Highly successful organic mixes

fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TXMay 29, 2011

I've been using organic based mixes for potted fruit trees for over 7 years. In all that time I've repotted one tree. Only a few trees or fruit bushes have had any problems with vigor or health. Most importantly fruit quality has been superb.

Unlike many container applications fruit quality is best from trees with moderate to low vigor.

Here is a Star blueberry 7 years without repotting that yielded 15+ lbs of fruit this year. This is after harvest and pruning.

This is part of the harvest in front of another blueberry that has about 12 lbs fruit after 7 years in the same pot.

I could give many more examples of similar success with all kinds of trees. I now have about 100 fruit trees/bushes in pots.

And a big plus is that my organic mix is very light weight. I'm getting up in years and weight is important.

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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Well, what's in your mix? Bark and peat are organic. So are manure, compost and coconut chips.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 5:04PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


Thanks for the interest. My mix is mainly aged wood shavings/manure from rodent growing operations. It's the bedding used for rats and mice. After aging for about one year the wood shavings are still apparent. For blueberries I mix in about 1/3 spaghnum peat moss. For fruit trees I add about 5% by volume clay soil to the blueberry mix.

I want water to drain out the bottom of the pot about 10-20 seconds after dumping it in on top. Drainage stays consistent over many years. There is about 10% settling the first year but none after that.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 6:00PM
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Nice pictures, especially of the harvest.

What do you use for fertilizer?

Also it would be great to see pictures of your mix, so we could get an idea of the size of the wood shavings.

Also when you water, does some of the fine particles from your mix drain out. I'm wondering if you have to add extra mix in over the years or does the volume stay constant after the first year?

Have you ever tried to grow vegetables in this mix?

Thanks for sharing. Always good to see different methods.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 1:02PM
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prestons_garden(9B SZ 22 HZ 6 SoCal)


Great job and thanks for posting. How often do you water with those black containers? Do you cover the containers to protect the roots when it gets too hot? If so at around what temp.?

I'm on my third year with my Blueberries and can only hope I will get a yield as yours on my 7th year.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 1:40PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Thanks guys, I was afraid I was going to get flamed as I think organic goes against conventional thought here. Maybe I'm wrong.

Here's a picture of the wood/peat mix. To tell the truth I don't remember very well what I used 7 years ago except it was 90% organic or more. Basically everything I've tried has work except some has been too well draining.

Here are some fruit trees in containers. Fruit quality from container plants has been mostly sensational.

For fertilizer I've used slow release Osmocote, ammonium sulfate, blood meal, and other organics depending on application.

Nothing drains out of the pot unless I add the clay soil which is very small in amount and very well mixed. Some of that soil drains out for a few wks/months but then quits. The soil level settles some depending on how much I compact at planting. But after the roots get established settling stops. The mix doesn't appear to break down over several years. Drainage and water capacity remain stable.

I grew sweetcorn in the mix this spring in a 30 gal pot. It worked much better than expected. It's great for carrots.

In summer I water once a day in morning. Down to as little as once a month in winter for dormant trees. I've not had overheated roots in the greenhouse. Outdoors haven't either but do shade the pot some.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 3:12PM
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Very interesting. Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 11:05PM
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I haven't been here long, but as far as I know - a diversity of methods and opinions is appreciated. Besides, empirical results are empirical results. There are far too many variables to make any hard and fast rules.

However, the 5:1:1 mix that is popular here is 7 parts organic (pine bark and peat) to 1 part perlite, so it is mostly organic. Al recommends that it only be used for one season. I suspect part of the equation for your fruit trees is that their roots grow to fill the entire soil space, and become pretty much rootbound. Because they're such large plants, they end up using the water so fast that anoxic conditions never have a chance to set in.

It's remarkable that your mix hasn't compacted or broken down much though! I wonder, are the wood shavings you use for your rodents cedar? It's a pretty common bedding material. Apparently in the decades before cedar was reported as being full of allelopathic polyphenols, cedar shavings were very popular in Texas as growth medium for nurseries, and in particular - tree growers. These shavings were the byproduct of steam-extraction of cedar oil, so much of the putative problem compounds were no longer present. Then again, its exactly the same group of compounds that are thought to slow the decay of cedar wood. I have my doubts about the allelopathy of cedar - something to research, I guess.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 12:19AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Here's a little know secret about many kinds of tree fruits, but mainly stone fruit. The fruit is sweeter, firmer, and more flavorful off trees that have moderate to low vigor and moderate water deicit. The tree should be grown at about 75% of "full" water use. The first year in a pot the tree grows very rapidly because it has plenty of water and nutrients. After that there is only vigorous growth if the tree is pruned back, watered and fertilized more, or repotted.

So Al's advice about repotting every year is likely good for ornamentals or vegetables but it's not the best plan for fruit trees. I want my trees to grow until they can't grow any larger, the bonsai effect. This gives better fruit than in-ground trees or vigorous potted trees.

Repotting every year is not only expensive it's environmentally unfriendly. I'll repot when the tree tells me it's needed so far that hasn't happened.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 3:01PM
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Hey Fruitnut, how are you!?

We waited an entire long dreadful for winter for this: Figs!lol

I noticed them on your trees and I am happy for you. They look fantastic.
What is your secret? Fine job there!

Can you e-mail so I can get some idea's from you about figs? All mine are growing great, except for fruit though and that is where you come in.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 3:36PM
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Just curious....how is repotting every year environmentally unfriendly? I'm not a greenie, so I don't know what the thought process is behind that statement. I'm in no way trying to offend, insult, argue, or be sarcastic. I would just like to know what you're thinking. I am always "all ears" when it comes to other people's ideas and thoughts.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 5:32PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


No offense taken. But I assume perhaps wrongly that when you repot the media is discarded. If mine lasts 5 yrs and yours one, isn't mine less drain on resources? No big deal just my take on things. And hope I haven't offended you or anyone else-:)

Also I'm way too old and poor to be repotting every year. Isn't that expensive? What does it cost to repot 100 15 gallon pots? That's 1,500 gallons of media.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 7:15PM
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Thanks Fruitnut


    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 8:11PM
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You have some very healthy and happy plants, Fruitnut. I, too, am surprised that they are doing so well without needing to be re-potted after 7 years. You are obviously doing something very right indeed!

I wonder, are the wood shavings you use for your rodents cedar? It's a pretty common bedding material.

Though fruitnut will no doubt chime in here, I wouldn't think that the wood shavings would be cedar or pine. That sort of bedding, due to the phenols they give off, cause health problems for rats - mainly respiratory problems - and are considered toxic to them. At least, when I had rats for pets, after reading up about the problems caused by these aromatic woods, I never used them. On the other hand, aspen shavings were recommended if you wanted to use wood shavings. (Personally, I stuck to cellulose fibers for my rattie bedding, pretending that it was more comfortable for them - nicely organic and the soiled bedding could be put on my compost heap, just like the shavings!)


    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 12:22PM
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I don't repot every year, unless the particular plant needs to be. I also don't have tons of plants either, so it wouldn't cost me much if I did. Anyways, I usually use my old soil as an amendment to my junky clay soil in the yard. Now that I've switched to 5-1-1 and gritty mix, things will be different. My 5-1-1 will most likely be a soil amendment after I use it up, or even as mulch. Currently, the larger particles I sift out when making my mixes gets used as mulch in the flower beds and under trees. As for the synthetics in the gritty, I'll be reusing it, mainly because I don't wanna throw out those expensive ingredients.


    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 5:39PM
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