Al's 5-1-1 vs EB Stone Potting Soil

jala4260(10a)April 12, 2012

Is anyone familiar with both soil mixtures can tell me if they are similar? Looking at the ingredient lists, they are similar. I want to know if EB Stone Potting is a viable retail ready alternative to Al's 5-1-1. It will be used with houseplants such as peace lily.

Tapla's 5-1-1 Mix:

5 parts pine bark fines

1 part sphagnum peat

1-2 parts perlite

garden lime

controlled release fertilizer (not really necessary)

Edna's Best Potting Soil:

Contains Composted Fir Bark, Sphagnum Peat Moss, Redwood Compost, Mushroom Compost, Volcanic Pumice, Earthworm Castings, Washed Sand, Kelp Meal, Bat Guano, Feather Meal, Gypsum and Mycorrhizae.Oyster Shell Lime and Dolomite Lime are added as pH adjusters. A natural wetting agent, Yucca shidegera saponin, has been added to help remoisten the product.

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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

You could say that they are similar, except for the redwood compost, mushroom compost, volcanic pumice, earthworm castings, washed sand, kelp meal, bat guano, feather meal, mycorrhizae and yucca. Yep, other than that they are almost identical. ;-)

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 11:23PM
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I was looking for actual hands-on experience with the soil.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 11:40PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Well I don't use the 5:1:1 but knowing the general thinking here, I point out an important difference.

This mix is supposed to be fast draining. The presence of a wetting agent in the mix to which you're comparing it (Edna's) is a problem. Fast draining is so that it WON'T retain water very long, while a wetting agent is exactly as it sounds, to help keep things wet, the opposite of what one would want here.

Rhizo, I hear ya (funny)!!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 12:29AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The subject of soils can be enigmatic until you grasp one simple idea. Favorable air porosity is essential to good plant health is dependent on good root health. Soils made of predominantly small particles (peat, composted matter, coir, sand, topsoil .....) cannot offer the air porosity offered by soils made of predominantly larger particles. Imagine the air space between BBs in a jar and sand particles in the same jar to visualize. Along with small particle size comes increased water retention. Lots of water in the soil is easy on the grower, but hard on the plant. Plants like damp and hate wet/soggy. Plants don't drink water, they absorb it a molecule at a time from the vapor in the air between particles and from the colloidal surfaces (the surface of soil particles).

You can use the ingredients in either the 5:1:1 mix or the gritty mix and make a soil that is either exceptional in it's ability to gain the favor of plants, or make one that is virtually unusable; so even if the ingredients were the same, how they are combined and the size of the particles holds more sway over the likelihood that grower and plant will find the soil favorable.

As an example: 5:1:1 of appropriate bark:peat:perlite yields a very good soil. The same ratio, but with peat as the predominant fraction 5:1:1, peat:bark:perlite yields a soil as water retentive as most commercially prepared soils.

Finally, I see a LOT of ingredients in the mix you mentioned that are there to hook you into believing that this soil is healthy because you're envisioning all that wonderful kelp/guano/f-meal/oyster shells providing a buffet for the plant that will ensure wonderful health. The fact is, those ingredients have no real value for houseplants that you can't get from a bottle or Miracle-Gro or Foliage-Pro with greater efficiency and surety the plants are getting what's needed, when needed. Essentially those ingredients provide an unnecessary source of nutrients at the expense of aeration - so I look at them as far more likely to be a limiting factor than a plus.

If you keep your focus on providing a soil with excellent drainage and long term aeration (all about particle size and durability of the particles) such that your soil holds minimal amounts (or no) perched water, you can't go far wrong. Remember that for container plants, providing good nutrition is a fertilizer thing, and not a soil thing.

As far as practical experience with any one soil, the ingredient list can be very telling (as others noted with tongue in cheek), and you don't need to be the bus driver to know the wheels go 'round & 'round. ;-)


    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 7:59AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Oh - I forgot to mention something about how wetting agents work. They are actually surfactants, and their job is to make water wetter by reducing its surface tension. When wetting agents are present in the soil or in the water, it allows water to penetrate tiny pores faster and significantly reduces the effects of the hydrophobia (water repellency) that occurs when peat and bark-based soils start drying down to moisture levels south of about 30%. Their purpose then, is to make soils easier to rewet and increase the speed with which they absorb water.

As far as the volume of water a soil will hold when it is fully saturated (called 'at container capacity') - wetting agents cause a reduction in water retention. This is because surface tension makes water stickier. It makes the water want to hold together in tight drops or stick to soil particles and remain captured in small pores. Adding a wetting agent then, reduces the soil's grasp on the water by reducing surface tension - reduces capillary attraction, so water is more responsive to the force of gravity; therefore, water leaves the pot more readily from soils treated with wetting agents. When a soil is completely saturated (at container capacity) the volume of water in soils treated with wetting agents will be slightly less than those untreated.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 9:37AM
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would it be true then that adding these wetting agents to uncomposted, dry bark will take care of problem of re-wetting the bark (I am referring to reports that dry bark is hydrophobic)?


    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 10:21AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Yes - once bark or peat dries down to a certain point (about 30% water retention) they start getting more difficult to rewet. Products like Coco-Wet and others can help with that problem.

FWIW - it's more of a problem with water-retentive soils because you don't dare water until the lower reaches of the pot are getting dry, lest you risk root problems. This means the top of the soil is almost always very dry before the lower part of the soil becomes dry enough to warrant watering. When using highly-aerated and free-draining soils, you can water when the soil is still moist and not have to worry about problems; so with those soils there is no reason to let soils dry down ...... unless you just forget to water - but who ever does that? ;-)


    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 4:18PM
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Hi, I have a question about the "bark" for the 5:1:1 mix. I went to a few stores in town and all I could find for indoor plants was Orchid Bark, I even asked about pine and fir and they didn't have any. The most bark I did see was for decoration for the top of the soil. (Forest Bark)Or bark for large outdoor areas. Still for mostly decoration from what I can tell.

My question is, would that Orchid Bark be good for this mix? Or should I try harder to find the pine/fir bark.

I'm sorry if I sound confused about bark, I just plain don't know if a difference would hurt or help.

Please help me understand..
Marjie :)

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 7:05PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Happy to answer your questions, L; but I think it would be hi-jacking the thread. You could start your own thread or ask on any of the threads I started. Nice to have you back, btw. ;-)


    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 8:15PM
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