Citrus in gritty mix drying off, need help

littleluey(Zone 9)April 8, 2011

I did a repot on one of my citrus trees using the desert recepie for Al's gritty mix about a month and a half a go. The tree first seem to be recovering well, but the last 2 weeks or so i started seeing brown branches, dried up, so i cut them off, now i see more. I am watering more often but i am wondering if this is "normal"?

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Hi Littleluey:

I can say from experience that this is normal if you filled around the roots incorrectly, did not water correctly, forgot to water to the point of wilt, did not water until the roots grew into the mix, if the roots were shallow and you let the top few inches where the roots lie dry out, added fertilizer and or too much too soon, did not give the tree proper rest after the transplant, or even make the gritty mix incorrectly...

In other words, operator error.

I know that whatever it was, you will figure it out, and you will know what to do the next time. Happened to me in the beginning..If had to re-read the information provided by Al and others over and over again until I got it just right, or found my error.

Good luck!


    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 2:32PM
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prestons_garden(9B SZ 22 HZ 6 SoCal)

If you use a standard gritty mix 1:1:1 in your zone, it will dry out very fast. You must amend the mix if you want it to work, especially with an avocado. Sorry to say but it sounds like the roots dried up.

I also ran into the same problem and learned from my mistake too.

For avocados in my zone I like to use Kelloggs cactus and palm mix.


    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 8:19PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Though it's a possibility your mix dried out, I wouldn't be so fast to jump to the conclusion that's the issue - unless you know were just not watering at reasonable intervals. By the 'desert recipe', do you mean that you used more Turface & less grit? Just how did you make your soil? did you screen the ingredients? and how often are you/were you watering?


    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 8:36PM
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There are several variables that could be at play, here... but without knowing how you went about the process from start to finish in more detail, it's difficult to diagnose any problems.

A picture of your mix would be very helpful, as would a detailed description of your process, as in exact ingredients used, process by which you prepared your mix, process by which you re-potted your tree, etc...

And I'm also curious as to what you mean when you reference cactus?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 7:13AM
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I don't claim to be an expert, but i think potting a larger plant into the gritty mix, sometimes the mix does not get an initial soaking. If I had your problem I would plug the drainage hole and fill the container with water. Wait 5 minutes and pull the plug. This will assure that the entire mix has the opportunity to saturate with water. The water will drain out of the gritty mix like out of a hot water bottle, flushing out any residue of chemicals and drawing a lot of oxygen into the root area. Al

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 10:00AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

There really shouldn't be any initial wetting issues with the gritty mix like there can be when other soils, including the 5:1:1 mix are allowed to dry down too much.

Here's how that works: Consider that all ingredients are as dry as they get, especially the bark, as that is the only component that will exhibit any hydrophobia (water repellency). When you wet a completely dry gritty mix, the Turface immediately absorbs water like a sponge and becomes saturated, while the surfaces of the granite also become coated with water. This is always enough water to sustain the plant AND for some of the water to 'break' the hydrophobia of any bark that WAS water-repellent as water vapor diffuses from other colloidal surfaces into the bark within 10-15 minutes, leaving the soil uniformly damp/moist. This occurs much faster when the bark fraction isn't allowed to dry down much below 30% so the bark is never hydrophobic. If you ARE watering in a plant in a completely dry soil, it's probably a good idea to just water again an hour or so after the initial watering to make sure the soil didn't become TOO dry as water diffused from (primarily) the Turface into the dry bark.

That said, when I do my repots, I have a tub of water nearby always, that is partially filled with a water/Superthrive solution - like what Al suggested. I set the pot in the shallow water in the tub and gradually fill it up to the soil level & leave it set in the water while I go about doing the next repot - then I remove the soaking pot & put the next pot in its place.


    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 10:37AM
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littleluey(Zone 9)

Thanks everyone for your input.

This is a citrus tree, Sweet Arizona Orange, no avocado or cactus.
I do agree that i did something wrong, but at this point not sure what it was.
The mix i used was:

4 parts turface
3 parts bark
2 parts crushed granite

screened everything with mosquito screen. I was watering on Saturday & Wednesday on every week. And for the last week, since we reached 100F already i watered it every other day.
I water the tree until water starts to come out of the bottom, now, one thing i notice on a couple of other tomato and pepper plants i have in the same mix was that the pots i use have a tray on the bottom that traps some water, i removed the trays on the small pots but not on the larger one.
Can it be the tree is getting too much water? I will remove that tray today and see how it goes.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 11:43AM
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I'm not sure if it's been previously mentioned, but it's imperative to protect newly re-potted plants from direct sun or windy conditions, until they have a chance to acclimate to their new homes. I believe it lessens stress considerably... especially since the plant has just gone through a stressful process.

Over watering can certainly occur... especially if the finer particles weren't screened out of the ingredients before the medium was mixed. Those fine particles and dust can lessen the effect of the excellent drainage, and can hold perched water.

Checking for moisture using a wooden skewer is probably the most accurate method. Inserted pointed end first, on an angle, so the tip rests somewhere down in the center of the root zone/medium... when removed and pressed to your cheek, a cool, damp skewer indicates moisture still available to the plant... and a warm, dry skewer indicates time to water.

I find that it helped me immensely to go back and reread Al's original article, Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention, several times... so I was completely familiar with the concept of the mediums, and familiar with what each ingredient brings to its medium. This helped me to understand what was going on under the medium surface, and helped me to adjust my watering habits in sync with the new medium.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 12:14PM
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littleluey(Zone 9)

thanks Jodi, i will certainly read the article over again and see if i missed something

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 12:52PM
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prestons_garden(9B SZ 22 HZ 6 SoCal)

littleluey and others,

I do not know what in the world I was thinking, brain fart, trying to multi-task, stock market, etc.

My response is moot to the OP question.

Wow, that was embarrassing.........


    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 3:17PM
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Fantastic reminders Jodik since they are the very ones that made it possible of all my citrus to flourish after a re-pot.

Ron, your lights were on but no one was home, that is all:-)

Thank you

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 8:11PM
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littleluey(Zone 9)

LOL Ron, all is good man, i just figure you had some other thread in your mind.

Well, i took the bottom tray off the pot, there was water in it but the top of the mix was dry so i am not sure what to make of this.
I am temped to dig around the roots and see if there are any void spaces where the mix didn't get in to. What do you guys think about that?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 7:08PM
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