5-1-1 needing daily watering - too much?

Wrekkless(7a)June 7, 2013

Happy Friday!

I have my first group of vegetable seedlings planted in a 5-1-1 mix (similar to PJ's modified 5-1-1) as follows:
4.5 parts - pine/fir bark fines 1/8"-3/8"
.5 parts - pine/fir bark fines 1/16"-1/8"
.5 parts - Perlite 1/8"-3/8*'
.5 parts - Perlite 1/16"-1/8"
.5 parts - Napa Floor Dry 1/8"-3/8"
.5 parts - Napa Floor Dry 1/16"-1/8"

I have tomatoes, peas, and greens (lettuce, mesclun, and arugula) planted with the first batch of mix that I made. I water thoroughly and everything drains very nicely. I picked and ate my first ripe tomato yesterday and it was amazing!

As our weather has finally started to warm up and be consistenly in the 80s, I'm finding that I have to water daily. I use a long skewer in the container to check for moisture, leave it there for a bit, and it comes out dry every morning. I'm pretty certain that as the summer progresses and we hit the 90-100 range with our dry summers (Utah) I'll need to water 2-3x a day to keep things alive. Watering daily isn't a problem for me, but more than that I think I'll end up missing sometimes (ok a lot of times).

I use Foilage Pro 1/4-tsp/gallon every watering and add ProTekt for the tomatoes.

Is this much watering good/bad, normal, too much fertilizing? Should I cut back on the FP at every watering since it is daily, and only use it a couple of times a week?

I am getting ready to make up more potting mix for the rest of my seedlings so are there tweaks I could/should make to my mix so that it is at least lasting a day between waterings?

Thanks for any suggestions/advice!


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chilliwin(EU DK 7)

I really like 5:1:1 but it needs tweaking according to the climatic condition, container size and the location such as indoor or outdoor. From my point of view 5:1:1 is a reference of a good container soil. I do not know how many of you understand my English :-), English is not easy for me. sorry.

I have grown my vegetable in 3:2:1 they have grown so well. The container size is about 23 gallon and the temperature is around 20C. It has no problems in the rain and the heat. I have grown chilli and stem cabbage, the cabbage are awesome and the sunburned chili plants are also getting a lot of new leaves. I have grown tomatoes in smart pot in 3:2:1 both of them I do not water everyday.

Taking advice from someone who lives in the similar climatic condition will be very helpful.

Sorry, I cannot give any opinion except the above experience I had.


    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 12:46PM
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Thanks - I agree that it things need to be adjusted according to one's particular climate. I'm just not sure quite how to do it right :)

That's great that your tomatoes, chilis, and cabbages are doing so well. It's so rewarding isn't it?

And by the way, your English is great. Looks like you are in Denmark, so it is definitely much better than my Danish (my grandparents are from Denmark, so I learned a couple of Danish children's songs as a kid but that's about it;)

Thanks for taking the time to reply with your experiences.


    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 1:00PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Let me ask a stupid question. Why did you leave out the peat?? That's the main water retaining ingredient. I had to even add an extra part of peat for additional water retention. With that mix you will definitely be watering 'at least ' once per day, if not twice. Your particle size resembles more like the gritty mix.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 1:22PM
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Hey Ed,

How's it going?

Not a stupid question at all - I was experimenting! My experience with peat in the past haven't been all that pleasant (dries up and then won't rehydrate - of course that could be user error). PJ had mentioned in one of his posts that he replaces the peat with Turface and felt it had better water retention plus that it lasted longer than with peat (more than 1 season), so I thought I'd give it a try. I have a big unopened bag of sphagnum peat moss, so this time around I'll give that a go.

Again, you are there to answer my watering questions - thanks!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 1:39PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

No problem. FWIW I've had great luck with peat in the 511 mix with almost no drying out/rehydration issues. Even if the mix dries out (which is does from time to time,) all I have to do is rough up the surface a little and the water goes right in.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 4:24PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a


My question is what size containers are you using? (I hope I didn't miss it!). If your containers are 5-gallon or better, you shouldn't *need* to water daily. You might need to shade the containers from the sun's heat...but not water necessarily.

PJ is also growing in Florida, and needed something that would hold its structure better with all the rainstorms. As others have said, you'll probably want to tinker with the recipe to get it just right for your climate.


    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 5:33PM
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Ed - thanks. It's good to know about your success with the peat. It might have been the combination in the other potting mixes that I've used in the past. They would be a soggy mess at the bottom and at the top, the peat would dry and strangle the poor stems and then not hydrate when I would water. I haven't tried it in the 511, so I'll give it a shot. I'm sure my plants will thank me.

I've read of people using the gritty mix for tomatoes and peppers...I wonder how they do it without having to water so much.

Josh - You didn't miss it :) My tomatoes are in 5-gal or bigger containers, peas are in 3-gal and the greens are in 2-gallon containers.

There is definitely no perched water at all in the containers with this mix, which is great, but definitely going to need something that will retain more moisture for our dry climate.

Do you think it would be possible to add some peat to the ones I already potted to help them out a bit? I've just recently got them in the containers in the past few days, so I could probably carefully get them out without too much root disturbance (I hope) and add some peat, then repot...?

Thanks to both of your for sharing your insights and wisdom :)


    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 7:19PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

If your climate is hot and dry and your plants get alot of sun, suggest trying to repot them and use, let's say, 5 parts of the mix you have, and add 2 parts peat. Even at that, your tomato plants when they are large and growing fast, will drink a 5-10 gallon container almost dry on a long hot summer day.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 8:13PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

My container tomato is in a 15-gallon container, and I keep it in a plastic tub so that I can fill to about an inch in the bottom....which gets wicked up in short order.

I would incorporate some peat, but make sure it is evenly distributed. The moisture from the turface and the bark ought to keep the peat from becoming hydrophobic.


    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 9:54PM
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Thanks Ed and Josh - I'll do a 'repot' and mix in peat this time. Thanks for the suggestion on the ratio too, Ed. You anticipated my asking ;)

I was thinking of doing a test with some mix in a container w/ no plant to see how many days it takes to dry, but you make a great point, Ed. Makes a huge difference when you have a thirsty, growing plant in the container.

Josh, when you say your tom container is in a tub that you fill to an inch with water and it gets wicked up, does that mean you only bottom water?


    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 10:13PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey! Sorry for the confusion.
I top-water until the water flows out the drainholes and fills up about an inch of the tub. I also flush the pot and dump the water occasionally so the soil isn't always wicking back up the salts being flushed.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 11:52AM
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Got it - that makes perfect sense. I'll bet that saves wear and tear on that spot on deck, too, Thanks for the photo of your set-up. Visual aids are always great :)

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 1:39PM
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I live in 9b, mediterannean climate that is extremely hot and dry. I have had great sucess with standard 5-1-1, however you need to cover the top of the mix from direct sunlight if you want to place them in full sun for maximum growth.

I leave about an inch of space in the top of the 5 gallon terracotta pots that I use for peppers. Mulching the space with hay covers it from sunlight and allows air flow for oxygen. It causes the pot to dry out evenly instead of top-to-bottom and significantly slower, (which is not necessarily beneficial). By "significantly," I mean about 400% slower, as in I went from watering once a day to once every 4 days.

This is useful for my climate which can easily cook a mature container plant to death in a single afternoon if you are not careful. However it should not be applied until temperatures are in the extremes and it must be removed (at least partially) when fall approaches.

In a climate that almost eliminates the possibility of small containers in full sun, this is the best advice I have to improve moisture retention and keep temps down.

HTH, Phil

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 4:47PM
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Thanks for the suggestion, Phil. I've repotted and mixed in some peat, adjusted the amount of bark and perlite to keep the ratio at about a 5-1-1.5 and so far, things are MUCH better. Right now, with temps in the 80s, am watering about once every 3 days, so I figure that as things warm up and the plants get bigger and sucking up more moisture, it'll probably move to every other day or possibly daily when we hit over 100. But this is definitely more manageable and the toms look much, much happier. I'll keep your hay suggestion in mind should things start to dry out too quickly again.

Thanks again for the suggestion :)


    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 5:27PM
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