My First Gritty Mix Batch and Planting

earthworm73(WA z8)December 16, 2012

Today I finally made up some gritty mix and put my first plant in it.

The plant is a California Fan Palm (washingtonia filifera) native to the inland desert areas of SoCal, Nevada and Arizona. They like their roots always moist in summer but not boggy and in winter they despise wet soil. So I figured if any palm would like the gritty this one would. The black spots is mold from when we had some cool rainy nights in fall before I brought it in. It is a little over one year old and I grew it from seed.

Here is a close up of the gritty mix. Please comment.

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jodik_gw

Sweet! From seed? Nice!

For best results, make sure to allow the palm some time to adjust to its new medium... keep it out of direct sun and winds for a couple of weeks, and ease it back into bright light and normal conditions. Keep a close eye on watering, too... the Gritty Mix will require more attention to watering/fertilizing.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 9:10AM
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earthworm73(WA z8)

Thanks jodi. It will stay in the house till spring in a south facing window. No wind and no crazy sun. I have another one a little older and bigger that I bought on ebay earlier this year that is in an early version of 5-1-1. I think I might switch that to gritty too.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 11:47AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Nicely done, now let's see how it adjusts :-)

The bark is larger than optimum, so be aware of that (and always on the lookout for a
smaller bark that is priced reasonably). Your target range is right around 1/8 of an inch.
In general, bark will fall in the 1/8 to 1/4 inch range. If using Pine Bark in particular,
1/8 up to 3/8 is acceptable due to the slightly different/flatter shape of the Pine bark.

Josh

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 1:04PM
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earthworm73(WA z8)

Thanks Josh but it is the small bag of Reptibark. I thought that was all good for gritty. What kinda problems can I expect with bark that is too large?

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    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 3:00PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Excellent advice has been offered. Bark that varies in the size of the individual pieces can be screened to preserve only the sizes desired. Here I have my own source of great sections of fir bark that I reduce to size with a chipper/shredder and from there with various size screens get the size needed for the job at hand. Al

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 3:13PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Al is right - the bark (and other ingredients) need to be screened to size
to take full advantage of the Gritty Mix proper. Reptibark needs screening, too.
From what I've seen, the pieces are too large on average.

The dramatically different particle sizes will make for uneven moisture retention, aeration,
and drainage. How much that will impact your plants depends on the volume of the container,
the size and vitality of the plant, the time of year, and the cultural conditions in your home.

I still think the mix will perform better than most pre-bagged soils on the market, however :-)

Josh

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 3:52PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hi Earthworm,

I know you have been working hard on your mix and i will say that you have done a great job!! Like others have mentioned, the bark is just a little to big for the gritty. I also do sceen my fir bark from Petsmart on my 1/4 screen to get the mix close to the appropiate size for the Gritty Mix. If you were using the 5-1-1 then you could use the other pine or fir bark on this mix. Keep up the good work.!!!

Im impressed, especially from seed!! That in it self, is a wonderful experience for these palms!! Bravo!!!

You had asked me about the differennce in my roots,, using the Gritty and the 5-1-1/ They are both very healthy and do great in each mix, but i did put the large containers that i couldn't move with the 5-1-1 the smaller ones used the gritty mix. Good luck and thanks for the update on the email. They will do well for you.

Please don't hesitate to email me if you need anymore info!!! LOVE THOSE PALMS!!!!

Oh.. i was going to tell you about where i buy those fert stakes from.. if interested.. let me know!!!

Great job L...

Take Care,

Laura

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 11:35PM
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jodik_gw

Ah, yes, Reptibark... from what I've seen, and the bark available to me, locally... there seem to be slight discrepancies in bark/bag size. My personal observance is that the small bags are sometimes ready to use, the medium and large bags need some screening. I think the company includes larger pieces for larger reptiles in the larger bags, and that it may differ slightly batch to batch. That's the only explanation I can think of.

I have had to screen the larger and medium sized bags, for sure... and sometimes the smaller ones need a little picking through.

Those are just personal observances, though, and may differ from bag to bag, batch to batch, or store to store.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 11:44AM
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earthworm73(WA z8)

Thanks all. I hope I didn't screw up by not properly screening the reptibark. The type of palm I have growing in there are pretty tough and pretty forgiving of their soil requirements.

@ Laura I have seen past pics you posted on all of your tropicals you put in the gritty. Glad your those roots have been growing fat and happy in both those mixes. I had this little palm in one of my first attempts at 5-1-1 and when I removed it from the pot the soil literally fell off and I saw some good looking roots.

Any one care to show pics of their roots after being 5-1-1 mix?

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    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 12:01PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Some fig roots after a year in the 5-1-1.
I chopped off the majority of the roots, then re-potted after I'd taken this pic.
I have quite a few other pics of conifer roots, fern roots, things like that, as well.

I usually do a video of my end of the season pepper roots, too. This year, my mix was finer
and the root-growth wasn't as good. Not bad, but I could see a difference.

Hot peppers done...a look at the roots (2011)
and
Hot peppers - roots (2012)

Josh

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 12:16PM
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jodik_gw

Nice videos, Josh! I like "show and tell"!

While I haven't made any videos to show difference, I can honestly say that in my own experience, there is a definite difference in root growth and health depending on the medium used.

Hippeastrum bulbs, which are the plants I mainly grow, generally have very thick, fleshy roots... and when I grow them in a fine, silty particulate, they tend to be less healthy, less in quantity, and their placement within the pot shows that they've been growing where oxygen is plentiful, circling the outer edges, the bottom and top layers of the soil. The soil in the center of the pot usually contains very little in the way of roots, which tells me that it remains too wet, and doesn't contain enough oxygen for proper root growth to occur.

When I use a grittier, larger particulate, the roots tend to fill the medium more evenly in growth, and appear fleshier and thicker, and much more healthy.

So, I would agree with Josh... there's a visible difference in root health and growth depending on medium. Aeration and drainage are incredibly important, and a plant's health begins at the roots, under the soil.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 2:17PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

These are of plants in the gritty mix, but the 5:1:1 is pretty much the gritty mix's equal once the planting is well established.


**********************************************************


*********************************************************

**********************************************************


Notice root health, and that roots are very evenly distributed throughout the entire soil mass.

As below,
So above.
Healthy roots
Are what we love.

Al

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 3:07PM
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earthworm73(WA z8)

Thanks all. I can't get enough of seeing pics of healthy results from both mixes. Al and Josh I have NEVER had anything grown in a pot with a thick mass of roots like those. Talk about millions of root ends. Al and Josh yall should those should be called big hairy wig of roots cuz that's what those root masses look like. I have read older threads where somebody I won't name argued against the "hard work vs benefits" in using these mixes. How can anyone say its not worth the effort after seeing pics like those. I am truly excited about using a superior draining and oxygen promoting mix for my potted plants from now on.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 8:11PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Haha, Earthworm, on that Fig tree I was calling that mass a 'root-beard.' Really thick stuff!
The Fig was in a 1-gallon container, but needed room; so I put the 1-gallon pot into a 5-gallon pot,
on the top of an overturned 1-gallon at the bottom. Then I just filled around the edges with bark
and perlite (quick lazy mix, but surprisingly effective for vigorous plants like figs, maples, osage,
willows, et cetera).

Al's roots are out of control ;-)
I always enjoy seeing the roots, the bonsai specimens themselves, and of course the bold
root-reduction demonstrated by Al.

Jodi, I'm so glad you enjoyed my "show and tell" :-) After reviewing the videos, I actually
think the root-growth was quite good the past two seasons. This year, I started a month later
than usual, and I'd forgotten to take that into account when assessing the overall root-development.
None the less, next year I am going to use half a part of Turface and half a part of peat (potting mix)
for my moisture retentive, mix-binding ingredients. I found it cleaner, and easier to water (re-wet).

I might as well add another pic. This is my Pachira...it had gone way too long between re-pottings ;-)

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 9:04PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Earthworm - There are a number of ways to look at the effort we put into growing. Some people are happy making a half-hearted effort and raising mediocre plants. I'm not judging - it's a simple fact, and I don't think it's good or bad. I don't even think people not willing to make an effort are lazy. I just think we all order our priorities differently. To a 25 year old single guy - softball or basketball practice, or a night out with friends might be much more important than staying home and making soil or watering plants. People have jobs, kids, commitments, more important things in their lives than plants. That's fine. To some, the effort it takes to make the soil and water every 5 or 6 days instead of every 3 weeks is simply not worth what might have to be given up, and how can we argue with someone else's priorities?

When we focus on looking at growing from the perspective of what's best for the plant, it changes things. NOW, we can say with certainty that better opportunity exists for plants to perform to their potential if we ARE willing to make the effort to eliminate the limiting effects of soils that remain saturated for extended periods by utilizing well-aerated and free-draining media. While we can't make much of a case for or against someone else's personal choices, we CAN make a comparative case for how various practices benefit or limit the plant. We can't and shouldn't judge someone who places a large premium on convenience, but it's fair to say that what is good for the grower and what is good for the plant are very often mutually exclusive. That's just being realistic.

Al

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 10:06PM
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jodik_gw

The proof is in the pictures! I totally agree with Al's statements.

I often say that I wish I had been exposed to a few basics in plant science and physics long ago, when I first became interested in growing plants, but the basics are not what circulates through the general gardening community, nor are they anything promoted by the gardening industry.

The first thing I wish I had learned is that growing in the ground or garden, and growing within the confines of a container, are two very different environments that each require a different approach. I've come to think of the garden as organic, and growing in pots as more inorganic and something I have more control over. I think if I'd had that separated in the beginning, I'd have had much better success, and a lot sooner.

I'm also fond of saying that a green thumb is nothing more than applied knowledge. And that's very true. There's no luck or magic to growing plants. It's all skill from applying the basics of science and physics.

And the more I learn, the more I realize that the industry exists to help itself, and not necessarily the gardeners. Once we learn what containerized plants really need, we are more or less forced to search down various ingredients and mix our own mediums better suited to how plants respond when placed in a confined space.

As Al says, we can't make a case when it comes to personal choices or convenience, but we certainly can show how various practices benefit or limit our plants.

And to be honest, I don't find it inconvenient to grow healthier plants with healthier roots, anyway. To me, it's worth it to mix my own mediums custom to my unique environment, more in keeping with what is beneficial to my plants from a scientific angle.

So, I save organic methods for the gardens... and I go with a more controllable, inorganic approach to growing in pots.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 2:39PM
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earthworm73(WA z8)

I am having a little trouble with the palm I planted in the gritty. Appears to be shriveling up. Not good. I'll check old posts to see if I can figure out what is going wrong.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 12:13PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Re-potting in the dead of Winter isn't advised, of course.

Josh

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 12:29PM
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earthworm73(WA z8)

Josh even though the palm is indoors in a south facing window???

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 1:25PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Indeed.
When solar values are low, recovery takes longer.

How long ago did you re-pot, and are you keeping the mix moist?
Do you have a wooden skewer in the pot to determine when the mix is dry?

Josh

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 4:12PM
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earthworm73(WA z8)

Josh about a week ago. And yes I am using the dowels.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 7:32PM
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