5:1:1 Mix Watering Questions

Wrekkless(7a)May 21, 2013

I'm sure this has been addressed a gazillion times, but I've spent the past couple of days browsing posts and haven't been able to figure it about how to determine somewhat watering schedule, what frequency I should be looking for if my mix is working as it should, and how much.

I'm just getting started using the 5:1:1 mix for my vegetable garden. I checked all the local nurseries and feed stores with no luck for pine bark fines or coarse Perlite, but was able to find great pine/fir bark fines as a soil conditioner brand of Greensmix at my local Walmart of all places. I was worried it was too much dust, but after sifting a little bit, about 5% passes through an insect screen and very few pieces bigger than 1/4", mostly in the 1/16 to 1/8 range, so I'm pleased . At $3.30 for 2 cubic ft. back, I think it's a good deal. I did find a brand of soil conditioner called Mountain Magic at Home Depot, which is pine and fir bark fines....and composted forest materials. They had an open bag and it had very little bark, mostly dirt-like compost, so glad I didn't get that. I did find coarse Perlite at Home Depot, so all set with materials.

Now...on to my question about watering. I plan to water with low strength fertilizer each time, as suggested, but how often should I be watering and how much each time? I understand that there are tons of variables, such as location, humidity etc. Living in a dry state like Utah, things will tend to dry out even more quickly, so any guidelines on what I should be looking for, aiming for in regard to when and how much to water would be very appreciated.

Thanks to all of you for all the great information. This is really my first time growing a vegetable garden as an adult (always lived in apartments with no room), and now I'm bouncing back from a disastrous encounter with fungus gnat ridden Miracle Gro Organic Choice, so am really hoping to be able to save my seedlings.

Thanks again,


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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

As long as the plants get the prescribed amount of fertilizer one way or another, you're ok. Early in the season I use more fertilizer because I water less. During peak season usually about 1/4 strength at each watering, which is almost every day. There are many methods for determining dryness, but I use a cheap bamboo kabob skewer inserted into the container for a minute or so. If it comes out damp, no watering, if dry, water.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 2:55PM
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Thanks - that's really helpful!

While I have you...here is a photo of the pine/fir bark fines/soil conditioner I was able to find. At 12 o'clock is straight out of the bag. 8 o'clock is what was left after screened through a sieve, which I am gauging about 1/16" maybe a bit bigger. On the bottom right at 4 o;clock is what fell through the sieve. I think I was a bit optimistic %-wise of dust, as it seems to be a good percentage volume-wise. Would it be best to sift and use only the bigger pieces of bark - is it too much fine stuff going on straight from the bag?

Thanks again :)


    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 3:07PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

You are lucky to have the Greensmix product available. It looks really good right out of the bag. Maybe a little small, as 3/8" down to dust is optimal IMO. The original 511 mix is recommended to have no more than 1/6th of the total mix as fine stuff. In my case I need a little more for additional water retention. So it just depends how you want to try it. The stuff at 8 o'clock looks really good IMO. If you want to start with 5 parts of that and add 1 part of 4 o'clock and 1 part of perlite you'll be on your way. Don't forget to add 1 tablespoon of garden lime per gallon of mix.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 4:21PM
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Thanks so much for taking the time to confirm. I actually couldn't believe my luck at finding it - I bought 4 bags immediately and then got to 2nd guessing, thinking that maybe it was too small. It really is comforting to have someone in the know give their opinion.

I did also come across a bag of ground pine bark mulch at Home Depot that is perfect for the gritty mix, which I am going to try for starting some seeds. I was so thrilled:)

For the 5-1-1, I did get sphagnum peat moss, too (and garden lime) but do you think it would be better to go with the 1 part of the finer 4'oclock stuff from the fines rather than the sphagnum?


    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 4:42PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

I don't think it matters. It's a nice problem to have :-)

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 12:23AM
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I definitely agree. I think I'll try some both ways just for kicks.

Thanks again for sharing your wisdom:)


    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 1:03AM
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