Going Back to Peat Based Mix for Container Tomatoes in SWFL

yumtomatoes(10a/FLA)December 25, 2011

So I went with the Jungle Growth Vegetable and Flower mix, which is 55% pine bark fines. This is not a good choice for SWFL in the dry season. I have to water my beefsteaks 2-3x a day or they wilt.

We are still getting into the mid-80's here, lots of sunshine and no rain. It is too burdensome to have to water that much. The rain doesn't come until May and by then it is too hot to grow tomatoes.

Back to Miracle Grow Moisture Control for me!

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rnewste(8b NorCal)

yum,

Your call, but when I used straight Miracle Grow Potting Mix, the tomatoes had an awful time in it. Way too wet and "mucky". After a couple years of experimentation with many ingredients and combinations, what worked best for my container tomatoes is a 3:2:1 ratio of Potting Mix, Microbark, and Perlite:

This ratio drains well, but also wicks water as needed by the plants.

Raybo

    Bookmark   December 25, 2011 at 2:47PM
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yumtomatoes(10a/FLA)

thanks again for the awesome pics! I will have to experiment, but one thing is for sure, 55% pine bark fines doesn't work well in the dry season when it is staying this hot. It would probably be fine if it were cooler out, but it is still darn hot here!

    Bookmark   December 26, 2011 at 1:13PM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

yum what size are your containers ?
do you mulch ?

    Bookmark   December 26, 2011 at 11:09PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

Mulching is good but I know how hot FL can get. BTW how much is spag. peat in FL go these days?

I would say get pro mix or make your own peat based mix with peat, perlite, lime. In your climate it is perfect to get away using peat.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 2:17AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

You may get away with the excess moisture retention, but the peat will still compact and compromise
aeration in the root-zone. There's a whole dynamic to consider....not just intervals between watering.
I'd go with Raybo's advice, since he's our resident self-watering container guru.

Josh

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 10:51AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I don't think the OP is using SWCs .... and may be throwing the baby out with the bathwater by painting all bark-based soils with the same brush - especially when issues other than the soil's bark content might be in play causing the wilting ...... insufficient soil volume or poor root health, for example. I didn't offer any comment or ask any questions because the OP seemed to be emphatic about having made up his mind that '..... back to MG Moisture Control Soil' was the best course.

Al

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 11:52AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Al...I think you're right! Ha!
Totally misread that SWFL (South West Florida?) as "self watering"! Good catch.

Josh

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 11:58AM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

Yea pine fines and fast draining mix's are good for greenhouses, close decks, self watering, ect.... From what I have seen P. fines are different location to location and some people have an even harder time then i do finding it considerably priced. I have to say pine fines is the best hands down, but I have a hard time finding them pre-sifted, it's not like getting a 3 cu ft bale of peat for cheap then it expands to 6 cu ft. The peat I use is spag. and is very coarse and fiberlike. It drains fast, not like some fine grade peat that hold no air. I cant see whats wrong with using peat?

Note: If your container is larger your partical size in the medium should be larger as well. (When Orchids, for example, get bigger they can be planted in 3/4"-1" bark.)
I have problems with my 5" pots drying up using 100% peat!!!!! One 5 inch pot gives me a nice root bound head of lettuce. Smaller the container the smaller the partical. I dont know, maybe I am lucky to have good coarse peat?

Again, I would use pro mix or make your own, not MG soil. MG fertilizers are good though.

I see large scale container operations use peat because its water retensive, and very cheap. But you should consider Pine Fines last longer and can be reused longer then peat.
I am happy to learn about Pine Fines as a grow medium, I have several house plants in it and they grow quiker then they would if they where in peat.

However, IF I could only choose one, it would be p. fines for me.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 10:12PM
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rockguy(7a)

If I may so something here about watering...when the sun hits the outside of my containers, it heats the roots too much and makes for more frequent watering, just a thought. I shade mine and it has made a difference. Just the root zone, not the plant.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2011 at 9:52AM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

I take back what I said about "not" using Miracle Grow Potting Mix. It is a good mix.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 6:24PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Good for what?
Filling raised beds, making soup for a bog garden?
Staining decks and carpets beneath pots?

Sure, it's good for those things ;-)

Josh

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 7:24PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

There are LOTS of variables yum has not defined with his/her problems. I'm Zone 10 Florida and have great success with a bark based mix in only 3.5 gallons of soil, but my buckets are buried to keep the soil cool yet fairly nematode-free, and I use a micro-sprinkler system for morning watering....

11-11 pictures

12-17 pictures

Tom

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 7:38PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

Did I mention how much I hate PB! I'll link the first photo of each album for further reference....

11-11

12-17

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 7:47PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Wow!!! Great looking garden, Tom!

Josh

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 8:22PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

"Good for what?
Filling raised beds, making soup for a bog garden?
Staining decks and carpets beneath pots?
Sure, it's good for those things ;-) "

Well said. ;) Not only does it stain the deck, it's so heavy when moist.

I am considering going all 5-1-1 after the growth rate of the few plants i did try it with.

Tell me, can I leave out the peat moss in 5-1-1?

In terms of saving, I need to stop being lazy and just sift the pine bark I get, in the end it ends up costing even less then potting mix and preforms 2x. The answer is clear, p. fines out preform small partical mix's.

I was ready to just go to MG potting mix myself as I dont want to sift all that pine bark and have had good luck with MG soil or even pro mix. I now reconsidered my container garden. I am growing a jalapeno container garden. I always grew peppers in 3-5 gal. containers in potting mix, this year I want to grow them in 1-2 gal!!!! in the 5-1-1. Can I get away with 1 gal true? I am about to go and get a stock up on 1-2 gal pots as I found a good place to get them.

Not to steal the subject.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 9:53PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

You certainly can leave the peat moss out of the mix, but you'll want to include something
that will perform the role of the peat. I've used bark dust, turface, pumice, and extra perlite
to increase moisture retention and bind the mix. I have a Giant Chainfern in a mix of bark,
perlite, and pumice (5-1-1) that is still a great mix after nearly three years.

For my superhot peppers this year, I made a custom 5-1-1.
5 parts bark, 1 part perlite, 0.5 parts turface, and 0.5 parts Oceanforest potting soil (peat based).
This produced a very economical, light-weight, and excellent growing medium. This was in 5-gallon containers.

I also grew a Black Pearl pepper in a true 1-gallon container this year. I used the Gritty Mix for this
plant, and I had to water every 1-2 days depending on the Summer heat. With the proper shading of the
container, you could probably have decent results with such small containers.

Josh

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 10:55PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

Thanks Josh.

I am glad to here that I can use 1 gal, I will make sure to use a stake for each plant and water/fertilize as needed.

"5 parts bark, 1 part perlite, 0.5 parts turface, and 0.5 parts Oceanforest potting soil (peat based). "

That sounds like a very nice mix!!!!!

Now that I know I can fill 8-10 1 gal pots with 1 cu ft of medium I will be happy to sift to get the fines for the 5-1-1.

Thanks for the advice about the peat in the 5-1-1, so I should use more perlite? It is ok to use that fine-med. perlite I have been using it in the 5-1-1?

    Bookmark   January 4, 2012 at 12:12AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Are you using #1 nursery cans/pots?
If so, nursery pots are usually .71 gallons (that's what they are here). If using pots that small,
you'll have incredibly limited root-room and very limited results....unless you allow the roots to
grow out through the drain-holes and into the ground. If you want a large harvest of peppers,
go with larger containers - 2-3 gallon at least. For smaller pepper varieties, a 1-gallon is fine
as long as you can keep up with water and nutrients.

Take a peek at this Thread: Greenman's Peppers 2011 (pics)

Josh

    Bookmark   January 4, 2012 at 12:51AM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

Aw ok, very nice pics. So those where 2 gal? Good thing I asked I wont be getting #1 then. I will get #2 pots. I will hope to post some pics this year of my results.

Thanks for the help.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2012 at 1:33AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

No, those were alleged 5-gallon containers - which are not actually a true 5 gallons.
The Black Pearl pepper - the one with purple/black leaves - was the only pepper grown
in a 1-gallon container.

You'll be much happier with #2 pots. Shouldn't be too costly to fill, and you'll
still have a decent harvest.

Josh

    Bookmark   January 4, 2012 at 10:58AM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

Wow!!! Great looking garden, Tom!

Thanks for the kind words Josh, I've watched what you've done for quite a while now and know you're really good at thinking outside the box....It's the only way we can overcome our climatic problems when conventional wisdom states we can't possibly do something ;-)

Tom

    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 6:44PM
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capoman(5a)

MasterGardener: I suggest you use 3 gallon pots minimum for your peppers. I grew a ton of peppers from sweet greens to Ghost peppers last year in various size pots. The largest difference in size/yield was between 1 gallon and 3 gallon pots. Going larger then 3 gallons didn't do anything except reduce watering somewhat. Even when I pulled out the roots, they barely reached the side of the pot in 3 gallon. That being said, that was in my zone 5. A longer season may take advantage of larger pots. I wouldn't bother with 1 gallon though. You'd be better off with less plants in larger containers.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 4:59PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

Thanks!!!

I went and got #2 pots. So we will see how it goes. I am going to use a Dyna-gro product as my medium will not work with urea N.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 7:14PM
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