can 5-1-1 be used for all veggies

njitgradMarch 21, 2014

I am only going to be using 5-1-1 mix in containers for my first try at it....are there any vegetables that are not recommended for use with this type of mix?

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greenman28(Josh), a huge advocate of 5-1-1 frequent in the hot pepper an container forums, says he uses it for anything. I pretty much use it only for my superhot peppers, but I did use it for my lettuce this past season with great results.

You'll probably get more feedback in the container forum.


    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 12:33PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

According to the folks on the Container Gardening forum - yes it can. The gritty mix has some advantages in some situations but that forum can explain the differences better than this one can. .


    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 2:59PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I have never used 5-1-1 before but I am geared up to using it this year for peppers and few DET tomatoes in pots. The pot has to have a minimum depth not to dry up quickly. Unless one is willing to water sometimes twice in a day.
5-1-1 is a highly well drained medium. You can modify it like to 3-3-1 (more peat , less pine fine/bark) to be used for small-rooted plants. Or screen the pine barks to 1/4" and smaller particles.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 4:58AM
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Interesting, I never thought of modifying the 5-1-1 for small-rooted plants. Does broccoli fall into this category? This is the first year I am trying it and my seedlings are ready to be put into containers. I'm just waiting to see what happens with the snowstorm threat next week.

I assume herbs would go into a 3-3-1 mix as well.

I'd be interested in hearing about other variations of the mix and what you use them for.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 12:18PM
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njitgrad: no. Broccoli is not shallow-rooted. I find that broccoli and a lot of other brassicas just aren't worth trying in containers -- roots are deep and the foliage just isn't conducive to try putting more than just ONE plant per even the largest of containers. Bok Choy wasn't bad for me though -- somewhat shallow, can plant relatively close together and short maturity time. And I'm trying 2 kale per barrel this year. We'll see if they tap out with root space though.

I have no idea what seysonn is talking about modifying the mix to accommodate shallow rooted veggies. Maybe he's trying to get the mix to hold onto more moisture. Dunno. Seysonn, please explain.

People will modify the mix for their conditions and regimens though. eg., Texas as opposed to Washington.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 12:45PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

AFAIK any modifications of the 5-1-1 are personal ones, experimental, and have undocumented results. However the authorities on using it are on the Container Gardening forum and they are the best sources of info on it.


PS: and no broccoli is not shallow rooted. Very few garden vegetables are except for leafy greens and onions. Herbs are tolerant of just about anything except overly nutrient-rich soil.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 1:25PM
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art_1(10 CA)

+1 for Container Forum having more info.

Once you make some you will see that the 5-1-1 is quite different from other potting soils. It drains very well and does not compact.

You need a couple of frames with mesh of different sizes to screen the bark to the right size. If you can find the right size bark (~$4 per bag) you might get away with using the bark right out of the bag and adding perlite & peat.

If you are using synthetic fertilizer like what Tapla recommends and keep up on frequent watering/fertilizing it is likely much better than many other mixes for growing in containers.

Here is a link that might be useful: Container Gardening

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 2:08PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

I've been using 5-1-1 for all my veggies for three years, and I love it. I grew 5 packman broccoli plants in a 20-gallon container and they grew very well. I've also grown all of the following successfully in containers of 5-1-1: indeterminate tomatoes, eggplants, beans, cucumbers, watermelon, okra, peppers, potatoes, herbs and lettuce. I do modify it when using fabric containers, swapping out the perlite for NAPA Floor Dry (diatomaceous earth) and the peat for compost. This is because the fabric pots setting on the ground can handle a heavier, more water retentive mix. I was able to find pine bark fines that are smaller than 1/2 inch wide, so I don't screen anything.

Note that Seysonn signs his posts JMO (just my opinion) because he's never used 5-1-1. So take his advice on modifying the mix for what it's worth.

Here is a link that might be useful: The original discussion of 5-1-1 and gritty mix

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 4:23PM
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ohiofem: did you let those broccoli plants go for months on end producing side shoots? Got any pics of the main heads?


This post was edited by woohooman on Sat, Mar 22, 14 at 22:11

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 6:11PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

You are right . I have have mentioned what you said. An also I sign often as "JMO".or "IMO"> After all we are here to express our opinions. Aren't we ? I do not consider myself an expert nor I accept ANYBODY as an authority.

Back to 5-1-1;
To me it is the concept that is more meaningful and important, not the ratios. Let us just take it apart: WHAT IS IT?

--- 72% bark based material ( for aeration and drainage)
--- 14 % Peat moss ( for more moisture retention)
--- 14 % perlite ( for additional drainage)

I look at it MAINLY as a bark -based medium. I like the concept. The components are not like the proportion in a chemical formula/composition that one has to maintain it at and exact proportion.

I can conceptualized its properties by varying the ingredients. If, eg, I want more water retention, I reduce bark and increase the peat. Or screen the bark to get the bigger pieces out.
I have been making my own seed starter mix exactly using the same logic : SCREEN BARK, ADD SOME PEAT and PERLITE. It has bee working like a charm, in various pot sizes up to 8".

So you may say that I am not religiously dedicated to the proportions. I can alter and modify it to suit my application. And of course, I do have my reasoning behind it.

Finally, This is what a "forum" is all about. More good comes out of opposing views than if everybody was in agreement.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 5:35AM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

ohiofem: did you let those broccoli plants go for months on end producing side shoots? Got any pics of the main heads?

Yes, that broccoli continued to produce decent side shoots until early August. This is a photo taken June 3, about six weeks after I planted them outside. The main heads got to be about 8 inches across. They were quite crowded, but I kept them fertilized and well watered. I think growing four in a 20 gallon would be better.


I don't have a problem with anyone offering an opinion. Didn't mean to offend you. I just want to make sure people new to these recipes understand that a lot of thought has gone into them. Tapla (Al), the guy who developed them, has not suggested changing the ratio for different plants based on roots or anything else.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 10:49AM
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ohiofem: Pretty nice heads and beautiful plants.

Yeah. I meant for longer than that. In my climate, I can harvest main heads in march and get side shoots all throughout the spring, summer and fall. If I try that in a container, even barrels, they just tucker out from lack of space... both roots and foliage.

Whatever works for you though. That's damn good production for such a small space. Gotta love the 5-1-1.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 11:37AM
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What size are those containers? And are they fabric? I can't tell.

Sorry, but I have a couple of rookie question as well if you wouldn't mind....what are broccoli side shoots and are they edible? Same question for the main leaves...are they edible at all or do you just compost them when the plant bolts?

I was going to put out my seedlings out this week but with the threat of snow, I'm going to wait until next weekend. BTW, my first set of leaves are starting fade (but the rest of the leaves look great) this normal?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 2:53PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

That container is actually an antique cast iron wash pot with feet that holds about 20 gallons of soil. It has a couple of rusted out holes in the base, so it drains well. I inherited it along with a larger one when we moved into this house 30 years ago. I wouldn't recommend using one of these because I expect it keeps the soil pretty warm, but beggars can't be choosers. I can't grow in the ground because my yard is surrounded by black walnuts. I've been growing veggies in them for most of the time we have lived here. When I finally sprung for some new containers, my experience with these led me to believe I needed ones this size or larger for most things I grow. Now I grow most things in 20-25-gallon fabric pots, which are reputed to keep the soil cooler than most other kinds. I love them, but still use these.

Broccoli side shoots are like little heads, 2-3 inches across. They are tender and tasty. After you cut off the main head, some kinds of broccoli will produce them along the main stem all summer long. Some people do eat the leaves when they are smaller, but I'm not a big fan. I don't like kale or cabbage, and the taste is similar.

We are expecting snow and lows in the teens here this week. I usually put my broccoli out in mid-April in my Zone 6a. They can handle temps down to about 25 under a cover and tolerate frost, but they prefer temps over 50. The trick is you want them to form heads before warm weather develops, and it takes about six weeks outside for that.

Here is a link that might be useful: Advice on broccoli from Cornell.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 3:24PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Tapla (Al), the guy who developed them, has not suggested changing the ratio for different plants based on roots or anything else.


I have a great respect for Al (TAPLA) and I think he is a knowledgeable person And I am thankful to him for introducing the "Bark -Based" potting mix to container gardeners, BUT i am not a religiously follower of him or anybody else. I take the concepts and use it as I see it fit to my applications. There is a thing called "better Mouse trap". No offense here.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 8:09PM
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Ohiofem, it sounds like my plan for using 5-gallon containers might need to be revised if you use 20-gallon containers.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 10:24AM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Well, you could probably grow one broccoli plant successfully in a container that holds 5 gallons. (Nursery containers only hold .7 gallons for each gallon listed.) But, those Packman plants can get 2.5-3 feet wide, and they are top heavy. I imagine it might tip over if you put one in a 5-gallon paint bucket like they sell at the hardware store. I found a nice blog about growing broccoli in containers. This guy says he grew three in a 6.5 gallon container. Look at the pictures and note that the heads are smaller than mine. And the broccoli in the picture I posted was not fully grown yet. With container growing, the size of the pot makes a big difference in final yield

Here is a link that might be useful: Broccoli in a container

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 12:10PM
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zeuspaul(9b SoCal)

Last year I grew broccoli in 5, 15 and 25 gal nursery pots. The 15 and 25 had a variation of 511.

The broccoli in the five was very small, The 15 was ok. The broccoli in the 25 was huge.

I had three 25 containers of broccoli. One container had three plants. The other two had one each. From a distance you couldn't see a difference as the leaf mass was about the same with three plants vs one plant. The single plants produced slightly larger first heads. But the three slightly smaller first heads in the tripple container were overall more broccoli. Side shoot harvest was about the same.

The 5 was highly root bound...solid mass of roots throughout the container. I did not check the 15. The 25 was not rootbound.

The gallons in various size nursery pots is not consistant. The 15 gal black nursery pots I use hold about 12 gallons to the brim. The 25 gallon pots from the same manufacturer hold about 25 gallons.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 12:26PM
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