New Gardener

beansieMarch 17, 2011

Hello All,

I am new to the world of gardening, and new to these forums. I appreciate and admire all the help and information that everyone shares.

Everything I am currently growing is in containers, I have a large yard but I am not allowed to dig into the ground because I rent my home.

It started out with just some native wildflowers in large containers, and once I saw those babies start to sprout I was hooked.

Then I got 4 rosebushes, which went into some large containers with cheap soil. I added alfalfa pellets and coffee grounds thinking that would help, not knowing that I was probably doing more harm than good.

I was given 2 herbaceous peonies for my birthday, and after I received those I became really interested in proper container gardening. They are very special to me and I reeeeally dont want to kill them.

I also have some dahlias coming in the mail in april.

I was searching the internet constantly looking for information on growing in containers, and it wasnt until I found this website that I got some real straightforward, comprehensive information. I wish I had found this earlier.

So, I found Al's recommended potting mixes (which I am incredibly grateful for) and I am planning on using the gritty mix for my dahlias and peonies. I have been told that peonies prefer rich soil, does that mean I should use a different mix?

Also, should I re-pot my roses into the gritty mix? I don't want to harm them, they have been in their current containers since January. There are mushrooms growing in their containers, should that lead me to believe that there is too much moisture in the containers?

A lot of people seem really happy with the foliage pro fertilizer, but I already have fish emulsion liquid fertilizer and EB Stone Rose and Flower Food. Should I get rid of those for the foliage pro? or find a micro nutrient to use with the fertilizers I already have? They dont fit the recommended NPK ratio.

Thank you in advance, I need all the help I can get.

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hi, Beansie - WELCOME! ... and thanks for the kind words!

I tend to grow everything that will be in the soil for only a grow season in the 5:1:1 mix. Everything that is long term goes in the gritty mix, that is, if it's going to go at least 2 years between repots. I would grow dahlias in the 5:1:1 mix. That doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't grow those plants in the gritty mix - just that the 5:1:1 mix will do very nicely and it's less expensive/less effort involved to make. Your call. ;o)

Don't worry about the mushrooms. They're just the fruiting bodies of harmless or beneficial fungi we all have in our soils. That you see them fruiting is just indication that conditions are good for that to occur. It doesn't necessarily mean your soil is too wet - if it was too wet, they would be more likely NOT to fruit.

I'm assuming your roses are in leaf. If they go dormant, that is the best time to repot. If they remain in leaf all year, then early spring is the best time to repot. Let root conditions be your guide as to whether or not you should repot. If roots are tight, it's best to do a full repot at your earliest convenience. If they're not tight, you can usually hold off until the next appropriate repot time, OR pot up a size into a soil similar to what they're in. A little upsetting of the root mass & potting up into the 5:1:1 mix until you can do a repot into the gritty mix would be a good approach. Again - it's up to you.

There are many, many different fertilizers chosen by growers. Some are for good reasons, some are for bad reasons, and some are chosen solely because they fit into a grower's ideological perceptions. My own personal experience has led me to the conclusion that soil amendments like the EB Stone products that derive their nutrients from sources like blood/feather/bone and various other meals and manures are very unreliable and erratic in their ability to deliver the nutrients as needed in containers. This is a function of the fact that these amendments depend entirely on the activity of soil organisms whose populations are extremely variable in containers. I get much better results using soluble fertilizers like Miracle-Gro and similar, or the Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 you mentioned. I tend to use 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers (like 24-8-16, 12-4-8, 9-3-6) because they supply nutrients in a ratio closer to that actually used by plants than any other ratio. This allows you to fertilize at the lowest rates possible w/o nutritional deficiencies, which facilitates water and nutrient uptake.

Many of the posts you've been reading discuss in depth, the hows and whys of getting the most out of your plantings while increasing your margin for error. This is a BIG plus for inexperienced and experienced growers alike. It's not that you can't grow healthy happy plants by a wide variety of methods, it's just that some methods have proven to provide a greater opportunity for success and greater forgiveness of grower error, which of course accounts for the popularity of these methods.

Whatever you choose to do, there will still be plenty of help available. Good growing, and again ... 'welcome'.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2011 at 11:19PM
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Aren't Peonies one of the plant types that require a cold dormancy in order to bloom well? I'm curious, because I've never lived in an area that didn't receive a frigid, snowy winter season, and I'm not all that familiar with Peonies.

Welcome, beansie! You'll find loads of great information here, and a fantastic support group readily available! Al's the best... always helping with informative advice! :-)

I, myself, will be potting some roses in the 511, and in the gritty mix this year... since roses are thirsty growers that can't tolerate constant saturation, I think they'll really thrive in a more durable, aerated, free draining medium! I can't wait to give it a try!

Stick around, beansie... the season is just starting! :-)

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 8:54AM
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I was also afraid of my peonies not being able to make it without a lot of freezing hours. Our winters are pretty mild where I live, but I was told by many about "California snow", you put blocks of ice on the plant each dec-feb. There is nothing I won't do for those beautiful blooms

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 1:03AM
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Interesting concept... I know some folks in the south that use refrigerators for things like bulbs requiring a cold dormant period, and they have a fridge in their garage dedicated to plant materials! That's a love for gardening! :-)

I hope it works well for your Peonies!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 8:18AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Good catch, Jodi! I missed the thought about peonies chill requirement.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 9:19AM
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Well, to be honest, Al, I wasn't entirely sure... but I recall someone telling me how they missed growing certain things they remember from childhood living in the north, now that they live in Florida... and Lilacs and Peonies were among the plants talked about, I think. Growing spring blooming bulbs such as Tulips were another thing.

I do know that certain plant materials require certain lengths of cold dormancy in order to set buds... and I kind of thought Peonies were among those... but I couldn't tell you how long or how cold they need it! :-)

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 6:03PM
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