Houseplants in gritty mix-will I have to water every day?

tomatotomataJuly 8, 2012

I've been reading the posts about gritty mix for days now, and just when I'm about to repot I saw a post saying I'll need to water every day for a while. Can anyone confirm or deny this? Because daily watering could be a drag after a while.

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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

What happened to the water I applied yesterday? When thinking about how often you will need to water, think about how your water you added to the container is being used up. If you have a plant with a lot of foliage transpiring a lot of water into a dry air house you will have to make it up with more frequent water. The amount of water and how often it is added will depend on many factors and your approach should be flexible and plant dependent. Al

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 11:35AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If you're root pruning when you repot, and the roots of your plant only occupy the upper couple of inches of the soil mass, it might be best to water daily for a few days until roots begin to colonize the lower reaches of the soil. After that, there really won't be much difference in watering frequency between a well-aerated bark-based soil (like the 5:1:1 mix) and the gritty mix.

For a while, there was a campaign of intentional disinformation being waged against the well-aerated soils so often discussed here. GW eventually made some 'adjustments' and those waging the campaign were prevented from doing so, and things have been rather peaceful since. Still, some residual fallacies linger, and to some degree the disinformation continues on other forums - usually by one or two individuals, neither of which have any experience using the gritty mix.

What Al said above is true. The fact of the matter is, when you take steps to improve aeration and eliminate as much perched water as possible, the reduction in water retention means more frequent watering. You can't have it both ways, except to the extent that the gritty mix uses ingredients that allow you to ADJUST water retention by increasing the volume of particles that hold water internally (the Turface). That way, you sacrifice very little in the aeration offered in macro-pores, so it's a healthy way to increase water retention.

You really need to weigh the pluses against the minuses and decide if the gritty mix is for you. If grower convenience is more important than plant health, you might want to stick with a more water-retentive mix. I would say that the year round average watering interval of established plants in the gritty mix will range from every 2-6 days, with by far the largest % falling in the every 3-4 day slot.


    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 9:22PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

As the Als say it depends on the plants and the growing conditions.

I will say this: when growing citrus trees under T5 or HPS/MH lights indoors sometimes I must water them daily in the gritty mix or they will begin to wilt. This is not the case for all of the citrus trees but for the larger trees daily watering is necessary. Outdoors sometimes twice daily when temps are 90-100 or so. With grow lights indoors the ambient temperature can climb to 95 or so if I don't vent them.

Since your plants are indoors and presumably at around ~70ish degrees without supplemental grow lights and since you aren't likely to be trying to produce a crop of anything you will probably water less than I do - but more than you're used to.

Make sure you've considered a plan for runoff if you're using the gritty mix indoors. If you're dealing with any sizable plants the pots will be quite heavy if you make it using Al's typical recipe which means that emptying any catch basins can be quite a chore. I use a battery powered siphon pump like this one.

If the plants are large I use charcoal+perlite instead of granite. If they are small/medium I stick with the granite for the added weight.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 8:16PM
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OP here - thanks for the input. I went ahead and repotted in gritty mix on Sunday and watered. Watered again on Monday. Tuesday I smartened up and tested with a wood stick, and decided not to water. Today (Wed) I gave them a drink. Since they are smallish pots, I take them outside to drain, but it's kind of a pain to do while I'm rushing to get ready for work. Fortunately, I'm retiring soon :)

Root pruning: I intended to, but after gathering the materials, shifting, and rinsing, I plum forgot. They weren't in terrible shape, although had I remembered, I would have taken off some of the older and damaged roots. Would it be beneficial now to pull them out to root prune, or should I leave well enough alone? I fear another shock so soon after repotting might be too much.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 6:31PM
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