Various Clarifications on Gritty Mix and 5-1-1

jcaarkJuly 16, 2010

I am quite new to this forum, and I have benefitted from the collective wisdom available here tremendously. I have searched the boards to make sure I don't ask any redundant questions (hopefully), but I have a few questions regarding the gritty mix and 5-1-1 and container growing more generally.

I hope these questions aren't overly tedious, but I am attempting to grow japanese maples in containers, and I am rather paranoid about messing something up.

1. Is there any container size limit for using either the gritty mix or the 5-1-1, or will either of them work regardless of container size (I am growing japanese maples in medium to large containers)? I know Al uses the mix for bonsai, but I wondered if anyone uses it for larger containers.

2. Is there any reason to use 5-1-1 over the gritty mix other than for short-term plantings and cost? I know Al mentioned using the 5-1-1 for plants grown seasonally, and said that he used the gritty mix for his "woody" plants (I took this to mean trees). But I recall reading somewhere that one member uses 5-1-1 for younger trees, and gritty mix for more mature ones. Is there any basis for the latter distinction, or is the only difference seasonally-grown v. long-term?

3. The "official" rendering of gritty mix only calls for screening the bark and turface, but other postings have mentioned screening other parts as well, such as the gran-i-grit (or silica sand substitute). Is there a consensus on what parts to screen, or an official "Al" opinion. If other parts are to be screened, I am assuming different screen sizes are required for the different components?

4. Must the gran-i-grit be crushed after purchasing, or does the recipe simply used "crushed" to describe the gran-i-grit in its purchased state?

5. Other forums have mentioned "Schultz Aquatic Plant Soil" as an alternative to Turface. Is this still a readily available alternative? Also, is the DE (I forget the long-form name) a suitable substitute? Some say DE is not hard clay like the Turface, so it may break down, but some say it is ok to use.

I think that is all for now. Again, I apologize for the length and for being overly technical. I am perhaps overly paranoid about doing something wrong and damaging the trees.

Thanks a lot,

Josh

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

1) Al uses the gritty mix for containers he needs help lifting, and Al is hale. ;o) There really is no upper size limit, even for small plants if you're using a properly made gritty mix because it holds no (or very little) perched water. You need to be a little more cautious about the 5:1:1 mix - especially because there is a wide range in what you end up with as far as porosity/drainage, depending on what goes into it.

2) Over the long term, the gritty mix will outperform the 5:1:1 mix, but they're so close over the short hauls that I put anything 1-seasonal in the 5:1:1 mix. It's easier to make in large volumes and it's much less expensive.

3) It depends on what you use. I screen the Turface because of a size issue. The bark and granite I use are pre-screened, so I screen them over insect screen just to eliminate the dust. That's important to me because I grow many plants in pots an inch deep or less. I need to minimize every form of stress on those plants I can, and can't afford to have a thin layer of sludge at the bottom of these containers. It wouldn't make much difference in the deeper containers most of you would have your long term planting in.

4) "Crushed" is my own term. No 'crushing' is required as it comes in small, pre-screened pieces. I suppose granite chips would be more accurate, but I've noticed that habits are first cobwebs - then cables .... and so I'm prolly tied to 'crushed' unless I make myself think hard about it. ;o)

5) Schultz Aquatic Soil = Turface MVP.

Calcined diatomaceous earth is a little different than Turface. It holds more water (on a size for size basis), has a better CEC, but also has a higher pH. Like unproven sources of calcined clay, calcined DE should be checked for stability by freezing in water over night. If it remains stable, it's ok to use.

FWIW - I have a lot of maples (heavy on the Jap maples but also plenty of tridents & others) in the gritty mix, and have been enjoying very healthy trees for a long while.

Your turn. ;o)

Al

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 2:31PM
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jcaark

Thanks a lot. I really appreciate the timely and helpful response, especially coming from the man himself.

Actually, I left out one other question I have. Based on my reading, some members have cautioned against "re-potting" after a tree has begun blooming or leafing out, but seem to think that "potting up" (I assume that means moving the tree to a larger pot) is acceptable basically any time. Is my understanding correct on this point?

Again, I really appreciate your generous help, and I look forward to trying the gritty mix.

Josh

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 3:34PM
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meyermike_1micha(5)

Actually, I think they are well thought out and very good questions..

It shows to me that you have been doing quite a bit of reading and research to ask such different questions..I like that!

Mike

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 4:02PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

".... some members have cautioned against "re-potting" after a tree has begun blooming or leafing out, but seem to think that "potting up" (I assume that means moving the tree to a larger pot) is acceptable basically any time. Is my understanding correct on this point?"

'Potting up' is indeed bumping a plant up in container size with no, or minimal, root disturbance. There needs to be some qualification of the idea you don't repot while the tree is in leaf. That almost always applies to temperate deciduous material, but of course it wouldn't apply to evergreens or tropicals. Evergreens are all over the place, as far as when the best repot time is, and tropicals are best repotted in the month prior to their strongest growth, which varies with latitude and local cultural conditions (if you keep them outdoors). You don't include your zone or a large city near you in your user info (hint hint), so it's difficult to guess when that might be for you. I'll be finishing the last of my tropical tree repots this weekend (only 3 to go), but I'm finishing late this year. I would have liked to have them done by the 4th.

Al

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 6:06PM
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jcaark

Al- Thanks for the hint; I remedied my zone secrecy. At this point, I'm just dealing with the deciduous maples though. I was just wanting to make sure that potting up wouldn't be a problem this late in the year. But I'm sure it wouldn't be as bad as leaving them in the slightly root-bound state they're in now.

Mike- Thanks for the generous comment.

Josh

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 6:51PM
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watchnerd

What about 5:1:1 vs gritty for bamboo (the real stuff, not the 'Lucky Bamboo') growing in 18"-24" diameter planters?

Bamboo are sort of woody, sort of not. And they grow fast enough that sometimes it's 2 years between repottings, but other times only 1 year.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 8:59PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

When you repot the species you're growing - how do you treat them? Do you divide the clump or start over with a few new plants from the perifery?

Al

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 11:14PM
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