Help! Al's Gritty Mix: crushed granite alternative?

rubyjchangOctober 19, 2011

I am highly suspecting the presence of a root rot agent (fungi maybe?)in my MG soil. As a beginner gardener, I have been reluctant to make my own potting mix because I am afraid of messing up the proportion/pH of DIY potting mix. But, after the death of another gardenia (which is previously doing wonderfully, until transplant into this awful soil, this happened twice already), I am bound determined to try out Al's Gritty Mix. I am very excited, since it seems perfect! Great drainage, durable, and fungal-gnats discouraging.

However, I am having the hardest time finding Gran-I-Grit, chicken grit, cherrystone #2 online (I am currently a college student, and does not drive yet, so it would be very difficult to go out and find things).

Is there possible alternatives to crushed granite? (gravel, aquarium rocks/pebbles, lava rocks)

Thank you so much for any input and help! I greatly appreciate it.


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First of all let me say that you are making a GREAT choice in your endeavor to set your Gardenia in an alternative more appropiate mix, just as all mine are in.

I have found that perlite can a great substitute if screened. Some use small crushed stones, Silica course sand, a (#10 filter gravel), as long as the sizes are appropiate.

Good luck


    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 5:56PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Mike's right. Any material in the 1/8" size range that has no internal porosity can be substituted.

Where do you live? It would be helpful if you added that to your user info (like my 'z5b-6a mid-MI').


    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 9:06PM
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speaking of course sand. i was going to pose the same question. where do i get this sand? i read somewhere that i can use builders sand. is this the same thing? when i went to HD, I found paving sand, quickcrete and sandbox sand. Can I use any of these? I have a bag of medium size quickcrete at home...i'm thinking that i can and should not use it, but i'm not sure. the learning curve is still rather high. :) I live in Los Angeles, CA.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 1:19PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The sand mike referred to would be more like what most would call fine gravel - 1/10" or larger. Think BB-size or a little larger still.


    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 3:20PM
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Builders sand and the others you mention are not good choices. I have never found what I needed at HD except for perlite which is also something you could use.

Why not check a pet store that sells aquariums, a Bonsai shop or pool store? I found my bag at the local pet shop and a store that supplies pool supplies. Oh, and my last bag was bought at my Bonsai shop.
The sizes Al speak of are of utmost importance and anything smaller than that should be kept out of your containers.

Good luck;-)


    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 3:34PM
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I got mine at Tractor Supply Store. It is Manna pultry grit.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 4:13PM
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Hi Al, I am in Zone 6.

It�s so cold and my fragrant plants are mostly all tropical. My little college condo is filled with plants crowded by the window. In winter, with the windows closed, there is not really great air circulation, thus controlling fungal gnats is a battle (but I do find that the mosquito dunks recommended on this forum are working? Maybe).

I heard that Al�s Gritty Mix is wonderful for drainage (which is absolutely key) and keeping fungal gnats away and unhappy so I am eager to try. Locating ingredients are sort of a struggle though. Online sources are so hard to find.
So far, I have located Manna Pro poultry mix and Repti-bark (the small bag? because forum said that small bag has the more correct size). The turface I am still looking for the right size at a more reasonable price. All of these are found on ebay (which is great because all shipping are USPS). It is just such a hassle to get ingredients online, especially since only USPS shipping is convenient for the college address.

I hope that I can find the ingredients for a better price one day though (I am just going to start with making a little bit of the mix at this time). My research technician position is supporting my gardening hobby~ ah, stingy college student (hobbies shouldn't be supported financially by my parents).

As far as gardenia transplantation, how is the transplantation into Al�s Gritty Mix? Is there any tips? One forum member yellow thumb (?) commented that the Gritty Mix transplantation of gardenia from a previously peat based commercial mix is a pretty big shock to gardenia (due to such great change?).
I am quite frustrated with commercial mix right now, I use to not have a problem with MG, but I guess this bag is just horrid (many transplanted plants suffered). But I can definitely see that MG mix is horrible at drainage (I had to add a lot of perlite and that still doesn�t solve the problem). I really am suspicious of root rot fungus in that bag.
Thank you Al and Mike! You guys are awesome!


    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 8:30PM
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Hi Ruby

You will see that fungus gnats find the gritty mix very hostile. I have never had an issue with gnats in my gritty mixes.

Yes, the mix is superb in nature and my plants are vigorous growers because of that.Locating the ingredients I found to be a challenge, but a very rewarding experience for both my plants and I.

The small bag is fine and will serve you well. Just make sure the particle sizes are roughly about the same, or just a tiny bigger than the rest of your mix ingredients.

I wash off all the roots before ever putting my gardenia into the gritty mix. It does NO harm them at all, and in fact my gardenias take very kindly to this. You will have to make sure that the gritty mix fills in between ALL the roots. Pack it in well, use a chopstick and push all the mix in and around the roots. You can also use the pressure of water to make the mix fall in between the roots.
Make sure you keep your mix moist after your done.
MG has always killed my gardenia, and despite the negativity you hear about gardenia not taking kindly to a transplant into the gitty mix, it is quite the opposite. They do respond well to a transplant into the gritty mix if done depending on how you do it.

Hope your plant does well.



    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 8:30AM
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Hi Mike! Thank you so much for your help!

I have a couple more questions:

1) In one of of the post somewhere on the forum while I was reading, Al mentioned if you use foliage pro you don't need to supplement gypsum and Epsom salt since Foliage Pro contains all the macro and micro nutrients. I am wondering does that pertains to the Gritty Mix as well? I don't need to add the tablespoon per gallon of mix if I use foliage pro regularly?

2) Can I use gritty mix with carnivorous plant? (I am clueless to this one...I just ventured into carnivorous plant for the first time; the sundew seems to be doing pretty well for now in the long fibers)

3) Is all transplantation done bare-root as you described (if potting mix is previously non-Gritty Mix)? Also, is it "easy" to get all the gritty mix into the space between the roots? I have never done bare-root transplantation before.

I think once I get all the ingredients, I will go on to make a 3gal Gritty Mix, a small amount for only the more root-rot prone/sensitive plants. The Ebay ingredients for shipping USPS are all small quantity but quite expensive. My other plants will just wait until I find a better source for ingredients that ships appropriately. All of my plants are not very big for now(most are in small pots, with the "largest" being only 1 gallon pots), so they should be fine in MG potting mix+lots of perlite for now? Right? It is just the gardenia, they need better soil or it is so incredibly risky (even in small pots, little bit of root rot fungus and they are gone).

Thank you for your help! I really appreciate it!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 2:20PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hi, Ruby!

Just thought I'd jump in here since I have a few minutes before lunch....

The Gritty Mix is easier to get into the roots...than it is to get the Miracle Grow out of the roots ;-)
Just add a little mix at a time, poke around with a chopstick, add a bit more mix, and so forth.

Yes, Bare-root any plant going from non-Gritty to Gritty Mix.

If using Foliage Pro with the Gritty Mix, you can skip the gypsum and epsom salts.

With the 5-1-1 mix, you will still add the Dolomitic Lime.


    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 2:55PM
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In addition to what Josh has added which is very good info, you could also do the following:

Make sure that any plant you carry over the winter has only a small fraction of MG. It seems to me you already have the perlite, am I correct?
If so, the MG would only be 1/4 of the mix while the rest is perlite. In order to rid the perched water which is your enemy in this case, in any size pot, size does not matter, you need to have the perlite, strained that is a majority of the mix to make any difference.
It will help with your fungus gnat issue too. You may find yourself having to water more often, but that is best for your plants.

As for carnivorous ones, that one I can not answer.

Maybe our friend Al can, since he is the one that has taught us, and I have never grown carnivorous before. If they like moist soil at all times, I would assume you would need to use a mix that wicks water upwards such as the 5.1.1 mix or one that comes close to it with a bit more peat or fine particles.

FYI...Gardenia plants are VERY finicky and are very happy with the gritty mix. I have not failed them yet, and they have not failed me:-)
This mix allows you keep keep them evenly moist at all times without perched water and that is when they grow best.

Hey Josh!


    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 3:36PM
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Hey Ruby:

Come by tomorrow, and I will have some pictures for you of my gardenias I will take by the days end for you growing in the gritty mix.:-)


    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 4:24PM
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Thank you Mike and Josh!

You guys provide so much insight! I am also wondering if anyone has experience with Michelia Alba in the Gritty Mix? or plants especially sensitive to root disturbance?

Michelia Alba seems to be very sensitive to root disturbances. It took about 5 month for some of my michelia to go from shipping-->repotting-->showing any new growth. I speculate that it is most likely due to the loss of fine roots during the shipping process; I had 2 michelia shipped to me, the one that had definitely root "loss" is still not showing new growth while the other michelia-which has its entire root system fairly intact in the potting mix upon receiving--did not need ANY adjustment period.

So I am wondering for sensitive to root disturbance plant, do you still do a complete bare-root transplantation into Gritty Mix? At least is that wise with someone like me (who is very very very novice at transplanting plants)? I have not done any root-work before and am a little bit apprehensive to start that with a sensitive plant. Is there a slightly less aggressive way of transplanting into Gritty Mix for a newbie? Partial bare-rooting? Only working with a small portion of the roots into the gritty mix and leaving the other parts in previous soil (since that soil is cactus mix and has "ok" drainage for now).

I will definitely try bare rooting with my gardenia once I get my Gritty Mix together. I am not even too worried about my newbie status in transplanting THAT bare root...after all...that gardenia health could only go uphill? haha, I need to get my practice somewhere?

Thank you for your help!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 6:53PM
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And...I am being stupid about the carnivorous plant thing...I should have thought more...haha, the point is to keep the soil moist, which is completely different from getting wonderful drainage as that of the Gritty mix...I will just stick with regular stuff for carnivorous plants!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 7:37PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hi, Mike!

Hey, Ruby, you really want to remove the old soil because two different soil-types in one container
will make it difficult to evenly wet and dry the entire mix.

Sometimes, citrus will be bare-rooted in wedges, such that only a portion of the roots are removed
at a time. However, I have not used this technique before; I have always bare-rooted.

Some additional things to remember: fine roots will die quickly when exposed to air.
Have all your materials ready, work in the shade, and keep the roots moist while you work.
After re-potting, shelter your plants from direct sun and wind. Also, the more stable you
can keep the plant in the pot, the faster the roots will establish themselves in the mix.

Fertilize approximately two weeks after re-potting.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 12:14AM
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Here you go Ruby! The pictures I promised you of my gardenias in the gritty mix. Notice the coloring and buds. They love the gritty mix!

This one was tiny since the start of using the gritty mix

This one was a cutting I started just this summer.

This one was also a cutting. I bought it as a 2inch high high plant in a 2 inch pot!lol. It grew a lot over the summer. It is a special one and a rare one. It opens Yellow flowers and is very sweet. I won't take a chance of loosing this one to a peaty mix. Gritty all the way.

This is my frost proof one. I am determined not to loose this one too.

This one was saved from MG! It almost died when I first heard of the gritty mix and I desperately transplanted it into the gritty mix with the kind help of Al and Josh and look at it now.

Here is a group shot of many other plants in the gritty mix. ALL were bare rooted and many have very sensitive roots. They all did fine:-)

You plants will do fine if you listen to the friends here. By the way,Josh has made some more very important points. I wish you success.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 8:37AM
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Oh yes. I forgot to mention that your Michelia Alb will do awesome. Can you see mine to the left in the bottom picture peeking out?

It is doing much better than in the peaty mix I received it in. That too was bare rooted completely. It is a a bit peatier mix than the gritty. I used the 5.1.1 for this one because I ran out of the gritty.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 8:40AM
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Thank you Mike and Josh! I will definitely keep your tips in mind!

I should be getting together all the ingredients within this month! It will probably not be a super smart idea to do transplanting in the winter time, but all the plants are indoor now (which is pretty warm), and after transplant shock, they do have some chance to get sunlight at my west facing window.

I will try bare-rooting only 1 of my Michelia alba. I want to see how my techniques are working before I go ahead and devastate all of them.

Mike! Your plants are absolutely gorgeous! Those finicky gardenia are doing so great!!! I am very jealous!

I will post pictures of my plants and my progress with Gritty Mix once I get the ingredients all ready. First time making "soil"! I want to do this right.

Thank you thank you guys! You guys are awesome!

    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 2:11PM
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Ruby: For your carnivorous plants, you might use just plain long-fibered sphagnum peat moss with no fertilizers added. I have several orchids growing in this and they do very well. It's also wonderful stuff to use for rooting cuttings, either by itself or combined with an equal amount of perlite. Hope this is helpful. :)


    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 6:29PM
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Thank you for your wonderful tips! I have my carnivorous sundw in long fiber sphagnum and it seems to be doing very well (even though it doesn't nearly get enough sun as recommended).

Thank you!

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 7:55PM
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Hi..Im new here. How soon after planting in the gritty mix do you begin using Dyna Gro fertilizer. Im planting a Meyer Lemon. Need to get it to bare root....Do you shake existing soil product off and wash with hose to get the roots clear?.
I've been getting the gritty mix ingredients together. I think I have it...except I havent screened them. Have Turface, ReptiBark, and A-1 poultry grit. Im excited to get my containers re-incarnated. Thanks for all the great advice.!!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 4:18PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Now is not the optimal time to be re-potting Citrus. Where do you live/zone?

Definitely screen your ingredients to remove the large particles of Bark and all the fine particulate
from the Turface, Bark, and Grit.

In general, "cool soils low in initial fertility" are conducive to root-growth,
which is exactly what you want after a re-potting. I wait about two weeks to fertilize,
although I add a bit of Osmocote into the soil when it is mixed.


    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 4:35PM
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Greenman, thanks for your advice. I live in Beaumont, SoCalif. Between Redlands and PalmSprings. I get blistering hot in the summer, and a little snow at this elevation (I think about 2500ft) in winter. Zone 18, according to Western Garden Book.
Today I bought a Meyer Lemon, and a dwarf Navel Orange (cara cara). Maybe I should've waited? Maybe I should leave them in their container from the nursery?

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 6:10PM
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