To screen or not to screen?

atownNovember 8, 2011

So, when I brought all of my plants inside this fall, I took a few cuttings in order to make everything "fit" in my bay windows. They are now ready to pot, and I am planning on eventually switching to the gritty mix, but it will have to wait til spring, when I will have a little more time on my hands. For now, I found a bonsai store in town where I can buy turface. I will start these babies in turface only to get them going, and will repot them with gritty mix. I know that unscreened turface will retain more water than screened, but how much more? My schedule is a little crazy until about April, so I can ensure that plants will get watered at least every 7 days if they need it, but can't always water more frequently than that. Should I screen or not?

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You can probably find Turface for less than you would pay at a bonsai store. Where do you live?

The purpose of using the gritty mix is to provide a root environment free of perched water. If you don't screen ingredients so they are of a size large enough to eliminate or greatly reduce the effects of that issue, it makes no sense to go to the effort, and the soil you end up with will be little different than the heavier, water-retentive mixes, as far as root health is concerned.

Growing is about compromise. If you can't water more often than once per week, you'll need to use a soil that will get you through a week between waterings and live with the limitations of what comes with it. You probably can use the gritty mix with screened ingredients by going to something like

4-5 parts screened Turface
3 parts screened pine or fir bark
1-2 parts crushed granite

That soil will hold a LOT of water.


    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 7:46AM
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Thanks, Al. I'm in Grand Rapids, MI. Where should I get fir bark? What is a typical price for turface? I read another thread in which you talked about growing in 100% turface- Not applicable in my situation?

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 2:09PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I've grown some plants in 100% Turface, but you do need to be careful about your watering. Turface holds a lot of water. I wish the particle size of Turface was just a little larger. It's a little too small to be ideal. Combining it with the bark and grit helps to tame the more than ample water retention it has as a stand alone ingredient.

You can get Turface MVP at Commerce Corporation, 4660 East Paris Ave SE, GR, (616) 541-3000. They're a big outfit - it wouldn't hurt to ask them if they have fir bark in 1/8-1/4" size. I get mine from NW of Chicago when I'm there, but pine bark fines can be screened - which is what I always did until I found the fir bark.


    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 3:35PM
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