Amended 5-1-1 for annuals

spaceman13(6b)August 20, 2013

I do hummingbird gardening and grow many annuals. Some I overwinter in 5-1-1, and it works great but I have to water every day and sometimes twice a day. Even so, I often come home from work to find my plants slightly wilted. I cant help to think that this stresses the plants and negatively effects nectar production.

I'm thinking I'm going to alter the mix to be a bit more water retentive. I am less concerned about the eventual break down and compaction of the soil components, as it will only be used for about 6 months.
Should I add more peat, or add turface (which might be prohibitively more costly), or perhaps use vermiculite rather than pearlite?

I'm going to do some experimentation, but I thought if someone had already cracked this chestnut, It might save me some time, effort and money.

Thank You in advance,

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fireduck(10a) are definitely thinking correctly. You might consider Napa floor dry which is a more accessible and cheaper option than turface (it does not get mushy). The heated lava rocks that you mentioned perch water as well. Experiment....

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 10:15AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

How large are your containers?
I'd be inclined to just use a larger container. Or...go with 2 parts peat, which is what many others have done.

Is your 5-1-1 exact? Are all bark pieces smaller than 1/2 inch?


    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 12:36PM
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Josh - that was my first thought as well.....maybe just need to use a larger container :-)

I have to say I grow a lot of annuals in containers in what is essentially a 5-1-1 mix and because of the container size, they don't even need to be watered every day. And we are having a particularly warm and dry summer this year. The only containerized plant that is the slightest bit water hungry this season is a cherry tomato.........and at 6+ feet tall, I think it's because it has just outgrown its root room in a 20G nursery tree pot!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 5:51PM
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Thanks GreenMan and GardenGal!

Unfortunately it is not within my budget to spend several hundred dollars replacing my pots, so I figure my best course of action would be to modify the soil mix until I can get bigger pots.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 10:07AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

How large are your containers?
I'm still curious as to why they're drying out so quickly.
I have several plants in 5-1-1 in less than a gallon of mix, and I water those every 2 - 3 days, even in our dry full Summer heat.

Are you sure that you are thoroughly saturating the mix when you water?


    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 11:27AM
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I do not know the size of the pot other than "too small", and the plants are in full sun...not just 6 hours full sunrise to sunset full sun! I'll have to admit I did not think the Salvia Guaranitica 'Black and Blue' would do so well and get so big in in pots. I was told that in pots they would only get 2/3 of their normal size (3x3). I should have known that using Al's methodology they would exceed that estimate. They are over 3 feet tall already.

Yesterday I was talking to my neighbor, and she gave me 4 big plastic planters, she got from Big Lots. She got them then decided they were hideous (plastic wood grain), and did not want to use them. I'm going to use them for the 'Black and Blue' Salvia next year. It's a start.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2013 at 10:55AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Ah, yes, large plants will suck up a LOT of, by season's end, you will be watering more often. I have a pepper plant that has gotten huge in little more than a gallon of soil, and I lightly water that plant every morning...or else it wilts at midday. Smaller plants, in similar volumes of mix, don't require as much water.....but it's a labor of love.


    Bookmark   August 23, 2013 at 8:17PM
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Yes, it DOES suck up a lot of water. The root mass is probably big enough to choke an elephant. I was going to try to overwinter it in the garage, but it would probably be rootbound by the end of next year

I think I'm going to store it in my garage for the winter, do a bit of root pruning in the spring and pop it in a 22 liter (5.8 Gallon) pot next year, and hope for the best.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 6:08PM
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