First Gritty Mix Trial

Joe1980(5)March 30, 2011

Well, I completed my first batch of gritty mix today. It's fairly straight forward, although screening the pine bark was a serious pain in the rear.

Anywho, on to my subject plant....my Jade. The rootball was a SERIOUS wad of compacted Miracle Grow. It took me about an hour to remove all of the old soil, and it was not easy. I really had to beat up on my poor Jade, basically spraying a jet of water on the rootball while using my fingers to rub away the not-so-miracle grow. Never again will I use that stuff, because the rootball was a disaster, and after I was done, the leftovers were a soupy mess. I did a good amount of root pruning, as well as pruning out a lot of big, heavy leaves. I had to wire the plant up until the roots can anchor better. Hopefully it recovers from this stressful ordeal.

Thanks again to everyone who has givin me input in several other threads that led me to these new potting mixes. Wish my Jade a speedy recovery!

Joe

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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

A speedy recovery indeed!

Keep it out of direct sunlight for a few days, and don't water for 3 - 5 days.....
it has plenty of moisture in its leaves and trunk, and you'll want the damaged roots
to form a callus before introducing any more external moisture.

Josh

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 2:11AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Joe - you might want to go to someplace like Harbor Freight (I found them much cheaper though, at a local hdwe store) and p/u some spring clamps and make an arrangement like this:

With some pots, you could also tie a string or wrap a wire temporarily under the pot rim & then tie the strings to that. I domn't have a pic of that set-up, but it should be easy to picture.

Also, when you're trying to remove that hard-packed soil from the old root mass that saps vitality, you can use a piece of 1/4" dowel sharpened in a pencil sharpener (tip slightly rounded) or a wooden skewer to work the old soil out from between the roots. Dip in water, remove some soil, dip again ...... Once you've repotted into the gritty mix, subsequent (full) repots will be much easier & only take a fraction of the time.

Good luck, Joe! I'm sure you'll find your efforts worth the rewards; and you should readily see how much easier it will be to keep plants healthy, now that your main efforts are behind you.

Take care.

Al

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 8:34AM
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jodik_gw

Very nice, Joe! Ditto what Josh and Al said... protect it for a little while from direct sun and any winds. Give it any support it needs... and when you do finally water it, remember that there will be a slight adjustment, so using the wooden skewer method to test for moisture might be a good thing to do... until you get used to it.

Whenever I remove a plant embedded in old bagged soil, I always notice the complete breakdown of the medium, and how it tends to allow the roots in the center to rot and die. It's a horrible thing. But from an industry perspective, it makes sense... it keeps you coming back for more plants and more soil.

Good luck... but you won't need luck now that you have knowledge and skill! :-)

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 10:06AM
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Joe1980(5)

I already watered it, so too late on that. But, on that, there were a lot of unharmed, good roots left, and most of the ones I damaged, I pruned out because they were the long circling ones. I wired it up with some solid #12 wire (I'm an electrician, so I have plenty of wire) to prevent it from tipping over. I suspect it'll be quite happy, and I can say from experience that Jades are tough, because I give her the old "off with her head" treatment once, to allow total reshaping. I'll keep you posted.

Also, I went out and got a small desert rose today, because I now have the ideal mix for it. Had some trouble with them in the past, so we'll see how it does. Thanks again!

Joe

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 9:32PM
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Joe1980(5)

Oh, and please explain the "wooden skewer method". I'm assuming you stick the skewer in, let it sit, and see if it gets wet???

Thanks,
Joe

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 10:49PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

You got it, Joe! I leave the skewers in my containers, and check them every few days.
With my Jades, I usually just wait until some of the leaves begin to soften, then I
drench the container entirely.

Josh

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 9:10AM
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meyermike_1micha(5)

Joe...Bravo!!!

With all the support here, your Jade will be just fine as all my now 27 are doing!

It just keeps on getting better from here.

By the way, I finally gave in and along with a couple of gifted Desert Roses and one I bought, by fear of failing those has changed too. They seem to be doing GREAT in the gritty mix. I will post you a pic of a couple coming out of dormancy, one I hacked to almost nothing, and one that I just left alone. Yahoo!

Mike

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 10:08AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Joe - FWIW, I was so impressed with Nancy's DR (Hi, Nance!) that I started a couple of my own from seed this summer. You prolly realize that growing cacti/succulents is much more difficult in shallow containers, and the degree of difficulty is multiplied greatly as water retention increases, but I'm growing the 2 DR seedlings in a TC drainage saucer in less than 1" of soil so I get the nice flat root buttress. They're doing wonderfully. You'll LOVE the gritty mix for you jades & other succulents.

Al

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 12:29PM
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MojaveLove(5 - IL)

Just wanted to add I copied greenman's method of watering Jade's and have not had one problem.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 1:03PM
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lathyrus_odoratus(5A-IL)

Joe, I just stick the skewer in and take it out right away, then set it against my wrist or cheek. If it's wet, no watering. Depending on the plant, if it's cool and damp, I either do (African Violets) or don't (Streptocarpus, Hippeastrum) water. For a Jade, I'd wait until it was dry.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 4:38PM
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Joe1980(5)

Great, I am feeling optimistic and excited. I had a desert rose about 10 years ago, and it flowered and did great for the summer, but perished in winter. I tried again a couple years later, to no avail. I'd be willing to bet they rotted, and until I was introduced to the gritty mix, I was never going to try them again. But, now I have a little one, about 6" tall, and am hoping for the best. I do have some concern about winter though, because I understand they like warm temperatures. Only time will tell, but in the mean time, I need some wood skewers, and to make some more gritty mix, because my snake plant could use some, as well as my ZZ plant, both of which are rather large.

Joe

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 5:11PM
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meyermike_1micha(5)

Joe, when winter comes, I would be glad to help you keep your DR alive since even in the gritty mix, they can rot.

But I will tell you that they stand a much better chance at surving in the gritty mix!

I will tell you that they LOVE to be kepted warm,at least above 70 at all times for optimum growth about now, and in winters they are handled differently. We can chat about that come the fall. Good luck.

By the way, I would be LOST without my wooden dowels, even to this day!

Mike;-)

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 5:34PM
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Joe1980(5)

I'll hold you to that, because I'd rather not say the W word anymore, because it refuses to go away. It's supposed to snow here tonight, although not much. Well, as for summer, my southerly deck gets real good and warm, and full sun, in every sense of the word. In fact, it's too much sun for any plant I've ever put out there, except one.....the indestructable Madagascar Palm, which I give away when it hit 7'.

Joe

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 5:44PM
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lathyrus_odoratus(5A-IL)

Joe - I bought 100 skewers in the cooking section of the grocery store - for kabobs. I think it cost $1.00. I keep about 5 of them out when I water the AVs, to rotate them so no end is still damp when I use it again.

I used to keep them in the soil, but they are small enough that they rot too fast. I also have broken them in half and left a section next to each plant for the plants that are scattered about and not next to each other. Allows me to walk by and check at any time.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 6:59PM
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meyermike_1micha(5)

Joe sounds like a plan. Buy the way, that is the perfect spot for your DR. They LOVE hot!

Also here are my wooden dowels that I stick in and out of pots when checking for moisture. I do not leave them in the pots.

Mike:-)

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 7:41PM
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jodik_gw

I so want to try growing an Adenium, or Desert Rose as they're more commonly called! I already know that the Gritty Mix will be perfect for growing one.

I don't have a photo, but the wooden skewers I use are the type that you can get by the hundred count package at the grocery store. I think a package costs about a dollar. They're incredibly cheap, and very useful.

Some people stick them in the medium and leave them positioned, and others just stick them in the medium when testing for moisture. I think either way would work fine. I leave some in, and for other pots, I don't.

By the way... hey, Mike! Guess who has a tiny Jade with good roots! Yep! Me! Thank you, Mike! :-)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2011 at 8:56PM
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Joe1980(5)

Would it be safe to say that the skewer method would work for the 5-1-1 mix as well?? I would seem to think so, because I notice that it too can appear dry on top, but have plenty of moisture left.

I'm pretty siked about my desert rose, and I also found a little pot with 4 of the compact leaved jades for a couple bucks, so I picked that up too. I plan to form a little forest display, which I've seem pictures of and was really intrigued by.

Joe

    Bookmark   April 2, 2011 at 10:37PM
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jane__ny(9-10)

I stick my finger down into the bark and can tell whether its wet or dry. I never had luck with the skewers. I trust my fingers.

With orchids, one must be aware of spreading virus. If a grower uses skewers (which many do), they must be designated for the individual plant. No sharing...
fingers should be sanitized also.

Jane

    Bookmark   April 2, 2011 at 10:41PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Yes Joe - it will work. Many of us adopt it for a short time until we become accustomed to how our new soils perform and how best to space watering intervals. Fingers work ok in rather shallow pots, but most root growth in containers with well-aerated soils is in the lower 2/3 of the pot, with most of the roots in the upper 1/4 of the pot being roots that primarily serve to transport water/nutrients/photosynthate to/from the rest of the plant, For that reason, we really don't much care whether the top of the soil is dry or not. Very frequently, especially with heavy soils, a quick finger check reveals the upper part of the soil dry, while the lower parts are fully saturated & soggy. This can be disastrous to plant vitality if we water at that time, for obvious reasons. In almost every case the saturated conditions can be avoided by checking with a skewer or dowel deep in the pot. A wick through the drain hole used as a 'tell' can also be used reliably. Feeling the wick for damp or dry is a good way to get a handle on how to judge intervals.

Do be cautious though, with new repots. You can use much larger volumes of soil with the gritty mix than you can with heavier soils because there is no PWT. That effectively eliminates the problem of over-potting and allows you to pant very small plants in large containers. Where you need to be careful is, when you check for moisture, you need to check for moisture where the roots are until the planting is established. If you potted and all the roots are in the upper 1/3 of the pot, it does no good to check the bottom. Use your judgement and be on the safe side & water a little more often for new plantings. If you screened the ingredients, it's almost impossible to over-water.

Good luck

Al

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 10:30AM
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Joe1980(5)

I definately screened the ingredients, so I should be good there. I can say this though, I can jump on board with those who say you do NOT need to water everyday in the gritty mix. I agree now, that it does hold more moisture than you'd think, because I potted up my jade in the mix a week ago, and it's still got moisture in it. Thanks again!

Joe

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 11:35AM
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jodik_gw

Realistically speaking, Joe, our fingers are only so long, and they generally don't reach down far enough into medium to feel for moisture where it's most important, down toward the center of the root ball. Our sense of touch can be deceiving, too... even when a medium feels dry to the human touch, it can still contain a certain percentage of moisture in vapor form.

I concur with Al... and I would say your best bet is using the wooden skewer method until you get a feel for how often watering is necessary. Like he says, use your best judgment... you'll be fine. :-)

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 11:39AM
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meyermike_1micha(5)

Joe:

I use the wooden skewer method to, since I never had any luck with the finger method. Haven't lost a plant to this method yet and all plants share.
The wooden skewer method is also the only method keeping my plants in heavier peaty mixes in huge pots alive until I can get them out of there. Works for me, perfectly.

My cousin has to use them too since her fingers are no longer than an inch and for her, it is her favorite method used for growing what she calls less than average plants in heavier peaty mixes in larger containers.
She says they are her best tools yet for her/them and for all the other plants she grows that are in much more open mixes besides! Mine too:-)

Good luck and happy growing.:-)

Mike

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 12:35PM
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lathyrus_odoratus(5A-IL)

Given that skewers are very inexpensive, a skewer a pot in cases where virus' are transmitted would be a good idea. I know I'd never remember to wash my finger each time, lol. Too many plant, too many trips to wash hands.

I used the finger method for years - and it seemed to work OK. But when I switched soils and adopted a grittier soil mix, it stopped working OK. As noted already, the top would be dry, but the roots very wet. I'd add water and...well, my first plant died.

I also can't use the finger method with many of my AVs. The miniature ones are only 2-3" in diameter and the pot is only 1.5" in diameter. My finger takes up the whole pot, lol. On other AVs, to get a finger in, I'd have to break a leaf/petiole.

Between all those issues and that a package of 100 skewers is a buck or two, it was an easy switch for me from fingers.

All that said, I use skewers much less frequently than I used to. Part of it is getting used to how long most of my plants need water (on average). Part of it is using a wick. Because my AVs are in small pots, I use acrylic yarn for them. It dries out just slightly ahead of the root zone soil drying out. It's perfect as I don't want these roots to get completely dry. If the wick is damp, I wait until tomorrow. If dry, I water immediately. I used to check the soil with my skewer, too. I found that for these plants, in 3-4" pots, using the acrylic yarn, that the skewer would always be slightly damp when the wick was just dry. After many times observing this, I was able to stop using the skewer and go by the wick alone.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 2:24AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

In the end, it doesn't matter what method we use, just so we're checking the moisture levels in the bottom 1/4-1/3 of the pot - especially when using heavier soils that support high perched water tables. Pots small enough for our finger to reach that deep are generally too small to safely jam our finger into such a small volume of soil, and in pots over 6" tall it's not very effective because we can't reach deep enough, so hefting pots of light material, feeling a 'tell' wick, or using a wooden dowel have all proven helpful to a lot of growers. I know that mike suggests the wooden skewer/dowel method even more often than I do, and I've seen lots of people adopting it and offering positive responses.

All those little 'extra' things we do to make sure we eliminate the potential for something to be or become a limiting factor are what makes us better growers.

Al

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 8:28AM
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jodik_gw

At one point in time, I even purchased a moisture meter, thinking it would be an almost foolproof method of testing... but after too many false readings, it became obvious that it wasn't the accurate method it was supposed to be. It's a worthless piece of equipment, in my opinion, and a waste of $24.

With the wooden skewers, every pot has its own. This greatly reduces any chance of viral or disease spread, as Lathyrus mentions, and for the low price of about a dollar per hundred, I can keep an extra pack around for other uses, too... such as makeshift stakes for floppy Amaryllid leaves, and the like. They make handy dibbles for planting tiny seeds or seedlings, are useful for other crafts, and I can snag a few when I want to make shish-ka-bobs on the grill! :-)

It's true, though... after a while, you get to know when each pot needs watering, and the skewers become less necessary. But they're a sight more useful than a finger when it comes to checking for moisture!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 7:54AM
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