Another Al's Mix Question

bmerryman(5)June 10, 2010

I am transplanting tomatoes and peppers to fifteen identical 10 gallon containers (it's all I have). I have never grown anything in a container, so this is my first go. I have purchased the appropriate components and Foliage-Pro 9-3-6. A couple questions:

1. Do I still need to add the lime to the mix since the Foliage-Pro already contains the Calcium and Magnesium? My lime doesn't indicate that it's dolomitic but I see magnesium listed in various forms. I believe one was magnesium oxide (11%) and can't recall the other (carbonate?) but it seemed like it was a low percentage (4% maybe).

2. Since the mix drains so well and my containers are large for peppers, I am thinking of growing 2-3 peppers per 10 gal container. Does that make sense or will the competition for light/space cancel out the economy of having 2 plants in one pot?

3. Can you tell me if I'm correct in that my next steps are: Plant. Keep watered. In roughly 2 weeks apply the first 1/4 diluted fertilizer application. Continue appropriate watering and bump up the fertilizer to 1/2 diluted when the growth becomes robust. Add Pro-TeKt 0-0-3 once the fruiting stages start.

Appreciate the help.

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I tried Al's Mix with disastrous results, but the fault was all mine. I simply did not water enough. The plants did not wilt, but instead turned brown at the growing tips. At first, I thought it was pH, then I thought it was too much fertilizer, then I thought it was too little manganese, then too much light. All of the plants were slow-growing and unhealthy. They never wilted, so I never thought I was underwatering. Stupid me.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 10:24AM
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What mix are you talking about? The 5.1.1mix? If so, yes..

Your mix will be to acidic to begin with..The purpose of the lime is to raise your pH to acceptable levels too.

What does it consist of?


    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 11:47AM
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Mike: My mix consists of:

10 cubic ft pine bark fines
2 cubic ft sphagnum peat moss
2 cubic ft perlite
3 3/4 cups of lime (will be added now to raise pH)

I am mixing a little extra perlite into the containers destined for peppers to make it a little faster.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 1:26PM
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I would only put two peppers per pot, but that is just my preference. I like them big, and besides, they take up alot of root room and water by mid-summer..

As for fertilizing, if your as good as I, and fertilize everytime you water, why would you want to go higher than 1/4 when they are already robust?
Your plants will use the same amount and rid the excess anyway..
Also why are you going to wait for two weeks before you start? I would fertilize asap..
Your fertilizer choice is nice and so is your mix..

That is what works for me..:-)I bet your peppers will perform well, unless I am missing something..


    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 2:25PM
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Mike: Thanks for your responses. You asked,
"Also why are you going to wait for two weeks before you start (fertilizing)?"

I thought I recalled Al recommending this somewhere. Perhaps it was a different set of circumstances. Thanks for clarifying.

"As for fertilizing, if your as good as I, and fertilize everytime you water, why would you want to go higher than 1/4 when they are already robust?"

I thought I gleaned from reading through prior discussions that 1/2 dilution was ideal but a waste when the root systems hadn't filled a majority of the container; therefore, a 1/4 dilution was more logical and less wasteful. Your answer leads me to another question. I was under the impression that watering requires more frequency than fertilizing. You're saying I should fertilize every time I water even on high temperaturer and/or windy days?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 3:05PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Your best fertilizing strategy depends on the soil and your watering habits, with fast soils and copious applications of water when you irrigate offering the most options. Use your judgement, but I've used these 3 strategies for soluble fertilizers in summer:
Full recommended strength about every 2 weeks
1/2 strength weekly (my usual in summer)
1/4 strength every time you water or twice weekly (my usual in winter, but at 1/8 strength)


    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 3:36PM
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Excellent. Thanks, guys. I am very pumped about growing these. I think I'll probably go with the 1/2 strength weekly since that's what you typically use in the summer and I'm in a similar zone (Fort Wayne, IN).

A side note. I only started reading this forum recently and am very impressed with the information and speed of responses. I really feel confident and am sure I saved many hours of frustration by investing my time here.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 4:11PM
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imstillatwork(8-9 Oregon Coast / Ca Border)

I agree! I would have given up year one if I did not find this forum! Rading from Mike, Al, Al and others have been MOST helpful.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 12:40AM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

I agree too!
If it weren't for Al (tapla) and Mike, I would not be using containers this season, or have trees. My garden would be 1/4 of what it is, and me unhappy.

Mike encouraged me to learn Al's Mixes, and I couldn't be happier!! (Thanks Mike!! (hug) )

I read all I can here about the Mixes, knowing I will learn something! And when it doesn't sink in right away, I am very greatful Al is patient. :)

My husband, who doesnt garden, is impressed to , and gladly picks up the materials I need :)

I agree with Mike on the Peppers. I usually plant 1 in a 5 gal. container. 2 in a 10 would pretty much fill it by the end of the season.

Best Wishes!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 1:46AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

And I agree with the above, too! ;)

I've grown peppers in 1 gallon, 2-3 gallon, and 5 gallon containers.
The 2-3 gallon are the most convenient for the grower, but often at the
cost of a reduced crop. If a healthy crop is important, go with a 5 gallon.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 12:09PM
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I really do enjoy the gritty mix for my for houseplants and for young container citrus. I'm having a great difficulty with the mix on bearing fruit trees, they are sucking up water too fast in my zone and wilting at the same time. The same tree in the same mix, without fruit, does beautifully for 3 days without watering.

I don't know how the citrus will do when covered in large fruit, but they may be fine since the fruits take longer during the size-up stage (several months vs. a couple).

In my area, if you use the gritty mix in an unsealed terracotta pot it requires watering everyday even for non-fruiting trees.

I use the mix with a smaller granite (#10 size) and extra Turface/Napa (about 20%) and it's not enough during summer for the larger trees.

The great thing about the mix is the ability to adjust it, though. I'm also experimenting with CHC/turface mixes.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 11:35PM
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Al wrote: "Your best fertilizing strategy depends on the soil and your watering habits, with fast soils and copious applications of water when you irrigate offering the most options. Use your judgment, but I've used these 3 strategies for soluble fertilizers in summer:
Full recommended strength about every 2 weeks
1/2 strength weekly (my usual in summer)
1/4 strength every time you water or twice weekly (my usual in winter, but at 1/8 strength)"

Al, please clarify something for me. Foliage Pro suggests 2 tsp for every 2-4 weeks, 1 tsp for weekly, and 1/4 tsp for every watering.

The 2 weeks and weekly are consistent with what you've used, but their rec for every time you water is 1/8 strength.

I've been using it as they suggested - 1/4 t/gallon every time I water. Is this too low? I've not noticed a problem, but I don't want to get into August and find out that I'm way behind.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 7:36PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I really haven't paid a whole lot of attention to what they recommend. I mix in 2 - 2-1/2 gallon watering cans. I add 1 tbsp + a little overflow (maybe an extra 1/2 tsp) 9-3-6, 1/2 tsp MgSO4 (for plants in the gritty mix), and the occasional dose of Sprint 138 because Fe uptake is a bit of a problem with high pH water ..... and apply weekly.

I only fertilize the plants I over-winter indoors every time I water (takes 3-4 hours to fertilize everything in containers outdoors - to long to fertilize every time I water - daily for most plants). I use 12-15 drops of 9-3-6 per gallon for plants under lights, which is about 1/8 tsp. I don't think your 1/4 tsp (of FP) is off the mark for outdoor plants in summer.

My plants stay nice & green, grow well, and never show any signs of stress from too much fertilizer, so I'm pretty happy with what I've settled on (for me).


    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 8:44PM
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Al -- I'm about to transplant some tomato seedlings into 3-gal containers inside under lights and do not have time to wait 2 weeks for the mix to balance. How can I give them the calcium they need in the meantime? I have a CalMag product, but I'm afraid that if I use it, it will prove to be too much when the lime gets to work.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2010 at 5:03AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I wouldn't be too concerned about it. Someone posted an excellent article about BER in tomatoes (and I'm assuming other plants) that explains why it's most often a phenomenon largely related to things other than the Ca supply, particularly to growth rates. I'm at work & can't access the link from here w/o a bunch of research, so I'll post it when I get home ..... unless someone else knows what I'm talking about and posts a link in the interim.


    Bookmark   December 1, 2010 at 10:31AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Apparently there is some problem with the site's security certificate, so I'll just post the entire article:

Blossom End Rot (BER) in Tomatoes

by Carolyn Male

Subject: Blossom End Rot

Blossom End Rot (BER) is one of the most common tomato problems seen in the early part of the season. It is a physiological condition, not a disease caused by a fungus, a bacterium or a virus. Therefore it cannot be treated. And as I'll explain below, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to prevent.

BER has nothing to do with the blossoms, it refers to the fact that at the end of the tomato opposite the place where the tomato is attached to the stem, called the stem end, is the bottom of the tomato, which is called the blossom end. You often can see remnants of the blossom attached to that end as the tomato forms. At the blossom end one sees a flattened area that looks leathery and initially brown and then black, as the fruit rots.

BER is said to occur when there is uneven watering, drought, heavy rainfall, excessive nitrogen fertilization, rapid plant growth or root pruning during cultivation, high winds and rapid temperature changes. So lots of conditions have been associated with BER. But the rapid plant growth and nitrogen fertilization are both common to conditions seen early in the season, and indeed, that is when most BER occurs. Then it usually just goes away.

BER occurs because under the conditions just stated, Ca++ moves from the fruit into the vasculature (stems) of the plant. Or, some feel that Ca++ never reaches the fruits because under stress demand for Ca++ exceeds supply. This lowered amount of Ca++ is what causes BER. Excessive rates of transpiration (kind of like sweating in humans) also is involved in Ca++ displacement. Thus, the plant as a whole is NOT Ca++ deficient, the Ca++ has just been displaced. Many books and magazine articles tell you that by adding Ca++ in the form of lime or eggshells, for instance, that you can prevent BER. That does NOT appear to be true. University field trial experiments have so far failed to show that BER can be prevented by addition of Ca++. Peppers and many cole crops are also susceptible to BER and there's quite a bit of literature on BER and Ca++ for those crops also. The results are the same; addition of Ca++ does not prevent BER.

Some data strongly suggests that foliar spraying with Ca++ is of no use because not enough gets to the fruits to do any good. And it's known that the sprays for fruits that are sold are useless. No molecules can get across the fruit epidermis. If they did, just what do you think would happen to the fruits when it rained.

Not all varieties of tomatoes get BER. Some never do, others are horrible. That's not surprising since certainly there are slight physiological differences between varieties. After all, almost all garden tomatoes, with the exception of the currant tomatoes are in the same genus and species, Lycopersicon lycopersicum. And we humans are all in the same species, Homo sapiens, var. sapiens....and look how different some of our physiologies are. Whoa!

So, BER is a physiological condition, cannot be cured, and current literature data suggests it cannot be prevented. It occurs on some, but not all varieties of tomatoes, is usually seen early in the season and then stops, for most folks. It would be nice to say that you could even out your watering, prevent droughts and heavy rainfalls, ensure even and not rapid growth of plants and not disturb the roots by shallow cultivating. But on a practical basis, I think we all know that's almost impossible. So, BER has never bothered me, I just ignore it, and it goes away with time.

Adding Ca++ to soils that are Ca++ deficient makes sense, but few soils are. And if soils are acidic, Ca++ is not taken up well but addition of Epsom Salts to the soil can aid in Ca++ uptake in such acidic soils.

Many folks add Ca++ and then see that BER disappears. What they fail to realize is that BER is going to go away anyway, as the season progresses. And that's because as the plants get larger they are better able to handle the many stresses that can induce it. So one cannot correlate addition of Ca++ to disappearance of BER. Universities have done so many studies on this already because BER is a billion dollar problem in the commercial veggie industry.

Of all the stresses that can induce BER the two that are most under control of the home gardener are fertilization and water delivery. That is, too much fertilizer causes plants to grow too rapidly and is perhaps one of the major causes of BER developing. Too rich soils do the same thing. Plant growth simply outstrips the ability of Ca++ to get to the fruits.

Mulching to help ensure even delivery of water can also be done and is also one of the two major causes, in my humble opinion, of BER. BER appears usually on half ripe fruits but also can appear on grass green ones. Lack of Ca++ only occurs at the blossom end of the fruit and it causes tissue destruction which leads to that papery grayish/blackish lesion appearing. Now sometimes that lesion opens up and fungi and bacteria enter and that causes the rotting and also the appearance of fungal growth on and in the lesion.

Just pick off any BER fruits that appear and soon the next fruits to ripen will BER-less.

Many books, magazine articles and websites still say to add Ca++ as lime, eggshells, etc, and seem not to be aware of all the research that has been done in the last 20 years. But many books, magazine articles, are now sharing this newer information about addition of Ca++ not being able to either prevent or cure BER except in rare situations of low Ca++ soils or acidic soils.

I suppose it will take another generation for the right information to be present everywhere. And from my own experience I can tell you that there will be folks who will get madder than can be when they read this kind of info because they simply believe otherwise. So be it. Addition of modest amounts of Ca++ aren't' harmful, but I feel strongly that folks should know what's going on with past and current research re BER and Ca++.


Carolyn J. Male, Ph.D., retired as a professor of microbiology from the College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York. She is a major voice on several internet tomato forums and message boards. Her articles have appeared in Kitchen Gardening, The American Cottage Gardener, and The Historical Gardener. She is the author of the book entitled, "100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden". Dr. Male scientifically -- and lovingly -- has raised more than a thousand different varieties of tomatoes in her zone 5 garden in upstate New York.


    Bookmark   December 1, 2010 at 1:21PM
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