more watering questions

terratoma(7a)June 14, 2013

With help from posters, I've tried to follow all the steps for successful use of the gritty mix. But while my small Japanese maples are faring ok, the leaves of all the larger ones are crinkled and dried up. The trees look dead. I think it must be due to my fertilizing and/or watering. It would be a great help if you could point out where I'm going wrong.
These larger Jms are 3' tall and planted in 7 gallon containers. I'm using FP: 1/4 tsp. in each gallon of water. I fertilize every other day, applying one gallon of the fertilizing solution to each of the containers. On alternate days, I apply one gallon of water only. (Actually, every second time I water only, I apply even more water to flush all the salts (?) out of the mix.) I've read so many times about applying enough water so that at least 15-20% flows out the drainage holes. That's a bit difficult to calculate so I apply water until it's flowing freely. For these plants, that's about a gallon.
Bottom line is that each plant is getting a total of 3/4-1 tsp. of FP weekly and a gallon of water daily. From what I've read and been advised, this is the correct amount of fertilizer for plants. But does that mean all plants, regardless of size? Should trees be getting a larger amount?
Also, are they getting enough water? Too much water?

I've read from some of you that successful gardeners are not born with the skills; rather they learn and develop them. That is what I'm trying to do.
Will appreciate all suggestions and directions.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

For me, it's a habit to check the medium for needed watering before applying more. Sometimes, the center of the rootball will remain a bit more moist than the surrounding medium, though it shouldn't matter much if the Gritty Mix is proportioned right in particle size and components.

I often reread Al's recommendations in the "Container Soils - Water Movement and Retention XVII" thread that keeps coming back to the top.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 8:08AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
fireduck(10a) sounds like you are working hard to achieve success. I understand your pain. Did you completely wash off the old soil (to bare roots) before planting in the gritty? Dried and crinkled tells me they need more water. Just a guess...

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 9:25AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You don't know how happy I am for your quick and interested responses! As I mentioned, I feel like I followed the 'rules' but, obviously, I didn't. If you will bear with me just a bit, I'll try to address your comments. (Please be looking for where I've gone wrong.)
Al's articles on water retention and movement, as well as for trees in containers, have ... to the degree that I understand them ... become my pathways to planting in containers. As for the gritty mix itself, I used the following:

1 part fir bark, size 1/8" - 1/4". I've read that some have had success with Reptibark right out of the bag but I tried to leave nothing to chance. So I carefully screened it to the above range.
1 part Gran-I-Grit, size 1/8" - 1/4", rinsing it thoroughly.
1 part Turface MVP, size 1/8" - 1/4", also rinsed.
These three components were mixed and left to soak in water overnight.
(In more recent plantings of hostas, succulents, etc, ... which haven't died so far ...I began screening the Turface to 1/16" - 1/4" after reading that this should not affect drainage adversely. It also reduced the wastage. There were a few instances where, after securing a 3/8" sieve, I substituted pine bark screened at 1/8" - 3/8" for the fir bark. Read that, due to the shape of the pine as compared to fir, that this was ok.)

fireduck: I hate to admit it but I probably washed the roots better than I wash myself. : ) I cut off the bottom third of the rootball and, using a strong stream from the hose and a chopstick I've heard mentioned, cleaned them thoroughly. Honestly, there was not a piece of perlite, a piece of bark or any other substance left. In this process, I discovered how easily you could overlook some 'gunk' lodged just under the root. And I kept them submerged in a bucket of water in between using the hose and chopstick. I might have been a bit rough in raking the pieces (primarily bark) out of the smaller roots but I wanted to remove all of the original soil.
I mounded the gritty mix, which was already in the containers, and placed the roots atop it, adding more mix until it reached the original level. As I added the mix, I worked it in and around the roots with that chopstick to eliminate potential air pockets. Before watering for the first time, I placed three dowels into the containers as supports for the trees. I tried to eliminate any movement of the containers, gently scooting them a bit so they could get some morning sun. (Temps have been moderate ... cooler than usual ... only had a few days in the high 80s.) At that point, I began the watering/fertilizing schedule I mentioned in the original post
A couple of last thoughts that might have had an impact. First, maybe I root pruned the trees too late. They were covered in bright green and healthy-looking leaves. Second, I did not prune any limbs (and they were full of limbs). Should I have taken off some of the limbs to make it easier for the roots to supply what they needed in adequate quantities? I guess I should have found this out first but I really got excited about this first venture into using containers.
That's all I can think of. Just checked this post for errors; can't believe how much I've rambled!! I need to try to add succinctness to my way of communicating.
Hope these ramblings haven't exasperated you. I really am looking forward to your advice.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 2:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

How much sun have they been getting since the repot? How recent was the repot?

Since they were leafed out when you repotted, they may be struggling to absorb enough water to compensate for what's lost from the leaves, and will continue to do so until the roots make some new growth. Make sure they're in a protected (shaded) location until they recover.

For next time, the best time to repot is shortly before they leaf out.


    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 2:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for your explanations.
As best as I can recall ... I should have kept better notes ... I root pruned and planted the trees (the ones that appear to be dying) around May 20. I kept them out of the sun for a couple of days and them carefully moved them to get morning sun daily After reading your message today, I moved them completely out of the sun.
I failed to mention that my initial fertilizing practice was different than what I'm currently doing. I held off fertilizing for the first two days. I then began feeding daily with water containing 1/4 tsp. of FP per gallon. Again, I thought it was okay to feed them at every watering. I then received advice that I should only feed them every other day. That schedule is what I am currently following: feeding every other day (one gallon of water containing 1/4 tsp. of FP) and one gallon of plain water on the alternate days.

Did I do the damage by over-feeding them at the beginning? Or maybe the sudden switch _ from daily feeding to every other day feeding _ caused the problem?
Am I not giving them enough (one gallon per day) water, given their weakened status?
I'm prepared to do whatever is required to save these trees. Am looking forward to all the suggestions I might receive.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 2:07AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

seems as above timing the repot is important , I did 2 citrus trees at the end of autumn/ fall :)

wrong time I found out as they are struggling to grow roots and even though I am feeding them best I know how are using nitrogen from their leaves so they are turning yellow and falling , they are using the older leaves to keep new ones going.

so just trying to nurse them through to spring.

so lesson for me is repot in spring.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 10:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks .
I've now learned two lessons:
1. In the future, repot in the spring just before the leaves appear.
2. For the present, move the ailing trees out of the sun (which has been done).

If I'm reading this right, the trees are having difficulty absorbing water (and the dissolved nutrients, I am guessing) and will continue to do so until new root growth occurs. And I would wager that this problem is not only due to repotting at the wrong time and keeping them exposed to the sun but also when and how much I've been watering and fertilizing.
I hate to impose more than I have, but would anyone recommend a proper watering and fertilizing regimen? (And please spell it out for me; I've already made too many critical mistakes ... mostly by misinterpreting what I've read and been told.)

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 2:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
chilliwin(EU DK 7)

I am one of the most silliest gardeners of GW :-). I love to share what I have learned here. I have grown Japanese Maple Beni Maiko in about 12 gal container. It is in the patio in the rain and sun I do not have problems except the strong wind and pruning. I do not have any skill of pruning Maple because this is my first time grown. I do not know about the future but now my Maple is very healthy. About 4 times I have pruned since I have grown it.

If you have suspicion of less watered or over watered. My suggestion is use a skewer. To water properly, using a skewer would be very helpful, I am able to monitor inside soil moisture with it. It is a tip from "Josh" he told me skewer is the eye. All my containers I have used skewers even though I have well-drain medium. This tip is one of the best tips I have ever got from GW. If you do not have problems of watering then please simply ignore my post :-).

Good luck

This post was edited by chilliwin on Sun, Jun 16, 13 at 9:21

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 9:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You're right. I have noticed a lot of gardeners who recommend using a skewer to determine when to water. My main concerns remain:
1. How much, rather than how often, should I water Japanese maples (the ones that are growing fine)?
2. Same question regarding fertilization.
3. Are there any special watering/fertilizing steps to follow for these trees that appear near dead?

As mentioned, I'm fertilizing with 1/4 tsp. of FP per gallon of water on alternate days. I apply one gallon of this solution to each 7 gallon container. Is this the right amount for trees?
Also, I'm strictly watering (1 gallon per container/no FP) on the other days. I will now begin using the skewer to determine when they actually need watering. But again, how much water should I apply?
(I read about the fast draining properties of the gritty mix. I interpret that to mean that, once the mix becomes saturated, any additional water applied simply drains away. If true, it seems that it would be impossible to 'overwater'.) So the question remains: how much water to be applied to each 7 gallon container? Is I gallon sufficient?

Finally I have the same questions _ amounts to fertilize and water_ for those larger ones that seem to be dying. (Comments have been made that these trees are struggling to grow roots and absorb water. My first inclination would be to apply more water and fertilizer to help them. But I simply don't know ... and I am asking for some help with these questions.)

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 12:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
chilliwin(EU DK 7)

I do not water every day, according to the skewer I water the plant and I do not fertilize regularly and properly too, I would say I do not fertilize. I give more attention on my chili plants so sometimes I give leftover fertilize-diluted water to the maple. On the same manner leftover water also just I pour on the maple and the other fruits trees and bush. Last week I got some wind damaged new shoots/branches, I removed them all.

Someone who has experiences with 5:1:1 may be giving you some tips of fertilization.

When I did re-pot my maple it had all the new red beautiful leaves, I untangled a little bit the roots and just planted in about 3 gal container.

First day at home after re-potted in about 3gal container on 8th April 2013:

20th April 2013 still in the same container:

17th June 2013 in 12 gal container:

Just to show the progress of my plant I uploaded the pictures to your thread, sorry.

Good luck to solve the problems.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 2:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
chilliwin(EU DK 7)

A link about watering.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to water our plants

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 3:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I've heard folks here recommend not fertilizing for 2-4 weeks after repotting, since the absence of fertilizer itself can stimulate new root growth as the plant tries to find the nutrients it lacks, and I have put this into practice myself. That said, it would be best not to keep fertilization at a bare minimum anytime your plants and you should not increase the dosage until they visibly recover, since the presence of fertilizer in the water will make it harder for the roots to absorb water. 1/4 tsp FP should be fine, do not change that.

A full gallon per each watering sounds like a bit much. No worries though since you don't need to worry about over-watering the gritty mix (presuming it's made correctly). As long as you're watering until you see run-off out of the holes in the bottom of the pot, you're fine. I don't think you need to change anything about your watering regimen. You can fine-tune it using the dowel technique, but I don't expect that'll do much for you. I think the shock of the repot is the crux of the problem. Maybe they'll get over it and maybe they won't. All you can do is to continue giving them care and attention, and hope for the best.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 5:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Alex and chilliwin, I thank you and the other contributors for your recommendations and support. Am going to ensure that the trees continue to be fed and watered at current levels without making changes that might create more stress. Alex's last two sentences pretty much sums it up. And if they don't make it, I am better prepared to take better care of future trees ... and there will be future trees.
A sincere thanks to all.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 9:14PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
"tapla" root pruning question
Hi Al, I bought another Brush Cherry, and wanted your...
Fabric Pots - Decor Question
Good afternoon everyone. I'm thinking of growing a...
Al's Gritty Mix -- A Learning Experinece
I came to this forum a few weeks ago in an attempt...
Culinary Herbs?
I need to buy some culinary herbs. Where is the best...
Repotting into 5-1-1 soil. Questions about 511 materials.
Hey all! I am a newbie with 5 container citrus. Right...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™