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Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Posted by ykerzner 9 TX (My Page) on
Tue, Jan 5, 10 at 17:45

So I've looked at a lot of threads concerning the proper potting mix for containers (really want to try out Al's mix) but have a problem. I plant a lot in a university greenhouse that's a long way from home (14 miles), and can't go to water the pots every day during summer. What potting mix would you recommend that is soil-less but retains enough water for a plant for at least two days? I grow mostly vegetables.


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jan 5, 10 at 18:07

The problem to solve is this: You need a soil that has enough water retention to get you through 2 days when your plantings are mature and ready for harvest. That means a very large container or a very water-retentive soil - if daily attention to watering isn't an option. If you do choose to use a water-retentive soil, you leave yourself open to potential problems related to excessive water retention when the plantings are immature.

You can look in the direction of using a water retentive soil and employing one of several wicking strategies until the planting matures, or you can add ingredients to the soil that retain a fair amount of water while allowing you to retain good aeration (Turface, calcined DE are good possibilities).

You can work around the aeration vs water retention relationship to some degree, but in the practical sense, when you gain in one area, you lose in another. Those of us using these highly-aerated soils, pay for increased plant vitality with the extra effort it takes to water more frequently, so no matter which way you choose, there are trade-offs.

I think you would probably be in pretty good shape if you replaced the perlite fraction in the 5:1:1 mix with Turface or calcined DE - maybe even add a little more of these materials than the 1 part perlite. 5:1:2 or 5:1:3, pine fines:peat:Turface or calcined DE should make a soil that holds a good volume of water, yet remains well-aerated.

Al


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Thank you very much.


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Also, can your mix be re-used after three years in a container (discounting tree plantings), and would you use the same mix for seedlings?


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 6, 10 at 9:22

I don't reuse soils, but if you want to, I would probably use it in place of the peat fraction. Maybe something like 5:1:1 or 2 - pine fines:perlite:used soil (depending on its state of structural collapse.

I wouldn't use old soil for seedlings, but I have used the 5:1:1 mix occasionally for seed starting (I don't do much of it, but I do lots of cuttings, layers ....) with good results. It's not a sterile medium, so damping off is a possibility, though highly aerated soils tend to discourage it.

Al


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

I use 7 gallon containers for my gh tomatoes. I add a good layer of very silty dirt, mix in some used potting mix and add a few green and brown leaves. Mix this up. Add another good layer of dirt, some more potting mix and a tablespoon of Tomato-tone fertilizer, along with some compost. Mix this up. Add another layer of dirt and some more potting mix, mix up, put the plant in it, planting the stem as deep as the bottom leaves. Fill the container with the dirt.

Put the container in a tub of water and soak, pouring water on the top also until the container is soaked. While it is soaking, dig out a spot in the gh for the container. After removing the container, put it in the hole in the ground and fill in the sides.

When I water the plants, I usually give them about an inch of rainwater (89 ounces). Even this fall, when the GH temps were in the 90s or higher, I never had to water more than once a week.

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Wordwiz,

Your too funny, but kind to give an offering here.......

If you would please, can you tell us how to grow in stuff successfully like that, without plant roots suffocating within a short span of time, instead of just the material you use?
Could you please explain the dynamics, and how roots function properly that sit in soil like that for a week at a time without getting oxygen, or in fact breathe?

If you could too, eypalin where the PWT is in the soil, and how not to overwater, or even better, how to avoid compaction and qick breakdown of this type soil mix before roots suffocate?

I have always failed, even in a soiless mix with less dirt than this, for containers that is...lol

The poster was asking in reference to "containers" and not in-ground..It might work in the yard, and I will share this with my pop..Thanks

Poster:

"So I've looked at a lot of threads concerning the proper potting mix for "containers"


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 6, 10 at 12:00

What he described should work ok, but whether or not it drains properly depends the particle size of the soil the container is planted in. Technically, he's growing in a small raised bed (making it like a mini-garden), and not a container. It mimics the pot in trench method of rearage and there is nothing particularly unusual about it. It helps to cover soil sins that would be mortal in a traditional container.

Al


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

I always have this problem - I know what I mean, I just have a tough time explaining it.

First, I AM growing in containers. Seven gallon ones I bought (by the case) from Novosel Enterprises. The dirt is a strange bird - it comes from the back of my yard. For years, I could not grow anything in it, not even weeds. I did one of those "mix soil with water in a jar, let sit for a couple of days, check the differences in soil" tests. It is about 96 percent silt - it never compacts and it isn't great at holding water. But last year, I tried again, but I added a lot of compost and some other dirt to it (row garden, not container). Grew beans, carrots, onions and other veggies very good.

For my containers, I add about two shovelsful of this soil, then a shovel of used potting mix. Last year, I raised a bunch of seedlings, far too many that got too big (I must have been doing something right). I used Ferti-lome premier potting mix but the used mix has bits and pieces of small roots left.

As I found out last year, adding green and brown material to the row garden and tilling it in before transplanting provided nutrients to the roots. I trim the bottom leaves off my tomato plants so I always have some green leaves. I also have leaves from trees in the front yard, so that's where the brown ones come from. I mix this layer together. Then I add another bunch of dirt, and potting mix, but this time I use compost from the 2008 crop, plus add the tomato-tone fertilizer, and another shovel of dirt. I mix this up and transplant the tomato into the nearly-full container. I fill the top with dirt and maybe add a bit of potting mix.

The reason for setting the container in water is because the dirt and potting mix is dry, unlike soil six inches deep in a row garden. I pour water on the top to moisten the mix but also to help the roots settle in the dirt.

The pots are regular nursery containers so they have holes in the bottom. I let them drain.

The reason for putting them in trenches or holes is to help keep the sides from drying out. I found that was one of the problems growing peppers in containers a couple of summers ago. The soil around the sides helps keep the temps fairly stable.

As far as the roots getting oxygen, there is no difference growing in containers or row gardens. Compaction is not a problem because of the potting mix, make-up of the dirt and the compost.

And the amount of water - I looked up how much an inch of water per acre weighs and used that to measure how much that translates to for a 14" container. I use a pump-up, one-gallon sprayer so I can give each plant a light shower, let it soak in while I am doing another plant or two, then repeat until each one gets the amount they need (some weeks, an inch, some weeks, a half-inch - depends on the weather).

Here's what my plants looked like on Christmas Eve:
http://www.valleycat.net/garden/christmastoms.jpg

Here's a view of the containers in the dirt (you may have to scroll down a bit:
http://www.valleycat.net/garden/sideviewtoms.jpg

FWIW, after I transplant, I seldom use any ferts except compost tea.

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 6, 10 at 15:27

"As far as the roots getting oxygen, there is no difference growing in containers or row gardens."

There is a considerable difference. If you lift the containers from the pot-in-trench type of growing and set them on the deck, it's unlikely the plants would survive. Silt is extremely water-retentive and compacts easily, so without the benefit of the earth acting as a huge wick, the soil would either retain too much water for good root health or you would be forced to water in sips and suffer the consequences of high soluble salt levels in the soil.

Al


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Okay,

I should have said growing in "containers sitting in a trench or growing in a row garden"! My bad. Also, what I call silt you may call loam - it drains nicely.

Unless you call pot-in-trench something different than burying containers instead of letting them sit on a deck or in the yard, I wonder what makes you think they would die? I had 45 pots of peppers two years ago growing in five-gallon containers sitting on the ground (close to the same mix) and except for having to water them every other day when the temps soared into the 90s or 100s, they not only survived but thrived.

Lastly, as I posted, I water once a week, maybe once every two weeks if we have lots of cloudy days. Each time, the plants get about an inch of water. The tomatoes are doing quite well, with the exception that lack of sunlight is causing a slightly more than normal internodal length. And I use rainwater. From June through August, we average from 3.5 to 4.3 inches or rain a month, so my watering is, if anything, a little below what plants in the flowering/fruiting stages get via nature. Of course, they are not getting the sun and heat they get in summer.

One other advantage of burying the pots - it gives me an extra foot of vertical growing space. I did the same thing with plants growing hydroponically - the buckets are buried.

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 6, 10 at 18:34

"I should have said growing in "containers sitting in a trench or growing in a row garden"! My bad. Also, what I call silt you may call loam - it drains nicely."

These are important points and central to what we're discussing, so you can't pass over them lightly. The dynamics of water movement and retention are radically different between conventional container culture than in the way you are treating the containers, That difference is what technically makes your containers small raised beds and allows you to use soils too water-retentive to use in conventional container culture.

Silt, loam, or silty loam are all choices too poor to be adopted as a primary fraction of conventional container media for nearly all container growers. They are too water-retentive and hold too little air. If you are able to achieve results that satisfy you in these soils, it is testimony to your prowess as a container gardener.

BTW - if the containers you refer to as 'sitting on the ground' have a soil bridge between the soil in the container and the mineral soil in the ground, it makes them into raised beds. Any time you employ the earth as a wick, it changes the dynamics of water retention and you can get away with practices you normally wouldn't have been able to get away with under other circumstances.

Al


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

>> These are important points and central to what we're discussing, so you can't pass over them lightly. <<

What makes you think I am passing them over lightly? I realized I did not make myself clear and tried to correct that.

>> The dynamics of water movement and retention are radically different between conventional container culture than in the way you are treating the containers, That difference is what technically makes your containers small raised beds and allows you to use soils too water-retentive to use in conventional container culture. <<

Not to be argumentative, but it will come off as such: BS! They are in no way, shape or form small raised beds. In a raised bed, roots are not confined to a specific area, unless one is practicing different SFG methods than I am familiar with. And what makes you think or presume my soil is water retentive? I find I need to water the plants at about the same time intervals as I would if the plants were growing in a row garden.

>> Silt, loam, or silty loam are all choices too poor to be adopted as a primary fraction of conventional container media for nearly all container growers. They are too water-retentive and hold too little air.<<

They are part - albeit primary - part of the mix. Again, where do you get the idea it is water retentive? You are simply wrong. For years, years, I saw the results. It could rain an inch on Sunday, and Monday evening I could walk on that dirt and not have mud on my shoes. Two years ago, I removed a bunch of that dirt and piled it. Later, it snowed on it - eight inches worth. The snow melted slowly but once it did, after two sunny days, I could use a spade and remove the top three inches of dirt and it was not muddy.

>> BTW - if the containers you refer to as 'sitting on the ground' have a soil bridge between the soil in the container and the mineral soil in the ground, it makes them into raised beds. Any time you employ the earth as a wick, it changes the dynamics of water retention and you can get away with practices you normally wouldn't have been able to get away with under other circumstances. <<

I admit, I haven't a clue what you are saying. To make it simple, the containers are made of plastic. They sit on dirt, with dirt on the sides. My plants do great. That's all I care about and all I was trying to let other visitors know.

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Thank you Mike for a very informative post. Its always refreshing to hear how others grow well. Sounds like you found a good method. I do something similar with my herb garden grown in a large 5 gallon outside my kitchen. Had loads of sage, thyme and parsley for the holidays.

Jane


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RE: Potting mix for greenhous containers

Jane,

Thanks! I probably should not take it so personal but it wrinkles my fur when people suggest you have to use A amounts of this, B Amounts of that, C amounts of something else, place the containers in a certain place under specific conditions, then do a dance and sing a song to the Goddess of Germination in order to be successful. Good grief, Charlie Brown - mankind has been growing plants for thousands of years and all of a sudden, (as time goes) we need to become rocket scientists to grow a tomato plant in a pot?

Yes, knowledge about what methods work best is great, but to suggest that one method or one formula is the best is ... stupid!

Spring is coming, though it will take a few days to get here! Nothing like bunches of sunshine and warm temps to make one feel happy!

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

I'd like to see some pictures!

Josh


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Josh,

If your post is directed to me, read the thread. Links to pics are posted.

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Thanks wordwiz, though Al's advice is a bit more pertinent, since I have no access to soil like yours (Houston has hevay gumbo soil). My greenhouse containers sit on raised benches. Why do you grow tomatoes in containers if you could just plant them in the ground, especially since you have such fine soil (as seen in the picture)? Is it to prolong your growing season?


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

All Al was saying is that any time you have a container that has any soil-to-soil connection between the earth to the container soil, you are essentially growing in a raised bed. He is using the term "raised bed" as a description of the dynamics of water retention, wicking, PWT, etc. A pot with a hole where soil touches earth behaves EXACTLY like a raised bed. You have the wicking power of the earth.

Al may be straight up and tell it like he sees it, but far from rude. Part of the insistence one accuracy is due to the nature of internet based discussions. If I tried to follow your recipe for a container mix I doubt anything would grow past a month. all my properties dirt is hard packed clay - muck when wet, bricks when dry.

If your methods work for you, by all means continue them! It's just best to understand why they work (not that you don't, but other people that try what you suggest might not have success, and also have no idea why).


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

ykerzner,

>> Why do you grow tomatoes in containers if you could just plant them in the ground,>>

Good question and fantastic thinking! In hindsight, I probably could have just amended the soil in the GH, using the same amounts of potting soil, compost, fertilizer and living/dead material. TBO, I never thought about it. (Smacks forehead!) Frankly, I missed the forest because I was looking at trees.

As far as the growing season goes, I figure it will be about the same.

Thanks for the insight.

Mike


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RE: RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Just a side note... my uncle grows in river silt in northern California. He gets a few pickup loads of it and spreads it about a foot or so I believe. Last years results that I saw were amazing. Would it work well in a self watering container like I use? doubt it, but it works great for him, were he lives, with his conditions.


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 6, 10 at 21:47

WW - no one is trying to get you to change anything or follow any set instructions. No one said any method, much less the way I grow, is better - it was never mentioned or inferred - people can draw their own conclusions about that point, since you brought it up. No one tried to shove a recipe or particular method down your throat, so why not lighten up on the personal stuff and name calling, and relax?

I did say though, that "Silt, loam, or silty loam are all choices too poor to be adopted as a primary fraction of conventional container media for nearly all container growers. They are too water-retentive and hold too little air. If you are able to achieve results that satisfy you in these soils, it is testimony to your prowess as a container gardener." and I'm certain I can make a better case for that statement than you can that silt is something that will enhance our growing efforts in conventional containers.

You obviously do not understand how water behaves in soils. Since you also said "I admit, I haven't a clue what you are (I am) saying", it's kind of pointless that we continue the conversation until you do have a clue. BTW - that is a rather weak position to be debating from.

Take care. You too, Jane. ;o)

Al


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

"If you could too, expalin where the PWT is in the soil, and how not to overwater, or even better, how to avoid compaction and qick breakdown of this type soil mix before roots suffocate", and may I add, with no fungas knats?

"I admit, I haven't a clue what you are saying".

It's a shame, and so it goes again!

Isn't there anyone here that can teach us how to be successful growing container plants in dirt,silt compost or loam?

Years of trying to get help from someone who does, and still nothing..


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

>> WW - no one is trying to get you to change anything or follow any set instructions. No one said any method, much less the way I grow, is better - it was never mentioned or inferred - people can draw their own conclusions about that point, since you brought it up. No one tried to shove a recipe or particular method down your throat, so why not lighten up on the personal stuff and name calling, and relax? <<

Excuse me, but I'm having a problem finding anything were I called someone names or suggested someone's method of growing stuff is not as good as mine. Nor did I "get heavy," though I'm starting to wonder if one suggests an alternative if they are going to be viewed as a persona non grata?

>> "Silt, loam, or silty loam are all choices too poor to be adopted as a primary fraction of conventional container media for nearly all container growers. They are too water-retentive and hold too little air. <<

From an encyclopedia: Loam: soil composed of sand, silt, clay, and organic matter in evenly mixed particles of various sizes. More fertile than sandy soils, loam is not stiff and tenacious like clay soils. Its porosity allows high moisture retention and air circulation. Most soils of agricultural importance are some type of loam.

>> You obviously do not understand how water behaves in soils. <<

Kind of pretentious and as it is erroneous of you!

>> Since you also said "I admit, I haven't a clue what you are (I am) saying", it's kind of pointless that we continue the conversation until you do have a clue. <<

If you want to demean me because you like to use terms like "the earth wicking up water," so be it. That's hardly important to the original question. But again, it is presumptuous and erroneous for you to think I don't have a clue about raising plants to fruition.

>> BTW - that is a rather weak position to be debating from. <<

I'm just posting what works for me and how I do it. It's not a debate, from my side at least. Or do you feel a need to debate facts? Seems pointless.

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Seems to me that saving face is more important than helping someone like me understand your growing methods without failing....

Forgive me for interfering..

I see where your priority is, an not just yours.....Sorry

Thanks anyway..:-)


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 7, 10 at 0:14

Since you admit to not knowing what I'm talking about, you cannot judge what is and isn't important to the original question or the conversation. You just don't know (what I'm talking about), or you wouldn't be saying the things you're saying.

I already complimented you on your obvious prowess in getting things to grow in something most experienced container gardeners would never even consider using in conventional containers. I even pointed out WHY there is a difference and why your method allows you to use a more water-retentive soil.

Bluntly stated - anyone growing in conventional containers using the mix you described will face dealing with an extremely narrow margin for error when it comes to water retention issues and will have to make compromises they would not have to make if they weren't growing in a water-retentive silty soil.

FWIW - loam, and even sandy loam drain better than silt, yet both are still generally avoided in container media because of their high water retention and because they reduce aeration considerably. Before you get so argumentative with the things I stated, you really need to understand a couple of things. One is how water behaves in soil in general, and the other is that water behaves in containers much differently than it does in gardens, beds, and yards.

Do I feel a need to debate facts? - There really is no debating facts. In science, 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.' I suppose that the physical laws governing how water behaves in soils might change tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms today. One of the great tragedies of science is the slaying of a beautiful hypotheses by ugly facts. The things you are saying simply don't hold up under even cursory inspection.

As far as the personal part, when, in your 4th post you started throwing around words like stupid and calling the things I wrote BS and pretentious, it tends to make people believe it is indeed personal. In contrast, I think I'm pretty focused on the point(s) and impersonal so far.

Al


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

" I suppose that the physical laws governing how water behaves in soils might change tomorrow,"

Your scarring me Al, I JUST learned all this stuff last year! I don't wanna have to start over! :0 lol


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Al,

If you go back and read what I typed, I said it was BS that I was NOT growing in containers. I posted pictures of my plants which show they are in containers and not in a raised bed.

I do admit to not knowing what YOU are talking about because of the terms you use, but not about knowing how to grow plants. As for why "experienced" container growers would not consider using the methods I am, why would they not? It's not like I have magic dirt, exceptional green and brown leaves, compost that has special properties or used potting mix that only I can make.

Lastly, it's not important for me to know how water behaves in or outside of containers. It is important to understand how the plant absorbs water and the nutrients it contains, how adding it to different types of medium works or at least know how to make sure the plant gets what it needs and avoids what it doesn't.

As far as things I say not holding up under cursory inspection, I recommend looking at the pics of my plants. I posted the mix I use as well as my watering technique.

Maybe the world isn't really flat!

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 7, 10 at 6:22

Mike, what Al is saying is that your containers are ACTING as raised beds because of their contact with the ground beneath. That contact acts as a wick to help draw the excess water out of the container, and into the ground below.

As a dedicated container gardener, I find it extremely important to know the HOW and WHY involved... the basic science... in pot culture. I also find it important to know the vast differences between gardening in pots and gardening in the ground... the two are worlds apart. Knowing these things helps me greatly to understand the relationship between everything involved in pot culture.

If I were growing an annual or a seasonal plant, I might not be so picky about the materials I use... but since my plants must be quartered within their pots for a few years at a time, everything involved becomes that much more important.

I would guess that most of the people seeking knowledge here don't grow in trenched containers that act as raised beds. They most likely grow in pots on decks, on balconies, or indoors as I do, etc... once you close that gap between the soil in a container and the ground, you have greatly changed the dynamics of how soil and water behave.

When one gardens in a contained environment, one needs to know how ALL of the things involved behave together. Without such knowledge, any true success will be short lived... roots will not be healthy, and the roots are what make healthy plants.


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 7, 10 at 9:42

Mike - First, thank you for the more conversational tone. I appreciate that and I'll offer the same respect that I get, even if we disagree.

I do want to point out that I said, and you quoted me as saying "The dynamics of water movement and retention are radically different between conventional container culture than in the way you are treating the containers, That difference is what technically makes your containers small raised beds and allows you to use soils too water-retentive to use in conventional container culture."

You replied with "Not to be argumentative, but it will come off as such: BS! They are in no way, shape or form small raised beds.

What I said is precisely true, even if you don't quite understand it yet. Like many, many others, you still think that what works in gardens should work in containers. You've found a way to work around what most of us know is a soil too water-retentive to be a good choice for conventional containers by introducing your containers to the conditions that make the water behave as it would in raised beds, which is why I said that 'technically' (I was careful to give you warning here and in other places by using the word 'technically' [and others similar] so you would be aware that I didn't want to argue the point that your plans were indeed contained within container walls) the containers are small raised beds.

On a scale of 1-10, with growing in the garden being 1 and hydroponics being a 10, the way you are treating the containers puts you at about a 2, maybe a 3. IOW, you have little gardens surrounded by container walls and water in the soil behaves very close to the same way it does in the garden. Conventional container culture, on the other hand is more like an 8 on the 1-10 scale, so water behaves in these containers in radically different fashion than it does in your containers. You must understand that difference if you're to hold your ground in the discussion, and if you knew the difference, we wouldn't be having it.

At this point, you may not think it's not important to know how water behaves in or outside of containers. That it is only important to understand how the plant absorbs water and the nutrients it contains, how adding it to different types of medium works or at least know how to make sure the plant gets what it needs and avoids what it doesn't. There are many here, including me, that would disagree that it's not important to understand how water behaves in containers as opposed to in situ situations, but I'll leave you to your opinion in that regard. Eventually, you'll find that knowledge to be a very useful tool.

I admit to still not having looked at your plants. I'm sure they're great, but I think you misunderstand. How you grow isn't on trial; nor are the condition of your plants. I have no interest in trying to change anything you do, but I do have an interest in seeing that others get good information, which is why I'm not willing to concede several points, primary among those being that what you described as your preferred soil is a good choice for others growing in conventional containers. That, has nothing to do whatever with saying anyone has to follow a recipe or use what I use. That was never part of the conversation.

Al


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

"If your post is directed to me, read the thread. Links to pics are posted."
- Yes, it was a request to see more pictures, and those two, unclear images did not satisfy my curiosity.
- Thirdly, since you've taken a curt tone with me (i.e. read the thread...), I shall inform you that you did not post any links...you posted addresses.

Josh


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Al,

From the beginning, the only thing I was trying to do is to add my recipe to the book. Just like diners at a restaurant, not everyone likes roast beast. Some may prefer pork, others chicken, others may be vegans. A restaurant, like this thread, ought to offer a variety of choices and let the diner (grower) decide which one appeals to to him or her.

It may be that the average person reading this thread would fail miserably trying my "meal" or they may find it far more fulfilling. I have somewhat of an advantage having grown up raising crops, mostly tobacco but also other grains and veggies, both for a living and for eating. River bottom or creek bottom grounds (land close to the stream that usually flooded every spring) were great for crops. They were always sandy, silty dirt. Ridge land, that on top of hills, needed treated differently because it was typically more clayish in nature. It was imperative to plow winter wheat under but allow it to grow as tall as possible before doing so, as it put more organic matter into the earth and helped in water retention in dry times as well as drainage in wet times.

I try to incorporate this experience into mixing the dirt for my containers.

Josh,

I did not mean for the post to sound terse, not in the least. First, I wasn't sure if you were asking me or someone else. As for pictures, it seems sometimes I can get the code correct to display images in-line, sometimes it is an exercise in futility. It's also hard to get pictures in the GH - my camera has a mind of its own when it comes to adjusting for light. I'll try to find several pictures and post a link to a web site where they are displayed.

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Thank you, Mike!
This is one of those web-sites where the http:// doesn't automatically become a live link.
It's a pain. Or a labor of love, however you wish to look at it! ;)


Josh


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

From the beginning, the only thing I was trying to do is to add my recipe to the book.

I think most of us understand that. However the recipe you are adding is one which works in a raised bed environment, and would work much less well in a container where the soil in the container is not in direct contact with the soil underneath the container.

In a container not in direct contact with the earth you would have significant drainage problems. With the container soil in direct contact with the earth the earth below pulls the excess moisture out of the container, mostly resolving the drainage problem so it works.

The distinction that others have been trying to make to you is that your method is not 'conventional container growing' where the container soil has no contact with the earth.

Growing in containers where the soil in the pot makes contact with the earth below is more closely related to raised bed growing than conventional container growing where there is no such contact.

In no way is what you are doing 'wrong' or 'inferior'. There are simply those who feel a need to make a distinction between growing in containers where the container soil makes contact with the earth and those growing in containers where the soil is not in direct contact with the earth.

I agree that such a distinction needs to be made because otherwise people might read this information and then use it or something similar in containers where the soil is not in direct contact with the earth. If they were to do this it is not likely they would like the results.


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Justaguy2,

I don't understand what you are trying to say....:-0))))!


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Justaguy,

I use the same recipe in containers that sit on wood floors or upside down 5-gallon buckets! I think people got sidetracked by the fact that "these" containers are in trenches.

Mike


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RE: images (I hope!)

Josh,

See if this page has better pictures. Clicking on a link will display a full-size image.

Mike

Here is a link that might be useful: My greenhouse plants


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

I use the same recipe in containers that sit on wood floors or upside down 5-gallon buckets!

Ah, OK. In that case I would refer you upthread to this post Posted by meyermike_1micha 5 (My Page) on Wed, Jan 6, 10 at 11:50.

He asks a number of questions that others would want to understand about this mix when the mix is not in contact with the earth. Many of us have used actual soil/dirt in our containers as well as compost and other organic stuff that works great for in ground growing and just have not found a way to be successful with it.

If you have found a way to be successful with it and you think you could explain your methods well enough for others to try to replicate that would be great.


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Mike,
those pictures are appreciated. I can see much more clearly. Your soil is very silty, indeed. I bet your plants would explode with growth if you loosened that soil up.

For in-ground gardening, I cut the bottoms off old containers...then I sink these into the ground. I hope no one minds that I post this here.
Photobucket


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

justaguy,

I thought I did!

I'll try again, though it may be a long post.

Going back to the beginning - I had a piece of the back yard, that stretches from side-to-side and is about 10' deep where I have not been able to grow anything - not crabgrass, PokeWeed, onions, beans, carrots, tomatoes. Nothing. The dirt is very free draining - it can rain an inch today and if the sun is out, tomorrow evening it would be close to dry.

Two years ago, we had literally a hurricane hit Cincinnati. A strange confluence of remnants of a Florida Hurricane along with a strong front arriving from the west resulted in about three hours of 74 mph winds. Our trees were not prepared for this and thousands of them fell, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes. Some of us were without electricity for four or five days.

I used the opportunity to rotary till a large part of that area, down to a depth of about six inches and pile the worthless dirt, then sowed winter wheat in the area.

The next spring, as an experiment, I took an area and spread compost, used potting mix (I had a lot from some seedlings and pepper plants) and some of that dirt. Then, I rotary tilled it all, in the process adding all the roots from the wheat. I planted beans, carrots, onions and other stuff and they all did quite well. I realized the dirt was not contaminated, as some of us had feared, but just needed amended (heavily!)

This fall, when I was building my greenhouse, I had planned to grow all 40 tomato plants hydroponically. Quite frankly, I don't have enough experience and the second group of transplants withered for a couple of weeks, then died. I know how to grow in dirt, had decent success growing peppers and basil so decided to go that route.

From a pepper forum, the best results came from guys using seven-gallon or larger containers, so I ordered a case of those. I had all this dirt in the GH I wanted to remove, bags of used potting mix (Ferti-lome that was used to grow seedlings) and compost. I figured there was no reason to spend money at the nursery store so decided to use what I have.

Knowing that two concerns were water retention and compaction, I tried to address both. That dirt, in and by itself would not compact if elephant races were held on it. But it would not hold water and nutrients, so the potting mix helped a bunch in that area. Also, because the compost had worked well in the row garden, I added it. The little bit or green and brown leaves, toward the bottom of the container, is the substitute for rotary tilling wheat under.

I don't have an exact recipe for the contents, but basically, it's about three inches of dirt in the very bottom, followed by an inch or two of potting mix, and a thin layer of leaves (that I cut up). I use a garden spade (a small one) as well as my hands to mix this together.

Then I add another 2-3 inches of dirt, an inch or so of potting mix and an inch of compost. I mix this up, probably with a bit of the first part. I repeat this again, though use about half as much of everything, and mix this.

By this time, I'm up to about eight inches of mix. I make a small hole for the plant and add it, then cover it. Lastly, I'll add more dirt and potting mix, pretty much equally, until the dirt is close to the bottom leaves. That's it for the mix.

I have a large Sterilite tub that I put a lot of rainwater into. I set the pot in it, plus pour water over it, in essence soaking the mix completely. When I'm satisfied the mix is completely wet, I remove it, stick it in the ditch - excess water drains from the bottom sides of the pots - and fill in the trench. This helps keep the dirt, at least around the side of the pot from drying out but also give me an extra foot of vertical grow room. Upstairs, I don't worry so much about the sides, as there is no sun to worry about. Outside, if I was going to grow them on a deck or someplace where the summer sun would beat down on the sides, I would use foil or some kind of insulation to protect them.

One problem I had in previous trials was watering the plants. Using a pitcher, cup, garden hose, whatever, I always seem to give them more water at a time than could evenly soak in. That's why I use a sprayer - it covers the entire container surface but does not deliver much water at a time. Maybe a quart or so, do another plant or two, then come back and give it another quart. By this time, the water has soaked in and I repeat it until they get the amount of water they need (measured in quarts, or approximately!).

HTH, and that I didn't forget anything. I did say it would be rather long!

Mike


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RE: Need light!

Greenman,

Nice garden! The soil is loose - the top is a bit crusty but only because I haven't done any "tilling" or anything for a couple of weeks.

Alas, no matter what I do (short of using TNT) those plants will not explode - they are mostly sitting there. There are certain laws of nature one cannot do anything about. One of those is the amount and intensity of light plants need a day to grow. We have hit those dark ages when sunlight is at a premium. We've had just three or four days of sun in the last three weeks, and even then, it was only for about 4-5 hours a day.

I could run lights but the GH is not wired for it, plus it would not be economically feasible. Plan B is to grow plants in it in the spring and fall, upstairs in winter, and in row gardens in summer. I don't have a lot of room but still figure if I'm successful, I can harvest about 2.5 tons of tomatoes from May-April.

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Fri, Jan 8, 10 at 7:15

If this thread can be likened to a diner menu, then it's important to note that Al has given the ingredients and the cooking method of his dish, and not just the menu listing.

You can't add a menu listing without giving pertinent information about that dish... or no one will want to order it because you aren't telling what it's made of or how it's cooked.

Us conventional container growers like a side order of science with our main dish. We like to know HOW and WHY things behave the way they do. If you can tell us that, we'll come back and order from the menu again.


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

jodik,

I've pretty much explained what I mix and how, and provided images that show how it has been working. The only other thing I can add is the basic soil analysis. I don't have a current one, but here is one done before I added compost and other dirt to the area last year.

That's enough for me.

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Fri, Jan 8, 10 at 17:47

What I'd like to know is how the plants' roots look, how long it takes the moisture to dissipate around the actual root ball area, and how long your mix holds up before decomposition collapses it completely. I'd also like to know about the aeration - oxygen/gas exchange of your soil... as in how is it possible to accomplish that necessary function with such small particle size? How do you flush/leach the containers?

I'd also like to know how you maintain the balance of good and bad microscopic entities within your containers, especially with the decomposition happening? Or is contact with the ground so much it's not necessary?


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Allow me to add this

In the interest of disclosure, I'm a red-neck from Ripley, OH. I have a bit of experience in raising plants but I am also a very strong proponent of substance over style. Does it make any difference if I know "how" something works vs. know "that" it works? Isn't the important thing, whether one is gardening in row crops, containers, hydroponically or raised beds, to get a great harvest?

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Mike,

A little history: It's not uncommon for folks to present views on potting mixes that 'go against the science'. Many folks have come along and stated quite plainly that they use dirt in conventional containers and are very pleased with the results.

Some of those folks gave more aerated, free draining mixes a try and have not looked back.

At the same time there have been those who have come on this forum and preached the same 'dirt is great in containers' mantra just to rile people up. One such person has had at least half a dozen incarnations.

What I am trying to say is don't take things personally. It wasn't long ago at all that the last person stirring things up left for greener pastures. I am not suggesting you came here trying to stir things up, BTW.

Something I would think you have to realize is that your soil mix cannot be replicated by anyone here. The soil in your backyard that you described is not similar to what most have access to. If one were to try to replicate your mix and get bad results (in conventional containers) it would be too easy to believe it was due to differences between their soil and yours. If it can't be replicated by others, then it really isn't a recipe.


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

justaguy,

I realize this, but I am very pleased to read your post. I did not come here to rile anyone, only to state what I have done and how it works. I post to a bunch of different gardening sites and this is the only one where I get questions about how do my roots look - in the middle of a growing season!

Even though (probably) no one else is going to have the type of soil I have, others may find the basic idea of mixing their dirt, along with potting mix and compost, works for them. Hundreds, maybe thousands of people, newbies to container growing, Google how to do it. Maybe one or two will find my post helpful.

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Sat, Jan 9, 10 at 9:43

If I were to follow your advice, Mike, and mix my garden dirt with compost and potting soil, I'd lose every plant I grow to fungal issues. My garden soil is clay, most of the locally sold potting soils are garbage, and the science of what happens inside a container negates me adding compost... added to which, my plants of choice stay indoors all year, and must remain in the same medium for a minimum of two years.

Probably the best course of action, Mike, is to include the disclaimer that your mix works for you in your growing environment... although, it would not necessarily work for someone else in a different environment, growing different plants, with access to different dirt.

Half of us are completely under snow and ice at the moment, so it's not the middle of a growing season here. At the end of your growing season, however, I'd like to see what your roots look like. I'd like to see how well they colonized their containers, and whether or not there are any dead roots in the soil.

One of the huge differences between what you're doing and what many of us are doing, Mike, is you're using your technique only seasonally to grow vegetables... we're growing plants and trees in our containers long term. Not much is the same, therefore, not much of the same advice will apply.

And yes, HOW something works is important to know. Once you learn HOW it works, you can begin to improve on it so your results will be optimal. If I didn't bother to learn HOW mediums and water behave in a confined environment, I'd still be losing plants to fungi and insects, and I wouldn't have a clue as to why.

I could grow fabulous tomatoes doing what you're doing... but I'm not growing tomatoes. I'm growing Hippeastrum bulbs and other tender Amaryllids indoors. The world of container gardening is so vast and so different than garden growing, that you really can't give a method without the HOW and WHY. It's confusing.


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

I'm in Cincinnati (60 miles west of where I grew up) and it is pretty much winter here also. Five degrees last night, 5-6" of snow on the ground.

Though the OP asked about a soil-less mixture, she did say she grows mostly veggies in her GH. That's what I'm growing - that and a couple banana plants. Most veggies are seasonal. However, the OP did not ask "why" it works, only for suggestions that would not require watering every day.

I also reported that my soil is compact-proof, that it won't under any conditions, and that it does not hold moisture, so that is why I add potting mix and compost. Even posted I use used Ferti-lome potting mix, which is not cheap, although buying 40 quart bags is not quite as bad.

I could post how I turned my back yard into a row garden but first of all, it would not make sense and everyone would claim it will not work, but secondly someone would send the loony van to pick me up!

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Different strokes for different folks...


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Mike, I'm a he, not a she. You know, I will try Al's mix next to yours and see which does better, just in the spirit of experimentation. Also, Mike, how often do you replace the soil in the containers? After each growing season? Do you throw it out, or just till it back in? I've gardened for seven years, always with bagged potting mixes. It wasn't till this week that I learned that there are other ways to do it, which have a scientific basis to them and that seem to have great success. I'm game for anything that has been verified by people's experience and that might allow better growth.

Jodik - I have used the potting mix you describe as garbage for a long time (although if you mean hyponex, then ignore that bit), together with mushroom compost, and have yet to lose a single plant to fungus and insects, as far as I can recall. Freezes and hornworms yes, but not anything else. Granted, the trees have never done well, which is where Al's mix will come very much in handy, as with everything else. Now, what to do with the 6 cubic feet of potting soil I just purchased...


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Now, what to do with the 6 cubic feet of potting soil I just purchased...

Make raised beds. Or fill containers with at least partially open bottoms with it and set them on the earth.

Y'know I have a bunch of wine barrel halves that I haven't moved in years (empty these things are back breakers). I was thinking since they are all on the ground and I never move them I should just cut the bottoms off and fill them up with a more water retentive soil (or just never replace the soil presently in them).


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

ykerzner,

Sorry about that, Chief. (ever watch Get Smart?!)

I've recycled the potting mix but not back into the same containers - I dumped it on my row garden.

A bit of history: two summers ago I grew about 45 pepper plants in containers, using something close to the same recipe - lots of this dirt, a bit of potting mix and some peat, since people said that would help the dirt retain moisture. The peppers turned out decently, in a few cases, very nicely. But I saw the problem with the dirt in the pots drying out way too quickly and needing to water them every other day (we had nine days of over 100 degrees that year, and almost an entire month of temps well above 90, not to mention any rain. With the exception of a hibiscus and basil plant, I didn't use containers last summer. When I decided to use them instead of hydro in the GH this year, I decided to bury the pots, as much to keep the sides of the pots cooler (or warmer) as much as giving me more vertical room.

At least you are growing in a GH, so you can control a couple of variables (rain is a big one) a bit. IMO, the most important thing is the compost. I've never been a fan of fertilizing after the first month or so plants are growing but seeing how my veggies grew this past summer, after two decades of not being able to grow weeds, I'm a huge fan.

Good luck and let us know how things turn out.

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Sun, Jan 10, 10 at 6:13

My plants of choice, the environment I grow in, and the size of my containers all dictate that a soil such as you use would cost me the health of my precious bulbs. For a long time, I fought fungal issues, rot, and declining bulb health due to collapsed soil and inhospitable conditions within that soil... until I read Al's well written articles and learned exactly how soils, water, and roots all behave within the confines of a container.

Since switching mediums and implementing a more inorganic approach to container gardening, I've had no rot or fungal issues, whatsoever. My bulbs are healthy and growing well.

The medium I use and the results I get tell me that organic mediums and techniques are best saved for the garden, and have little value in the world of long term container growth. And Al's science supports these ideas.

The variables in gardening are too great to give soil recipes for "one size fits all", unless the medium proposed can be easily tweaked to fit all conditions. Al's medium suggestions are just that.

We're also dealing with variables in the experience and knowledge of gardeners... many who don't know there are vast differences between gardening in containers and gardening in the ground, don't know the differences between organic versus inorganic, and even some who haven't a clue about what constitutes proper watering techniques. Therefore, touting a soil that can't be obtained everywhere, and without giving scientific backing, could be detrimental to the outcomes and experiences therein.

If I weren't confident in the ability of a more inorganic, bonsai-like approach to container growing, one that can be easily adjusted to work well in almost every situation, and I wasn't prepared with the how and why to make it work, I wouldn't stand behind the knowledge that Al has so generously given and I've put to use, with most excellent results, I will say.


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

"we had nine days of over 100 degrees that year, and almost an entire month of temps well above 90, not to mention any rain"

See that is the whole point. Drop those temps down a few more degrees, coupled along with cloudy days,lack of humidity and a few bugs besides, then your talking a recipe for disaster, especially in containers at least for me....

Heck I have plants in the soil that rot unless temps are this warm in summer..

Even I can grow in dirt with temps that warm..:-)


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Actually, mm, I had as much trouble growing in the dirt as I did in the pots when it was that hot. Blossom drop and fruit that ripened on only one side were the worst problems.

Last year was the opposite - it never got to 90 after June ended, and July was extremely cool and very wet. BER was a major problem but bugs aren't. In fact, the only time I had any pest problems was late last winter and that was from aphids. Some Safer Soap and Neem Oil took care of them.

I try to keep my GH as cool as possible, as long at it is above 52. Water infrequently, not use any ferts. It helps fight stem elongation since we have little sunlight these days.

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

OK! OP wanted to know about a soil that can go at least 2 days with out water. wordwiz and Al were the only ones to reply. Time to up the anti. Some one how about 3-4 days with out water? I have kids and family to visit and don't care to be tied down by my plants LOL. Just leaf vegetables in my kitchen. I don't do fancy, too red neck i guess. Still very important to me!

Curt~


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Curt,

Actually, I watered only once a week when it was still fall and the temps inside might reach 110 (before I would remember and run out and open the door) and in the 90s during the day.

There is suppose to be some kind of a product - it looks like a bud vase, that you stick in your container and it gives water when needed. Never used one, though, so I'm not sure how it works.

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Curt,

My suggestion on how to go a few days between watering with minimal sacrifice of plant growth/development would be to use a fast draining mix and upsize the container. The greater the volume of mix, the greater the volume of water it can hold.

There are definite advantages to having to water more often such as flushing out CO2 and bringing in O2 rich air regularly, but if I had to choose between fast draining soil in a large pot and poor draining soil in a small pot, I would go with the large pot every time.


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

That is what I do and it works..

For the ones that are smaller and dry out fast, I just have someone water them everyday and not worry about it, since root rot is not a threat..So if you can bribe someone to care for them, go for it..:-)

This works for me using the gritty mix..I still prefer a mix that allows me to water my plants frequently...

Neem is Gods gift to plants and pests worst nightmare for sure.

Mike:-)


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Curt, it depends on what you are growing. If just leaf vegetables, you could use larger shallow pots and mix more perlite or sphagnam moss in the potting mix. Play around with adding some water-retentive materials to your soil and see if that gives you more time between watering. I water all my plants once a week or less depending on the plant and mix.

Jane


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

While this project will not be inside a GH, it may or may not show if my method works.

Time will tell.

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Mike, your link shows up as 'missing file'. I suspect it is the Garden Web gnomes wreaking their havoc again, but you may wish to repost the link.


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

take out the '>' in the message URL... somehow a > got in there, in the filename


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Hmm, I will try the raised beds idea.
Mike: the bulb things work, but are extremely frustrating to fill. Plus, in the heat of summer they dry out too quickly. Without shade cloth I saw evaporation rates of at least an inch of water an hour.


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

OK, trying again:

This project should show if my idea works as I won't get to the fairgrounds but once or twice a week.

Mike

Here is a link that might be useful: Just in case!


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

I just about got lost in here. Not the best place for my question ,but thanks for the replies. As my room is so limited I will go with an increase in sphagnum moss. I do not like that stuff, but I can live with it! Thanks
Curt~


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

jodik,

>> Since switching mediums and implementing a more inorganic approach to container gardening, I've had no rot or fungal issues, whatsoever. My bulbs are healthy and growing well.

The medium I use and the results I get tell me that organic mediums and techniques are best saved for the garden, and have little value in the world of long term container growth. And Al's science supports these ideas.

The variables in gardening are too great to give soil recipes for "one size fits all", unless the medium proposed can be easily tweaked to fit all conditions. Al's medium suggestions are just that.

We're also dealing with variables in the experience and knowledge of gardeners... many who don't know there are vast differences between gardening in containers and gardening in the ground, don't know the differences between organic versus inorganic, and even some who haven't a clue about what constitutes proper watering techniques. Therefore, touting a soil that can't be obtained everywhere, and without giving scientific backing, could be detrimental to the outcomes and experiences therein. <<

I'm sometimes slow but while I was watering my plants a few moments ago, I realized our difference. You "know" how different mediums, conditions, plants interact, I "understand" how they do. Big difference.

This is why I could not answer some questions - not that it bothers me. I cannot explain, in scientific terms, why it takes a certain type of soil to work in an specific environment, but I understand what it takes to get plants to grow.

Happy trails,

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Start with bark, and modify with grit.

That's about the easiest one-size-fits-all recommendation one could make.

Josh


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Tue, Jan 12, 10 at 9:59

You lost me, Mike... know and understand are synonyms. What if I said I recognize how soils work and how plants grow?

Know means "to have a practical understanding of", "to discern", "to possess knowledge, understanding, or information", etc...

I'm familiar with, I perceive, I'm cognizant of, and aware of how soils work and how plants grow. I grasp the workings of mediums and why plants behave the way they do in different soils.

The science part is just the facts.


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

jodik,

I know, I sometimes lose myself. I use to write advertorials (ads in the form of articles) for lawyers and doctors (but not Indian Chiefs) that appeared in upscale city magazines across the US. Piece of cake, but trying to explain how I garden is almost an exercise in futility. Maybe this will help:

Many years ago, we had this one patch of tobacco that was not doing well. The other 16.5 acres, in all kinds of ground, had plants that were knee-high, but this one patch, and it was good soil, well, its plants were barely ankle high. The plants were not growing. The problem was that for some reason, the soil was staying damp; not wet enough to cause rotting or anything, but still it was not getting dry.

A cardinal rule, which every farmer "knows" is that one does not work soil when it is damp.

We had a Farmall Cub tractor we used to cultivate the plants and at that time of the year, we replaced the two front shovels, that were in a 3" "V" shape, with very narrow ones that allowed us to add ammonia nitrate a few inches below the surface. It was called side-dressing and it gave the tobacco a huge shot of fertilizer.

What did I do? I lowered those front plows in their slots as far as they could go and raised the ones on their sides a bit. And even though the ground was damp, and I knew that it is a bad idea to plow damp ground, I put Cubbie in first gear, lowered the plows as far as they could go (half-way was normal, and that was without those front plows being dropped) and plowed those plants. (The plows were about four inches from the plant.

The result - first, dad didn't kick my butt for breaking a cardinal rule, probably because I didn't tell him what I did. But secondly, within three weeks, that patch had caught up to the others.

I'll stipulate that I cannot begin to explain how I could begin to tell someone, faced with a similar situation, why scientifically they should loosen the soil, especially since it was not any different soil than a lot of the other tobacco patches we had. Maybe I "knew," "understood," "sensed," or just plain "guessed" what was needed. But it worked.

Fort years later, I grow things the same way - and my luck is holding up!

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Mike,

I love your story!

It may seem utterly insincere fo me to turn right around and level a criticism, but I am hoping you can understand I mean you no harm.

You appear to have a great deal of in ground/field experience. That's valuable.

At the same time, if you do not understand the significance between in ground and container growing then you end up the way many experts have including authors like Ed Smith (The Vegetable Gardener's Bible) who really knew their stuff when it came to in ground growing and made the mistake of thinking it could all be carried over to container growing.

Container growing will be the same as in ground growing on the same say as fish living in a lake are comparable to fish in an aquarium.


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

justaguy,

I've learned from this thread that even though some posts come across as very cruel and sometimes demeaning, that is a limitation of the forum and not how people feel. No offense taken.

I'm not about to posit I know container gardening inside and out - I did okay, not great but not badly with 45 pots of pepper plants the first time I ever tried the idea - and I would think that the success I have had in my GH, lack of light notwithstanding, says I have learned a bit more. But I'm still a long way from advancing to the level of educated idiot.

Another anecdote: when I was a kid I went to the Legion post with my dad. Someone had brought in a gizmo that converted power from a car battery to something one could plug an electrical appliance into and it would work. Well, they couldn't get it to work, even though some of the people were electrical engineers. But one old guy somehow knew what was wrong - he took a huge hammer, beat on the converter and it worked perfectly.

I stand by my belief that if I make a medium that hold moisture but can still drain, does not compact and is large enough to support the root ball at its largest size, plus I feed it with the water and nutrients the plant needs depending on its stage of growth, it will work and work great. But as I said, the proof will be in the pudding. Hopefully, depending on how much my tomato seedlings grow, I'll be able to do a test grow. I'll post the results - good, bad or so-so!

Thanks,

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

I stand by my belief that if I make a medium that hold moisture but can still drain, does not compact and is large enough to support the root ball at its largest size, plus I feed it with the water and nutrients the plant needs depending on its stage of growth, it will work and work great. But as I said, the proof will be in the pudding. Hopefully, depending on how much my tomato seedlings grow, I'll be able to do a test grow. I'll post the results - good, bad or so-so!

And I think your belief is on solid ground. I do not challenge you in any way.

I *would* like to encourage you to try a container media (unburied) that is even more fast draining than what you are using and giving it a try.


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Did you see my post about the project I want to do for the County Fair? The containers will not only be unburied, but also clear. I won't be able to check them daily, twice a week during the spring/summer will be a challenge. All veggie or fruit type plants: peanuts, corn, green beans, carrots, strawberries, potatoes, onions, basil, garlic - maybe a few others.

A challenge? Geez, I don't even raise corn in my garden - I can buy it cheaper than I can grow it (considering the room I would have to give up). And I have volunteered to grow it in a container? At a place where thousands of people will see it? And you want me to try something different than what I know?

In the words of Al from Tool Time: "I don't think so, Tim!"

As stated, I will post results, even if they make me look stupid!

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

I agree and feel it is important to see how other people grow successfully. Speaking for myself, I welcome your experience and knowledge. I have done something similar with my herb gardens in large whiskey barrels outside my kitchen. Mine were not buried as deeply, only about 1/3 in the soil. I have not changed the soil in years and my herbs return each spring and reseed easily.

I have good soil, as I compost everything. I also use bagged mixes with good results. There are so many variables to growing well, there is no magic bullet. Experience is the best teacher, not a mix. In my mind, sunlight is king. Everything else follows.

Thanks for a great thread and your kindness.

Jane


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

  • Posted by patann Z5 AnnArborMI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 13, 10 at 23:30

Mike, trust me, you will NOT look stupid. We look forward to your results and generosity in sharing your methods.
Pat


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Pat,

I hope you are right and my plants don't look like Charlie Brown's Christmas Tree!

One complication, might me major, is the timing. I need plants to be mature but not finished by August 10, both in the containers and raised bed (which I have never done either!) I've counted backwards and figure I will add 10 days to the Days to Maturity to decide when to plant seeds or transplant seedlings. But I also have to find plants that will withstand normal July and early August temps. The varieties of peas and cucumbers, and to a point green beans I usually grow are ready a few to several weeks before then.

But flipping the coin, I am of the mindset that if I learn something from an endeavor, even if I don't come close to the goal, it was not a failure. Plus, I can always claim that thieves stole the containers, thugs poured poison on the dirt or a strange hail storm that only hit a couple hundred square feet destroyed my project (J/K).

I publish a weekly newspaper and frequently write about growing plants, especially veggies, and I admit - I have been surprised that lots of subscribers enjoy reading updates. Cincinnati is very urban but also very Mid-western - almost everyone can tell you of a relative that does or use to raise their own food. I'm hoping they will like the display at the fair.

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

  • Posted by patann Z5 AnnArborMI (My Page) on
    Fri, Jan 15, 10 at 0:21

Mike, you have the spirit to do anything you want, I can tell. These learning processes keep us young. I am a lot older than you and and one of the biggest lessons I learn every single day is that we learn from every failure and our enthusiasm is never in vain. We learn something from every single person we have ever known and everything we have ever done. These Garden Web forums can teach many things from the successes and failure of its members. I hope you keep us informed of your progress because I for one have only recently developed an interest in growing vegetables. Last summer they were in half whiskey barrels, next year I may follow your lead. Who knows?
Thank you for joining.
Pat


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Pat,

"one of the biggest lessons I learn every single day is that we learn from every failure and our enthusiasm"

I have learned from my failures, that is why I use the 5.1.1. and the gritty mix in my containers, and can finally be successful! Thank God for someone loving enough to share the recipes!

Thanks..:-)


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Pat,

>> I am a lot older than you <<

Gee, you make me feel good! How old do you think I am?

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Pat, I am highly offended.

With all my success over the years here, you never told me how good I am doing growing in a medium I choose for my free spirit! All the pics and everything..

Does it have something to do with the mix and it's aurthor..I hope not.:-)


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RE: here are my pics!

In fact Pat, here are my plants in my mix, indoors up north indoors...Hope you like them in case you missed them..

Here is a link that might be useful: my houseplants


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RE: here are my pics, hope you like!

In fact Pat, here are my plants in my mix, indoors up north indoors...Hope you like them in case you missed them..

Here is a link that might be useful: my houseplants


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Wow, meyermike! Your plants look amazing. What size pot are you keeping the lemons in, and how tall are the trees?


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Mike,
I so agree! We need to talk one on one about citrus! Mine need help! LOL!

Oh, I wish I could get lost in that room!

JoJo


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

  • Posted by patann Z5 AnnArborMI (My Page) on
    Fri, Jan 15, 10 at 15:44

Trying to make new people feel welcome on these Garden Forums, meyermike. Why are you harassing me?
Pat


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Pat,

I appreciate it, even more so because a couple of people didn't exactly like me posting!

We had some sun the past couple of days, almost as much as we have had the rest of the month combined and my tomato plants are loving it. Starting to see a lot of pre-blooms forming on plants again.

Went to the fair board meeting last night - they will have a plant sale (where people can sell plants, last year I was the only vendor and made out pretty good) on May 1. I can hardly wait to start sowing seeds!

MIke


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Pat,

I am can assure you I am not harrassing you..Therefore the the smiley face..In fact I have been cordial to you.

I am alot nicer than you think..My intentions are good here, but I am not sure of others, and it is not for me to judge...

But making those of us feel welcomed here that grow in what some don't agree with, and seeing the fine results of that, would only be fair to everyone, right?..So I to would welcome your comments and compliments on my hard work, yours and jane, since you seem to work together, since for some reason Al can no longer...:-(

I am sorry for the misunderstanding...

You must know what it feels like to be harrased such as Al was here and others. I'm certainly the last to harras anyone.

I had 6 people in my family read this over to make sure I didn't offend you or harras you, and they all said to would appreciate this post...;-)

I am sorry, if I asked for your approval on my plants.:-(


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Hi ykerzner,

Thankyou for your compliment! I am growing some in 6inch containers and soem in ten..Some in plastic but most in clay..Lol. Let me look at the trees you are asking about since I can't see them here at work, then I will let you know.. Thankyou so much

Jojo, I can't wait until you start citrus..I will help you every step of the way! You are welcomed to come over anytime you want..:-)

Mike..:-)


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Jane,

Not sure about being lucky to have a GH. I have a tomato (Legend) that is getting close to ripe. By my calculations, county the cost to build the GH, including heaters, pumps, containers, potting mix, etc., that tomato will cost about $2500 per pound! I could have flown to the Caribbean and bought a pound for less than that!

I jest, the GH and most of the equipment will last for years and years, I'll (hopefully) have dozens more pounds this year and thousands of pounds in years to come. But it is a hobby and passion. Some people play the lottery, others go to sporting events, still others hang out at bars or dine at expensive restaurants. If I was to tear the entire thing down and throw everything into the trash tomorrow, it would equal about $15 per day for the days I have spent.

I do wish some posters are not so parochial and would not mind other suggestions, but such is life. Rather than wasting time on them, I have a book to read - "Lighting Up Profits." It's about how supplemental lighting and CO2 can help raise better plants in a controlled environment. I can only learn something by reading it!

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Share your knowledge. In my next life I hope to have a greenhouse. I grow orchids in NY and struggle to 'chase the sun.' I carry many of the high-light plants over the dark, dreary winter with lights. Nothing sophisticated, just CFL's in octopus floor lamps. My livingroom looks like a landing field.

I wish people were more open to discussion of different growing techniques also. I wish they were friendlier. I rarely come here, but now find it entertaining. I'm usually over at Orchids although I do grow some dirt houseplants and outdoor containers. Have large outdoor flowerbeds and have planted every bush and tree on my property. I compost everything and have turned this hard, clay soil into gold. I love all of it.

My primitive light set-up over winter:

Photobucket

lights in winter 08

Photobucket

Photobucket

Jane


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Amazing is an understatement pat, magnificent!

What are they growing in? I would love to get an orchard to do that...

Mike..:-)


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Thanks!

Mike they are not hard to bloom if you have enough light. They are potted in various mixes depending on the type of orchid. Some are in bark, sphag, charcoal, lava rock. The mix depends on the needs of the plant. Be aware, Orchids are addictive.

Thanks again,
Jane


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Pretty flowers, Jane!
I like your fireplace particularly.

Josh


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Jane , what the heck, your place from just the picture you posted looks like it's a nice one..I too like the fireplace!!

Thanks...I almost buy an orchard everytime I pass them at homedepot..lol..Then I look at the price..lol

Do they really take forvever to re-flower? that is another thing that holds me back..

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Jane,

Your plants look happy and happy plants are always the best! I wish I had more room to grow plants in my living room - maybe this fall I'll make room. Would love to have a banana, lemon and pineapple tree.

Collected some rain water that has melted a bit (I have a garbage can as a collector) and stuck it in the GH so it could warm up, as well as allow me to add some ferts to it and adjust the pH as I use it for the eight plants in hydro. Checked some other plants and the past couple of days have been great - hordes of blooms forming on a group of 16 plants. I counted 18 on one plant alone. One tomato is 35 percent ripe - it probably won't be a MLK Day mater but awfully close.

My seedlings are getting close to being ready for their home for the next few months. They are big enough now as far as height and foliage, but I don't think they have developed the root ball I prefer. My goal was Feb. 1, so there is not a good reason to rush them.

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

I wish I had that many blooms on my greenhouse plants. Using a 41-year-old greenhouse built for plant labs is definitely a challenge. Of course, you have an advantage with your silt + leaves soil; me - I've used bagged potting mixes for years, up until now, that is. One tomato survived the winter so far (no working heaters), a variety meant for heat (BHN 444) and actually produced one fruit. My biggest problem is the lack of adequate lighting and no idea whether bio-rhythms are important for plants, so I don't keep the fluorescent lights on 24/7.


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Tomato plants need a bit of sleep, I read at least four hours a day once they get to fruiting stage. Some toms will set fruit at 52-55 degrees, but probably not yours. (Siletz and Legend are two that come to mind.)

Your plants will need about 14 or more mols of light a day to produce much fruit. If you have a light meter, it's pretty easy to figure out how much they are getting.

If it reads light in lux, divide the lux by 10.76, if it measures in foot candles, even better - no need to divide by anything.

Multiply your reading (in FC) by .000718 and multiply that by the number of hours of light at that intensity you get.

To figure out how much useful light your fluros provide, determine the lux/foot candles and multiply it by .000524 times the number of hours they are on. As long as you can get to the 14-15 mols/day total, you should get a few tomatoes. Real good results happen when you get to 21-22 mols/day!

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

____. You wouldn't mind telling me what your source is, i.e. a book or article, so I can go read it? Not doubting your sources, just need to know how you came up with these numbers. (Darn, where's a good plant biologist when you need one?)


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

The book is called "Lighting Up Profits" and it is edited by Paul Fisher and Eric Runkle. If you Google Daily Light Integral Greenhouse, you can also probably see similar data. The book, with shipping, cost $34 - not cheap but well worth it to someone trying to grow tomatoes in a GH, especially to sell.

I have a couple papers posted on my site, this one may help:
http://www.valleycat.net/garden/moleperdayneeded.pdf

Another one is:
http://www.valleycat.net/garden/lightintensity.pdf

Geeky stuff, but I love it!

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

I use the lights during Jan & Feb when outside light is so dim. My living-room windows face SW but in winter the angle of the sun favors south. With so many grey, dark winter days I need the lights to allow the high-light orchids to finish maturing their newest growths or I won't get flowers in Spring or Fall.

There are many orchids which will flower with good, bright windows but the Cattleya's need as much sun as possible. Surprisingly the CFL's give them enough to pull them through the two months. I don't want growth to stop. It slows but speeds up again as the sun angle and days lengthen. I run them about 16-18 hrs.

Mike, some orchids flower on and off all year. Many flower once a year but their flowers can last for months. The orchids you see in Home Depot are usually Phalaenopsis (moth orchid) and are easy to grow and bloom. Their flowers can last over a year. They grow and bloom under normal, bright light and like to be kept a bit damp so can be grown in sphagnam and some bark. The easiest orchid and very beautiful.

This Phal sits on our black piano and flowers from Dec. until July (because I cut the flower spike off). It would still be flowering if I let it.

Photobucket

Jane


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

  • Posted by patann Z5 AnnArborMI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jan 17, 10 at 11:54

Thanks to having had so many orchids myself at one time, I learned the value of bagged orchid soil to which I add 1/2 part perlite, which is one of the mixes I use on almost everything now, if not bonsai or cacti soil with perlite. Love it. No more pics of orchids, Jane, I do not want to grow them again. No room.
Pat


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

My test has started. Six containers, full of my own mix, none "connected with the earth" (they are sitting on a wooden floor, upstairs, under a 400 Watt HPS lamp.

Two each of First Prize and Better Boy and one apiece of Goliath and Celebrity.

I'll post the types of ferts and nuits I use as well as any pesticides. I do intend to use a home made CO2 generator once the plants get a few leaves and will keep - very closely - the production of the plants and post results.

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

An update of tomatoes in my GH. It's been a very dreary winter - I could count the number of hours of good sunlight per week on one hand. Thus, the plants are quite leggy, even though I water very infrequently and try to keep the temps down in the 50-75 range.

The plants in the middle two rows:

A Florida 91 VFF hybrid. I counted at least 18 blooms on this plant and mo-re forming.

Another plant, same variety. The fru-it, when mature are suppose to be about 10 ounces.

If these taste good, I will be growing mo-re of them this summer!

Mike

Sorry about the hyphens but I don't want the forum soft-ware to add a link to a site I may not condone.


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Fantastic!!!!!

Looking good Mike..

Thanks for sharing...You had better take some fruit pictures and share..Yummy

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Mike,

I'll be an A/R geek about this! The goal is to keep records of the pounds of tomatoes from each variety and how many plants they came from. A possible side benefit - I have a couple other plants growing upstairs that should have fruit starting in a couple of weeks. There is an opportunity for me to stage a plant sale at an event the first Saturday in May, about a week before the Frost Free date. Last year, I was the only person sel-ling plants and did pretty good for a 4-hour sale. If these plants will produce for two months, I can take samples to the sale. People buy "Beefsteak" or whatever because they recall them, but if they see a ripe, red Florida 91 or Better Boy and can actually taste it, I figure I will sell a lot more plants!

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Amazing...I too would buy fresh tomatoes from you if I could get them that early...Amazing man..:-)

Nothing better than FRESH plucked tomatoe...That is all I will ever eat..Never store bought..

Mike..:-)


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

An update to an old thread...

Despite the 75 day drought of sunlight, weird temps and being distracted by growing seedlings to sell, I went to my GH today to turn the heat on. It's been a couple of weeks, ok, probably three weeks, since I gave them water. But in doing so, I noticed close to a dozen, maybe more toms that are in various stages of redness - read, ripeness.

Not only that, but I have hundreds more of blooms, baby toms and mid-size ones growing.

I still promise to post pics of the root ball but in at least this case, my mix has worked a charm.

YMMV,

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Not the root ball, but I don't eat most roots, especially those from tomatoes!

This is from an ITC-06-313 plant:

So is this one, but not the same plant:

It was in the mid-90s today inside. I had a small mater that had fallen off a plant sitting on a board. It was quite warm, like one growing outdoors on a bright sunny day in August. Popped it in my mouth. Nirvana!

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Nice pics Mike! Looks like you know what your doing :~)


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Wow, incredible. Great growing!

Jane


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

A question, dozens of posts ago, was would if I will post pictures of the roots. Thanks to temps that have reached 130 in the GH for a bunch of days, but a rain today that cooled things off enough to allow me to dig out the containers (7-gallon pots, buried in dirt), I brought some out. I promised I would post pictures of the root ball and here are a couple. The plants that grew in them were quite large; the first one is a Florida 91, the second a Cabernet. But as you will see - the plants did not become root bound. Nor did the potting mix become hard - all I had to do was to hit the top of the ball with the palm of my hand and it broke into pieces.

As an aside - I post this because some of you tried to beat up on my methods. Perhaps because I didn't follow the gritty mix formula, perhaps because people are so addicted to one method they refuse to consider alternatives.

I'll be doing this again this fall. Will be transplanting seedlings by the end of this month and keep the plants outside until temps cool, the GH still gets up to 130 and the hottest part of summer isn't here yet. I will change the mix a bit - use last year's mix, but add some really great compost and aged (10-years-old) horse manure.

For better or worse, here's the images:

I rest my case!

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jul 13, 10 at 23:11

FWIW - I've been pretty quiet on this thread, even in view of the hard hits I took upthread, but I have to say you probably shouldn't be so hasty in taking for granted that everyone shares enthusiasm equal to your own re the root pictures. Though you may not realize it, the pictures actually show a very sickly root mass and a compacted soil. If I had a case to make, I could assuredly rest it now, based on your own pictures. I'm not grinding an axe - not sour grapes - just telling you how it is. I've torn apart thousands of root balls at repot time, and not one has ever looked as anemic as those/that in the pictures. It may not be sugar coated, but it IS the unbiased truth.

Bump your own thread again in OCT & I'll take a few pictures of the root masses of plants I grow in well-aerated soils that are destined for the compost pile (summer display containers) so you can decide for yourself. I promise you'll see a very stark difference and perhaps even gain an appreciation for what people were trying to share with you upthread.

Of course, if you're pleased with your results, that's all that's important.

Al


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Al,

The picture doesn't look great but two things to keep in mind: it has been over eight weeks since the plants were watered and they have been dead for a month. Plus temps have been as high as 130 and usually over 120 almost every day in the past month.

The dirt pictured came from containers in which only the back of them and a small part of the front was buried. It was not hard and broke apart easily. The last time I tried a container upstairs, I had to use a hammer to break it up!

Containers that were completely buried had soil that was more loose and fell apart when I tipped them on their side.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I just showed the dirt because someone had asked that I post a picture after finished. My main concern was raising healthy plants, which I did. I would have had baskets of toms had we not went dark for about six weeks. I counted fourteen days at one stretch and the most sunlight I received was two hours - and that was rare! Then, once the sun returned they were doing great - the plants were full of blossoms. Even started getting ripe toms and dozens of baby fruits formed. Then it warmed up and even though I kept the GH open and a fan blowing air out, it still got above 100 almost every day, and then got hotter! The toms never completely ripened. :-(

It was a learning experience - you need sun and moderate temps both. That's why I am starting plants now - they should be close to flowering in late September when the temps cool off and I can move them into the GH. Come the end of December, I'll move my operation upstairs and grow hydroponically

The original post was: "So I've looked at a lot of threads concerning the proper potting mix for containers (really want to try out Al's mix) but have a problem. I plant a lot in a university greenhouse that's a long way from home (14 miles), and can't go to water the pots every day during summer. What potting mix would you recommend that is soil-less but retains enough water for a plant for at least two days? I grow mostly vegetables."

That's why I suggested burying the containers. I never had to water more than once every two weeks and grew great plants - just at the wrong time!

Mike


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RE: Potting mix for greenhouse containers

Mike,
thanks for posting the follow-up pics. You're a brave soul! ;)
I'm convinced that there's a happy medium out there for you - bark-based, with a few additives.

Josh


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