Gritty Mix / 5:1:1 - Newbie Questions
I've been an avid Miracle Grow Potting Mix user for years... with the occasional exception (Scotts Premium Potting Soil). However, this year I have many more containers than in previous years, and with the addition of winter sowing, I've come to realize just how much it has cost and is going to cost me. Because of this, I'm debating whether or not to start mixing potting mix from scratch in hopes that it will be at least equal or less than the cost of retail mixes with the added benefit of increased drainage, lack of salts, and durability.
From what I've been reading, both the 5:1:1 and gritty mix have better drainage than big box retail brands; the gritty mix having the most. I'm assuming that the 5:1:1 is better for single-season plants such as annuals and veggies, and the gritty mix is better for those that require superb drainage and/or will be potted for several seasons. And now the questions:
For winter sowing, which is better: gritty mix or 5:1:1?
Can products such as Espoma Garden Tone be added to the mixes in addition or instead of the Ozmocote? I'm thinking it is better in the 5:1:1 and might wash out of the gritty mix?
What brands of pine bark fines are people using? I haven't seen the first product labeled "pine bark fines" or "pine fines". I've seen plenty of pine bark mulch (not nuggets), so what brands are the most reliable for the size required? I know of Reptibark, however, at $25/24qts (online) it is a bit boggling, considering I'll likely need more than six bags if I make the 5:1:1 mix.
Are there alternatives to Turface? I can't seem to find it anywhere, and with the waste material that is included, I think it might be a little out of the price range. I've read about the Floor Dry and similar products, and hearing a few stories about them crumbling has pushed me away some. Is Espoma's Soil Perfector a suitable product?
#2 Cherrystone shouldn't be a problem. I'm sure one of the local feed stores would carry it or something very similar. However, just in case, does anyone know of a source of Gran-I-Grit in Virginia?
Does the gritty mix stand up to freezing temperatures? Does it freeze more easily than the 5:1:1? Another reason I'm a bit hesitant to consider the Floor Dry (and similar) material is what would happen if it froze while wet. I can just imagine it crumbling to itty-bitty pieces... or mush.
Which mix is best for house plants, or can they both be used?