Container Soil Questions
First of all, thank you all for your wisdom here. I've read through a large amount of the material here, and it has been enlightening to say the least. I know Al ("the" Al) is the mastermind behind the gritty and 5-1-1 mixes, but so many people have been able to take what he has put together and run with it. So thank you all, and especially you, Al (From MI, just a short hike from Detroit, where I'm going to school, no less!).
I think I understand the concept behind the mixes for the most part. I might not have all the nuances, and definitely not the lived experience though (reading isn't doing). I'd love to pick your brains on a couple lingering questions, Al or any of the other experts here about both the gritty and 5-1-1 mixes:
1). How does one determine criteria for substituting components? Al said something about "sacrificing plant vitality on the altar of convenience." I go to school, and I can't always feasibly take my plants with me on break, and with all my courses, I don't always have enough time to fiddle as much as I might like, so if I need soil that doesn't have to be watered as frequently, how do I determine what to substitute, and how much?
2). What do I do with components that don't pass the sift? Granite, Turface, bark, etc. What do I do with it if it's too big or small? "Waste not, want not," right? What do I do with granite, turface, bark, etc, that may be either too big or to small for use in the container?
3). How exact do I need to be in sifting? I imagine if I spent the time, I could sift until every single piece of crushed granite (Manna Pro poultry grit) passed through the 1/8" screen, and have none of it retained at all. Do I just give it a couple shakes, or what?
3b). What about bark--some of it can easily pass through a mesh of a certain size, but still be 4 times as long as it is wide. Just cut/break it, or what?
4). What is sapwood? How important is it to remove? Is it identifiable by color as all light wood, or is there something more to it?