Peppers didn't like 5-1-1, suggestions, comments?

naturemitch(3/4 WI)August 30, 2012

Hi all-

I have had a rough year with my pepper plants in the 5-1-1 mix. With help from esox07, we have pretty much narrowed it down to bad/slow draining of the mix. A couple of things I did not do this past spring was....screen the mix, add lime, and/or reduce the peat due to a high ratio of fines in the pine bark. This is what my mix looked like this year (this was at the bottom of a 3 gallon container after at least 5 days of no added moisture)

So, I just went out to the garage and screened some pine bark. This was the same brand of pine bark that I used earlier this year, but remember I did not screen the mix this spring. Below is the mix screened thru a 1/2" screen, and the stuff that did not go through.

Couple of questions. I have heard of others not adding peat to their mix due to there being enough fines in the pine bark. Do you think there is enough fines in my screened mix to NOT add peat? How does this pine bark look overall?

Would those big pieces of bark in the above photo create havoc in the mix if I did not screen them out of the mix (kind of what I did in the spring)?

Finally, how detrimental was it to not have added the lime?

Overall, I think I know what some of my issues were, but I am looking for help in getting the mix right the next time. I sure don't want to lose a whole growing season with more bad choices:( Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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The lime is pretty essential. Your bark also looks very uncomposted.. were your plants stunted / overall pale green/yellowish? I'd strongly suspect nitrogen tie-up in that case, unless you were heavily fertilizing.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 10:42PM
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naturemitch(3/4 WI)

Yes, stunted...but more so in the black plastic containers. We had a number of clay pots as well and those plants seemed to fare better. Of course, we had a rainy June and I fertilize with Foliage Pro...I was so afraid of keeping the soil saturated I think I then starved them!!

You mentioned my bark looking uncomposted, exactly what does this mean for my mix? Higher foliage pro dosing? Lime playing a bigger part then in composted bark?

Thanks for your help!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 11:22PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Count it as a learning experience that probably illustrates why the concept is more important than the recipe. The good part of that is, you understand how to avoid a repeat. You now have a better feel for what too many fines can do when you have no control over Mother Nature's watering technique, and can't fertilize properly due to excess water-retention. I never screen my 5:1:1 because, so far, I've always been able to get a product with a favorable % of fines, but if I thought the volume of fines was excessive, I'd screen it over 1/8" or reduce/eliminate all/part of the peat if I thought it a plus. As noted, the lime is fairly important - especially if you weren't fertilizing regularly.

Actually, if you'd known what was going on with the excess water retention, you might have been able to do a few simple things that would have eliminated or reduced considerably the impact of the extra water. See the link below and pay particular attention to wicks, partially burying the pot, and tipping pots after irrigating or during prolonged rain


Here is a link that might be useful: Dealing with excess water retention.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 2:36AM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

I think I had the same problem with too many fines (as I said in my one of my threads).

Is there a picture of the proper 5-1-1? I've seen tons of pictures of the gritty mix but have done some searching for the 5-1-1 and haven't been able to find a good picture.

Greenman (Josh) has the video, right? It was great but no clear closeups of the mix (because it's a video, of course).

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 6:53AM
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Here is a couple of close ups for you. I hope you do much better next time around. I too went through the same thing as you when I first started using the 5.1.1 mix. Don't feel bad.:-)

These three pictures have un-composted bark mixed in and I like it. I make sure to fertilize on a regular basis. The first two pictures is what the mix looks like wet.

This is a view before it's even used, before it is watered. The very light coating of white you see is the lime.

This last one is the unaltered version with just composted bark.


    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 11:34AM
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Naturemitch...It seems to me that in the batch that failed, you have too many big pieces of bark and too much fines. A bad combination.

What happens is that the fines gravitate towards the bottom leaving you with just the large pieces towards the surface giving you an enhanced perched water table. The tricks Al showed you can do wonders if you find a re-pot is a pain.

If you compare the bark pieces you used along with your penny and the bark pieces I used and my penny, there is a huge difference. I did not have to sift my bag of bark at all. Maybe you could find a supplier that supplies smaller pine bark pieces or a way to crush them smaller, like using a lawn mower? I never tried that but have heard many do.


    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 11:41AM
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In general, I have found that orchid bark is the right size. Black Gold and Sequoia are two brands.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 11:53AM
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naturemitch(3/4 WI)


If you look at my 2nd pic, I have screened out all pieces of bark that were larger than 1/2". Is this the picture that you think looks radically different from your mix? What are your opinions on using the pine bark in the 2nd pic?

We are very rural and in searching high and low in the sprigtime, only came upon one source of pine bark. I have about 7 bags of this stuff, so would like to be able to make it work. I still need to add perlite to it, but am really thinking about lowering or totally leaving out the peat.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 6:14PM
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Nature, well well, I never saw the second picture! My computer fooled me. It only downloaded the first and third ones... Thank goodness you are not using what didn't pass through the screen.

It looks doable! If you find that using that mix with perlite still holds too much moisture, you could use an insect screen and get rid of the very fine particles.
It looks like with perlite you might be very happy.

Don't forget to use lime and moisten the mix before filling up your pots with it so that the peat sticks evenly to the bark throughout the whole pot.

Live and learn, right? I think you are on your way to a very productive mix for you and your plants. :-)


    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 6:56PM
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naturemitch(3/4 WI)

Whewwww! I was hoping there was some possibility of using that bark:) I mixed in the perlite earlier tonight and I really liked the consistency with no added peat. Will give that a go. I will be re-potting a couple of my peppers that I wish to overwinter, and I plan on using it on my cyclamen.

I really appreciate your help! And I did add the lime:)

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 10:30PM
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I think to place it neatly into one sentence... it's the CONCEPTS of the mediums that are important to understand.

I'm very lucky in that I have a large overhang on the east-facing garage in front of which I do most of my container growing outdoors. When weather promises to be very inclement, I pull the pots further into the garage until the weather gets better.

Other variables I had to deal with this season, that are unusual, were intense heat and sun. Even though many of my garden planted plants were moist enough and fed, the leaves still showed burn and/or wilt due to this unusual heat and hot sun. If Mother Nature was having a tough time of it, even with my help, I know my potted plants were having a more difficult time.

So, knowing and understanding the concepts of the mixes I use, and knowing that I had other different environmental variables to deal with, I did ok with the extra shade from the garage overhang. Anything in pots out in the hot sun all day, without anything to shade it, burned and wilted horribly.

Here in the Midwest, we didn't have to deal with excess moisture from rain... we barely got any! I watered all containers by hand, and was forced to use soaker hoses in the gardens a lot earlier than normal.

I'm very glad I learned how and why the 511 and the Gritty Mix work... and can adjust them to suit a number of variables that might only apply to me and my unique micro-environments.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 2:27PM
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