Transitioning to 5:1:1 ?

DMForcier(8 DFW)August 30, 2012

I am currently (and happily) growing hot peppers and herbs in MGMC. I want to move a few of these plants to 5:1:1.

So how and when to transition a plant growing in a peat-based soil to growing in a (mostly) inert soil? The peppers and chives will be overwintered.

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In spring would have been best.

Maybe take the roots and wash them with water to get the fine particles off.

For my peppers I use potting mix or promix. House plants I use 511. I would never use potting mix for house plants ever again!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 5:59PM
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DMForcier(8 DFW)

MG, waiting until early spring would be my first instinct. Well, second; my first would be not to mess with the root ball.

But I see that in Overwintering advice, some recommend cutting back the roots as well as the foliage. I've tried cutting back foliage only once: that plant died. But then, the plants weren't so big and lush as this year. I may have to start hacking.

So it seems to me that another option is to do the transfer in November, when I take the plants in and hack at them.

A third option would be to leave the core root ball largely intact - maybe loosen it up some - and fill out the pot with mix.

You'd go so far as to take them down to the bare roots? [shudder] I worry about physical damage re-packing them...

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 6:15PM
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I'm assuming you don't have much a growing season left? In the spring, you can remove them from their pots, remove as much soil as you can, and then severely root prune. There are lots of root pruning strategies, but I think the most important thing when you're starting out is to be a lot more severe than you think you can be.

The way I do peppers is to first cut off the bulk of the foliage so it's easier to handle. Then saw off the bottom half of the root ball. Soak the rest of the rootball in a bucket of water for a couple minutes. Use a strong stream of water from a hose spray nozzle To remove as much of the rest of the soil from the roots as you can. Prune off woody or tangled roots so you have a well distributed root system. You can use a screwdriver, a bent fork, or whatever other tool you have handy to tease out the root system... the real tool that bonsai people use is called a root hook. Another strategy if the root ball is extremely dense is to cut out little slices or sectors of the rootball, as if it were a pie. Once you're satisfied, use the spray nozzle to make sure you've removed any loose root debris. At this point I soak the root ball in a mycorrhizzal inoculation solution for 30 seconds or so, but this is obviously not necessary.

Hold the plant in the empty pot to figure out at what height you want the stem to emerge from the soil. Take note of the lowest level the bottom of the root ball reaches. Fill the pot with moist 5:1:1 up to this level. Then add a couple of handfuls of soil into the center of the pot to create a small mound in the middle. Hold the plant at the junction of the stem and the roots, at exactly the level you want the plant to end up. The bottom of the roots should slip into the mounded mix, which will help support it while you finish up. While holding the plant there with one hand, or with a helpers hands, slowly fill in the rest of the pot with 5:1:1, being careful to distribute the mix evenly around the roots. You can tap or shake the pot to make sure the soil settles in and there are no egregious air pockets. Then water lightly but for a long time, such that the mix is completely moist.

Then hard prune the top.. peppers can handle and benefit from severe pruning at the beginning of the season. I usually remove all the foliage except the just emerging juvenile leaves, if there are any. Place the plant in a cool, shady place, and progressively increase its exposure to sun as the new growth emerges. Wait a week or so before fertilizing. Fertilize weaker than normal at first.

Sorry if I went into pedantic detail anywhere, I really don't know what kind of experience you have. No offense intended in any way.

Good luck! And if you want to see this technique taken to the extreme... check out this amazing bonsai chile site:

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 6:18PM
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DMForcier(8 DFW)

GT, I can usually grow well into November. We might get some quickfrost, but throwing a light cover over the plants protects them well enough. By Thanksgiving, though, it's pretty much over.

> "Sorry if I went into pedantic detail anywhere"

No, that's great! I consider myself a journeyman grower - in soil. But for what you're describing I need the pedantic detail.

Thank you !

Btw, it sounds like you overwinter with full foliage, then prune (i.e. hack chop) in spring?

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 10:16PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I dig up or re-pot my peppers in November, right about the time that nights are getting cool.
If I remember, I prune a couple weeks prior to digging/re-potting, so there's some new growth
already flushing when I put the plants into their Winter containers.

I remove all the old soil to help get rid of any pests that might be harboured there.
I put the plants into smaller containers, as well, to ensure that the mix dries out,
and so that the plants are easy to place near windows, move around, and warm. I wait
about a week before resuming fertilization for the pepper plants, starting at 1/4 or 1/2


    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 10:38AM
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Yup, just wash the soil off under water.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 12:29PM
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DMForcier(8 DFW)

MG, that's the strangest looking pepper I've ever seen.

Is it from Africa?

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 12:43PM
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lol I never said it was a pepper? ;)

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 1:24PM
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Yes, that's what I do DM. If I need to throw covers over the peppers, I do cut back some for convenience. But I don't hard prune until spring because the plant mass insulates from potential frost injury, and there's less overall die back. If I defoliated, the nude stems would die back much farther. Even if some stems die, I try really hard to not prune them off until spring.

In mild winters, the hot peppers will keep growing and producing all winter in my climate. Bell Peppers nearly always go dormant. Because our climates are so different, my advice on the timing of the repot may not be the best.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 2:03PM
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I do know it is about peppers. Plants are very the same. They all do good in the 511.!!!

I am sorry DM I have no pics of peppers in the 511.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 6:08PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Here's a Thai chile that I dug up and bare-rooted before re-potting in 5-1-1....

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 3:59PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

And here is the same pepper, a month later (December)....

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 4:02PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

And here it is in April, after the Winter indoors....

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 4:14PM
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Josh! That is a beauty buddy!

Tell me, in the winter, how do you winter your peppers? Do you grow them under lights or in windows? Sunny ones and let them keep growing, or make them go dormant. little light?

I want to follow your foot steps. You have the most amazing pepper plants. I already use the 5..1.1 for mine, now to get the rest of your care under my belt;-)


    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 4:27PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey, Mike!
I just put the plant on the window-sill, or as close to the window as I can manage.
They keep growing foliage, which I prune throughout the winter for a more bonsai/houseplant effect.


    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 4:55PM
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