Messed up and used Black Gold soil

mozzlesMay 24, 2012

Before I found this forum and the vast amounts of help on it, I took the advice of someone at a local store and used Black Gold soil for all of my vegetables in containers. Mainly tomatoes and peppers. I also threw in a couple handfuls of vermiculite because I thought it'd help with retaining moisture.. turns out I was wrong to both use that kind of soil, and to add the vermiculite.

I'm just wondering now whether this is a lost cause.. all my plants seem like they're doing ok, maybe getting too much water because of how much the soil retains. I'm guessing it's too late to transplant them into other soil, is there anything I can do to help my plants?

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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

Yes I am familiar with Black Gold soil and choose not to use it for that reason. However, if you just let it dry out untill your plants wilt, then water, you should be ok. The advantage of that soil is it is heavy allowing you to grow large plants in smaller containers. The heavy soil will retain water and be heavy so the plant will not tip over in winds. It is quite rich so fertilizer will not be needed for a while.

O and never use vermilculite, only perlite. And perlite is not even worth adding to those rich soils.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 3:45PM
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mozzles

Dang, I just bought a bottle of Foliage Pro I was planning on using. I watered with it as per directions on Monday. How long until you think I should need it? The plants have been in their pots about a month now.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 4:44PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

How big are the plants and how big are the pots. A small plant in a big pot there may be some area for roots to grow and find nutrients. If your plants are slightly root bound it may be time to fertilize at 1/2 strength, never full strength. If you just keep letting soil get dry, then water, After a while new growing leaves along with lower foliage will show yellowing, a sign of N deficiency which indicates time to fertilize.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 6:22PM
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mozzles

Not sure of the exact size of the pots, I'd say some are around 5 gallon and some are considerably bigger, maybe 7?

My tomato plants are all about a foot and a half at the most, some of them are already flowering.

So would you recommend staying off the fertilizer for now, or should I give them 1/2 strength? Again it's been about a month since I first potted the plants, not sure how much of the fertilizer in the soil would be gone by now.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 10:29PM
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emgardener

mozzles,

It is almost impossible to give specific directions on how much to fertilize. Depends on your plants, mix, sunlight, warmth, stage of growth, ....

MasterGardeners advice is sound, when leaves show any sign of yellowing it is time to fertilize.

If leaves look dark "chocolate" green then you probably have too much fertilizer and shouldn't fertilize any more.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 2:40PM
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mozzles

All my leaves are pretty light green, yellow at some points. So it seems to me it'd be time to fertilize. One plant has had dark green leaves since I got it a couple weeks ago, seems to be the biggest and most flowering out of any I've got.

Would you recommend 1/2 strength then? The bag says it's 0.13-0.04-0.13, and if I'm shooting for a 9-3-6 wouldn't that be low enough to require some additional fertilizer anyways? I just don't see how that little amount can do much but again this is my first time ever gardening.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 6:57PM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

If its your first time due your self some reading

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 12:01AM
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mozzles

I have been reading as much as I can find for the past month. Mostly archives on this forum but other sites as well.

Not always easy to find an answer to a specific question like this through researching.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 1:06PM
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mozzles

Yikes, I haven't watered since last Monday and the soil in almost every container is still very damp. Noticed yesterday a few of them have light mold on top of the soil too, not good. Starting to really regret getting this soil, is there any way I can remediate this situation?

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 7:14PM
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prestons_garden(9B SZ 22 HZ 6 SoCal)

mozzles, welcome. I will try to help and see if we can get you back on track. Take a deep breath and don't panic by dumping too much fertilizer on your plant at this time.

Your plants are stressed. First thing we need to do is plan a watering schedule. Stop watering until you can dig down about 4 inches and the medium is almost completely dry. Then water only very lightly as the bottom of your mix is very wet. Do not give it a good drench like you may have done in the past. This approach can be done but it does take experience to get the hang of it.

Another option, which I would recommend, is to amend your mix with pumice. Three parts pumice to one part of your existing mix will make a big difference. If you cant find pumice you can use perlite which is easier to find. You can also add bark, be sure it is aged, but then you have to watch your pH. For now I will avoid the bark because I'm trying to take the shortest road to help your plants recover.

Vermiculite will hold a lot of water, so yes, that was a mistake adding it to the medium but lets move on.

On the fertilizing part, Foliage Pro does its job with very small amounts. Don't think you need to add a lot or you will destroy your roots. I would start fertilizing at 25% recommended dosage about a week after you amended your mix. Just because the leaves are turning yellow does not mean it needs to be fertilized, at least not in your situation.

So give it some time and your plants will recover.

Good Luck,
Ron

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 12:04AM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

Drill a 1/2 holein the side at the bottom and insert a wick ( an old inch wide strip of cloth ,or a strand or 2 from a string type mop ,etc) into your soil mix, this will help pull some water out of your mix.

Or, did a hole big enough to bury your container a couple inches into the ground,this way your excess water will just continue out thru the holes in your container bottom and into the ground away from your roots

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 12:56AM
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mozzles

Thanks for the lengthy response, Ron. That's fantastic advice and I'm going to follow it the best that I can.

I have a couple questions.. how would you recommend re-potting the plants, to get them in the pumice mixture? There's a lot of gardening stores in my town so finding that shouldn't be a problem, I'm just wondering how to transplant some of these.. a couple are already flowering, are on cages and one has a fruit that is set.

There's a few that aren't too tall and shouldn't be very hard to get out, but I'm wondering how to mix the pumice in without disturbing the roots.

I'll start fertilizing at 25%. Today is actually the day I should be doing that, but with the soil still damp in most of my plants I'm not sure if that would be a good idea. My potting soil mix had fertilizer in it anyways, it turns out.. so they can should be fine.

Noticed that one of my bell pepper plants has fungus gnats, going to treat them as soon as the soil dries out. Have been reading about Gnatrol and Neem Oil.

dickiefickle, that's a good idea about drilling holes in the pots. I like the idea of just putting them in the ground too but the growing season where I live is extremely short. It's not uncommon for the last frost to be in late June or July.

Zac

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 6:34PM
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prestons_garden(9B SZ 22 HZ 6 SoCal)

DON'T WATER........yet
If your season is that short I wouldn't want you to disturb the roots, especially since some of the plants are bearing fruit. Just make sure to elevate your containers off the ground so they will drain better. Don't worry about the fungus nats, rather look at them, (fungus gnats) are telling you the mix is too wet.

If you choose to amend your mix, you will have to work very fast and be sure your mix and everything else is ready to go before you start.

Take your container and hit the walls with your hand on the four sides to dislodge the potting medium. After removing the plant carefully, start removing the medium with your hands. Unfortunately, some of the roots will break off, and if not, all the better. Remove as much as possible in a shaded area and give the roots a mist of water if it is hot that day. Don't worry about getting all the mix off the roots as this may take too long.

Be sure to pre-rinse your pumice well before you start. Also get some Osmocote or Dynamite fertilizer to mix in before you replant and follow directions. Mix in a large container of some type 3 parts pumice, 1 part your existing mix and the fertilizer I mentioned above. After you finished repotting, give it a good even water until it drains out the bottom.

There you have it. Now put these plants in a shaded area and do not fertilize until you see new growth. This usually can take about 1 or 2 weeks. When new growth starts, put them in the sun and fertilize with a 25% solution.

Ron

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 8:34PM
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mozzles

If I'm going to mix pumice with some new soil, would it be better to get something other than Black Gold? Also, if I'm understanding this right, will I remove as much soil from the roots, and then dump out the soil that was in there, and replace it with good mix?

Zac

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 12:53AM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

Do you have holes in the bottom now ?

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 1:37AM
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mozzles

Yes of course. All of my pots came with holes in the bottom.. they're just your standard black plastic pots with holes on the sides of the bottom.

Getting ready to buy some pumice today and put together some new mix for my plants. If I understand right, using a 3:1 ratio, I will be needing a LOT of pumice. That's three times as much pumice as I've got soil, and all these plants took maybe 4 of the giant bags of potting soil.

Just called one store and they've got 4 qt bags but I'm guessing I will need a lot more than that.

How should I measure out the pumice and soil mixture when it comes time? Would I want to fill some kind of container once with soil, three times with pumice, and so on?

Just making sure that this time I get all the details ironed out BEFORE I go jumping into things.

Zac

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 1:35PM
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mozzles

Another place here has 100 L bags of perlite that they sell for around $35 each. Sounds like maybe that'd be enough to do the job, and cheaper than pumice. How comparable would the two be? I've researched it some and found that it breaks down faster than pumice, but is lighter and serves the same function.

I don't have a lot of money to spend on this project anymore. Full time student here, just trying to pick up a new hobby, but after this much trouble I am very discouraged.

Zac

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 10:42AM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

Just use potting mix with nothing added. That is cost effective and really works.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 11:17AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Is it only here in California that commercial nurseries are located, which ship to hundreds of retail nurseries? Most of them buy their potting mix from landscape supply companies which deliver potting mix 20 yards at a time. The most popular mix for general potting is made of bark, usually referred to as forest products, course sand, pumice stone, a fertilizer package, and PH corrected to 6.5. This mix is impossible to over water, and is good for at least two seasons with the addition of fertilizer after the first three or four months. Many of these landscape supplies will let you pick up, or will delivery for a fee. I pay $50 a yard, and pick up my own. I do still make my own mixes for special plants, usually the gritty mix, plus of course, mixes for cuttings or seed starting. Gardeners need not feel their only source is the local garden centers. Al

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 11:21AM
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capoman(5a)

If it was me, I'd bare root them and put them in 5:1:1. In fact, I have friends giving me plants in soil, and that's exactly what I do. Plants seem to breath a sigh of relief getting into an aerated soil, with little or no shock. This might seem a little extreme for a newer grower, but fighting a plant that's in bad soil containers can turn a new grower off forever. It's still early. Bite the bullet and get it in some proper container soil.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 2:10PM
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mozzles

Really.. so you guys would recommend just using all new soil? That's fine by me, probably won't cost more than buying that much pumice or perlite would.

Al, I'm not sure if I can afford a big delivery of potting mix at the moment. Like I said, I'm short on funds now and trying to fix this as economically as possible. Without sacrificing too much love for my plants, of course.

I'm likely either going to mix up some 5-1-1 (haven't looked into the prices for this yet), or find a proper potting soil somewhere around here that I can buy a few bags of.

I'll be glad to get rid of this black gold once and for all, it's been nothing but a headache. I plan on using it in a raised bed, if that would work.

Thanks for the help everyone. Feel free to give any more advice you have, it should be until the weekend before I can get any of this done.

Zac

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 2:39PM
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capoman(5a)

5-1-1 is cheap to mix, and better then all commercial soils I have seen yet.

In the raised bed, if it's in contact with the ground (no bottom) it will work fine. Containers are a totally different environment where the soil has to drain itself.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 3:47PM
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mozzles

Nice, thank you very much. I'll work on mixing up some 5-1-1 and get the plants in it, and then use the Black Gold for a raised bed.

If I understand right, a 5-1-1 mix is basically 5 parts composted pine bark fines, 1 part spagnum peat, and 1 part perlite, is this right?

Zac

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 7:23PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

There should be no reason you cant use the soil? Many use it with great results. perhaps your watering had to do with it.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 9:20AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Zac, you got it! That's a good plan.
You can substitute 1 part Black Gold soil for the sphagnum peat, if you wish.

Josh

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 11:55AM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

Yea thats a really good idea to use the soil in place of the peat as a part of the 5-1-1.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 2:42PM
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