of dehydration. So try monitoring the weight of the container. If it feels light or the plant feels a little floppier than normal, water and remember that you should water a littler earlier next time.

Here is a link that might be useful: rudimentary troubleshooting guide

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 4:20PM
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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

Random comments:

-Your water is fine. 61 alkalinity is perfect actually. You don't need to acidify your water as long as you flush pots every month or two.

-How much is a T? is that teaspoon or tablespoon? When you say 'parts' in your ingredient breakdown, is that a gallon? cup? what amount? A 'T' of lime or CRF in a cup of 5-1-1 will obviously have a much different impact than a 'T' in 10 gal of final mix.

- How often were you watering?

-Does that bay window ever receive direct sunlight coming through?

-Your 5-1-1 mix actually looks quite good.

-Did you clean off the all the old potting soil off the roots when you transplanted? A container with two different types of soil is not a recipe for success. Meaning a peat pudding-infested root ball plopped into a 5-1-1 may or may not work for the plant.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 6:15PM
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The fourth plant has died. Still trying to figure out the reason...

All four looked happy for a few days in my new 511 mix, then died a fast decline, as fast as when cut flowers take that final nosedive. Maybe a couple of days and then there was no saving them.

Oxboy, I was watering through (flushing) about every other day, basically whenever the top soil seemed dry.

Yes, I made a gallon of mix, and added 1 tablespoon (each) to the total mix.

My bay windows are facing south, so plants get some sun.

And I left no pudding attached to roots, which worries me that I manhandled the roots to death (as gently as I could).

So, I have yet to draw a conclusion... Is my mix somehow burning the plants with too much total dissolved solids?

Is it too much of a gamble to buy 6" plants because they might likely go into shock?

These four dead plants came from: Ace hardware, florist, Trader Joes. Do I have to only buy from nurseries?

Thank you for your help!


This post was edited by maryartist on Tue, Mar 25, 14 at 16:26

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 4:17PM
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