More Questions re. Al's Mixes (substitutions & fertilization)

aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)July 20, 2012

There are SO many threads about the mixes, some with "outdated" (I think) information - it's really hard to make sense out of it all. So I start yet another thread about Al's mixes. I appreciate any input!!

I think that I can locate the ingredients I need to make the mixes but I want to verify before I buy anything.

Ingredient substitutions:


I can't get (or find, anyway) Turface within an hour of me. There is a Napa store here. The Napa Floor Dry is a suitable substitute?


I'm not sure if the Tractor Supply here carries Gran-i-Grit but they do have the Manna Pro Poultry Grit. Good?


Jolly Gardener Pine Bark Mulch. It's okay? If I sifted it, the smaller pieces would be okay for the 5-1-1 and the larger for the gritty mix? (any too large pieces could be thrown in my gardens)

-or- (because I have just a couple plants that need repotting ASAP)

Better-Gro Orchid Bark from Home Depot (small bags)


Easy enough to find (though maybe only Miracle Gro - would any added fertilizers be a problem or would they dissipate quickly enough to not be an issue?)


Am I correct in thinking I do NOT need the gypsum, lime & epsom salts if I use the Foliage Pro 9-3-6 fertilizer?


Also, are these correct recipes:


1 turface

1 grit

1 bark (larger pieces than the 5-1-1)


5 bark (fines & partially composted okay)

1 peat moss

1 perlite



For most plants fertilize (FP 9-3-6) every watering with 1/4 tsp / gal, correct?

For succulents in gritty mix, do I fertilize (FP 9-3-6) less often or with a weaker solution at every watering?

Will outdoor containers of perennials be at a disadvantage in gritty mix during the winter? Will the gritty mix allow too much cold to the roots? I have some plants in containers that overwinter in potting soil. We get maybe 10 nights in the teens a year.


And I think that's all.

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

#8822 floor dry is a suitable substitute for Turface MVP - screen it for best results.

Manna-Pro is a suitable sub for Gran-I-Grit or cherrystone

Pine bark from 1/8-3/8 or fir bark between 1/8-1/4 is best.

The small amount of added fertilizer in some commercially prepared soils is helpful.

No gypsum, lime, Epsom salts required for gritty mix if using FP 9-3-6, but dolomitic lime should be used for the 5:1:1; especially so if your fertilizer should lack Ca/Mg.

I fertilize my succulents the same way I fertilize all my plants, and they always look great and have no problems. I use about 2 tsp/gallon/week when plants are growing well. In winter, under lights, I use 1/4 tsp/gallon at every feeding. This strategy works very well - it comers closest to how nature provides nutrients, but if you adopt this strategy it's important that you are flushing the soil each time you water. At least 15-20% of the water applied should exit the drain hole.

There is no disadvantage insofar as root temps are concerned when using the gritty mix, compared to other soils. A pound of down will be the same temperature as a pound of lead if you leave it in a freezer overnight.

Best luck. Keep us up on your progress & observations ..... and don't be bashful about asking for help.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 9:03PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

Thank you!! so much for your help. It's invaluable. Hopefully I'll be able to get more of the ingredients today - the grit may be the problem because the only place I'm sure will have it is 30 miles north of me, in the opposite direction I'll be traveling today. There is hardware/garden center/feed store I'll be passing that may have granite grit, at least in small quantities.

I have more questions (that need to be thought out completely) but I will be running myself fairly ragged this weekend so not sure if I'll have time to ask before [possibly] Monday.

-- I do have one specific question that I can't seem to locate an answer to with a forum search. I think I'll start a new thread so that if anyone else searches for the same information it will be easier to find.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 8:10AM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

I'm sure at this point I sound like a broken record but there's no need to track down the grit unless you really want the extra weight in your pots. The stuff is *very* heavy. If you have tall plants in small pots it can help prevent them from tipping over but if you have large plants in medium to large sized pots it will make them very difficult to move. You can substitute less dense products that will not hold water for the grit and still be fine. I use a combination of perlite and horticultural charcoal (lately in a ~25:75% ratio) in place of the grit.

1/4 tsp FP per gallon will be far too little fertilizer for annuals, vegetables, most fruit trees, etc. Anything that you want to see robust growth from will need more like 1-2 tsp per gallon at every watering depending on its preferred ppm N. You can find charts online for most plants using "continuous liquid feed programs". FP is 114 ppm N per tsp.

And (again with the broken record) also make sure that if you ever need to bring the plants indoors that you have a plan for the runoff with the gritty mix - especially if you stick with the grit and have very heavy pots which will make lifting them out of catch basins a real chore.

What are you putting in the mix? Do you have a water quality report? Usually you can get one from your county. The gritty mix is less forgiving of pH and alkalinity than some mixes and while I know Al has no problems with FP+Gritty I've had to take corrective action on all my citrus trees after a year of just FP+gritty. That's not a knock against the gritty mix which I still put all of my new plants into but just a warning. It will be less forgiving of suboptimal water quality than a dense mineral soil. You should be prepared to handle micronutrient availability issues if your pH/alkalinity are high.

Also after taking Al's advice and buying Marschner's 3rd edition I now believe that FP is very deficient in S and I would find some supplemental source of S when using the gritty mix if you don't have large amounts in your city water (unless you live in a place with a lot of air pollution - in which case your plants will grab it from the air).

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 11:24AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

FWIW - my water ranges in pH from about 8.5-8.8. About the only problem I see with nutritional issues is a little Fe deficiency (some slight chlorosis) when plants are indoors and as winter progresses. This, because of a tendency to not water as freely indoors as I do outdoors and some build-up of carbonates as a result. It's easily corrected by the inclusion of a little vinegar or citric acid in the irrigation water, or the inclusion of a minute amount of Sprint 138 in the fertigation solution. Sprint 138 is an Fe chelate specifically formulated for high pH applications.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 1:05PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

On Monday I managed to get the Napa Floor Dry and the grit. I have a bag of orchid bark and a bag of pine bark mulch. (Well, most of a bag of pine bark mulch, as my @1yo "puppy" ripped into it when I was gone getting the grit & Floor Dry...)

The only thing I haven't been able to yet find is the dolomitic lime and that's because I didn't want to buy a 50lb bag of it. Home Depot was out of the small bags, unfortunately.

I stopped by a thrift store after taking a child to the dentist yesterday and got about 10 small containers/cache pots and two very old fry (?) baskets - one with 1/2" squares and one with 1/4" squares. Since I got it all for $1.50, I was pretty pleased. I just wish I'd found something with 1/8" holes - though I have a small little "mesh" container that I can use.

Hopefully today I'll be able to spend some time sifting and mixing.



redshirtcat - I have not had my water tested for pH. That's something I do want to do, though I didn't know I wanted to do it until the last couple of weeks.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 8:29AM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

PS. the dolomitic lime will be used to make up some 5-1-1 with the leftovers from the bark for the gritty mix. The too large pieces of bark will be used as mulch.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 9:01AM
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Perlite can usually be bought in bulk from farmer's supply stores. It's much cheaper and coarser (a good thing) then the MG perlite. I buy 4 cubic foot bags for the same price as those tiny MG bags.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 1:19PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Find a smaller volume of garden lime wherever Espoma products are sold.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 6:15PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

^ Yes, they sell Espoma at Home Depot but when I went on Monday they were out of it. I'll be back there as soon as possible. As I discovered that same morning, they do not sell it at Lowes or Wal-Mart, lol.

The gritty mix is more vital than the 5-1-1, so there isn't a rush on the lime. I have a few succulents that I want to get in the gritty ASAP, everything else is doing okay as-is for the next little while.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 6:40PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

Okay, I made a small batch of gritty up and repotted my succulents. Phew. Screening the bark is a lot of work! I have questions about the bark sizes, though. I have searched but there are just SO many results from the search.

I'd thought, for the gritty, that it needed to be between 1/8-1/4. That's fine, I have a 1/4" & 1/8" screen. I need a smaller 1/16" but haven't gotten it yet.
In this thread: it seems that larger pieces can be used in the 5-1-1. Al posts with pictures about 6 posts down.

So what are the sizes for the 5-1-1? What's the difference (silly question) because the partially decomposed and the dust that sifts through the 1/8" screen?

Also, the pieces that passed through the 1/2" and not the 1/4" --- is there anything I can do with them?

Is there a good way to break up the largest pieces of bark? I bought a bag of orchid bark and about 98% of it is way too large (I think) to use as is.

Which of the fine screenings should I keep instead of dumping into garden beds? (all-dry, granite grit, bark)

Rhetorical question: where the heck am I going to store all these screened & sized barks?


    Bookmark   July 27, 2012 at 3:55PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

Okay, one more question (again):

For the larger size bark pieces, is it possible to make the gritty mix with all large particles? Say lava rock instead of Oil Dry, and course perlite/larger granite (or other rock) instead of small granite grit?

I am searching but I must never pick the best search terms because I end up with hundreds of results and it takes forever to get through them all. This particular query "large particles "gritty mix" "lava rock"" returned over 100 results.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2012 at 4:14PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Use a piece of aluminum insect screen for your fine screen.

the 5:1:1 mix is dust to 1/2", but you want most of the pieces under 3/8" if possible.

Pieces that pass 1/2 but not 1/4 go in 5:1:1.

Some people use a chipper or bag mower to chop the bark finer.

Don't understand the question above the one that's rhetorical. ;-)

You can make the gritty mix out of boulders if you want, but the larger the pieces the lower the water retention and the greater the effort expended by the grower. Ideal is to have the particles at or just above the size that ensures no perched water. If the particles were perfect spheres, that size would be about .100", but because of size irregularity it should be larger, so about 1/8" is the ideal lower limit. The upper limit is determined by your dedicated hand .............. on the watering can. We suffer a little imperfection in the size of the Turface (a little too small) so we're able to use a larger fraction of the bag, so we need to be careful about using bark or grit that's too small, lest we spoil the fun because we let that stinking PWT slip past us. ;-)


    Bookmark   July 27, 2012 at 4:34PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

Okay, fabulous. I have a lot that passed 1/2 but not 1/4.

What I meant by the one question is that I've seen to use the Turface screenings to cover seeds and I assume that I can use the Floor Dry as well so I would keep some of that available.

The bark dust is fine for 5-1-1 so I can put it in with the 1/4-1/2 sized bark.

There really isn't much waste with the granite but there is a little and I assume there is more near the bottom of the bag.

So I guess the only question is: is there a use for the "fines" from the granite or should I just dump it outside?


I have a chipper. It's temperamental, though and I can't start it. I think maybe I'll start pestering my husband to get it working a little better, I can sure use it!

Thanks (again! and again! and again!)

    Bookmark   July 27, 2012 at 4:42PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

All my kids are home after being scattered about at different aunt's and grandma's, so the sifting the pine bark has gone really slowly (read: come to a standstill). I got enough done to make gritty mix for my two succulents and my sansevieria and they are now in the gritty. I also stuck a couple of cuttings in the leftover gritty.

Thanks, Al! I'm sure I'll be back in this thread with more questions. :)

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 7:35PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

So I'm moving right along. I think, lol. I thought I'd write out my progress so anyone else who might have similar experiences or questions/concerns (at the end) can hopefully get some help in this thread.

PERLITE (5-1-1): I ordered coarse perlite through the Home Depot website. 2cf for about $17, with only $2 shipping. Waiting for it to arrive, hopefully this week. I made a small batch of 5-1-1 with sifted Miracle Gro perlite so that I used only the largest pieces.

PEAT MOSS (5-1-1): I have a bag of Miracle Gro peat moss, I also have a couple bags of potting mix that I will be able to use for the 5-1-1, if needed.

DOLOMITIC LIME (5-1-1): I found it at Home Depot Sunday, using only 4 tbsp to make up batches of 5-1-1 means it ought to last me for a while.

GRANITE (Gritty Mix): I located Manna Pro Poultry Grit at my Tractor Supply. It's all rinsed and sifted (hardly any waste at all) and awaiting use.

TURFACE (Gritty Mix): I had to use Napa #8822 Floor Dry. Tons of waste & dust. It's also completely sifted and awaiting use. I'll rinse it as I use it for batches of gritty, I didn't want to store it wet. I have quite a bit of waste, I'm not entirely sure what to do with it. I guess use it around outside for something.

FERTILIZER: I bought a small bottle of Foliage Pro 9-3-6 from Amazon, it should last a while.

BARK SAGA (gritty and 5-1-1):
I found a bag of pine bark mulch, which looked promising until I got it home where I saw a lot of the pieces were too big for the gritty mix and many too big for the 5-1-1. I'm still going to try running over it with my van to break it up a bit more.
This weekend I found "soil conditioner" at Lowes which, I decided after sifting about 1/2 the bag, has such a negligible amount of too large pieces that it doesn't need the large pieces sifted out. I probably got two cups of pieces that were just too big to fall through my 1/2" screen from 1 cubic yard.

-- when I was sifting the soil conditioner, I realized that I'd gotten confused with the first bag of larger bark and had been keeping out the 1/4" (hardware cloth) - 3/8" (fry basket, found at a thrift store) pieces for the gritty. Luckily I'd only made a small batch for my two succulents, so it shouldn't be too much of a problem until I can remedy it - I sifted what was left and removed the larger pieces.

..just to make sure I'm doing this right..
My sifters are:
*fry basket with 1/2" squares
*fry basket with 3/8" squares
*a piece of 1/4" hardware cloth
*a black wire mesh paper tray bought at Wal-Mart years ago (thanks to whoever it was who posted somewhere that he used the mesh
wastebasket - which I did have but it got broken ages ago). The paper tray has diamond-shaped holes around 1/8."

I sifted the Napa Floor Dry & granite through the paper tray, keeping only the pieces that didn't fall through.

Bark sifting:
*first through the 3/8" or basket, pieces that don't fall through go into the "5-1-1 bark bag." I could skip this step but I do it mainly to reduce the bulk I have for my next step.
*next through the 1/4" hardware cloth, pieces that don't fall go into the 5-1-1.
*next through the wire mesh basket, pieces that don't fall through go into the gritty mix bark bag. The dust & fine particles that do fall through go into the 5-1-1.
So I have sizes between approx 1/8" and 1/4" bark for the gritty and the 5-1-1 is the >1/4" and Sound good so far?

I have a few questions:
*I seem to have a LOT of dust & fine particulate in my 5-1-1 bark. I did make a batch but it's being used for a few outside plants and they dry out fast in this heat so I'm not too worried about it - it's still better than what they were in. I know I can reduce either the amount of peat moss or bark particulate to compensate for the [seeming] excess of dust, but how do I know how much fine matter is too much?

* Fertilizer: I do have Osmocote timed-release pellets that I forgot to add before I planted the outside plants. Can I top dress with them, maybe poke some down into the mix? If so, once they are used up I can just add more. If not, when I need to fertigate my outdoor plants, how often would I need to do that vs. plain water? I'll need to water (if no rain) most container plants every day in July, August & early September.

And.... um. I know I had more questions but I can't think of them at the moment.

Oh, I remember - it has to do with which house plants into which mix - but I'll think on it a little more and then ask later if my ideas are correct.

Thank you in advance!!! :D

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 10:36PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

Pictures of the 3/8' basket and mesh tray. (btw, in my previous post, I wrote '*first through the 3/8' or basket' but there shouldn't be the word 'or' in that sentence.)

My camera battery finally died so I can't take pictures of the mixes yet. I'll do that after it recharges.

I'm also adding a link to my photobucket album that will have all the pictures of the mixes & mixing 'utensils' - I won't delete the pictures for future reference for other people. It's been very disappointing when I come across some old links on the forum for images that have been moved or deleted. :) (as of this writing there are only the two linked pictures in it but I'll add more as time goes on)

Here is a link that might be useful: My soil-making photo album

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 7:47AM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

AND... somewhere I'd posted that on Sunday I bought a hanging basket of clearance Gerbera Daisies and separated them out into four pots with 5-1-1. So far they're doing very well. Not enough time for new growth but they're still perky & happy looking. Well, as happy as clearance daisies can look.

I also pulled a strawberry plant out of a strawberry pot Monday evening and potted it up in the 5-1-1, it's about three years old (it's just managed to hang on over the years) but only had three leaves. All the plants (3) left in that pot are small & not thriving - except for the bird's eye pepper that my husband stuck in the top. It's doing very well - the two "up" leaves are still up and the one limp leaf is not laying down on the side of the pot anymore.

So far the 5-1-1 seems to be doing well with those outside plants!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 7:54AM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

*sigh* I hate that there is no edit button.

^ When I say "it" is doing very well, I mean the strawberry that was repotted into the 5-1-1. I'd added the comment about the pepper plant after I'd written the post and neglected (as usual) to reread to make sure everything still made sense. (though the pepper is also doing well, it isn't the focus here -- yet)

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 7:57AM
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I could not get to your album, it is set on 'private'...I am not sure, but think you may have to set it 'public' in order for us to see photos? Correct me if wrong...Rina

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 8:31AM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

^ Ha, see why I need an edit button? I tested it and realized it needed a password but didn't want to make another post (yet), especially as there weren't any pictures in it yet.

The password is pottingmixes (same as the name of the album).

(I think I've finally figured out a way to make my zone not add crazy characters)

Here is a link that might be useful: My soil-making photo album (password is pottingmixes)

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 8:51AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Mike just asked the same question about the fines in the 5:1:1 that you asked. I make my soil like your grandma made bread - sort of by feel or instinct. Basically though, if the bark has a lot of fine material, I would reduce or eliminate the volume of peat included so I end up with baby bear water retention (just right). ;-)

You can top dress with the CRF - no problem. For your fertilizer applications - make it easy on yourself. I try to use FP 9-3-6 weekly in the summer at about 2 tsp/gallon on just about everything except well-refined bonsai, on which I use less because I want to minimize growth.

I'm off to visit my DD & family, then head over to Chicago for a few days. I don't know what chance I'll have to spend any time at the forums, so I'll see you guys when I get back, unless I borrow the grand kid's puter after lights out.

You're really making great progress!


    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 9:00AM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

In my post seven up from here (the long one, with "Bark Saga")
-- I said about 2 cups of too large in a cubic yard - it's actually in a cubic foot.

Al, have a terrific trip! and thank you for the "You're really making great progress!" comment.

I'm trying to get as much done that needs to be done, asap, because my kids start school on the 20th and I start on the 23 or the 28th. Weird, my college shows two different start dates (the 22nd & 24th, I have Tuesday/Thursday classes) on the website, I'll need to call and see which is correct. Once I start school, I'm afraid I'll not have time for much more than maintenance with my plants.

-- I'm trying to find the conversation where Mike had the same concern about the fine particulate but so far I haven't located it. If anyone has a link or thread name they could post, I would appreciate it!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 9:23AM
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Good morning, friends and fellow growers! :-)

I haven't had much time to post lately, my health an issue, but I wanted to quickly add a few things...

First, I believe if the growing/plant/gardening industry were not like every other, that being consumer and profit driven, there would be less fallacy and myth floating about, more freely available scientific information out there in simple terms, and more available bagged ingredients to give us more choices for our container grown plants.

Second, one of the first things any grower should learn is that growing in the ground differs largely from growing within the confined spaces of containers, with regards to environments, balances, and contents.

Third, while Tapla's well thought out science, physics, and other information, generously and freely offered, are only starting points, it is the CONCEPTS that are the important parts to learn. We need to know HOW the concepts work, and WHY.

The 511 or Gritty Mix recipes may have to be adjusted a bit to fit an individual grower's personal environment. As example, my own personal micro-environment will differ from slightly to greatly from anyone else's... possibly even from myself to a person trying to grow the same things down the road. And I think this is even more true when we're talking about indoor environments.

I've been growing things in the ground and in containers for literally decades, since I was about 13 or younger, to my age today... and I have 3 grandchildren! And it never occurred to me, listening to the advice of my own Grandmother and others, and reading many of the books available on the subjects, that growing wasn't just growing, and it wasn't the same everywhere... even though the same basic scientific principles apply due to the way all plants grow.

Mother Nature is a self adjusting cycle of birth, growth, reproduction, death and decay, all helped along through other components of Nature, such as tiny critters, microscopic fungi, bacterias, nematodes, various soil components, decaying detritus, and other factors... while a container is a completely different type of environment and requires our help to maintain or mimic what Mother Nature would do... which is nigh impossible, for the simple fact that we have no control over all the same factors Mother Nature provides, nor can we accurately maintain the same necessary balances.

Therefore, it makes such logical sense to me to go at growing in the ground or garden from a different angle than I'd use to grow within the confined space of a receptacle or container. I save organic methods for the garden, where Mother Nature can take over... and I apply a more inorganic approach to growing in pots.

Over time, I have come to the conclusion that not everything in printed form, nor everything heard, or sold at a local garden center is of benefit to me. There will be certain things I will need to adjust according to what I'm growing, where I'm growing it, and my own expectations on plant performance. I must be willing to sacrifice some things to gain others.

I sacrifice the convenience of watering less often for the knowledge that my plants' root systems are healthy and functioning as they should. Watering and fertilizing a little more often gives me the added benefit of being able to look more closely at my plants, and perhaps notice issues that I can adjust for or eliminate before they become problems... such as insects, dust clogging leaf pores, etc... just to give a couple of small examples.

By using a more stable, inorganic, and more aerated medium in my containers, I've helped to eliminate or lessen the margin of error when it comes to watering... and proper watering, as any good bonsai master will tell you, is the most important factor in container growing.

The abridged version is that I spent literally decades listening to sources and taking advice that had no basis or vetting in science and physics... and I'm not even talking about anything complicated. I struggled along, thinking the growing industry must have my best interests at heart. It just doesn't seem like a business that would be purely profit driven, does it? Well, unfortunately for us growers, the better part of it is like any other industry; it thrives on our mistakes and lack of knowledge to gain repeat consumers. In my perspective, and from my own experience, I find that the same applies to a lot of the products placed before us as retail customers, which are or can be sub-par, in my opinion.

To make a long story short, the first time I read Tapla's article on "Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention", it was like an epiphany! Everything he shared made such logical, rational, common sense! And I thought, "why didn't I ever think in these terms?!"

There was a period of adjustment, of course, as I learned what worked for me, within my own personal zone and micro-environment(s), but I'm a much better grower for having learned the basics!

There's no such thing as a "green thumb" or luck when it comes to growing in containers. It's all knowledge!

Since my own indoor conditions differ, I've simply adjusted the Gritty Mix to suit the environment I have to work within. My husband works closely with electronics and technology, which requires a drier environment. Therefore, I've had to add ingredients that will retain a bit more moisture for a bit longer... in other words, slightly changing the Gritty Mix recipe and ratio of ingredients to gain that which I need.

Since I only need small batches of medium at a time, I use the following ingredients:

1. ReptiBark reptile bedding - 100% fir bark, small bags.
2. Coarse Perlite
3. Manna Pro Poultry Grit - 100% crushed granite chips.
4. Turface - and/or a tiny bit of either peat, or a tiny bit of high quality bagged potting mix. (Never MiracleGro or Hyponex, both of which I take issue with due to poor quality and inconsistency.)

And though the basic recipe provided is always my base mixture, I may adjust it slightly to provide each type of plant I grow with exactly the moisture retention abilities I'm looking for.

My indoor humidity remains at or below 30%, which is quite arid. Unfortunately, that's what I'm forced to grow in. I use mainly the light exposure of an east facing window, supplemented by two T12 shop light fixtures, each with one cool and one warm florescent bulb, I believe they are. It's not the most professional setup, but it helps somewhat.

I grow a small, odd assortment of mainly Amaryllids, along with a few other plants, such as Hoya, Dendrobium orchids, a pregnant onion, a pony tail palm, Clivia, Plumeria, and a couple of Epiphyllum cacti, I believe they're called.

Anyway... substitutions in ingredients for such mixes can range from pumice to a NAPA oil dry product, from tree fern to many other items. It's really the CONCEPT of the mixes, HOW and WHY they work that is so important to know.

For growing potted/containerized plants outdoors, I go for a closer rendition of the 511 Mix. It helps my plants to maintain a little better moisture retention, and though it's normally not quite so necessary, as I keep a fairly close eye on things, we are experiencing drought conditions this year, along with much hotter sun, it seems.

I'm not sure if any of the information and/or experience I have provided can or will help, or have addressed any specific questions, but I just feel it's important to understand that no two growers will have the exact same micro-environments to deal with, which is something to take into consideration... that the concepts, the how and why of these more aerated, more inorganic medium mixtures is very important to understand... and that there will be an adjustment period for both you, as the grower, and for the plants you place in these mixes.

Patience is probably one of the greatest friends of the gardener, whether we're talking about gardening in the ground, or growing in pots. There's always a slight learning curve when we change tactics, but if we apply both knowledge and patience, we will come out a winner every time!

Remember... a "green thumb" is nothing more than knowledge, and "knowledge always breeds success"... a little saying we use in the dog breeding enterprise.

Happy Gardening!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 10:08AM
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"I now believe that FP is very deficient in S and I would find some supplemental source of S"

That is one concern I have about FP too. It has .05 Sulfur? I use a fertilizer that has 4%S once a week. There is no way I could question FP, can someone maybe explain why a fertilizer with 4% sulfur is not going to give any better results in reproduction as opposed to using only .05 sulfur?

I noticed that dyna gro's Magpro (which is a high P bloom booster so it is not good) has added sulfur in it, odd?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 12:52PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

I appreciate all the input!


I've been searching for ideas on which medium to use for which of my plants and I ran across this other, better-than-mine (ha) link about making the Gritty Mix. So I offer it up for other people who will need help in the future. For some reason I never ran across it in my searching & researching.

From this linked thread, I already got a great idea (again, because I think I knew this before and forgot it) for lining the drain holes of pots to retain the mix. DRYWALL TAPE! (the plastic/fiberglass mesh-type, not the paper/masking tape type) Totally awesome suggestion and next time I'm at HD or Lowe's I'll pick some up. Right now I'm using up an old piece of window screen that had fallen off the window and got stuck in our "junk" shed.

Here is a link that might be useful: Great link about making Gritty Mix

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 7:14PM
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Hello all...I don't understand why you all have issues with Foliage Pro?

None of my plants suffer if fertilized correctly. I have only had to use Foliage Pro on my plants and I am extremely happy with the results. Very strange.


    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 8:50PM
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Thats what I mean. FP is a great fertilizer used by many. I was more or less questioning a particular fertilizer I use. Why would it have such high sulfur levels? I think I could get better results with FP then my current fertilizer, I just want to know why some fertilizers have such high levels of sulfur.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 9:18PM
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I thought you did question FP; these are your words:

That is one concern I have about FP too. It has .05 Sulfur? I use a fertilizer that has 4%S once a week. There is no way I could question FP, can someone maybe explain why a fertilizer with 4% sulfur is not going to give any better results in reproduction as opposed to using only .05 sulfur?

Pls. correct me if I misunderstood.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 10:05PM
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I thought you did question FP; these are your words:"

Notice my second sentence, that you just quoted - "There is no way I could question FP,"

Thanks though.


    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 10:19PM
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Sorry MG,
I am confused by your answer (quoted one) - reading the whole paragraph, I find it contradictory...

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 11:31PM
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What is great is Tapla has showed me the myth of bloom fertilizer, so would be interested in that if a lot of sulfur is really needed or not.

I can see that FP is a great fertilizer, and I am wondering why some fertilizers have higher sulfur in it. Even someone suggested to use even more sulfur when using FP?

*Key point:
My "concern" with FP is the sulfur levels... FP is clearly a proven fertilizer already so there is nothing to "prove" here. How does it work so well with such "low" sulfur levels, or are they really low?- *The question I am asking here....

I am truly sorry if I may have seemed to be contradictive in any way. I was hoping to learn about plant sulfur needs.

Thanks though.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 12:17AM
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Thank you for taking time to explain, MG. Just trying to understand...

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 12:44AM
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"Just trying to understand..."

O ok, I see. :)

I will have to be more clear next time..................?

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 7:29AM
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Maybe I should have posted this as it's own topic?

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 7:37AM
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At the moment, I'm using plain old Miracle Gro plant food liquid, diluted down to about a half teaspoon or less per gallon of water, and I occasionally add micro-nutrients in small doses, as well.

I'd love to get on the "Foliage Pro express", so to speak, but plant fertilizer is the least of things on my current list of necessary purchases, as I just don't have the extra money. Plus, what I have is good enough for the time being, and I'm not throwing away the half bottle of liquid I already have. It's working fine.

I think as long as I add the micro-nutrients, and stick with the continual flow of available food, my plants will be fine. And one day, I'll run out of what I already have and go for the Foliage Pro if I can afford it.

Budget is always a concern for me, not so much for the soil ingredients because I'm way ahead on those items, having found them on sale in the past and purchased, but I've kind of been saving my pennies, knowing that one day I'll be ordering a bottle of Foliage Pro. I'm talking about real pennies, collecting in a Folgers can! :-)

The main idea, as far as I'm concerned, is to ensure that my plants are getting a nutritionally balanced, immediately usable, continually available supply of food... without over doing it so there's no waste or any health issues from using too much.

Watering as I do also ties in with the types of mediums I use. The margin for error has been lessened. As a precaution, I water with plain water about every 4th or 5th time I do water.

However, since I began using a rendition of the Gritty Mix, I haven't seen any salt buildup on the outsides of the unglazed clay pots I normally use, which tells me that part of what I'm doing is good.

I can clearly recall a time, back when I was using regular bagged potting soil or coco peat mixtures, when I would see crusty salt buildup on the outsides of those clay pots. I'd have to flush them way more often, and since the medium was so moisture retentive to begin with, I'd be drowning the root systems! It was a never-ending cycle of drowning, root death, drying out, root regeneration... and it took away from the health of my plants, eventually killing them or causing rot.

Anyway... it's taken me a bit, but I think I've found a good balance that works for me, considering the micro-environments I have to work with. Each plant is considered for its own needs, just like children, which are all individuals... and slight adjustments are made that work.

Again, I don't know if anything I'm saying is helpful, but I do know that we each have our unique situations to take into account. And if we do so, success should be within our grasp.

Oh! And it looks like we might get some much needed rain! :-)

Happy Gardening!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 12:30PM
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Great post jodik. I like dry soluble miracle gro all purpose. I get the 5 lb box with the 4 packs. I really save money on fertilizer using it!:) I use it 90% of the time along with another fertilzer that has the missing secondary macronutrients. Come to think of it- If I am only using the other fertilizer 10% of the time there for my plants really are not getting that much sulfur. So if I were just use fp 100% of the time; I would be getting the same levels of sulfur I am now but with less switching of fertilizer. Hey, just answered my own question! :)

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 5:05PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

Interesting observation (cross posted on House Plants forum). I repotted one of my anthuriums into the 5-1-1. It had been potted in a mixture of MG (potting soil? African Violet soil? I can't remember) and perlite - probably about 50/50. When I pulled it out of it's pot, I realized that much of the perlite had risen to the top 1-1/2" of the medium. There was a definite line with primarily heavier soil at the bottom and the lighter perlite & soil at the top.
Most of the roots of the plant seemed to be coiled around in the top part where the medium was lighter - with a higher concentration of perlite. Once I removed the soil, the roots were about 4" long but there had been practically none growing into the bottom 3/4 (approximately) of the pot. The roots all seemed healthy.

It was interesting. This plant had been potted into that medium about 2-3 months ago (I'd probably had it 2 weeks) when I removed & divided it from the pot I had bought it in.

I'm also really realizing that I seriously need to start keeping records about when I repot my plants because obviously my memory just isn't cutting it.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 9:33PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You may be assigning to perlite that which is probably more rightly attributed to gravity. I'll explain. Even if there was a consistent volume of perlite mixed evenly into the soil from top of pot to bottom, it wouldn't have much impact on either the drainage (flow through) rate, how much air the soil holds, or the height of the perched water table.
If you mix perlite into pudding, it doesn't increase aeration, drainage, or the ht of the PWT because the pudding simply surrounds the perlite and by doing so, rods of of any significant value UNTIL the perlite becomes a very significant fraction of the soil. Pudding + 15% perlite yields a medium with virtually all the physical characteristics of pudding, but perlite + 15% pudding is a different story.

In your case, when using the heavy medium, the soggy layer at the bottom of the pot would have been there anyway, but that's because gravity dictates that the water moves down in the pot until the capillary attraction of the soil is exactly as strong as the pull of gravity. The perlite, in smaller volumes, can't change that balance, but it does take up some space that would otherwise be occupied by water, so it reduces the o/a water retention of the soil without significantly increasing aeration or the ht of the PWT.

When using soils that don't support significant volumes of perched water, you get a much more even colonization of the soil by roots. Since the entire medium is well-aerated, you don't get the roots running round and round the inside pot wall looking for (growing only where there is ample) air, though roots will start circling if the planting is left to go badly root bound.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 1:29PM
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Posted by TheMasterGardener1 5B (My Page) on Wed, Aug 15, 12 at 12:52

"There is no way I could question FP,"

Posted by rina_ 6a Ont (My Page) on Wed, Aug 15, 12 at 22:05

I thought you did question FP; these are your words:"

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 12:20PM
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MG -

...don't understand your last post...Rina

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 2:44PM
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I am still hoping someone can explain why the sulfur levels are low in FP.

"Also after taking Al's advice and buying Marschner's 3rd edition I now believe that FP is very deficient in S and I would find some supplemental source of S when using the gritty mix if you don't have large amounts in your city water (unless you live in a place with a lot of air pollution - in which case your plants will grab it from the air)."

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 4:33PM
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I am referring to the post you made today (on Sun, Aug 26, 12 at 12:20) just before me answering/questioning you.

You quote yourself, then partially me, but I do not understand what it means...Rina

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 5:24PM
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"I am confused by your answer (quoted one) - reading the whole paragraph, I find it contradictory... "

I was showing How I directly stated I could not question a trusted fertilizer as I was asking about the low sulfur levels in it. I am questing the sulfur levels, but not fp it self. I did not want anyone to think I was saying anything against fp so I said "I could never question fp" So instead it turned "contradictory" from me just trying to be nice.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 5:33PM
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I didn't try to suggest that you arn't 'nice'...

In either case, I thought we cleared that misunderstanding (by me) on Aug. 16th. Today's post by you - this one:

Posted by TheMasterGardener1 5B (My Page) on Sun, Aug 26, 12 at 12:20

Posted by TheMasterGardener1 5B (My Page) on Wed, Aug 15, 12 at 12:52
"There is no way I could question FP,"

Posted by rina_ 6a Ont (My Page) on Wed, Aug 15, 12 at 22:05

I thought you did question FP; these are your words:"

didn't make sense to me.

As I mentioned before, I didn't understand what you are trying to say, and I still don't.

But please do not worry about it.

Just in case you may feel that I am challenging you or anything negative, I don't. I just have a habit of asking for explanation if I don't understand something.
But I'll try to refrain from doing so regarding your posts.
I have no desire to engage in any challenge.


    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 6:08PM
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Ok, so then we will leave it at- "I now believe that FP is very deficient in S and I would find some supplemental source of S when using the gritty mix "

So how much sulfur? Would gypsum do the trick? So FP is deficient in S?

Was hoping someone would asure me the levels in FP are high enough for fast growing plants in reproduction, but it is clear it may be good to add sulfur to FP.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 8:53PM
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I wonder if this forum has increased sales of Foliage-Pro significantly.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 9:05AM
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greentiger....I doubt it. It's not some miracle potion. There are so many others out there that are just like it and that also have minors. No matter how much this formula is hawked on the Plumeria forum most commercial Plumeria growers, authorities on them, Plumeria nurseries, etc.... that have raised 1000's every year for many years, in pots and in the ground,.... are not going to change what they know works for Plumerias just because 1 person says so. I've yet to find a single one that has ever used Dyna Gro in any formula.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 1:50PM
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