Clearly not a big fan. Hydrophobic?
Here is a link that might be useful: Turface problems
Thanks for sharing this, alan.oz. It's an interesting read, and the comments are very good, as well. I've had experience with turface becoming hydrophobic if it's allowed to get too dry. Of course, I've had the same problem with other common potting mix ingredients like peat and pine bark fines, so this tendency isn't unique to turface.
EDIT: In retrospect, I should have said that I've had experience with gritty mix becoming hydrophobic. I don't know whether the turface itself becomes hydrophobic or whether there are other factors at play that interfere with its ability to absorb water. My experience has been similar to what others posted in this thread.
This post was edited by shazaam on Thu, Dec 5, 13 at 21:03
Yeah but the problem to me is that the dryness harms root structure. It makes me want to rethink the gritty mix. I also noticed the comment about granite being a heat sink. I think I'm sticking to more traditional mixes. If it's not broke don't fix it. Traditional mixes work fine. I worry I can't tell what's going on using granite and turface. Fine misting peat before watering takes care of the hydrophobic problems in peat. Pumice sounds excellent though.
Pumice, perlite, or Akadama and bark fines sounds like a decent mixture. Also layering the pumice is a good idea too. Big pieces on the bottom. They sell various grades.
The bonsai people have been using pumice for decades, so it is a proven useful amendment. Although cost is outrageous, so again back to more traditional mixes.
This post was edited by Drew51 on Thu, Dec 5, 13 at 11:13
Thanks for putting me on to this thread, Laura. Actually, I had this discussion called to my attention a week or so ago, and had heard the same opinion from Ryan Neal in a lecture I heard at the Mid-Atlantic Bonsai Conference last spring. I've been conversing with a very well known (internationally) bonsai artist who did his master's thesis on container substrates. We've been discussing this issue specifically, at some length, because neither his nor my practical experience is anything like that described by Mike, nor do we know anyone who has had this experience ..... including the considerable number of non-bonsai growers who have adopted the soil as a result of info found here.
I know the person I'm referring to has contacted Profile Corp for some technical information (on Turface), and plans a reply - I'm thinking in the Ann Arbor Bonsai Society newsletter, or perhaps even on Mike's website. When we last talked on Sunday, we had decided there is no reason for us to change anything at this point, given our long time satisfaction with our Turface-containing media.
My thinking is that what is being considered a problem with a soil component, may actually be attributable to one or more of several possibilities, one being a poorly made soil; another might be a regional (west coast) water quality issue (high salinity); and still another might be related to improper watering - which might come full circle to a quality issue with the substrate proper. You would be surprised at how many bonsai enthusiasts are hampered by a lack of understanding when it comes to substrates, so poorly made soils and improper watering are a very common problems.
If/when I hear anything from the person I've been speaking to, I'll fill you in; but as noted, for now I'm not convinced that by exchanging Turface for pumice, I'm setting myself up for a notable gain.
Indeed, that doesn't jive with my experience, either.
I'd put it down to user error without some hard scientific revelations to back up the position.
Al, having used pumice and scoria (red lava rock) extensively, I can say that you won't see any notable gain making the switch. The only reason I'd substitute would be availability. Also, looks...I find the red lava rock very attractive with certain plants. It's larger on average, and doesn't hold as much moisture, so I like it for Orchid and Hoya mixes...as well as top-dressing for "bonsai" presentations.
I myself want to test the gritty mix against his bonsai mix using finger cacti that grow rapidly. I will have a control in cactus mix, and everything else will be the same except one will have turface and one will have Akadama . In one years growth I should be able to draw some conclusions.
I really have no dog in this fight, and don't even care if you don't trust my conclusions. as I'm doing this for myself. I'm biased in the fact I would rather use the gritty mix, it's cheaper! The only conclusion I can make is about finger cacti, but that is good enough for me.
I have some questions on preparing the mix. They are in the thread "Al's Gritty Mix Questions"
If someone could help me out there, that would be nice.
Maybe just to test the turface I will use either granite #2 or pumice. I should use the same I guess so the only difference is the turface, and this bonsai gentlemen is saying to use Akadama or perlite. I could do a 4th with perlite too. A control in cactus mix. I bet no observable difference will occur, and it would have to be repeated to confirm. But if turface does interfere with root growth, this fast growing cactus will let us know. Gypsum will be used in all mixes instead of lime as cacti are acid lovers, and this at least is not basic, but more neutral.
Experiment will begin on June 1st. I would rather have the cacti actively growing when I start. I will brake them off the same plant, same size etc. For my own benefit, but as I said I have some questions on making the mix.
I have been using pumice in both my gritty and 5-1-1 mixes since I discovered this BRILLIANT forum. I have learn so so so much and are forever grateful to Al and all the other Beautiful people for sharing their knowledge and experience here.
I have to say I do get hydrophobic issues if I don't water correctly. It always is a learning experience. I always think of the words of a Japanese bonsai master when asked when to water. His answer... "Wait until the plant dies and water the day before". If I leave a gritty mix to long the water runs through without wetting. I then have to soak or plug the hole/s for a while until the pumice have sucked up water to disperse it to the bark. Bark and pumice are both hydrophobic in my experience. I don't know if "hydrophobic" is the right word though. It (bark and pumice) does suck water but takes a bit longer after a certain stage.
Its critical that one has to learn the behaviour of ones media. One has to know with 90% certainty how much moisture is in a container with just a glance and feeling the weight. Ha Ha sounds easy hey? Well me and my kebab sticks are still working on it.....!
I have learned to use my pressure spray pump to wet the top first. If you ever germinated seeds, you would soon need to figure that out. That way the water will run through a little better. In some cases, I can't block hole as some of my plants with even 5-1-1 approach 100 pounds. They are on bricks and moved with a dolly. I never let it get that dry anyway.
Granite might actually be better than pumice, I'm going to have to add a fifth plant with pumice. I worry about the heat build up in granite though.
I really don't know what will work better, but I plan to find out...
I have learned so much form This forum as well as from Al and his threads.
Using the Gritty Mix on all of my Adeniums, C&S and most of my newly rooting Plumeria and young trees as well as my small Bonsai collection and tropical collection is a world apart from using anything else.
We all try and change what is best for our plants and trees and I truly believe that it can be adjusted to your climates in time of heat and needing more moisture retention, however.. I also realize that learning how to water the trees and plants in the gritty mix takes Time To see what they like and how much. I also used to use a wooden skewer to check for moisture needs and I think it is a great tool if you need that reinforcement before watering again.
I have never had any issues with my Gritty Mix having any issues with the Turface not absorbing moisture along with the Fir Bark or any issues that Mike has mentioned In His writings... I was actually surprised that he would even say anything about this.. I agree with Al and his friend that they may have issues with salinity in Cali. I have never once seen anything negative in using Turface and I actually love this mix. I do believe some don't water properly... I think one has to really understand how to water correctly. From The very beginning, I will water just a little all over the entire surface area with a watering can with a long neck. I water to the point that the water will start to flow through the container. Then I would stop. Yes, this means that most of the mix has not been watered correcty, so after I water other containers.. I will come back and then water again to make another pass along the same group of containers that I have just watered. This gives the Mix the boost that it needs to absorb the moisture In A more evenly manner. The remaining water will drain From The container into a saucer that is raised so that it won't sit In the water that just came form The container with all of the flushed salts.
Watering is another equation to the health of the tree along with the proper mix of the Gritty Mix. When People have difficulities with the Gritty Mix, after we hear what and how it was made, you can see that it wasn't the mix... It was how it was made.. Not the correct way.. Or it wasn't screened properly.
Before anyone starts to turn on Turface, I would seriously wait to see what the the real findings are and not let one person say that this is a problem..
I will be curious to hear what the other finding are from Your friend, Al. I have heard of you speak of him before And I know he is well known in the world of Bonsai and he is well respected.
Thank you for taking an Interest In This... I feel it is Important so I wanted to bring it to your attention for me as well as everyone else here on these forums who use and really love Turface!!!
Fredman... Lol. I also heard one Bonsai Master say. " wait until its dry then water the day before..." Lol.. They must be friends or neighbors!! ;-)
Thank you, Al...
Hi Josh. ;-). So nice to see you!!!
Take good care...
I have Turface mixed with gravel in wood boxes in full sun in Los Angeles that gets watered maybe once a week with liquid rock and have never had hydrophobia problems.
I myself will never be satisfied. One reason I have spent 40 years growing plants in pots is to experiment. I will never stop trying different combinations. Each of us has their reasons for being in this hobby. My curiosity is too strong to stop experimenting. Growing plants is easy, growing them better is more difficult.
You can use a moisture meters with long probes to get an accurate reading. I'm kinda a meter freak. PH, moisture, and brix meters are cool! But mine are always breaking. Always looking for good meters too!
The gritty mix sounds awesome, but these other amendments might be useful too. So many plant groups have different requirements, often one size doesn't fit all.
Kind of like keeping the same PH for all plants, huge mistake. Sure they will live, but will they grow jungle wild?
I want jungle wild growth that is not thin or weak but strong and robust. Pumice sounds like a great amendment. Interesting properties. Now to find the best way to use it.
I need a lot more info on it though before I actually use any. Akadama sounds just as interesting.
I never really looked into bonsai. Seems ignoring it has left me rather ignorant of other horticulture techniques I might apply elsewhere.
I think BONSAI business is different from large houseplants in big pots. BONSAI means " a plant in a dish !?". So it is very shallow and can get dry much faster. And I think the role of gravel and heavy soil in part is to keep it stable. So perhaps it is more than just watering and drainage.
Drew. I have a Satsuki azalea (pre bonsai) growing in pure pumice now for a few months and so far its doing great. I've put a layer of Sphagnum moss on top of the pumice to keep the moisture level more constant for the azalea's shallow roots. On top of the moss I've put a few stones so the moss don't dry out to quickly. Lots of new growth with no chlorosis issues. I feed it FP 9.3.6.
I also have a few Portulacaria and Crassula that is doing well in pumice only. Some of them have been in it for a few years. I have one Portulacaria that is about 20 years old and standing 3 feet tall with a 3 inch trunk. It is flourishing in the pumice.
"I think BONSAI business is different from large houseplants in big pots"
Seysonn. Bonsai spend their first years in bigger pots until they are gradually trained into shallower bonsai pots. In the big pots those first years are critical. You want them to grow as fast and big (trunk) as possible so they have some character before their training begins. I have more bonsai in big pots than small ones.
A major problem with the gritty mix is weight. Is pumice lighter? Still probably heavy. Big pots were mentioned but again the weight is a huge issue for me. I move my plants in and outside. Some no way with a gritty mix. Here is a philodendron about 35 years old. It's in a premium potting soil. Obviously way to big to use a gritty mix. It will crush the run through saucer with gritty mix! I need a replacement for granite that is lighter!
For perspective a coffee cup on the floor, and that's a 42 inch (I think?) TV screen.
The old adage " If it's not broke don't fix it" I will follow for now.
Now you know what I mean when I say jungle growth!
This post was edited by Drew51 on Fri, Dec 6, 13 at 10:35
Very interesting discussion -- this one and the one that's linked to. I have been using the gritty mix for about three years, mostly for very large containers, and I am very happy with it. For the first two years, it contained Turface. This past year, I used Napa Floor-Dry 8822 instead because my Turface source stopped carrying it. I have a bougainvillea that loves this stuff. It is in a ceramic pot that holds about 18 gallons. It's growth was explosive this summer. This is a photo taken on June 1 just after transplanting to gritty with Floor-Dry. I'll post a photo from four months later in my next message.
Please excuse the poor photo quality. This is my bougainvillea four months after transplant. The pot does weigh about 100 pounds and requires a dolly to move. I was waiting for help to wrestle it into that drainage saucer.
It looks great. I have no doubt the mix works well. Three years is a nice and long time to see results. But that weight is a huge issue for me. I'm not getting any younger.
Some of the users in the orchard forum also mentioned the weight problem over there. I didn't really think it through.
I still will look into various mixes and do experiments.
As far as turface some try to say it's the salts, but the bonsai guy is no amateur. He didn't say they wouldn't grow in the mix, he just thinks other amendments are better. All gardening is local for sure, and in his situation it may be best to use other amendments. Why I want to experiment to see what amendments work best in my situation. All the statements that this mix is great for you tells me very little of how it will work for me. I'm just glad this thread was posted as it gave me many more options to consider, and play around with.
Pumice is extremely light in weight. It floats on water. The white (acidic) pumice is lighter and holds more moisture than the red (basaltic) pumice (scoria). The gritty mix with pumice is about as light as it could get I would think. The beauty of the gritty mix is it lasts a looong time, so a big pot doesn't have to be moved that often.
"Pumice is extremely light in weight".
Wow, that's good news! I'm looking for a mix that will work for me. So the white is also called acidic pumice. Well cacti like to be acidic. I'll take care of that by other means.
Nothing is wrong with the gritty mix, it's great it works for so many. But for my needs the weight is a problem.
I'm not exactly sure what the granite does? Why is it needed? I suppose that may be explained in follow up posts to the original gritty mix post, but hundreds of follow up posts exist! Pumice seems to be a good substitute for granite or turface too, as is demonstrated in that it is often used by itself! I was thinking maybe it could be used to at least lighten the weight of the gritty mix, if granite is really a key component that should not be substituted out.
As far as size, pumice the same size can be obtained, and if it's water tension, even though pumice is porous, it's surface also holds water besides it's pores. As I said it seems to be a good substitute for both turface and granite.
Then we have Akadama , which may be a better clay than turface, that really is the question of the day.
I only use pumice because its so abundant and relatively cheap here in NZ. We pick it up along the river beds and lakes. I have a picture holding a HUGE pumice 'rock" in my left hand. Its as big as my upper body (will get someone to help me post a pic here. I'm to dumb) I look MIGHTY strong holding that massive rock in my left hand.... LOL !!!
The reason for the granite I think is to give substance and weight to the media. Weight is important to anchor the roots. Most important I think is it helps create air pockets, spaces and structure for oxygen to the mix. Without it the mix just wont be the same.
Not sure what the actual turface issue is, but it has not affected me in about 10 months of using 1:1:1 bark:turface:granite media (1/8 - 1/4" particles for the most part). My water is under 50ppm out of the tap, however, so I can believe that someone with significantly more TDS might have different experiences, but, I'm far from a materials scientist or physicist, so...shrug.
On the topic of weight, I completely agree that gritty is heavy, too heavy in larger pots. I have one gritty 16" pot with an 11 foot dracaena that is too heavy for me to easily move, and quite inconvenient. In smaller pots, the weight can be an asset, but I would very much enjoy a lighter version for use in larger pots. I've just been using 5-1-1 in any pot bigger than 8 or 9 inches. I'll have to repot more often, but the weight issue is real in many situations, where pots need to moved often (for watering and/or environmental reasons).
The granite is much heavier than the turface, wet or dry (and - compare the volumes of 50 pound bags of each for example). I have read about people using screened perlite in place of granite specifically to have a lighter gritty mix. However some adjustment may be needed in the ratio of perlite:turface since perlite and granite don't have the exact same water holding properties - however, I haven't attempted this and can't say what a good ratio is. I'd guess one of these is a good light(er) weight gritty mix:
... but I don't know which. I bet someone here has an idea.
Fred - I'm interested in knowing where you live??
The desire to become proficient at bonsai actually forces you to become a very proficient container gardener. I always say that bonsai is a lot like diving, which includes added points for the difficulty factor. Bonsai is a living art form with the added dimension of the flux a living organism brings. The very small and shallow containers used to make the tree more believable add not only perspective and enhancement to the compositions, they up the difficulty factor I mentioned as well.
Remember guys, the gritty mix is just a recipe - one that allows you to efficiently apply the concept I talked about in the water retention thread. By all means, experiment with the ingredients. I've never been interested in having someone follow a recipe ingredient by ingredient w/o understanding why. My goal was to provide you tools that would allow you to A) use reasoning to put together a medium that would serve your purposes extremely well, and B) help you avoid those issues that would certainly prove limiting.
Granite is included in the gritty mix to reduce water retention, and to allow you to adjust water retention by increasing the amount of either the grit or Turface, while increasing or decreasing the other (more Turface and less granite, or less Turface and more granite, all the while keeping the organic fraction of the soil at 1/3 or less.
Once you thoroughly understand the concept that drives how the gritty mix is assembled, you'll have a much greater appreciation of how much thought was put into its formulation.
All the best to all of you ..... and have a very Merry Christmas!
Fred is in New Zealand, where they put beet root on burgers! :)
Thanks Al for the input, that really helps. Pumice would not make a good substitute for granite, but yeah knowing what it is exactly used for really helps. It can be decreased with certain plants that are water hogs like Hibiscus. I can never water that thing enough! But not good for cacti. A good thing my cacti are small. Well some are pretty big.
I have 50 pounds of granite currently. But now I have some direction in how to use it, thanks.
The server has been keeping out duplicate posts today like crazy. In another thread it made three for me! :)
Thanks for the size info too!
In my situation I use rainwater exclusively for potted plants even in the winter, so calcium and bicarbs isn't a problem for me. I store it in the garage in 30 gallon rubbermade garbage cans.
Again thanks I know exactly how the mix works now.
Yes perlite has other properties, but does aid in drainage
It is probably a better substitute for turface. But both pumice and perlite allow free passage of water when saturated, and don't retain enough water to cause root rot.
I'm not really sure you really need granite because excess water will pass through both products freely.
I found one study using turface, and in the study they concluded that they didn't use enough water for turface. So it seems to have extreme drying properties. I can see why the bonsai guy had problems. You have to use more water than other materials. This may be a good thing for the average grower who tends to over water, but the experienced grower may find it troublesome. I myself would prefer a medium that gave me more leeway, and actually retained water longer without encouraging root rot or fungi. It is too absorbent for hot outside conditions IMHO. Pumice or perlite may be better to use.
Here is a link that might be useful: Study using turface as a seed starter medium
I read this about perlite and vermiculite
PERLITE is produced by applying 1800 F heat to ordinary Lava or Pumice Rock which expands it. Although it holds moisture it also loses it's quality under use, and can leave unwanted residue. It is used mainly for aeration of soils rather than moisture holding. PH range is normally 7 to 7.5. It is often used instead of washed sand to aerate. The excess fluoride is sometimes a problem, as is the dust.
VERMICULITE is produced by applying 1800 F heat to Mica to expand it. It has been found to be of value in first time use of potting soils. Under high watering it tends to float. Unfortunately for second and third time use, it tends to break down into a gooey state, which is negative to plant growth. PH range is normally 6.5 to 7.2.
It seems like pumice or lava rock is better, in some cases it's already 20 thousand years old and has not changed one bit.
Drew. LOL.. I'm actually an South African (hence my bad English) living in New Zealand. I'm not one of them beetroot burger buggers. Just doesn't make sense hey....?
It's not that i don't like beets, but on burgers???
Well good to know your origins!! There is a Russell Island in your part of the world. We have a Russell Island here in Michigan too. I have a cottage there, a summer home, well more like a cabin. It's not insulated or anything. Closed now for the winter. I always wanted a t-shirt or some momento from the "other" Russell Island. One day I'll go there to see this "other" Russell island!
To stay on subject I see granite is also or can be used for bonsai too, Sold as such on Ebay. I think for now I'm going to replace turface with pumice in small pot mixes. For larger pots I'm sticking to an organic mix, I may replace perlite with pumice in the 5-1-1. mix.
My plants, many of them are outside in full sun for 7 months of the year. I don't need additives that dry quickly like turface. I'm sure the cacti would be fine, it may even be desired with them. So I will limit the use of turface to cacti for now.
I am just studying Grit-I-Gran medium. The grit (and the bark?) hold the moisture. They also would allow the excess water to drain. Then you add pumice or perlite to increase the volume, giving the roots more room to grow. The concept of granite (or any crushed stone) is something that I have not understood, But its disadvantage is so obvious: TOO MUCH WEIGHT.
On the other hand I like the fundamentals of 5-1-1 mix. I can modify it to fit my application. I will definitely experiment with it next year. It provides a good starting point.
I noticed on three manufacture's sites that sell either pumice or Lava rock ( foamed obsidian) recommend mixing it with peat moss to make your own soils. Lava rock is heavier, so pumice is still the best. Choice is always a good thing. I was thinking to make a pretty mix, using these various amendments you could create a pleasing looking medium. Or using Lave rock as a mulch gives a pleasing look to your plant. Purely cosmetic, but ornamental value is a legit consideration.
Drew, I don't know where you got the idea that Turface dries out quickly, because it doesn't. I add turface to pumice in order to increase the water holding capacity of a green roof mix. Turface or calcined clay is added to the Missouri Gravel Bed medium of 3/8" pea gravel at a rate of up to 30% to increase the moisture holding capacity of the medium.
Also, that Philo. might be exhibiting what you all in Michigan call jungle growth but my subtropical eyes see a stunted plant. We grow those things outside here and they give chainsaws a hard time.
"Drew, I don't know where you got the idea that Turface dries out quickly"
From a university based study which I linked to in a previous message. It's not that it dries out itself, it dries the media to the extent that it can impede growth, If you have university studies to back your claim feel free to present, as your antidotal evidence is not proof. "because it doesn't"
I'll need more than that.
What was the product developed for? To retain moisture on athletic fields? I think not. It's an absorbent and it works very well, kind of like oil dry, again not developed to keep things moist. It's great in many situations in horticulture and may be great for most people. I wish I could find an amendment that had most of the features turface had, but made water available easier, pumice is close, as roots can grow into it to retrieve held water.
On the philo:
Pots stunt all plants, a well known fact. So yes, it is stunted.
It out grew that pot 30 years ago.But I can't move anything bigger. So I trim the roots once in awhile.
Thanks for such a positive response!
This post was edited by Drew51 on Sat, Dec 7, 13 at 18:58
It seems turface does hold water, but in the study it didn't release water when needed, it may release it, and it may work better with more water. The study is really inconclusive and says that the media may be useful if more water was used. Have you guys ever seen "Soil Moist" crystals? Now that stuff releases moisture when needed. but studies show it may break down to toxic material. Probably safe to use for non-edibles. even though they say you can use for edibles, I will not use it in pots for edibles. In ground it will soon leach away. It's pretty cool stuff though!
Akadama may work better, I have no evidence it does?
It is also a clay-like mineral used in bonsai.
If turface meets your needs fantastic! Glad it is working for you! It sounds perfect for many situations. I don't see it working for me. i often leave my pots 4 or 5 days in full sun and I'm out of town. So the amendment will not help me.
The study clearly showed that sand or organic media had higher water retention held in the soil longer than turface which tended to pull the water out of the media into itself.
And was not available to the plant roots.
I would be better off using sand. My situation is unique. The gritty mix is great for many, it's too heavy for me, and turface is not good in my situation all I'm saying, use what works for you, all gardening is local!
that study was a seedlng study. It also specifically says that Turface was developed for moisture retention on athletic fields. Turface has also been used in golf course turf substrate mixes since the 60s to increase water holding capacity. Then it says that Turface dried more quickly than coarse sand or the organic cycad mix or turface mixed with organic elements. This is no surprise. Organic mixes are of course going to hold on to water longer than an inorganic medium. Coarse sand with it's low air space is of course going to hold more water than Turface. The particle size is smaller than the turface but that is going to negatively impact root health. If you look at the work coming out of the University of Missouri they add calcined clay to gravel so that it doesn't dry out as fast.
When you say that turface dries out fast, it begs the question,"compared to what?" Compared to sand? sure, sand holds water way too long and compacts down terribly. Compared to 3/8" pea gravel? no way, pea gravel dries out much faster. Compared to identical particle size pumice? Since the turface holds more water it will stay wet longer. I have conducted side by side comparisons of 100%pumice and 50/50 pumice/turface that backs that up. It's all relative. If you are using a heavy peat based medium turface will make it dry out faster. If you are using a pea gravel based medium, turface will make it dry out slower.
You have to be careful with those studies so that you don't read more into them than they are actually claiming.
Also, there are many studies on water retaining polymers that show they hold onto water too tightly.
Now if you want to let plants go for that long without water, then sure you are going to need a medium that can afford you that convienience at the cost of the plant's roots or the need to repot more often. I solve that problem with an irrigation system instead. It's far more reliable AFAIC. If you get a ton of rain while gone nothing drowns, and if it is super hot the water is running regularly so it doesn't matter much.
Nil13 nailed it. I agree.
I will say that I don't like 100% turface as a medium like in that cycad study. It doesn't have enough air space.
When I think of hydrophobic, I don't think of turface. I think of peat, dry clay, and dry sugar sand. I can't think of any time I have hit dry turface with water and it didn't instantly turn dark. I have never seen it float or have a bubble around it stopping water penetration. Now sure, it might not go from bone dry to saurated with a quick or even a thourough watering but I don't see it actively repelling water. Could some of that water not be available at some point so that the water holding capacity is less than it calcs out at? I could see that as a possibility. The other issue that can potentially be a problem is the high CEC and affinity for Phosphorus. It's probably a good idea to load it up before use.
Here is a post that was added to the thread about turface being unsuitable for bonsai.
There are three ‘types’ of water in soils: Hygroscopic (bound to the soil particle), gravitational (occupying large pores in soil, will drain away), and capillary (moves against gravity due to surface tension in small pores).
* Gravitational water is available to the plant for a time, until it drains away.
* Capillary water is available to the plant for the longest period of time.
* Hygroscopic water is never available to the plant ��" it’s held to the soil particle too tightly for the plant to use it.
Turface was developed to dry ��" remove water ��" from infields. It was not developed to grow plants in. Turface has a very small pore size(Turface has 3 times as much hygroscopic water by weight and 5 times as much by volume than pumice. Water in Turface is significantly less available to plants than water in pumice. (Primary source citation available.)
I agree that one can grow a tree in about anything, dependent on one's own behaviors regarding water, fertilizer, etc.
I strongly disagree that all media are equivalent. Some are better than / easier to grow in than others. And telling new growers that media composition doesn't matter is bound to lead to frustration and confusion.
I decided to replace turface with pumice myself. It meets my needs of a soil. It may be too wet for others. Turface helps keep excess water away which is a good thing sometimes. I mostly deal with situations where water is in short supply. The more I can get the soil to retain and make water available, the better.
I'm still looking for a lighter replacement for the granite.
I may cut down amount, but still use some. Well I think you need to use 25% no less.
This post was edited by Drew51 on Wed, Dec 18, 13 at 17:37
Pumice holds less moisture than Turface, Drew, so you've cut down the moisture retention of your mix if you've kept all other things equal. Is that what you wanted to do?
My Pumice mixes require more frequent watering than Turface mixes.
Ok, as I have mentioned before, I am new to this grity-gran concept. I have a fundamental question:
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF GRANITE, GRAVEL, MARBLE , etc IN THIS POTTING MIX ?
WoW I have only now read the above link. Judging by the responses on that article I guess I'm content Turface isn't stocked here in NZ. Content in the sense that I thought (at the time when I discovered the gritty mix) Turface is something one MUST have to make a Gritty mix. In the beginning when I sourced products to make a Gritty mix I was very frustrated about not finding Turface here. I eventually used Pumice instead but always thought that i'm using a second rate product. Now I'm extremely happy with pumice. All the plants I have in pure pumice are doing just as well as in the mixes. In saying that I'm sure I would've been happy with Turface to. I really think its a question of building a sound mix and getting to know it. The bark is also a big factor that influences the behaviour of the Turface/Pumice or whatever is used. All barks are different and some can be real hydrophobic......
This post was edited by fredman on Thu, Dec 19, 13 at 20:34
Just because turface holds more hygroscopic water than pumice doesn't necessarily mean that less water is available. Hygroscopic water helps hold capillary water which is available to plants. All clays have high amounts of hygroscopic water, but I don't think anyone would consider them non moisture retentive. I would like to read the study though.
the non-porous grit serves several purposes.
First, it is durable and provides indefinite structure to the mix. It is non-porous, and so it displaces moisture / reduces the overall volume that water can occupy in a mix. It is generally inert. It generally has sharp edges which can facilitate in root-branching by abrasion. And it is weighty, which can provide good root-anchorage, as well as stabilizing a container. I'm sorry no one addressed your question sooner.
Drew - how extensively have you used 'the gritty mix', and for how long?
I'll be running trials against various mixes from universites and well know growers this summer. So I can't really say how well it will work for me. The weight is in issue that eliminates it from most applications so it doesn't matter that much to me, it is impractical for my uses. Having said that I have not found anything else that fits my needs either.
So you have never used it, at all?
I have used similar inorganic mixes with decomposed granite, large grain sand, or lava rock and oil dri type products. They even make a sport's field product. Pro choice? or something like that?
Cactus and Succulent Journal has for decades gone back and forth as to what is better, organic or mineral mixes. I mostly used mixes from various articles I read in the journal. I went to all organic when I started growing fruit. I needed large amounts of organic material for various fruit trees and bushes, and went back to making mixes using that material. It was handy.
Now I'm debating going back, but again the weight is an issue. My plants have grown a lot since when I first experimented with mineral mixes in the 1980's.
This post was edited by Drew51 on Thu, Dec 19, 13 at 19:30
Al. A little bit off topic but while I see you here. I missed your answer (if any) about how you water and feed your small Portulacaria in the acorn shell. I have the same in abalone shells. I remember you said something about a special way to water it but missed out on that thread and cant find it now.
This post was edited by fredman on Thu, Dec 19, 13 at 23:31
"Pumice holds less moisture than Turface, Drew, so you've cut down the moisture retention of your mix if you've kept all other things equal."
True, but it appears the water is available in pumice to the roots, and not in turface, that is a major problem. That's what I don't like about it. So water retention means nothing if using turface, well it doesn't really become a useful number, as the water is not available. The study clearly shows that in it's results.
Nil points out that turface alone does not have enough air. Well it has more air than sand, and sand performed better, so clearly the issue of why it performed worse has to do with not making the water available to the roots, not air space, as sand had less, yet worked better. It could not be more clear turface appears to hold water well, but roots cannot utilize it. So why would you use it? All plants were given the same amount of water. the only conclusion you can make is the water was not available because of the small pore size of turface.
You guys keep going back to the fact it holds water better, I agree it does, but if it won't let go what good is that?
The study does show that matters, so your anecdotal accounts are just that, not proof. Show me studies that say it does make water available.
It appears other studies confirm what I'm saying, I will present them when they become available to me.
"My Pumice mixes require more frequent watering than Turface mixes. "
Well in the study they concluded that the turface might have performed better with more water, so they observed just the opposite as you. But I can explain it. Maybe the plants roots in pumice are a lot larger, thus requiring more water.
I have learned in the art of bonsai, one often wants to restrict roots. Sometimes you want them to grow more. Well to restrict root growth, one way is to add more turface to the medium. Training grade medium, used to stimulate root growth is mostly pumice.
I'm not growing bonsai and have no desire to restrict root growth.
Here's a quote from the bonsai guy
"“In Japan we’d take a weak tree and gently nest the original soil mass in a box of pure pumice.” "
One of the problems with pumice is cost, at least here in the USA. Perlite would probably work as well.
I would think with pumice to equal Al's mix in water
1 part granite
3 parts pumice
1 part bark
Increase or decrease pumice to adjust water retention to your needs.
I will have to experiment. It should be a lot lighter too (yeah!)
This post was edited by Drew51 on Fri, Dec 20, 13 at 4:20
Once you've worked with Turface, I think you might find that study not so useful. It's fun to knock ideas around in the abstract, but in my containers the story is different....and pretty much every other Forum poster here has an experience divergent from those listed in the study.
Last season, I experimented with pure Turface as a seed-starting mix, and I didn't like it. Tomato and Physalis seeds took an average of two days longer to germinate. The Turface was quite heavy in the tray, and it held lots of moisture. It still worked, just not as well as a looser mix of Turface, bark, and perlite (side-note: I love using pumice/lava rock in seed-starting mixes). Anyhow, if I use pure Turface again, I will make two changes: first, shallower and smaller seed-starting containers, and I won't screen the Turface.
Josh, that's interesting. You mentioned that pure turface was heavy (I assume this means weighty?), and water retentive. Did you see these as problems? What problem is it that you think unscreened turface would solve vs. screened turface (in a 100% turface mix)? I would think not screening it would make it hold even more water. But maybe shallower containers would mitigate this.
When you use turface+bark+perlite, what ratio do you use? I have been meaning to screen some perlite to gritty mix size and experiment with it as a lighter weight alternative to granite, but have not yet spent the time. I assume you'd modify the ratio from 1:1:1, but not sure which direction.
Do you find bark+turface+perlite to just be good for seed starting, or as a general replacement for gritty mix when weight (or granite availability) is an issue?
I agree, Josh. I think a lot of conclusions have been drawn, decisions made, formulations critiqued and altered in the abstract, without the compass many of us use as part of our guidance system - practical application. Using Turface in a soil doesn't make that soil immune to issues that come as a result of poor choices, choices that may not have anything to do with Turface.
I would agree with Josh and Al...
Convenience, if it hasn't been part of the discussion, should also be noted as "not part of Gritty Mix use". Optimum growth is another term to keep in mind... if the desired result is optimum growth, then there's no room for convenience.
The more porous mediums are not given to much convenience. One must remain on top of the watering/feeding game when using mediums that offer better drainage.
The larger the particles, the more porous... the more porous, the more often the addition of moisture will be necessary. That kind of goes without saying, though.
Even a peat based, bagged soil will dry out completely and become hydrophobic if allowed to.
Hey, Jodi! Great to see ya, and excellent points raised.
Daniel, indeed the Turface was weighty, heavy, putting a lot of compact pressure on seeds and root-tissues. In the deep seedling container, the pure Turface would dry in the upper layer and remain moist in the lower layer. This was exacerbated by the screening - which meant that the particles weren't touching eachother closely enough, and so the moisture wasn't wicking evenly.
By using a shallower container, the mix will dry more evenly and there won't be as much mass to overcome - as far as seeds and roots are concerned. A shallow container will simply mean re-potting sooner.
By using unscreened Turface, the capillary wicking will be improved - yes, it will hold more moisture, but that moisture will move through the media more evenly with increased contact - so it will absorb more from the start, but also release it sooner. Also, using smaller containers will ensure this.
With bark / perlite / turface, I've made many mixes/ratios. I usually start with screened bark - 3 parts - then screened perlite - 2 parts - and then screened turface - 1 part. But that's just a guess. I also make a screened 5-1-1 with 5 parts screened bark, 1 part coarse perlite, and 1 part turface. That works incredibly well.
I don't typically use any peat in seed-starting mixes.
I just read a study that showed arcillite (= calcined montmorillite clay = Turface) added to milled pine bark in a nursery study improved the growth of crops. It was added at the rate of 0, 45, 90, 112, or 136 lbs/cu yd. CC, AW, Db [container capacity, available water, bulk density] all increased with the increase in arcillite; whereas TP and UAW [total porosity and unavailable water] were unaffectred. Air space decreased from 29.2% for pine bark alone to 20.8% at the 136 lbs/cu yd.
Unfortunately, the study is locked, so I can't copy/paste the text and chart provided, but if anyone is interested in reading the whole study, I'll be glad to forward. If you ask for the study, be sure your home page settings will allow me to reply to your request, or include your email addy in the body of your text.
I received 9 emails today, each containing several studies. They should all have some reference to either calcined clays or pumice. I haven't had time to look at any but the first in queue, but that one finds the addition of calcined clay to pine bark increases available water without diminishing total porosity or increasing the amount of unavailable water.
Interesting thread for sure. That's one great thing about GW, you can learn a LOT just from reading these threads. A free education in many ways. :)
After reading this thread and many others over the last few months it's very clear that the entire process of selecting or building a soil mix is a balancing act between providing optimum plant growth versus the amount of time, labor, and cash that growers wish to spend on the soil.
It's clear that many members of this forum are willing to go to great lengths to locate ingredients and build a soil that allows their plants to flourish in custom-built soil mixes. On the other hand, I know people who are completely satisfied with purchasing bags of MG peat-based soil from the local big box store and wouldn't consider investing the time, labor, or money to make their own soil mix.
It's just interesting to me to see both extremes on a regular basis.
For me, a mix like the 5-1-1 is much more economical than purchasing a pre-bagged mix like Miracle Grow to fill my containers. I can schedule the time, and I can perform the labor, but cash is something I seldom have in good supply :-)
I agree with Josh;
I have stocked some nice small pine barks nuggets. And I will get a bundle of peat moss(I think they are about 3 CF compressed) and will get some perlite. I will use less perlite (maybe 5%). because of its high cost.
That is all I need to make all my mix for all my outdoor potting needs.
Back to Topic:
OK, the Bonsai Guy might be quite right (or wrong), when he is talking about BONSAI business. But How many of you out there are in BONSAI planting hobby? There goes again the "One Size Fits All" notion.
Another issue, was pointed out about frequency of watering and was referred to it as a matter of CONVENIENCE. To me, convenience is also a matter of practicality and economics. More watering translates to " More Time", "More Fertilizer" more care, which all have economic value.
Yard Guy - When I say convenience, I really mean how we order our priorities. Some growers are in the 'be all that you can be' category, and some are 'eh'. Some people would LIKE to be in the 'be all you can be' category, but have other priorities that take precedence, like feeding the family and keeping the kids from setting the cat ablaze.
How we order our priorities is a separate thing from how much potential a soil can offer - one has no impact on the other. But you're right - growing is a balancing act. E.g., not everyone's kids are grown, so they might not have the time to build fancy soils.
Initially, it might SEEM like people have to go to great lengths to find ingredients for their soils, but very often, they start discovering later that it might not have been as difficult as it seemed if they knew what to look for. On another gardening site, a lady from Houston just posted that she looked for pine bark for 6 months & couldn't find it. She asked for help, and I found it (from Michigan) in about 10 minutes on the computer & phone. Too, I now know of multiple sources of pine bark, Turface, grit, perlite ..... all within easy driving distance for me that I discovered after I looked so hard for ingredients when I first started making soils.
I know plenty of growers on both ends of the extremes, and either end is perfectly fine with me - I don't care what people choose to grow in. I want them to get the most out of the growing experience, but my interest stops there. Since I do want people to get reliable information on which to base their decisions, I'll often point to the shortcomings of highly water-retentive soils or soils made with less than ideal ingredients. I've found that it often seems to be particularly difficult for some growers to accept the idea that their chosen brand of off the shelf peat-based soil might not perform as well as promised on the bag. It's common to hear some variation of, "I've been using brand X for X years and it works for me", but that really says little, except someone is satisfied with the status quo.
I'm always interested in helping anyone I can, but it's the growers who aren't happy with the return they realize for their efforts, who want to improve and are willing to make the effort, that I tend to especially enjoy helping.
Seysonn - I'm a bonsai guy, too, and almost everything I know about soils and growing plants in containers is an outgrowth of my pursuit of a level of proficiency at bonsai I can be happy with. The gritty mix is actually the soil I developed for my own bonsai, and the 5:1:1 mix is a compromise (compared to the gritty mix) that I can easily live with. Both are meant to relieve the average grower of having to continually battle a soil that is inherently limiting, a cause of widespread frustration.
So, I checked to see if the question about calcined clay and available water had been answered. First I came up withthe Missouri Gravel Bed research showing calcined clay increased available water in a gravel substrate.
Here is a link that might be useful: calcined clay in gravel pdf
and another with pine bark medium
Here is a link that might be useful: pine bark calcined clay study PDF
Here are the hydraulic properties of pumice.
Here is a link that might be useful: hydraulic properties of pumice
Thank you for the research reports. So far, I've only had time to skim, but I saw enough to reassure me about using calcined clay, and to raise concerns about pumice.
I admit that I've never used pumice, and I don't even recall seeing it for sale in my area, so I cannot offer any comments on it. However, I do use a brand of hand soap that has pumice in it and it *does* clean my dirty hands very well. :)
I'm not an expert on the 5-1-1 or gritty mixes but I'm fairly certain that whatever materials we use for a soil mix someone, somewhere, is going to have an issue with either our selected materials, our mix ratios, or our fertilizing techniques. I really believe that we just have to do the best we can with the time, materials, and finances we have to work with.
In my opinion, if we are happy with our current soil mixes, and we are satisfied with the plant growth using that mix, then that's all that really matters.
Great post! I will probably never be satisfied. i can see one day i will say "Yes this is it at last!" and keel over dead...
I listen to gardener show podcasts, and they often have special guests from universities, and most hosts to these shows are master gardener's if not educated more, and they all like different mixes. As many mixes as their are stars in the universe!
Agree, but sometimes we need to experiment with new ideas and adventures.
The point is that most of those guys who have a different potting mix formula and swear by it, probably they are right. There could be various media to grow in them successfully. Many people have been using MG potting mix for years and they are quite happy with it. But with 511 standard (of good drainage) it should be avoided because it has high moisture retention.
Having said I that, pine bark based soil (some modified version of 511) sound promising to me and I will try it this year.
I cannot comment on gritty mix since I have no application for it at this point.
This whole thing just sounds like one of those "common wisdom" things where someone at some point said "we have to check X" and then 10 people later we've got "Y is terrible because of X" without anyone actually having had a problem with X.
I've had nothing like this with turface. I generally find it stays a little wetter than I'd like.
Well that is your experience. The Bonsai guy is a published professional. Has anybody commenting here written any books? He is paid for his advice. Some opinions have more weight than others.
The fact that he's paid for his advice doesn't make his advice any better. His research boils down to "we didn't water enough, so a soil that should be deeply watered didn't work correctly"
There are a lot of us using soil with turface, and finding the exact opposite of what hes saying.
I'd like to know where to buy turface in Brooklyn.
He's a published professional, but he's offering an opinion based solely on his observations, not on his or anyone else's scientific findings. Upthread I noted that the very first controlled experiment I reviewed indicated that container capacity and available water both INCREASED with the addition of arcillite (calcined clay) to pine bark, with no increase in unavailable water. You can draw the conclusion then that arcillite yields more available water and less unavailable water than pine bark.
I'm also communicating with a bonsai friend who has spent more than 50 years tinkering with container media, and whose master's thesis was written on the subject of the same (container media). Neither his observations nor mine coincide with those put forth insofar as root health is concerned. No one is saying that one person's observations are any more accurate than another, or that anyone is misinterpreting any observations. What is important is reconciling the cause effect relationship. Because of the disparity in observations, it's very likely the cause only occurs under a specific set of circumstances, with several possibilities already having been discussed on this thread.
I have no stake in what others might choose to believe here, but I do know you can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into, so I won't even try. It's much easier to be a believer than a thinker. Hence, so many more believers than thinkers.
Just some personal observations.
I have been growing cacti for some seventy five years - mostly in containers - so my experiences hark back to "the bad old days" of clay pots with broken pot drainage layers in the bottom and the ubiquitous soil mix of 1 part garden loam, 1 part leaf mold and 1 part coarse builder's sand.
I think the most significant cultivational event for me occured about forty years ago when I switched exclusively to plastic containers and a mineral rich, gritty, soilless mix that was very open and porous in order to insure superior drainage and root aeration.That mix consisted of screened coarse pumice and shredded pine bark - a mix that over the years has consistently produced robust, healthy plants that produce an abundance of flowers and fruit - in other words optimum growth. Inasmuch as I specialize in cacti of the Brazilian Caatinga - a region of very long periods of great aridity and stifling heat - I mostly use a mix of 70% pumice and 30% pine bark. I eschew peat. I have never used Turface or similar media.
I have been growing cacti for 38 years, and I couldn't agree more. Now maybe other products are better for certain plants, but it's ironic for every success, some one posts a couple failures. Not one failure posted using pumice. Now that says a lot for sure. I think the biggest lesson is that their is no such thing as a universal mix.
Of course many will again try not to blame the mix, but the way it was made, the way it was watered, everything but the mix, It's becoming an inside joke!
I think every plant group is different. And turface, or peat is fine for some plants, Maybe even desirable. I know with blueberries, peat moss is fantastic. Potting mixes should be based on plant groups.
For me, the very fibrous and tough root structure of "Caatingan" cacti makes them ideally suited for the mix I employ and the growing environment I provide. Of course, inasmuch as they are *CAM plants I employ a completely different watering regimen than those who grow, for instance, C3 plants - it is futile to water them during the daytime when their stomata are closed, so I water them at night during their active growing season.
Here are some examples of my mix at work:
Roots ramified throughout the root ball on long potted mature Discocactus heptacanthus
Spontaneously sprouted seedling - Melocactus zehntneri
Seed grown plantlets (I employ my mix for seed growing exclusively):
* Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM)
Most discussions relating to CAM get very technical very quickly. Here is one online reference, in this case relating specifically to cacti, that is fairly simple and straight forward:
What Does CAM Mean to Your Cacti? by Patsy M. Miller, Ph.D.
Edit: Zone 9 - sorry.
This post was edited by jpaz on Wed, Jan 15, 14 at 19:12
I like to periodically and randomly check the health of the root systems of my plants (and coincidentally the efficiency of my mix) by gently squeezing the sides of the pot and sliding the entire plant out of the container. I expect the root ball to look like this:
I then slide the plant back into the container ..... and life goes on. Of course I only do this for plants in containers up to 4" - they get too unwieldy after that.
pumice is awesome for cacti and succulents? well duh.
That said, the Missouri Gravel Bed mix has been giving me pretty good results for cacti and succulents as well.
Of course I have mainly used, and continue to use, pumice because it is readily available to me. If it became unavailable, I would undoubtedly switch to Turface for it seems to possess some excellent properties.
This post was edited by jpaz on Wed, Jan 15, 14 at 17:58
"I would undoubtedly switch to Turface - it seems to possess excellent properties. "
The only scientific study where it was used as a growing medium, it finsihed dead last, right behind sand.
Drew51: The study you cited is not the only scientific study ever done on using Turface as a growing medium. Nil13 cited two in this thread (examining TerraGreen and Arcillite, which are calcined clay just like Turface). Google Scholar lists more than 1,800 articles discussing "calcined clay container growing" published just since 2010. There are 86 results specifically discussing the Turface brand.
Here is a link that might be useful: Scholarly articles on Turface in container growing
Drew - would you like to actually READ the study I referred to above? It's completely the reverse of what you're suggesting in saying "The only scientific study where it was used as a growing medium, it finished dead last ....". That suggests there was only one study, which we know is not true. I'd really like to read that study (please forward or post a link?), and I would also like to point out that your experience using these gritty soils and ingredients is rather limited, according to what you've said. You're naturally easily swayed because of your inexperience using soils like the gritty mix and Turface as a soil fraction. I'm getting that you've never used Turface at any time?
"Potting mixes should be based on plant groups." Please expand. What are plant groups ..... trees and cacti and succulents and berries ..... all need different soils?
You read an article and it sounded reasonable, so you bit. Subsequent to your deciding that Turface is inferior as a soil component (never having used it?) you look for reasons to support your 'findings'. You've rethought the formula for the gritty mix and made commentary like an old pro, yet you've never even used it.
Because one bonsai expert holds a particular view doesn't mean that all experts agree. I just received an email that was also copied to Mike H. It's an expert's blog discussion about Akadama (To Akadama, or not to Akadama). In it, the experts invited to comment all disagree on multiple fronts, and even contradict themselves in several places. What it serves to prove is that they can't all be right. So much for consensus. You'd be amazed at how many highly respected bonsai practitioners are employing soils that are barely useable because the grower is weak in the area of soil science and using what someone equally weak has suggested because someone else suggested it was great. That's just how the bonsai community is - no different than any other society that focuses on one plant or one type of plant.
This post was edited by tapla on Wed, Jan 15, 14 at 15:15
Boy, cognitive bias is a PITA.
Well, I guess we all have to agree to disagree on this topic. The bottom line is that each of us should find a soil mix, regardless of ingredients used, that we are comfortable with using and that provide the expected results from our plants.
As has been pointed out many times by the veteran GW posters, both the gritty mix and the 5-1-1 mix as originally posted by Al should be considered starting points only. All of us who are interested in trying these mixes should feel free to experiment with these mixes and use whatever ingredients we wish. If someone can't find, or does not wish to use, one of the ingredients, typically there are several workable alternatives that will provide similar results.
You could probably make a list of every ingredient used in both the 5-1-1 or grit mix and at least one 'expert' somewhere will find a reason to disagree with something in those mixes. I have never been to a bonsai show but I would imagine getting a roomful of bonsai fans to unanimously agree on a single "best" soil mixture would be like trying to get a roomful of people to agree on the best brand, make, and model of vehicle. It's not going to happen.
The fact that other forum members might disagree with what I've decided to use in my mixes does not bother me all that much. If the plants are happy and growing well, and the materials used in the mix are cost effective and readily available, then in my opinion that's what really counts.
It's one thing to disagree on your personal preferences, but it's another to disseminate incorrect science.
> "The only scientific study where it was used as a growing medium"
This is demonstrably untrue.
I agree. I don't really care what grower A, B, or C might choose to do, except to the extent I'd like them to make choices that will lead to a better growing experience, but I do have a keen interest in seeing that growers E-Z get information reliable enough that they can make their own informed decisions.
Well said Al. All that we as a group can do is provide and share information and then let other forum members make their own choices on container growing mediums based on that information.
The internet being what it is, anyone can find any information they like to support a particular agenda... but that doesn't necessarily make it true or factual... just because it exists in cyberspace.
Information really needs vetting to be considered... it must be logical, reasonable, pass critical thought and problem solving skills, and should ring with common sense.
I have found the concepts Tapla shares to be solidly rooted in science and physics, absolutely workable, logical, and they ring with complete common sense.
However, some variables will have to be taken into consideration... such as individual environment, amount of time and attention one plans to pay to one's container plants, etc... user error is often overlooked as an issue, but the truth is, more plants are killed by our own errors.
So far, I have not had any issues with Turface as a portion of my mediums, and will continue to utilize it until Tapla says otherwise... based upon our past relationship as teacher and student, not to mention the respect he has garnered within the gardening community, I trust that what he says has merit.
Well said. I agree with you. No matter what topic is being discussed, gardening, auto repair, baking, etc. you can always find someone on the internet who does things differently or presents a different viewpoint. That's just the way it is.
So if both you and your plants are happy with your current method that's great. If members wish to experiment with different soil mixes and ratios, that's fine too.
"The internet being what it is, anyone can find any information they like to support a particular agenda"
Wow even soil science has an agenda on the internet!
"Information really needs vetting to be considered"
Right like scientific studies by credentialed individuals, and those studies have been presented. What I find puzzling is the throwing out of studies, the dismissing of professional soil companies. As somehow not doing it right. Apparently all of soil science is incorrect.
I feel one should use what they feel works, but to discredit others who have different opinions I find poor and that often happens in this forum. Your loyalty is admirable, but it's not a contest, or a war, but a seeking of information. I'm interested in soil science to increase knowledge. No one person has a monopoly on that. New discoveries are made daily. I use materials based on experience. I would not use them based on what others tell me is right. I need to see it myself. And I guess that is where we part company.
I would encourage all to experiment and try to develop techniques that lead to success.
Turface is a man made fired clay. Other fired clays have been used for thousands of years as a soil amendment so it certainly has merit. All Al offers is a ratio to use. the use of these soil additives has been going on for centuries.
People differ on what clay works better. The Bonsai guy likes other clay products better, and all this because of a brand of clay? I find this thread hysterical in many ways.
Especially the last post!
Interesting thread that I ran across doing a search.
First of all, let me make it crystal clear that I have zero interest in scientific studies whether valid or pseudo, done by people who may or many not have a hidden agenda, and I have zero interest in reading a bunch of long winded scientific posts. I'm just going to make this real simple from my experience last year with 2 varieties. Plumeria and Adeniums. I don't need to hear how all plants have the same needs over and over and over again. I have already heard that at least 100 times on here. I get it, I really do. Some have an agenda and others just have to be right if they spend their entire life on the internet(hint hint) being self promoters.
Last spring I rounded up all of the ingredients for gritty mix. I got the correct ingredients, and I screened the fines correctly, I sifted the Turface and granite to remove fines and planted around 75 of my Plumeria in it. The rest I planted in the ground, which of course is where they want to be,( ALWAYS, without exception), and the remainder I put in black nursery pots plus some pots I painted white.... and filled them with a good potting soil sold locally that is used by many commercial growers and Plumeria nurseries in this area. I added perlite or pumice to the mix, after putting a single layer of lava rock in the bottom of some of the pots to add weight.
The Adeniums, I only have 5, but they are fairly large, were all planted in the gritty mix. You need a dolly to move them but they have done fine in it so far.
I will address the Adeniums first. They all did fine in the gritty mix, although once the roots filled the pot, and they did fairly rapidly, it became hard to feed them with a liquid fertilizer, it just ran right out, leaves got pale and smaller and blooms diminished. I switched to a 9 month time release and a more rapid time release granular and that seemed to solve the problem.
Moving on to the Plumerias, The ones in the ground grew like weeds and did fine all year. So did the ones in the potting soil with pumice or perlite, about 25% pumice or perlite per pot.
The ones in the gritty mix had plenty of nice healthy roots until around mid to late June, July, when it began to really get hot here in Florida. Then it was clear they were hot happy at all. The mix was very hot, it became almost impossible to give them enough water even watering sometimes twice a day when temps were in the mid 90's. Their leaves were smaller, paler, some distorted. I took a few out of the pots and was surprised to find very few healthy roots inside the top 2/3 of the pot. Most of the nice healthy roots were at the bottom of the pot or outside the pot where they had escaped and attached to the wet wood of the pallets they were sitting on. I re-potted many of the ones in the gritty and and put them in potting soil...within a week they looked MUCH better. Greener leaves, no limp branches or leaves. A month later they had plumper limbs, bigger leaves. I didn't want to re-pot all of them twice in one year, so I left the rest in the gritty mix but did move them to a shadier location because the temps were several degrees warmer in the gritty pots vs the ones in soil and the pots were side by side.
I also had to change from a liquid fertilizer. It just ran right through and dried out before the roots had a chance to use it. I switched to a time release and a slow release granular and that did help with the growth and leaf color and size and also helped the deformities of the leaves. I know Turface holds water, it is used to dry up ball fields and golf courses. However, I do NOT believe it releases that water to roots and I do not believe it releases the liquid fertilizer either. I think the Turface stays wet, absorbs the liquid fertilizer( whatever is left after most it runs right though) . I noticed when re-potting that a lot of the turface was covered with salts and had lost some of it's absorbent properties. Before you even ask, YES I flush my pots, a lot!
So without any long winded pseudo or real scientific studies, this is just from observation of Plumeria in Florida in 3 different situations.... potted in soil with pumice or perlite, planted in the ground and potted in the gritty mix.
I am well aware that this may work fine with cactus, etc. however, Plumiera, although much like a succulent in some respects, really are not. They are trees that reach large dimensions and grown in humid, tropical locations where the rains are frequent in the summers, then they go dormant during the dry season. When they are actively growing, unless they are newly rooted, they like quite a bit of water.
Every Plumeria I bought over the summer and into the fall went into potting soil and none had any issues. Needless to say, I will be re-potting all 75 or so trees still in gritty and putting them in potting soil this spring.
I will add one thing, and this applies to Plumeria only..... newly rooted cuttings rot very easily if too wet until they have a good amount of leaves and roots. The gritty mix is perfect for those. It is next to impossible to rot one in it.
Edited to state that I will be re-potting about 35 this week and I am going to take photos of each one, whether in soil or gritty and put them on an online album and post the link to the album. I will take photos of each stage of each pot. Judge for yourself which roots you prefer. You will also be able to see that my mix was mixed perfectly.
This post was edited by powderpuff on Sat, Mar 15, 14 at 21:08
have you seen Laura's army of Plumeria in Gritty Mix? Her plants really seem to thrive in the mix.
When you mention the lack of roots in the upper part of the mix, I imagine that is due to a lack of moisture - or rather, consistent moisture. Perhaps a different method of watering would have helped things, too.
First, well-aerated soils are cooler than poorly aerated soils, so whatever you did or didn't do that allowed the soil temps to get so high, it would have been much worse if the soil had less aeration. The gritty mix is almost infinitely adjustable for water retention by simply varying the ratio between only 2 of the 3 ingredients, so if the soil you built didn't have enough water retention, it's on the grower, not the soil. You said you don't want to be bothered by trying to understand anything scientific, which is probably why you don't understand the concept that allows growers to use well-aerated soils effectively or how to implement it.
People are free to believe what they want, but that doesn't mean there are valid reasons for all beliefs. I believe your issues are related to grower error, which makes by far the most sense when others in southern locales aren't having the same difficulties you profess to.
Also, you've established a continuing pattern of mean-spirited comments about me and any of my offerings on the plumeria forum re a wide variety of subject matter which has now bled over to this forum, so I'll just ask others to keep that pattern of behavior in mind as they consider what you had to say.
Truly good growers are adaptable enough that they can grow plumeria and similar plants in just about any type of medium. Less skilled growers very often have troubles no matter what type of medium or fertilizer they use, and almost always farm the blame out instead of shouldering any responsibility for failures.
It always amazes me how people come to conclusions without conducting studies to verify the veracoty of those conclusions. It is very easy to test to see if turface can soak up and release nutrients. Soak some in a nutrient solution and then use that in a gravel mix. Use plain gravel as a control and see which plants show nutrient deficiency first. Considering there have been studies showing that turface has a fondness for phosphorus and thus recomends preloading the turface with a superphosphate solution, I'm fairly confident I can predict how that experiment would unfold.
I also think it should be mentioned that turface, peat, bark, etc do not absorb plant food. They hold onto the ions that plants use like a sweater holds onto a balloon. There is no absorbing. If the ion touches an oppositely charged surface, it sticks.
Everybody has an opinion. I form my own conclusions. Much like the dirt docter. Here's what he think's of peat!
Research has shown that we now have many alternatives to peat moss that work better at lower cost and do not have the environmental consequences.
Peat moss is environmentally bankrupt in today's gardening environment and shouldn't be used except for storing materials that need protection from rotting.
Here is a link that might be useful: Peat moss use should end
I guess pine bark isn't much better according to the dirt doctor! I love this discussion it's like a scab at a union meeting or a conservative at the church of liberalism.
Emotion over logic at it's best. Hilarious!
Here is a link that might be useful: Peat Moss & Pine Bark Issues
Here is a reply I often leave when the non-renewable thing comes up:
"Sorry, but I'm not buying the non-renewable lament. In Canada alone, there are more than 270 million acres of harvestable peat bogs. If we make the conservative guess that the harvestable portions of these bogs are 10 feet deep, that means there are probably more than 900 billion cu. ft. available for harvest, just in Canada! That doesn't even take into consideration what's available in Europe, Asia, or places like New Zealand where they also mine peat. Canada currently has mining/harvesting operations underway on approximately 40 thousand acres or about .014% (that reads 14 one thousandths of 1 percent)."
Check the math - it's accurate and conservative. It's more likely that the next ice age will be upon us and glaciers will have covered what's available before we even use a noticeable percentage.
Renewable/non-renewable = moot.
My plumeria loves turface. I bought two, gave one to the neighbor and potted mine up in gritty, the neighbor planted theirs in the ground. It's been two years, they are both the same size but mine is sturdier looking (big boned), and it decided not to go dormant this year (my fig either). I'm getting ready to mix enough gritty to fill a forty gal container to put the plumeria in and let it get big.
I think this thread has been a lot like reading reviews on Yelp. You have all these people that have had a great experience and then you have two that complained they had to wait for ever to get seated on Valentines Day, it was crowded, noisy and the waiter was rushing and gave them bad service.
I have grown plants in all sorts of potting soil, some very nice indeed, but they always seem to need a lot of looking after. I chose to go with the gritty crowd and repotted everything, I've never looked back. I had major back surgery six months ago and it's a long recovery, my family has not been that attentive to my plants, seriously, they kept forgetting to water them and I'm not sure they got any fertilizer for two months. Not one died, some wilted now and then, but they all have survived and are looking great. I don't think you can get much easier than that.
So that's my experiments, it works for me, if you don't like turface use something else, I don't like granite, I use pumice, if gritty ain't working for you, find what does and make the best of that. I think it's kind of pointless to keep telling people that gritty mix is bad when it clearly works great for 99% of them.
Well said, Jerry, well said!
I hope you're back to full strength very soon.
I'm glad you said that, Jerry. Usually, if people report a bad experience with either the gritty mix or the 5:1:1 mix, there's a reason for it that's unrelated to the soil. In many cases, people who have approached it haphazardly quickly turn to attacking the soil instead of admitting they must have done something that didn't allow them to take advantage of what the soil offers. No one ever said there wouldn't be some effort involved if you choose to make your own soils.
If I suggest that someone's inability to grow things well in the gritty mix probably has more to do with the person than the mix, it looks like I'm in denial. If a pot overheats, that's on the grower, not the soil - especially because soils with superior gas exchange are virtually always cooler in a given situation than poorly aerated soils. If someone's husband refuses to make the gritty mix because he thinks it's too heavy, and too much work to screen, that isn't the soil's, or my, or anyone's fault. That's a case where someone has decided the effort isn't worth the reward, which is fine ..... but why not just say that?
I hope you're back on track and up to full speed soon, Jerry!
This post was edited by tapla on Sat, Feb 22, 14 at 13:36
"In many cases, people who have approached it haphazardly quickly turn to attacking the soil instead of admitting they must have done something that didn't allow them to take advantage of what the soil offers. "
I'm reminded of recipe reviews in which the reviewer gives the dish a one star rating because it didn't turn out well...and then goes on to say that they substituted two or three ingredients, left out another entirely, baked the dish at 475 rather than 325, etc.
Shazaam, that was perfect, I was laughing, I've read those reviews.
As the house cook for 35 years, I can relate. ;-)
Laura's plants are lovely, however they are not all in gritty mix. One person's success does not mean it's a good mix and she could have and would have the same success with a good soil. Plus who knows what will happen 2-3 years from now in the mix. Stunted growth? Sow decline? Gangly, thin branches?
in 2 - 3 years, the plants will be in fresh mix and appropriately-sized pots. But I'm sure Laura will pop in and tell us more.
"One person's success does not mean it's a good mix" is true, only because good and experienced growers are able to achieve acceptable results with something less than the ideal to work with; but one person's failure (yours) doesn't mean it's a poor mix, either - let's be logical and fair, shall we? Would you allow that the success of a hundred or a thousand growers in a particular soil just might mean there's a possibility the soil has merit? And who really WANTs to work with something that requires significant compromise? Not me. If a grower has reported problems growing in a variety of mixes as you have, PP, it leaves one to wonder if it's not the grower rather than the various soils used that are instrumental in an ongoing growing experience fraught with less than stellar results. IMO you're not yet qualified to predict what success another grower might or might not enjoy as a return on their efforts, especially since you haven't yet found the path to success, and the grower you're talking about consistently produces top quality results without any difficulty beyond her own physical exertion. You have to work at growing well - it doesn't just happen because we wish real hard.
It's easy to make wild conjectures without founding about what another grower's plants (that are always top shelf healthy) might look like in a number of years, but if I were you I'd be more concerned about my own house than Laura's.
Hello Everyone !!
Well.. Thank you Mike for sending me here!! My ears were bothering me all day and I thought it was the altitude !! Lol...
My trees ( Plumeria ) C&S , Tropicals , Conifers grow in a fast draining mix which can be labeled as "Al's Gritty Mix" or "Al's 5-1-1" or my own version of a "modified Gritty Mix " or " modified 5-1-1". None of my trees are planted in a " bagged mix".
I haven't counted how many trees are planted in " what type" mix because when I root prune or " pot up" they all get new mix and I either change the container size or if and when they get to big, they get root pruned to stay in the same container size so they don't get to heavy for me to handle . I have over 150 Plumeria and 40 or so Adenium and many other types of Tropicals etc. All of these are brought inside for the winter, so I make sure the Plumeria (which are trees..) and all of the others don't get to big. This fall, I had to make a few decisions and cut back on a few older trees because I couldn't fit them inside my house anymore. They had to start the whole process over again as cuttings . These trees have already been in a fast draining mix for several years and they are doing great! ( no suffering from thin branches or stunted growth and they certainly are not in any slow decline). My trees have never been healthier and the amount of blooms tell me they are happy!
I make my mix according to what I have learned here on these forums. Al has posted great information for all of us to take and learn the basic methods. All I do is apply what I have learned and make it fit my needs. ( which includes the use of Turface!!). These threads are full of wonderful information and I am thankful that it is available to me to continue to learn and see my trees flourish.
My trees are very healthy and I do appreciate all of the nice comments that I receive about my growing abilities... If I could tell you all how my plants / trees as well as yours or anyone's plants would perform in 2-3 years, I would be a millionaire! Lol... There are to many factors that play into how any plant or tree will perform ( watering habits, fertilizers, sun exposure, environment ) . I just know that my trees / plants have the best start because they are in a great mix that I have made by hand using the tools learned here on these forums.
Have a great night!!
Well I for one am going out this weekend to buy a few bags or Turface. It has always worked very well for me. I've found that, if anything, my gritty mix holds more water than I would have expected, many times it holds more water than my 5:1:1 (which made with screened bark 1/8 - 1/2 inch).
Thanks, Al, for sharing your wisdom over the years. Even if you don't want to agree with some of his conclusions, you've gotta recognize that he goes to a lot of effort to help folks.
This post was edited by maple_grove on Sat, Mar 15, 14 at 6:39
Something I learned a long time ago is that you can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into. When I find a post that's intended to produce more heat than light, I try to use the folly in it as a lead-in to providing something in the way of information that has the potential to be used by be others in a positive way. It's hard to earn the mantel of 'helper' by maligning the work of others.
Tapla said above..."Something I learned a long time ago is that you can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into."
Kind of like when you said that all plants in zone 9 in black cans will die if not shaded? You do recall saying that right? I suggest you take a drive through central FL, down to South FL in zones 10 and 10-11 and look at all those nurseries in that have black cans sitting out in full sun. THOUSANDS of plants and they are just fine. But of course they are all in good soil based mix.
Quotes can trip you up, but that's not at all what I said. What I actually said (in another thread) was, "BTW - Soil temperatures are determined by a LOT of variables. Growing in black cans in z9 is going to kill roots if you can't shade them - period." That's quite different than the misquote "..... all plants in zone 9 in black cans will die if not shaded". The thousands of plants in black cans are placed strategically in rows and packed tightly together so the top mass of the plants (foliage) shades the plants near it. Look closely next time you go to a nursery and see how the owner is very careful to arrange the plants so the cans are shaded. There is a chapter covering that and things like blow overs (because that exposes the entire can to a much larger sun load) in every nursery ops manual to help growers understand how to prevent $ losses due to high root temps.
I then went on to offer further explanation about what drives root temperatures so other growers wouldn't be misled into thinking that the gritty mix was somehow the cause of high soil temps. It's not - it's actually a much cooler soil than darker soils and soils with inferior gas exchange. The rest of what I said:
"What drives soil temperatures is sun load on the container, area of container surface exposed to direct sun, the container's color/light transmittance (degree of opacity/translucence), the color of the soil at the surface (dark soils absorb more heat than light soils), and how well the soil exchanges gases. The two characteristic of the soil that actually matter most are soil color and rate of gas exchange. The lighter the soil, the less heat it absorbs at its surface. The greater its gas exchange, the greater the effect of evaporative cooling. The gritty mix is lighter in color than most other soils and has better gas exchange than anything you've grown in, so with all other things being equal, there isn't anything you're apt to grow in that wouldn't find you dealing with much warmer soil temps than the gritty mix. It runs 10-15* cooler on hot days than even the 5:1:1 mix, which is another well aerated soil."
If you can't shade black nursery cans in zone 9, and they get a full sun load, you can expect root death on the exposed side of the containers - mainly the south and west side. That doesn't necessarily mean the death of the entire organism, but it certainly isn't good for the plant's vitality. We talk about that with great regularity on this forum and on many others as well.
As I read through this thread and looked over the poor reviews you give the gritty mix and the problems you reported starting in June of last year, and as long as we're doing research into past posts to check what the other said, I sort of remembered you giving the gritty mix glowing reviews last summer, on this forum, even. Does this sound familiar to you?
•Posted by powderpuff 10 (My Page) on Mon, Jul 22, 13 at 18:08
"mrbutcher... Your tomato plants look great! I am in shock over that video and must show it to my husband!!! I found the products, including Pine Bark Fines. However, the bark inside the bags was wet so we had to spread a tarp and let it dry. Then sift it once to get the small pieces, then again to eliminate the dust and tiny particles. Then sift the grit and turface. Turface and grit are heavy, so he has to help me. It takes a lot to fill 5-7 gallon pots.
If I even mention gritty mix he glares at me since he's the one that has to load and unload 50# bags of grit and Turface and move the pots.
I love the mix [my emphasis] but in pots over 5 gallons it's just too heavy to be practical unless you are very young and/or a body builder and he is neither. Maybe if I show him what you did to get the mulch, he won't gripe so much. lol! I have potted over 100, most in 3-7 gallon pots and I'm out of the mix and some need re-potted.
When I mentioned that 4-5 needed to go into 10-15 gallon pots he said don't even think about using that mix for those.
The next day he came home with a yard of potting soil and put it in a big pile in a corner of the yard..... sigh.
He said you want those in 10-15 gallon pots, there is your soil. :(" color> Quote ends
By this report, it really looks like at the end of last July you were quite happy with the mix, but your helper balked at the effort it takes to make it, and you couldn't do it yourself, or wouldn't. I understand that completely. For some, the effort it takes to make it just isn't worth it, but that doesn't make it a bad or unproductive soil. Just sayin' .....