Gritty Mix in Australia

pkozulNovember 16, 2011

Hi there,

First of all, I'd like to thank you all (specially Al, Jody, Mike, etc.) for your contributions to this forum. I've learnt a lot on here and always look forward to reading the latest posts.

Recently I decided to try out Al's Gritty Mix, and wanted to share how it went...

Here in Melbourne (Australia), the ingredients available to us are a little different from those in the US. Below I have listed the products that I found locally, and that seem to be appropriate for the Gritty Mix.

Diatomite (2mm - 7mm) - purchased from Sage Horticultural

- purchased from local building supplies yard

Pine bark mulch - purchased from Bunnings (hardware chain)

Gypsum (Clay Breaker) - purchased from Bunnings (hardware chain)

Before mixing the materials, I screened the 3 main ingredients through a flyscreen to remove the fine particles. I then screened the pine bark through a wire mesh screen, to remove the larger chunks.

Before taking the plunge and repotting everything into the Gritty Mix, I wasn't too happy with the situation regarding our indoor house plants. Although some of them seemed to be doing OK (i.e. Peace Lily, which produced new leaves, but no flowers), they never appeared to be thriving. Other plants (i.e. Calathea - prayer plant) were slowly dying, gradually losing their leaves until nothing was left.

I had been wondering about the possible causes. The usual possibilities crossed my mind - overwatering/underwatering, insufficient humidity, insufficient light, fertiliser burn, etc. Lots of guess work, but I could never really pinpoint why my plants were not doing well, with only the toughest plants able to survive. I had even tried several different "premium" potting mixes, but that did not help.

After mixing a big batch of the Gritty Mix, I repotted all of our plants. Probably not the ideal time (Spring), but I was too keen to wait. During the repotting process, I examined the plants and noticed that most of them had root systems that were rotting. Not what I had expected, since I was always careful not to water the plants unless I believed the soil was getting dry.

After giving the plants a new home in the Gritty Mix, I found that I needed to water the plants about once a week. I would add a teaspoon of vinegar to the 2-litre waterning can, a pinch of Epsom salts, and just a small amount of fertiliser at each watering.

Over the first month, I didn't notice much. But now I can see new growth appearing in most of the plants. I haven't lost any plants due to the repotting, so the only way is up from here.

I'm really happy about the Calathea. We had already lost one of these plants (all the leaves had dried up and died off, one by one). The other one was on its last legs (or leaves, I should say!!!). Since the leaves appeared to be drying up, I always thought that these plants were just too fussy with the amount of humidity they require.

When repotting our plants into the Gritty Mix, I regarded this as the last chance for saving the Calathea. About 2 weeks after repotting it, the Calathea was down to its last leaf and I was losing hope. But 2 weeks after that, I noticed that 4 or 5 small pointy green tips had emerged from the surface. Check out the photo below to see what I mean. I was very surprised to see the Calathea turn full circle - instead of losing leaves, it was starting to produce them. Fingers crossed it will continue to do so, and we will end up with a very happy plant in a very successful medium.

Since then, I've also repotted some small lemon trees into the Gritty Mix and some into the 5-1-1 Mix. I've also got our blueberry and strawberries growing in the 5-1-1 Mix.

All in all, I have a really good gut feeling about using the Gritty Mix and I'm looking forward to more positive results.

Thanks again to all.



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Hi again,

Forgot to mention our bromeliad. We bought it about a year ago, and it looked good back then too.

Since repotting into the Gritty Mix, this plant has sent out 2 puppies. Look forward to eventually removing them and giving them a new start in the Gritty Mix.


    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 2:56AM
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Thanks for the pictures and testimonial to the mixes proposed by Al (tapla) on this forum. It is amazing how plants respond to air(oxygen) in the root zone. Al

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 9:33AM
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Since the gardening industry operates like any other, thriving on profit, offering items that you won't need to repurchase for quite a while is not in their best interests. Since learning the basics of science and physics regarding plant growth in the confined space of containers, I'm appalled at what the industry has offered consumers for such a long time, and continues to offer. What they're offering is a way to keep you coming back to spend more money more often, and what they've concocted as an item of convenience since the majority of home growers never really dig deep to gain proper knowledge of plant needs... and many are more interested in convenience.

In a world where so much changes as new science and technologies are brought to the forefront, it seems rather odd that the gardening industry hasn't made many changes in soil offerings, which are the very base of every containerized planting. But if the knowledge isn't there to be used, and convenience is what the consumer wants... well... as one business owner once said, "it's easier to give the consumer what he thinks he needs and wants, than it is to try to reeducate him."

Al has been incredibly instrumental in boosting my growing knowledge, and I'm very happy to give back that knowledge, helping those who want to learn!

Your plants look like they've gotten a new lease on life, and the new growth looks wonderful! Nice job! :-)

    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 10:12AM
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Hi Jodi,

I hear you regarding the gardening industry.

I guess it’s not easy for the average consumer to make the best choices when it comes to growing plants. All too often I hear people say “I’m a jinx when it comes to growing plants” due to their plants dying. It’s a shame to see people lose motivation, knowing that they were probably only one step away from turning disappointment into satisfaction. I supposes they accept that the plants in question are simply not suited to the conditions within their home, and so they either give up on these plants altogether, or try another type of plant.

From my own experience, I’ve found that most of my trips back to the garden centre have involved buying (replacement!!!) plants, as well as different potting mixes, in the hope that a different growing medium will somehow magically change things. Either way, returning customers, for whatever reason, are what the industry wants.

Most people I know (who grow plants), are simply unaware of the importance of the growing medium. I, myself, had always approached container soils in an overly simplistic manner. I simply regarded this as a “no brainer” - you just stick the plant in “the soil”. As long as you buy a good “premium” potting mix with all of those red ticks of approval on the bag, you know that the growing medium is sorted out, and any problems arise, they must be due to some other condition(s) such as insufficient lighting, low humidity levels, over/under-watering, etc.

I’m just lucky I came across this forum and read all of your posts. Al’s mixes have totally turned the tide for the plants in our home. It’s exciting to see plants that were once rapidly deteriorating now producing healthy new growth. As I mentioned in my first post, the Calathea has proven to be a real challenge in our home. I was convinced that it was a humidity problem, and that the air in our home was just too dry for this plant. After a couple of months in the Gritty Mix, the Calathea that was on the brink of death is now beginning a new life with 6 new leaves that are rapidly developing.

When I look back at how things used to be with our plants, I realise that the root systems never really had a chance to do well. I did my very best to water only when needed (i.e. when the top few centimetres of soil was dry to the touch), but still, there was just too much water being retained deeper below. Now that I’ve discovered the importance of using the right type of container soils, there’s no turning back. Perched water is hopefully a thing of the past.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 5:46PM
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Hi all,

Just following up on this thread with some progress photos.

The Calathea that was almost dead a few months back is now forging on in the gritty mix. You can see how it now looks, compared to the earlier photo, where the leaves were just emerging from the soil:

The Bromeliad pups (taken from the parent a few days ago), now planted in the gritty mix:

Some african violet cuttings (leaves) I planted in the gritty mix a few days ago:

The fern we have out on the patio. Happy in the gritty mix, as you can see, sending out new fronds:

Different herbs (grown from seed) in the gritty mix:

Little lemon trees growing in different mixes. The 2 on the left were grown from seed, while the one on the right was a branch cutting (it had a head start!!!). They were all originally growing in "premium" bagged potting mixes, but I moved one into the gritty mix, and the other into the 5-1-1 mix. The third one (on the right) remained in the bagged soil. Although they all appear to be doing well, the two on the left have darker leaves and are quickly catching up to the one on the right:

Once again, thanks to everyone on this forum for your input and kindness in sharing your knowledge and advice.

Have a Happy Christmas!!!


    Bookmark   December 24, 2011 at 5:32AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Excellent results, Pete!
Merry Christmas to you, too.


    Bookmark   December 24, 2011 at 11:40AM
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Wow Pete, and I thought I was the only one with great looking citrus in the gritty mix! You remembered the VINEGAR secret:-)

Great job!

    Bookmark   December 26, 2011 at 6:09PM
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Hi pkozul,

I am also from Australia - Melbourne, and wondering what fertiliser you use for Al's Gritty Mix and how much of it in your 2L watering can. I searched a thread where Al himself recommends Foliage Pro 9-3-6 but this isn't available at Bunnings. I'll be repotting my ficus elastica, ficus lyrata, dracaena marginata, zz plant, peace lily, succulents. I have all the other ingredients ready - just gotta take care of the fertiliser!

    Bookmark   December 30, 2014 at 1:55AM
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Hi carkoes.

I live in Adelaide Australia and have been using gritty mix for 3 years with great results.
The fertilizer you need is called Nu-Vital, available from Sage Horticultural in Melbourne.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2014 at 3:20PM
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Hi Alan,

Thanks, I knew I read that recommendation somewhere.

So do you mix the fertiliser and water together in a can? How much fertiliser per litre should i apply?

Also, what's the process of watering? Because I know you are also supposed to flush through the pot to get rid of salt build up etc. So in that case, how often do you fertilise (where I assume you are not flushing through so that the fertiliser isn't wasted), and how often do u flush through with plain water? Hope that makes sense.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2015 at 11:14PM
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The stated dilution rate of the fertilizer is 1:200, so 5ml per litre or 45ml per watering can. I use 1/3 this amount every time I water in the warmer months.

You will find with gritty mix, because it is so free draining, that water always flows out the bottom of the pot and doesn't lead to salt buildup problems.
Also my pots are in the open or under shadecloth and get rained on.

Good growing

This post was edited by alan.oz on Wed, Jan 7, 15 at 4:07

    Bookmark   January 7, 2015 at 3:11AM
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