About the Soil....
Finding non-peat based packaged potting soil has proven to be difficult. Even more difficult is finding pine bark, fine or otherwise, in Northern California. I had two people correcting me, saying, "You mean fir bark."
So I went to the nursery I like the most and while I was in another aisle contemplating enormous bags of soil, one of the reps there led me to "the soil we use as the base for everything".
Gardner & Bloome: Eden Valley Blend Potting Soil
It's not often that a Google search yields as little as this particular soil does! Does anyone out there use this?!?!
Here are the ingredients:
Coir, forest products, peat moss, rice hulls, pumice, composted chicken manure, horticultural sand, dried poultry litter, feather meal, bone meal, bat guano, seabird guano, alfalfa meal, kelp meal, worm castings, dried sardine meal, crab meal, kapok seed meal, dolomite and oyster shell (for pH adjustment), mycorrhizae and beneficial microbes, Saponin (Yucca) extract (which protects microbes)
Again, couldn't avoid peat moss entirely in these pre-made versions and I don't have the outdoor space to buy large bags of many things to truly make a custom soil at this point.
You see quite a bit of coconut stringie husk thingies in it, looking like dead roots. But overall, the soil is quite...silky? Something about it is quite satiny and smooth compared to other soils I've tried. I've noticed with my seedlings, the tops have not crusted over like using a predominantly peat-based soil usually does, but used alone (or with very little amendments) it doesn't remain crumbly and loose on top either.
So I take this at about 50%, and the remainder half consists of perlite, bark, charcoal, sand and a toss of vermiculite.
I've used this mix for both indoors and outdoors (all containers, all on two balconies) except my seeds, where I used much more soil with less of the other ingredients. The houseplants look...happier, though this makes my boyfriend retort with, "Eh...repotting alllll of your plants made YOU happier; I dunno about the plants."
Anyway, while this doesn't accurately follow Al's mix, it's eons ahead of just regular MG potting soil, I think. And...it could be my imagination but everything really does look happier!
Also, even when thoroughly soaked, the soil feels "moist" rather than wet -- soaked rather than spongy, if you know what I mean. And, the ones with the greater roots are nicely drying out after two days, which will feed my need to water at least once a week! :-)