Low cost soil mix for fabric containers?

nullzero(9)September 18, 2011

I am in the process of phasing out regular plastic containers for fabric containers. I have quite a few fruit trees and for the first stage I would need 200 gal of soil mix (fill in the 10 x 20gal fabric containers). The cost of a nice potting soil mix would be very expensive to fill in all the containers.

The big question is;

Could I grow healthy trees in a mainly compost mix 2/4 of coffee grounds and green manure, with perlite 1/4 and pine bark 1/4 ratio in fabric containers?

I was hoping the fabric containers aeration and design would prevent the mainly compost mix from turning to muck and depriving the plants of air.

Anyone have some advice or first hand experience with this?

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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Other than common garden soil, your cheapest choice would be Al's 5-1-1, with 5 parts pine bark fines (mulch), 1 part sphagnum moss and one part perlite. I used that mixed with about 15 percent finished compost in smart pots for veggies this summer and spent less than 50 cents a gallon to make it.

I think you will kill your plants with coffee grounds and green manure. Those need to be composted first or they will burn the roots.

Here is a link that might be useful: Read about 5-1-1 mix here

    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 4:09PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I'd skip the manure & coffee grounds as soil ingredients in containers - especially the coffee grounds. If you're going to have the containers resting on the ground, you're essentially growing in a raised bed (hydrologically speaking).

If you have the pine bark fines, it's going to be tough to find anything cheaper, as Robin points out. IF they are on the ground with the earth acting as a giant wick, just about any mix of pine bark, coarse sand, and peat will work well, but if they are on concrete or any other non-wicking substrate, you should be SURE you have adequate drainage & aeration.


    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 9:42PM
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Thanks for the replies. Ohio, the coffee grounds and green manure were going to be composted before use.

Al, I will work on creating a batch of 5-1-1. Adding composted coffee grounds in small amounts into the mix should be ok (5-10%)? Wanted to add them in since they are free and add trace minerals and nitrogen to the soil.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 11:37AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I sure wouldn't.

Coffee grounds are far more detriment than they're worth.

Not only are they incredibly weak and unreliable as a nutrient source, they also contain
salts. The primary problem with coffee grounds in a container is the impact on drainage.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 12:17PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I'd be looking for a free source of shredded tree limbs or bark, say 1/4 inch size. Sometimes these are available free in larger cities. If necessary mix in a small amount of finer material to increase water holding capacity.

If you can't find free search for the large scale suppliers that deliver truckloads for landscapers. Get in the right material and compost it a year ahead for the next repot.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 3:07PM
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Thanks for the replies, looks like I will just stick to using coffee grounds for the in ground garden. I have been using small amounts of coffee grounds mulched around the trees (guess I will stop using it).

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 4:15PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

About coffee grounds in containers - something I posted to another thread on the soil forum:

Forum discussions frequently center on the question of adding dilute coffee/tea or grounds to plants as a 'tonic', but Arabica (coffee) and Camellia (tea) are known for their toxic alkaloid (caffeine) content and their allelopathic affect on plants as well as autotoxic (poison to their own seedlings) effects on future generations. Caffeine interferes with root development by impairing protein metabolism. This affects activity of an important bio-compound (PPO) and lignification (the process of becoming woody), crucial steps for root formation.
We also know that the tannins in both coffee and tea are known allelopaths (growth inhibitors). There are ongoing experiments to develop herbicides using extracts from both coffee and tea that cause me to want to say they might serve better as a nonselective herbicide than as a tonic. I would not use either (stale coffee or tea) by applying directly to my plants - especially containerized plants; nor would I add tea bags/coffee grounds to my container soils.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 8:29PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

This past spring I researched our local mulch suppliers and found a place that had ground pine bark mulch for about $30 per yard. That's 200 gallons!

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 1:42PM
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