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Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Posted by naikii 9a / 8b (My Page) on
Fri, Jan 25, 13 at 20:56

Hi all,

Let me start by saying I never knew potting plants was something that required such consideration! I have recently acquired a bunch of plants I wish to grow in containers, and have started researching the best media for long and happy, productive lives.

Currently I have 3 types of fig to plant out, four types of blueberry, a bay tree and a miniature peach.

I live in Canberra Australia where we consistently get to -5c in winter and can hit -8 or -9 without too much trouble, although this is not usual. In summer (as was proved last week) we can get extremes of heat to 42o and long periods around 34-35o, although usually average about 30o.

From what I have been reading I believe that Tapla's gritty mix might be the best solution, but it seems so alien to me, is it basically looks like growing in rocks!

In particular I was going to follow this thread http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg1119054422545.html who sourced Australian substitutes for the ingredients.

What really strains my brain is the thought of nutrients. The mix seems to be pretty inert of everything and does this mean I will be fertilising every day? This seems excessive and time consuming, especially when you see pictures such as this http://figs4fun.com/More_Info_Pots.html which I am almost certain would not be grown in a soil-less mix.

I also wonder about the mixes ability to hold water during exceptionally hot days, think 40 for a few days running.

So I spose my final and main question is; is there a soil mix that would be ideal for figs, blueberries, bay and peach that would allow all the beneficial properties of Tapla's mixture such as avoiding root rot, and allowing plenty of air, but that will also support some sort of nutrient holding, so I can fertilise once weekly? Or should I stick with the gritty mix?

PS I am aware of the acid requirements of blueberries and the slightly alkaline requirements of figs.

Thanks!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

In other useful information, I would be hoping to pot into fairly large pots almost straight away, and over the next year or slowly move everything into half wine barrels (they are about $90 a pop, so 8 plants with media is quite expensive!)

I have attached a photo so you can see the current size of plants.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

I am growing figs and blueberries too. Mine should arrive early next month. For blueberries I am doing 1/3 bark, 1/4 sphagnum peat moss, and 1/3 forest by product or azalea/rhododendron mix. Also add a handful of soil sulfur to each batch. Some say the sulfur is not needed, but I don't know. This recipe is from Dave Wilson's Nursery and I have heard great things about it.

For the Figs and other potted plants I also have all the ingredients for A1's 5-1-1. I am curious as you are and have similar questions. I showed the Gritty mix recipe to some people and they did not have a good impression about it. I tried to explain how it works but they had concerns about water retention and food towards the plant and tree just as you. Anyway, good topic I will keep and eye on it. BTW, what varieties of Figs and Blueberries did you get? My Fig is Petite Negri, and the Blueberries are Misty and Sunshine Blue.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

It is OK to be doubtful about the gritty mix, I was too. The key is most of us do not appreciate the water retention of bark and Turface. It retains a lot of water without turning into mud and losing all the air, so vital for the roots to be able to take up both water and nutrients. You need to try it to appreciate it. Al


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Al is completely right.
The water retention of both mixes is greatly under-appreciated,
and often mischaracterized by folks who haven't even tried these mixes for themselves.
Nothing wrong with being skeptical - many are - but really the proof is in the pudding.

The superior durability and aeration of these mixes will also allow you to move
those plants into much larger containers than would be advisable with a heavier,
peat or fine-particled potting mix. In larger volumes, these mixes will hold even
more moisture - which ought to liberate you from watering everyday, even during
those hot stretches. By adding a slow-release fertilizer at the time of the mixing,
you can actively fertilize even less. I fertilize no more than once a week with plants
such as peppers, citrus, figs, and peaches, and I fertilize my other container
plants (bonsai) approximately every two weeks.

Yes, wrangling the ingredients and the fertilizers is a little more work up front;
but it makes for a much smoother gardening experience later in the season, and beyond.
The 5-1-1 mix, in particular, is easier on the pocket book, easier on the back,
and easier on the plants' roots when it comes time to re-pot.


Josh


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

One of the basic principles I have learned from Al is that plants in containers cannot depend on getting nutrients from organic matter in the potting mix. In soil in a garden, microorganisms break down organic matter into the chemical elements plants need to produce their own food. In a container mix, it is not possible to have a thriving "micro herd" that will produce the elements plants need in the right amount at just the right time. Temperatures, moisture and air fluctuate and many of the good microorganisms die. So we have to add fertilizers to the container in a form plants can use even when conditions don't favor a healthy micro herd.

Growing in a container is much more like growing hydroponically than growing in the ground. I use gritty mix for most of my house plants. I add controlled release fertilizer to the mix when I make it and I add a soluble chemical fertilizer to my water when I water my plants. You dont need (or want) to fertilize every day. If you want to know a lot more about how this works, follow the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fertilizing containerized plants


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Hey everybody, thanks for the responses.

@PunkRotten, the figs I bought are White Adriatic, Brown Turkey and Black Genoa. I also have a small cutting that I took from a really large tree overhanging a fence I passed one day, and another unknown fig in the ground I bought from the local classifieds. I am particularly looking forward to the White Adriatic, as when I opened the box posted from the nursery there was this beautiful sweet fragrance inside which I tracked down to the leaves of the WA. The blueberries I have are Misty, Sunshine Blue, Brightwell and Powder Blue. I also have two more sunshine Blue in the Ground and a Legacy as well.

@Calsitoga I am coming to believe this, having read many more threads, I have a new concern however. Will these mixes, being more porous and open freeze more readily over winter or be more susceptible to frosts?

@Greenman and Ohiofem I have read through the fertilizing plants link, and it all makes sense. Fertilising with every watering would not be so bad if watering isn't required every day. In your experiences, in large pots say 50-100L about how often is watering required?

And finally in regards to transplanting these plants from the pots they are currently in to a large pot with Gritty or 5-1-1 mix, can I leave the current soil mix that is in the pots, and place it directly into the new mix? I would think that having to wash it all off the roots would cause undue stress... I would like to repot the plants fairly soon, to make the most of the 3-4 months left before it starts to chill (they say that in Canberra April 25 marks the start of cold weather and in my 5 years here that has proven to be correct to the day, with large frosts coming out of seemingly nowhere)

Thanks!


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

  • Posted by DWD2 10a, Sunset 17 (My Page) on
    Sun, Jan 27, 13 at 4:36

naikii & PunkRotten, There are a number of high quality, authoritative sources for learning about choosing and managing potting medias. There are scientifically established ranges for the critical physical properties for potting media that are recommended for media management under normal circumstances. These are total porosity (TP) 50-85%, air space (AS) 10-30%, container capacity (CC) (aka. water holding capacity) 45-65%, available water (AW) 25-35%, unavailable water (UAW) 25-35% and bulk density (BD) 0.19-0.5 grams per cubic centimeter dry weight. All of these parameters are reasonably easy to test with a digital kitchen scale and some measuring cups. The Gritty Mix & the 5-1-1 Mix clearly work for people. Heck, it is possible to grow high quality plants in a media of pure perlite. In the space shuttle, plant growth experiments were done in a media of pure turface. Jon at Encanto Farms says he grows all his figs above the 1 or 2 gallon size in 100% compost. He is successfully growing hundreds of fig trees in that media. Here are a few links that should help you to understand how to make media mix choices better.
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/nursery/cultural/cultural_docs/substrates/container-soiless-media.pdf
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/nursery/cultural/cultural_docs/substrates/managing_container_subs.pdf
http://www.fao.org/hortivar/scis/doc/publ/8.pdf
http://horttech.ashspublications.org/content/15/4/747.full.pdf
http://miami-dade.ifas.ufl.edu/agriculture/CCH/media.pdf

A link to a publication that in my opinion is useful and scientifically correct about fertilizing container plants is this one.
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/floriculture/plugs/ghsubfert.pdf

I spent a fair bit of time researching potting media in which to grow my trees & blueberries. I chose not to try the Gritty Mix. I did try the 5-1-1 Mix but quite using it as I found other media that I feel perform better. I grow citrus, plums, apricots and figs all in containers and I am happy with the results I see.

Ohiofem, The "basic principle" you learned seems to be wrong. I have been growing plants in pots organically for years with great success. I am far from the only person doing it. There are a number of companies selling mycorrhizae and beneficial bacteria to add to your potting media. One example of hundreds of publications demonstrating the ability of microorganisms to colonize potting media and provide meaningful benefit is this.
http://hriresearch.org/docs/publications/JEH/JEH_2000/JEH_2000_18_4/JEH 18-4-247-251.pdf

Good luck with your plants!


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

DWD2: I'm a little confused. I've read three of the PDFs you linked to and found interesting information, but nothing that contradicts the principle I referenced: "plants in containers cannot depend on getting nutrients from organic matter in the potting mix". I didn't say one should not "grow organically" in containers. Pine bark is organic, so technically growing in a media that contains it could be considered growing organically. The articles I was able to read seem to suggest that pine bark is an excellent substance to add to your potting media. I didn't see any suggestion that one should use compost or manure as a major component in container media.

The last link doesn't work, so I don't know if that would be different. But if it says that adding mycorrhizae and beneficial bacteria to your potting media is beneficial, I don't dispute that either. In fact, I do add substances like Actinovate and Root Shield to 5-1-1 when growing summer vegetables outside.

What I said is that you can't depend on organic matter in a pot to provide all necessary nutrients in the right amount at the right time. The OP was concerned about his media not providing sufficient nutrition without daily fertilizing. That is what most of us were responding to.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

"What I said is that you can't depend on organic matter in a pot to provide all necessary nutrients in the right amount at the right time."

Are you or anyone else positive about that statement?

Do you think using a synthetic fertilizer will make a difference when bud break will take place as opposed to organics?

I would never use a 5:1:1 mix for blueberries, it dries out too fast and is not a good medium for organics. Even adding more turface wouldn't come close to an optimum medium for blueberries.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

You are asking me to prove a negative. Can you provide scientific evidence of the positive assertion that you can provide everything a plant needs at the right time and in the right amount using only organic matter in a container? Or, more specifically, do you know of a strictly organic container mix that proved to be superior to 5-1-1 fertilized with a complete 3:1:2 soluble fertilizer in growing blueberries? If so, please provide the recipe.

This post was edited by Ohiofem on Sun, Jan 27, 13 at 13:40


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

  • Posted by DWD2 10a, Sunset 17 (My Page) on
    Sun, Jan 27, 13 at 13:51

Ohiofem, Possibly what we are dealing with here is semantics. Usually when talking about potting mixes & testing them, you discuss them as the complete media. That is with all the dry amendments added. In conventional media that includes slow release components like Osmocote. In organic media that includes all the dry ingredients like slow release Sustane, alfalfa meal, feather meal, etc. The reason for that is the critical parameters you should be monitoring like pH and EC are typically different in the complete media versus the incomplete media. The situation in pots is fairly similar to crops in the ground in that most commercial food producers fertilize their in field crops, be it vegetable or fruit crops. Soil usually has a higher CEC than potting media which allows for less frequent fertilizing but does not change the amount of nutrition a plant can accumulate as it grows. Still your post reads to me as if you are saying that one can not grow organically in pots because the microorganisms that convert complex nutrients into a form that can be taken-up by a plant can not survive in pot environments. That statement is clearly wrong. Your statement that "you can't depend on organic matter in a pot to provide all necessary nutrients in the right amount at the right time' is clearly wrong too. I do not see nutritional deficiencies in the things I grow organically long-term (ie trees)and I spend the money to test. The tomatoes I grow organically in 15 gallon pots routinely grow over the 7 foot tall cages I place around them for support. I am really at a loss as to what the "basic principle" is here. I don't mean to be heavy handed here but I sense some confusion. As an aside, I will suggest that if you get a text on plant nutrition from your library or Amazon and do some reading, I think you will find the link "Fertilizing Containerized Plants" deeply imbued with error.

As to the last link, it opens in my browser but try this version.
http://hriresearch.org/docs/publications/JEH/JEH_2000/JEH_2000_18_4/JEH 18-4-247-251.pdf

prestons_garden, I completely agree.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Naikii,
When you re-pot a plant in the Gritty Mix, it is important to remove as much
of the original soil as possible, and then carefully work the mix into all the
spaces between the roots - leave no air-pockets.

With the 5-1-1 it is not as critical if some of the original soil remains,
since the 5-1-1 is a more moisture retentive mix and there won't be as much variation
between the moisture retained in the old versus the new mix. Basically, you want
to avoid having two different mixes in the same container, as this leads to uneven drying
and all the related issues with fertilization, root-health, et cetera.

Your 50L - 100L pots are much larger than what I'm using. I use 5-gallon (18L~) pots
for my peppers, and I only water every 2 - 4 days depending upon the weather.
The largest container that I use is a 15-gallon (56L~) for a tomato on my sun-blasted back deck.
With that volume, fully moistened, I assure you that daily watering is not necessary,
nor would I advise it for the root-health of the plant.

Preston,
soluble fertilizers have no impact on bud-break in my plants -

The 5-1-1 mix is an excellent medium for organics, if container volume is correctly chosen.
The only issue is that organic nutrients, such as Fish Emulsion, tend to hasten the breakdown
of the mix. In order to foster herds of micro-organisms and biota, one must use a container volume
that allows for more stable temperature and moisture. A 6-inch pot of 5-1-1 in zone 9 is going to dry
out rather quickly in the Summer and won't be conducive to maintaining micro-organisms.

Once a container has sufficient volume, it might as well be considered a mini "raised bed" -
in such a case, micro-organisms can survive.


Josh


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

I don't want to fight. I was sincere when I asked for a recipe for an organic container mix that is superior. I grew tomatoes in 5-1-1 using the fertilizing recommendations in that post in the past two summers and they were all well over 7 feet tall and quite productive. Anecdotal evidence is not enough to convince me to change growing methods.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Yes, indeed, Ohio.
Every year I grow a Sun Gold tomato in a 15-gallon container of the 5-1-1 mix.
I add a starter charge of Osmocote to the mix, and I fertilize with 2 - 3 treatments
of Foliage Pro over the course of the Summer. My plant overtakes the cage, and then
ascends the lattice-screen and the liquidambar tree growing near the deck. When the
frost finally kills off the vines, the plant is easily 9 - 11 feet, or more. The productivity
of the plant is unreal, although a good deal of that is due to the vigor of the cultivar itself.


Josh


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

DWD2:

We are comparing apples and oranges. The final article you linked to, which I just read, asserts that mycorrhiza can survive in a container and improve plant vitality. I don't dispute that. But, mycorrhiza is not one of the microorgsnisms that breaks down organic molecules into the chemical elements that plants need to produce their own food. And note that the media used in their experiments was 4 parts pine bark to 1 part sand with added Osmacote CRF and microblast. Sounds pretty close to the 5-1-1 with Osmocote Plus that I use.

I thought we were discussing the media in the pots. So what is your formula? I've seen several posters come here claiming that the information Al provides is somehow flawed. But I haven't seen any of them provide evidence of something better.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Ohiofem,

I am not trying to change your mind about a potting medium, synthetics, or what ever your else you decide to do in your garden. Even if I did tell you what I use for a potting medium it would make no difference as you have found a mix that suits your purpose.

I would like to see a blueberry bush that is doing well in a 5:1:1 mix with synthetics only. As to this day I have not seen a pic of one yet. That doesn't mean it's impossible, just no one has figured it out yet.

What I use in my potting medium for blueberries is no secret, 1:1 pumice and peat with compost as a mulch on the top. I have a very good population of soil microbes in my potting medium, and my plants are doing well. I do use only organics and would never use synthetics only.

In other words, the 5:1:1 mix is not for every plant or every gardener. Just as there is not one fertilizer that will do it all. Sure the 5:1:1 mix works great for citrus but not blueberries.

As for the scientific proof, that's a bunch of jargon as most scientific tests done these days are funded by special interest groups. Synthetics is absorbed faster than organics due to it's in an ionic form where organics has to be broken down before it is in an ionic form. This is only true when both mediums are sterilized, meaning no microbes and or organics are present.

This post was edited by prestons_garden on Mon, Jan 28, 13 at 17:37


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Why am I not surprised that you said: As for the scientific proof, that's a bunch of jargon as most scientific tests done these days are funded by special interest groups? There's really no point in continuing this discussion if we can't even agree on the value of the scientific method in evaluating evidence. All we are left with is he said, she said.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Then perhaps you can show me scientific proof to uphold your statement. Not scientific proof from an university, we know who funds that research.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Hello all -

Has anyone done a direct comparison of the same plant that has been grown for a season in different mediums such as the gritty mix or 5-1-1 in terms of overall health, appearance, and fruit production?

Although having the same plant grown in different mediums under the same conditions would be the best comparison to determine the difference in expected growth between the gritty and 5-1-1, I am also curious if anyone has grown figs that are expected to grow at about the same rate (i.e. essentially the same genetic potential)in the same season in the 5-1-1 and gritty mix? Or if this has not been done what would the hypothesis be for the above experiment? What if both fig trees were grown in a 15 gallon container of 5-1-1 or a 15 gallon container of gritty mix? Also, any idea what the comparison would be to the gritty/5-1-1 if the tree were grown in a 15 gallon pot containing a more peat based or peat/pumice mix with compost with the pot in direct contact with the ground so as to hopefully wick excess moisture to earth? The gritty and 5-1-1 would be fertilized by synthetic chemical and the fig grown in the peat/pumice mix would get its nutrients from the previous/current chemical breakdown of the compost with perhaps enhanced uptake by mycorrhizae.

I have used the gritty mix with very good results for various plants in much smaller containers in the house.

I am really curious to know if I should expect similar growth in the gritty vs. the 5-1-1 for a fig when in the 15 gallon size containers outside this season or if there would be a significant difference in growth between the gritty and 5-1-1 mediums - of course the gritty will be extremely heavy and the 5-1-1 much lighter.

I know between the gritty and 5-1-1 one difference is I can go much longer between repots (up to 5 yrs - assuming roots do not need pruned - with the gritty but replace the 5-1-1 after 1 season due to decomposition) - but I am curious if the gritty would be expected to provide much better or similar growth of a fig tree compared to the 5-1-1 mix? I am in the Saint Louis area where summer temps can get pretty hot - last summer was a bit unusual with several weeks more than 100 but in the 90's is typical.

Thanks,
Brian


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Naikii. Turface is available in Australia from Sage Horticultural in Melbourne.They also sell NuVital fertilizer which is close to Dyna Gro.
I have over 100 plants in Gritty Mix and they're loving it.Bagged potting mix is becoming a thing of the past for me. Good luck.
Alan, Adelaide


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Naikii. Turface is available in Australia from Sage Horticultural in Melbourne.They also sell NuVital fertilizer which is close to Dyna Gro.
I have over 100 plants in Gritty Mix and they're loving it.Bagged potting mix is becoming a thing of the past for me. Good luck.
Alan, Adelaide


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

  • Posted by DWD2 10a, Sunset 17 (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 28, 13 at 2:28

Ohiofem, I do not want to fight either. I do want to try to help get accurate advice to Naiiki & PunkRotten. The paper I linked was in reply to your statement, "In a container mix, it is not possible to have a thriving "micro herd" that will produce the elements plants need in the right amount at just the right time. Temperatures, moisture and air fluctuate and many of the good microorganisms die. So we have to add fertilizers to the container in a form plants can use even when conditions don't favor a healthy micro herd." The paper shows that in a container mix it is possible to maintain a healthy population of microorganisms. It has been known for over a decade that arbuscular mycorrhizae can break down organic molecules and increase nutrient capture from complex organic material.
http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/141/1/hodgea1.pdf

I have no desire to change your growing methods. If you are happy with the results you get in 5-1-1 or Gritty Mix, then terrific! Why change? I do want to challenge the notion that you can not achieve essentially equivalent results using organic media. You clearly can achieve results at least as good as those using conventional growing media with organic growing media in container culture.

A complete review of all the errors in the post "Fertilizing Containerized Plants" you linked above would require far more time than I have or care to spend. I will offer one example. The 3-1-2 NPK ratio that is widely accepted on this forum as some sort of universal perfect NPK ratio for plants has no scientific foundation. I am pretty sure I know where it came from. It looks like that link copied Table 1.3 from Chapter 1, page 5 of "Marchner's Mineral Nutrition of Higher Plants." The last 3 sentences from Chapter 1 say, "These differences in function are reflected in the average concentration of mineral nutrients in plant shoots that are sufficient for adequate growth (Table 1.3). The values can vary considerably depending on plant species, plant age, and concentration of other mineral elements. This aspect is discussed in Chapters 6 to 8." As you might expect, root systems have a different distribution of minerals. The majors are still major and the minors are still minor. Somehow the reality that there are considerable variations in mineral usage from plant to plant or between old & young plants has been dismissed. I am not suggesting that a 3-1-2 fertilizer will not work well. It is as good a place to start as any. But if you believe in the notion that is some sort of "perfect" ratio, then you will likely close your mind to the possibility that any growing problem you encounter could be nutrition related. I will offer an example. It is well known that citrus trees consume a lot of N. If you are fertilizing with a 3-1-2 fertilizer, when you encounter a N deficiency, you could increase the amount of the 3-1-2 fertilizer used. Of course that will give an excess of the other minerals with new sets of problems. Or you could use an N only or N dominated fertilizer to get your tree's N deficiency corrected. People who grow citrus for a living routinely get leaves from their trees tested to guide them in how to fertilize their orchards. Of course, they would not have to do that nor would all the testing companies have to exist if this 3-1-2 ratio were real, would they? What does plain common sense tell us?

prestons_garden, All scientific papers that I have have a section, typically at the end of the paper just before the references, where the authors are required to list their funding sources. I think you will find that the majority of studies are funded by competitive grants from public sources, not industrial or special interest groups. You can always check that and let it influence how much credibility you want to attach to any given publication.

Brian, No side-by-side comparisons have been done as far as I know. I am unaware that anyone has ever even measured the TP, AS, CC, AW UAW & BD for 5-1-1 or Gritty. An adequate comparison would be expensive & time consuming. I note that many people seem happy with the results they get using the 5-1-1 & Gritty mixes which is really great. Good for them! Josh & Ohiofem choose to grow their tomatoes in 5-1-1. I choose to go to my nursery center & buy a $10 bag of organic potting media per plant and add additional organic sources of nutrition. I am very pleased with my tomatoes. I have tried 5-1-1 on trees and believe my approach on tomatoes is a lot less work. The real point I think is worth getting out to folks is there are a lot of media options out there. They ALL have their pluses and minuses. If you take a little time to understand the parameters that define a good media, you are much better placed to make a good choice for your growing situation.

Good luck with your growing!


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Well, I have tried all the methods mentioned here for years.

I did the organic route and failed many times over. After speaking to a worker yesterday about him growing organically as mentioned here, he said it's rare that people can do this method because it's so unpredictable unless his containers come in contact with the soil under it and temps favor the beneficial microbes. He is always trying to keep things under control and finds it taxing, but worth the end result on 'some' plants.

In fact, they even try this method growing hydroponically, and they are still having issues with salts, pests, stunted leaves, thin flimsy leaves, yellow leaves, or some fruit over producing flowers.
Some do well though, like their lettuce.

I have been growing in the gritty mix and 5..1.1 mix and find that both encourage my plants to grow to their best potential.
Knowing that my mixes are only there for the roots of my plants to anchor themselves on, I supply nutrients readily available to them at every watering in the summer and lighten up during the winter.

The only difference between the 5.1.1 and gritty mixes for me is that one is lighter and breaks down faster.

This type of fertilization method for me keeps my mixes open, porous and salt free, allowing the roots to my plants to freely grow to their best or full potential in containers for more than one season whether it's growing blueberries or citrus.

Mike

This post was edited by meyermike_1micha on Mon, Jan 28, 13 at 9:39


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

DWD2: If you have a recommendation for a superior potting mix or fertilizing strategy, please tell us what it is. I've looked through everything you've written in this thread, and all I could find that appears to be a recommendation is this:
I choose to go to my nursery center & buy a $10 bag of organic potting media per plant and add additional organic sources of nutrition.
Attacking other contributors to this forum is not really helpful.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 28, 13 at 16:39

DWD arrived here last year about this time, verbalizing his/her expectations that the 5:1:1 mix would yield far from optimal results and suggesting that the key to growing tomatoes so tall and heavy that you 'must' support them with 7' tall cages made of concrete reinforcing wire was to follow the methodology of a person whose name I can't recall and hadn't heard of. He either took offense at or disagreed with nearly everything I said. He also tried to marginalize the work of Dr Carolyn Male, PhD, as it related to BER in tomatoes. Carolyn actually offered some commentary here, standing by what she had said in the quote.

I've tried growing in water-retentive media, and I've tried using organic sources of nutrients. Both, individually or collectively, have provided results inferior to what I've been used to enjoying while growing in well-aerated media using nutrients in synthetic form.

If the results of others using different methodologies are such that they provide enough reward/satisfaction to warrant staying their course, then I'm genuinely happy for them. I really don't care what people choose to grow in; rather, I care that they understand container media well enough that they are able to manipulate them to their own best advantage.

The undeniable fact is, right - wrong - or indifferent, it's not a fluke that thousands of growers at GW and other forum sites have significantly improved their ability to obtain results that meet their expectations or hopes by abandoning water-retentive soils and organic sources of nutrition for container culture.

Al


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

DWD2,
Even if the scientific publication does list where the funding comes from, more than likely it still comes from special interest groups. In other words, monsanto will never put there name as a funder,but they will put a different name to make the link more difficult for the consumer.

"arbuscular mycorrhizae" is for nutrient exchange and uptake. I was not aware that it can break down organic molecules.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Regarding the debate above, I don't think anyone can be wrong on the topic, because in the end personal experiences are going to vary from person to person despite the growing media, and much of it will be due to other factors not controllable by the growing such as temperature etc.

It is very clear that plants can be grown very well in organic media, for instance in my first post the fig trees growing in pots seem to be doing extremely well, and I would be very pleased to achieve even half that result. People still grow primarily in organic media, and for most of them there probably doesn't seem to be much reason to change.

Right now even I have a whole bunch of plants in pots, growing in potting mix from the local hardware store, I didn't know any better when I bought it, and just purchased whatever label and price caught my eye at the time. Not only that I have potted some of my plants (tomatoes) for two years in the same soil, without much thought. They all seem to be doing fine, and it is the poor support that I have that is limiting their growth rather than anything else as far as I can tell.

Moving toward a largely inert, (and for all intents and purposes) inorganic media to me is verging on a totally different growing technique. It seems to me that the container gardening forum could almost do with two sections, an organic and inorganic section, as techniques to both are quite different. Al's techniques to me seem like they straddle the line between regular and hydroponic gardening, as in hydroponics media like clay pellets are often used, which also contain no nutrients, and must be supplemented. The only difference between the two is there are no pumps or reservoirs, and so an attempt has been made to retain some of the water-holding properties of the growing media to make up for this.

As far as the debate between which will be more productive, without ever having tried Al's methods, it makes sense that they would produce more. There is no debate that pure hydroponic methods will produce much more vigorous, healthy and productive plants if done properly. There is however a bit of a double edged sword, because one mistake can kill everything, such as over fertilising, or pump failure etc.

So considering all this, on a sliding scale, I would suspect that organic based media is more forgiving to the gardener than something like Al's mixes which is more forgiving than pure hydroponics.

Arguing that you can grow 8ft tall tomatoes in an organic media does not disprove the productivity of Al's mixes, just as growing 8ft tall tomatoes in Al's mixes doesn't disprove the capabilities of an organic media.

Finally, the only point that I am going to make is that trees are not a single year crop, and I am almost certain that an organic media will degrade over time a lot faster than either of Al's mixes. This means that over time the benefits of a more stable mixture will become evident, whilst to maintain healthy growth an organic media would need to be re-potted more frequently.

This is primarily why I have decided to use a long lasting soil mix over an organic product.

If anyone read to the end of this, I would be interested to know about the freezing possibility I asked earlier. Will either of Al's mixes freeze easier or be susceptible to frosts?

Also, if Al is still following, I would like to know how catastrophic it may be to leave the bulk of the original soil on the figs when transplanting into the gritty mix. The pots they are in now are quite small, and the volume of original soil to new gritty mix will be quite small. Over time I suspect the soil will slowly filter down through the mix, but I cant imagine it having a large effect?...


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

  • Posted by nil13 z21 Mt. Washington L (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 28, 13 at 20:31

Of course figs can grow well in a moisture retentive mix, they have tough as nails root systems that can oxygenate damn nearanything you would put in a container and suck up water so fast the medium won't be waterlogged for long.

DWD2, the 3-1-2 ratio is a rough ratio that corresponds to plant samples. I have seen the research, though I can't find the pdf right now. The ratios varied a bit with conifers being more like 3-1-1.6 but it works as a rough guide. Your citrus grower argument is flawed. Orchards are in the ground and the ground typically supplies enough P and K for plants needs, thus a focus on N. Most people over apply P and K on their landscapes. That is why soil tests are needed to determine a fertilizer regiment. In containers where you are not relying on the medium, 3-1-2 makes a lot more sense.

preston, you say, "Synthetics is absorbed faster than organics due to it's in an ionic form where organics has to be broken down before it is in an ionic form."

That would be true if synthetics only includes simple fertilizer salts like ammonium sulfate or potassium nitrate. However, urea requires at least enzymatic breakdown before N is available and long chain N sources like methylenedurea require breakdown as well. Organic feather meal is just a granular heat denatured protein, which is basically an untwisted long chain N source.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

The term organic is very imprecise in many discussions like this one. According to "Barron's AP Environmental Science," healthy topsoil should consist of about 45 percent minerals (in combination with clay, silt and sand), 5 percent organic matter, 25 percent water and 25 percent air. If we just measure the half of top soil that is not water and not air, you could say topsoil is about 10 percent organic matter and 90 percent mineral. Is top soil "organic"? Gritty mix is 33 percent bark, which is organic matter. 5-1-1 is about 70 percent bark and about 15 percent peat, for an organic percent of 85 percent. Most commercial potting media that is labelled organic is usually primarily peat with a small portion of composted materials added in.

The most significant difference between Al's mixes and most commercial organic potting media is the size of the particles. The larger particle size of gritty and 5-1-1 allows more air in the mix which helps prevent compaction. The small amount of added organic matter in commercial media would have to carry a heavy load if it was the only source of plant nutrients. So organic growers, just like so called nonorganic growers, need to use fertilizers. They choose different kinds of fertilizers. The choice for organic growers using containers can be very complicated because they need to balance slow acting and fast acting sources as well as environmental conditions. It's a lot easier to select a balanced chemical fertilizer.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

  • Posted by nil13 z21 Mt. Washington L (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 28, 13 at 21:10

naikii, the techniques are not that different. The difference is really in the structure. You can still use "organic" methods with the 5-1-1 (it's just good basic potting medium), but you have to realize that any potting medium composed of primarily organic materials will break down quickly and become unsuitable for container culture in about a season (though some push it a little further). I grow all kinds of things in that, knowing that I am either going to potup, plant out, or discard in a season. The discarded medium goes into the landscape where a whole host of natural processes make the ultrafine material perfectly acceptable with regards to issues like air space. If however, you want a medium that will maintain structure longer, you need a primarily inorganic medium. As an aside, I find it interesting that people consider an inorganic medium unnatural but good natural soil has an inorganic fraction of about 90-95%. Regardless of which type of medium you choose, you still have to supply basic nutrients. Some people like to mix it into the medium at the beginning and just water. Others like to not mix anything in at all and just fertigate. Most add some to the medium and fertigate a bit. Some add feather meal as a long chain N source that breaks down over time and other add polymer coated N sources that dribble out fertilezer over a set period of time. Periodically those same people will have to add some more topdressing and scratch it into the surface.

I also think that hydroponics gets a bad reputation as high tech and complex because of the greenhouses and pumps and stuff. It really doesn't have to be all that. You can simply take a pot of gravel. Stick a plant in it and water with a nutrient solution like any other container plant and you have a simple "to waste" hydroponic setup. There are no pumps or tanks of nutrients. You don't need a pH meter since you just add a balanced fertilizer to your watering can each time you water. Simple. Now it might dry out too quickly to be convienient (although even plain gravel can hold a surprising amount of moisture), but that is solvable with a 30% cut of calcined clay (turface)


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

  • Posted by nil13 z21 Mt. Washington L (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 28, 13 at 21:18

dangit ohiofem you beat me to my aside, lol.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Im going to admit that my head is swimming right now. Ive read more and more threads and it doesn�t become any easier, just harder.

For instance I have just read a thread on the figs4fun forums, debating the merits of coir which turned into a massive debate. In truth I become lost in all the detail.

I am just looking for the best thing to plant into now, keeping most the soil and rootball intact, that will last me all winter and next year as well, to be repotted and root pruned into a larger pot at the end of winter 2014.

All plants put into clay or plastic pots (50L / 13gal) or half wine barrels (100L / 26gal).

Sounds like the answer is the 5-1-1 mix?

DWD2 it seems you disagree with Tapla across forums. As I said I don�t think either of you are wrong, just using different methods to achieve the same thing. I would be interested if you could post a recipe that you would recommend for figs and/or blueberries.

If you do this I will pot 1 of my figs and 2 of my blueberries now into your recommendation, and then when my fig cutting gets large enough I will pot that in it too. I will pot 2 of my figs and 2 of my blueberries in whatever the final decision on Tapla�s mix is and will follow up with the growth every couple of months in this thread for comparison.

It won�t be exactly comparable because there are different varieties of fig and blueberry, and one is a cutting I took myself, but for general comparison purposes all the other fruit trees are approximately the same age, and from the same nursery bought at the same time, and growing in what I assume is the same media for each fruit.

The only thing I ask is that I don�t have to wash all the soil from the roots now, I can put these small plants into fairly large pots straight away, I can keep the same soil until I root prune the plants in beginning of Spring of 2014 (Sept).

Anyone else who wants to chime in, I am going to use the 5-1-1 mix unless there are votes that the gritty mix will be better.

Thanks


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

nil13,

"preston, you say, "Synthetics is absorbed faster than organics due to it's in an ionic form where organics has to be broken down before it is in an ionic form."

That would be true if synthetics only includes simple fertilizer salts like ammonium sulfate or potassium nitrate. However, urea requires at least enzymatic breakdown before N is available and long chain N sources like methylenedurea require breakdown as well. Organic feather meal is just a granular heat denatured protein, which is basically an untwisted long chain N source."

Did you consider any of these ionic forms in your response?
H2PO4-, HPO42-, K+, Ca2+, Mg2+, SO42-, BO33-, Cl-, Cu2+, Fe2+, Fe3+, Mn2+, MoO42-, Zn2+
If you still don't agree that synthetic fertilizers are taken up by the roots quicker than organics, I can't help you.

This post was edited by prestons_garden on Tue, Jan 29, 13 at 11:04


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

naikii,

I feel I was part of the hijacking that took place on your thread, my apologies.

You just need to go with what you feel is right and make adjustments as you go. Be it the 5:1:1, 1:1, 3:2:1, or any possible ratio you can think of, these are all starting points. Don't over think it or those plants will will just sit there and you will become more frustrated.

When you get started, come back so we can help. Most of the time the debate doesn't go on for this long, you just got lucky.

If you end up using synthetics, it's very important that you flush your container with water only. I believe it's around every 4th or 5th fertilizing with synthetics a flush is required. Also, never apply a synthetic fertilizer to a dry medium, wet the medium first with water then fertilize. This will avoid damaging the roots.

This post was edited by prestons_garden on Tue, Jan 29, 13 at 11:02


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

HI Naikii..

I use the 5.1.1 mix on my figs and they grow marvelous! Believe it or not, you CAN kill a fig tree from over watering. I've done it.lol

The reason why I use the 5.1.1 is because it takes a bit more work to make the grittier one and the figs grow so fast. By the time the 5.1.1 even begins to break down before you have to change it, the roots have already out grown the pot.

Evereything I transplanted last spring has to be either potted up or root pruned. These things grow so darn fast! I have about 15 fig trees.

Mike


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Thanks for that. the 5-1-1 mix it is! I feel great knowing I have plan in mind now!

DWD I really would like to test out your methods as well on half, if you stop by again, I would love to hear your recipe, from what I read on the figs forum you seem to have some science behind your thoughts as well.

Thanks to everyone for the help!

Nate


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Hey, Nate!
I grow my Fig in the 5-1-1 as well. The root-growth is phenomenal.
As Mike mentioned, 5-1-1 is a good choice because these vigorous trees need to be re-potted
fairly often when they're in smaller containers (mine is in a 5-gallon, for example).

You also asked about bare-rooting or removing the old soil from the roots.
In the Gritty Mix it is very important to remove as much of the old soil as possible.

With the 5-1-1, removing all of the old soil isn't as critical because there is less
difference in texture between 5-1-1 and standard potting mixes. However, you should still
remove the outer mix and loosen the root-ball. Then, work the roots outward into the new mix
and try to "blend" the mixes together so that there isn't a hard transition.


Josh


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Nate:
I was hoping one of the more experienced fig growers would respond to your question about freezing. I grow several different ficuses in both gritty mix and 5-1-1, but they are not the kind that bear fruit. I also live in the American Midwest where I would never leave any potted plant outdoors during the 4-5 months of the year when we have freezing temperatures. Even plants that do fine in the ground during a freeze would be likely to be damaged in a pot. Any container mix will freeze if the temperature stays below freezing for a significant period of time. I don't think these mixes are any more or less susceptible to freezing. I would guess that a looser mix like these would be less likely to cause damage to roots in a short term freeze. Compacted, wet soil seems like it could do more damage.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jan 29, 13 at 15:06

Nate - I think the gritty mix would be a better choice because it eliminates almost entirely the limitations imposed by soils that hold perched water, including the 5:1:1 mix. That said, it's been my experience that some plants are so genetically vigorous and grow so fast, that the difference between the limiting effects of the 5:1:1 mix and the gritty mix become less apparent than they might be if the plant material was less vigorous. Fig, mulberry, datura, brugmansia, tropical hibiscus .... are a few of the perennial plants I might choose to grow for the long haul in the 5:1:1 as opposed to the gritty mix, mainly because they will benefit from being repotted yearly or every other year at the longest. These plants still don't like the cyclical lack of O2 in the root zone associated with with water-retentive soils, but you can hardly notice the lost potential because of their inherent vigor.

Lost potential is something of an intangible, but once lost it's gone forever - cannot be reclaimed. I tried growing several plants using CHCs as a substitute for pine bark in the 5:1:1 mix. The plants looked healthy, but when compared with the same genetic material in the bark-based medium, they were only about half the size. Without a basis for comparison, it's sometimes very difficult to see lost potential, unless it actually assaults your eyes in the form of an obviously sickly plant.

BTW - I think it was you that mentioned the 'forgiveness factor'. Well-aerated soils that don't support significant PW columns are much more forgiving than soils that are excessively water retentive, and it's easier to make and keep nutrients available in a favorable ratio. Like a very large number of other growers, my ability to consistently bring along healthy plant material with more abundant yields than I had been used to, came as a result of reducing the water retention and increasing the air porosity of my soils. It was that easy.

Al


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

  • Posted by nil13 z21 Mt. Washington L (My Page) on
    Tue, Jan 29, 13 at 18:56

preston, those ions like Mg++ and SO4-- generally fall under the rubric of simple fertilizer salts. So yes I took those into consideration. Not all synthetic fertilizers are simple metal salts.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

nil13,

Check your inbox, I sent you a civil message.

Ron


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

  • Posted by nil13 z21 Mt. Washington L (My Page) on
    Tue, Jan 29, 13 at 21:59

ok cool, it's not really a soil issue is it? lol


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

  • Posted by DWD2 10a, Sunset 17 (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 30, 13 at 2:13

Ohiofem, I am truly sorry if you feel I was attacking you. That was not my intention. I do disagree with some of the things said and I have tried to say why and offer what I believe are authoritative sources of information that support what I say. That gives people the power to check your thinking and point out any weaknesses in your point of view. I am a scientist by training and that is how we do things in science. What I am also trying to do, apparently somewhat ineffectively, is provide people with resources I have discovered outside this forum by real horticultural experts that can help you understand the underlying principles of how to make and monitor growing media for plants. I recognize that a lot of people want a recipe for their growing. There are trade offs which, I believe, means there is no perfect media. There are a wide array of choices, each with its own pluses and minuses. Based on my research, I chose to avoid the gritty mix. I tried the 5-1-1 mix for a couple of years along with a couple of other pine bark based media. For my trees, I did not like them compared to some other media I tried. Since you ask, most of my trees are in a mix of 3 parts coconut husks, 1 part coconut coir, 1 part Sunland organic potting soil and 0.5 parts worm castings along with an appropriate amount of Sustane time release fertilizer and variable amounts of feather & blood meal and upon occasion other organic amendments as needed. I am very happy with my results. Others seem happy with the Gritty and/or 5-1-1 with Foliage Pro which is terrific.

Nate, that is a well said post. I agree exactly with your comment about growing big tomatoes. Lots of ways to do it. We seem to be in agreement that you can achieve those results organically as well as other methods.

nil13, I would be very interested to be pointed to a scientific publication demonstrating that a broad array of plants acquire nutrition in a 3-1-2 NPK ratio. I have a couple of hundred papers on various aspects of plant nutrition. I have not seen any scientific publication in the plant sciences supportive of 3-1-2 NPK ratio for nutrition being the reality across a broad array of plants. As I said above, that does not mean a 3-1-2 fertilizer will not work. I am sure you can get it to work well. But you can get a 10-10-10 to work well too. The management of the two is just different. However, if you have something demonstrating the 3-1-2 broadly, I always love to learn something I have missed.

Relative to citrus nutrition you might want to look at this reference:
http://www.actahort.org/books/843/843_33.htm
They measure the N, P, and K along with Ca, Mg and S in young citrus cultivars growing in pots at the transplanting & grafting stages. Table 2 shows that there is variation in N, P and K expressed as mg/plant between shoots, roots and whole plants as well as between cultivars. At the transplant stage, they report that Cleopatra citrus has a 33.8-1-21.3 NPK for the shoots, 18.1-1-10.3 NPK for the roots and 27.0-1-17.3 for the entire plant. For Swingle citrus, they report a 25.6-1-18.5 NPK for the shoots, 17.1-1-14.3 NPK for the roots and 22.5-1-17.0 for the whole plant. Those ratios are very far off the 3-1-2 "universal" ratio and there is also what I view as meaningful variation between cultivars. They report similar ratios for the grafting stage and for plants post grafting. They recommend fertilizing with a 15.5-1-11.6 fertilizer. There are other publications about container grown citrus with similar results, just not as thorough as the roots are not examined.

I pay to have my container-grown citrus leaves tested each year and I am pleased with my nutritional management and my trees.
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/CH/CH04600.pdf
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/SS/SS53100.pdf
Once again, this is not to say one of the other mixes and conventional fertilizers will not give results that people are pleased with.

I agree with the notion that most or all of the components of the mixes we are discussing here are organic in nature. Perlite contains no carbon. So, it is not organic, but it is mined and is inert. I think it is safe to view it as an organic enough component. The real difference is nature of the nutrition supplied to the plants. Conventional growers use synthetically produced molecules that usually do not require further processing by microorganisms to a form usable by a plant. While organic growers use more complex, materials typically produced by other plants or animals that require processing by microorganisms to chemical entities usable by plants.

I think nil13's second post on Monday is really well said!!!

Ohiofem, there are a bunch of people on the Figs 4 Fun forum that grow figs in really cold environments that have practical experiences with that. I am pretty sure a number of them also check out the figs section on this forum. Where I live, we don't have freezing problems, happily. Although, it might be the case that the wetter soil actually offers more freeze protection as ice forming around roots might hold a few degrees of heat in the plant. That is what happens when they spray water on the above ground part of orchards during a freeze. But that is only a guess. I do not know for sure one way or the other.

For those looking to learn more, NC State University and University of Florida both have horticultural websites with loads of great information.

Good luck with your plants!


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

I have been reading this thread for a while and have been musing a bit.

What about growing 'organically' in pots, I mean organic fertilizer, and mixes with fine particle stuff such as compost for plants with very fine roots systems, very easily susceptible to root rot?
It seems that the very same type plants that are discussed above, can handle a moisture retentive mix quite easily if one knows what they are doing and if even if they do not know what they are doing.
These types of plants genetically have robust root systems than most anyway and are more forgiving of even hostile environments.

I can grow figs, tomatoes, peppers, many annuals, only a few perennials, mango, banana trees and other alike in the heavier mixes you speak of with no problem. I can even grow many of these plants feeding them only organics, but only for a short time before nutritional issues creep up.

What about the very sensitive tropical plants, bonsai, azalea, roses, gardenia and the such that need to be in mixes that dry out more rapidly and that need require more frequent waterings to encourage healthy root function?

Thanks

This post was edited by meyermike_1micha on Wed, Jan 30, 13 at 11:59


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

  • Posted by nil13 z21 Mt. Washington L (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 30, 13 at 11:54

DWD2, I'll have to track the paper down. It was mainly landscape plants though. That Brazil citrus paper looks interesting. Hydroponic citrus? Yeah ok, I could see how they could lock down a NPK ratio with that setup, lol. It does make sense that a food plant would require extra N.

I agree that there are a lot of different mixes that you can get to work well. I think the 511 and the gritty are good starting places for people to begin getting away from mucky bagged potting soil and start learning about the effects of particle size and air space on their plants. But it certainly isn't the end all. I know I'm constantly playing with different mixes all the time. I just had good success with lettuce grown in #1s filled with 3 (1/2>1/8 sifted free municipal compost) : 1 (calcined clay). It was a little wet for plug pots but the entire volume of the #1 showed full and vigourous root colonization. The reason for the test being that the chunk of land where I want to grow vegetables is about 86% fine sand and can use both of those ingredients but doesn't really need perlite.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

FWIW - a study done re the efficacy of coir as a significant fraction of a container medium can be found at the link below. Because coir and CHC's (coconut husk chips) are the same product in different size gradients, it wouldn't be much of a leap to suggest that the findings for growing in CHCs or CHCs + coir would be similar.

A summarization of the findings, which can be found at the end of the information at the link:

Summary

These studies show that coconut coir should be used with great caution. Although the Sri Lanka brands performed better than the Mexican brands, no brand performed better than sphagnum peat. Some species tolerate coir better than others. The addition of calcium sulphate to the media did not have consistently beneficial effects on growth, and in some cases it reduced growth. The best growth in coir media occurred in the Grow Coir brand. We are continuing these studies to determine the underlying causes of poor plant growth in coir.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: Coir study


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Thanks for the replies, I will test out the mix you posted DWD2 on half, is it necessary to use the specific sunland brand or can I substitute for any organic mix? I am not sure how easy it will be to find in Aus...

Now I have also begun the hunt for appropriately sized pine bark, it seems the local hardware/garden chain stocks a a number of products, but only two that i think could possible fit the bill.

One seems like it is too large, and the other seems much finer, however I am not sure what sort of wood it is, it isnt marked on the packet. It is sold as childrens safe playground mulch with no sharp edges (and its $17 a bag!)

I have attached photos, I couldnt take the wood out of the packet, but I sense these may not be appropriate.. ill attach as separate posts


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Second shot


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

The finer but unknown wood product


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

second shot


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

And one more followup question, I am concerned the PH of your mix DWD will be too high for the blueberries, will it be ok to add some sulfur?


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

The second one appears to be fresh wood shavings/chips, not bark, so it's far from ideal. The first one contains primarily bark, which is better, but it's quite coarse. Nonetheless, you could probably make it work if there are a reasonable number of particles under 3/8" to 1/2" -- you'd just need to screen out anything larger. The fact that it's fresh rather than aged is less than ideal, as well, so you might need to up the amount of peat in order to boost water retention (someone please correct me if I'm wrong).

This post was edited by shazaam on Wed, Jan 30, 13 at 20:39


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

If you haven't read it already, I've added a link to a thread that collects a lot of helpful information about how to assemble Al's 5-1-1 mix.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tapla's 5-1-1 Container Mix in More Detail


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

I have just finished that paper on coir peat. I found it very interesting, in particular the two tables at the end.

In almost all cases, especially in the corn leaf analysis, the coir has a higher percentage of elements present. Sometimes markedly so. The sun leaves product which performed the best overall, and almost identically to peat has much closer values to the peat than even the other coir products. This might suggest some sort of mineral toxicity?

Most interestingly in my mind, is that they suggest toward the beginning of the paper that because electrical conductivity was higher in the coir mixes that perhaps salinity contributed to poor growth. The final table shows however that the levels of sodium were the highest in the best performing �Sun Leaves� coir mix (941mg/kg), much higher than the peat mix (644mg/kg) and yet the researchers rated the broccoli plant growth exactly the same as peat when gypsum was added.

What doesn�t make sense out of the whole paper is why there is such drastic differences between brands of coir, and the country of origin. Perhaps some species of coconut produce coir which have some alleopathic properties that inhibit growth, or the different methods used to treat the coir for export, or during processing cause this.

To me the take home message of the paper is this; coir treated with gypsum has the potential to grow as effectively as peat, at least in corn and broccoli, however there is also a bit of an inherent gamble because not all products perform, and those that don�t perform do so in a spectacular horrible way.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Hello,

What I got from that paper is that coir is useless and the only one that might come close to being as good as peat is the 'Grow Coir' brand which I couldn't find anywhere..

I was wondering, does anyone have an answer to my last post yet?

Thanks

Mike:-)

This post was edited by meyermike_1micha on Wed, Jan 30, 13 at 21:47


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

  • Posted by DWD2 10a, Sunset 17 (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 31, 13 at 5:10

Mike, On these forums, I often see references to water (or moisture) retentive mixes. Any growing mix you use better retain some water or your plants will die. There are scientifically defined measurements of the 6 properties I mention in my post last Sunday. There is a lot of science that shows how to manage irrigation and nutrition to produce quality plants. I make sure the media I use fall within those parameters and I do not experience irrigation problems unless I mess-up. You could over irrigate ANY mix, even pure perlite, if you tried. I grow a number of the things you grow. I am not sure what you define as a heavier mix, but mixes that fall within the parameters I listed are pretty straightforward to manage. For my trees & blueberries I only provide nutrition 4 or so times a year. Tomatoes in a pot will need additional nutrition as they get along in the season. But that is true irrespective of whether you are growing conventionally or organically. I have no direct experience with tropical plants, azalea, roses or gardenia but I have seen nothing in my reading that says they are any different. One of the leaders in soilless media research is Michael Raviv. Professor Raviv does most of his work on roses. Here is a paper where he compares rose growth in a pine bark based media to growth in coconut coir. The coir appears superior as measured by flower production.
http://journal.ashspublications.org/content/126/5/638.full.pdf

The Utah State University website blurb is not from a scientific, peer-reviewed journal. This website posting is the only work these authors have done on coconut coir. That does not make it incorrect. There are many dozens of publications in scientific journals describing how to incorporate coir into growing mixes effectively with very positive results. Greenhouse growers routinely grow crops in pure coir. Like EVERY component you choose to put into your growing mix, there are variations in how it was produced that will impact how it performs. Here is a link to a video from the University of Florida detailing the use of coir:
http://virtualfieldday.ifas.ufl.edu/suwanneevalley/hydroponicgreenhouse/coconut_coir.shtml
Somebody appears to be having good enough results with coir that companies are manufacturing coir slabs in lay flat bags. It is now used in huge quantities in growing operations around the world. It is a great media component in my opinion and a great substitute for peat moss.

naikii, I like the Sunland mix for the particular microorganisms they put in the mix and a couple of other reasons. In the states, most organic potting mixes are now coming with added mycorrhizae and beneficial bacteria. I would assume the same is true in Australia and that any reasonable mix would work. As I mentioned above, the media using CHC & coir is what I use to grow my fruit and citrus trees. For blueberries I follow the Dave Wilson Nursery media suggestion mostly.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnbYI4zaR48&feature=related
Be aware that there are meaningful differences in different sources of bark, peat moss and potting soil for acid loving plants. Once I have a base media with the organic nutrition amendment(s) included, I check the pH using the pour thru method. You will probably have to use some sulfur to get the pH down with this mix, but the amount can vary a lot depending on your particular components. It is worth doing a titration with a few small tester batches to get the sulfur amount correct prior to potting your blueberries.

As I indicated above, there is a tremendous amount data at odds with the Utah State posting. It has been known since the mid-1990's that how the coir is processed affects its horticultural properties. I get my CHCs and coir from Crystal Company in St. Louis and am pleased with their products.

Mike, I tried to answer your post.

Good luck with your growing!


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Feeling good, picked up many ingredients for Al's mix today :) 15l of peat and another 15l of perlite, also some osmocote plus for containers, an osmocote plus for azaleas, some dolomite lime and miracle grow all purpose fertiliser.

I also grabbed 8 23l pots, 4 brown and 4 cream so its easy to spot which mix is which, even from a distance!

Now I just need to source some appropriate pine and coir!

I also have my gardening helper to make sure I don't screw up ;)


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Thanks for that video DWD I will follow that mix for the blueberries


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Since you'll be growing blueberries, naikii, and have been weighing the merits of the various potting mixes that others have recommended, I thought I'd share this short video of a commercial farmer in SC who grows highbush blueberries in 40-gallon nursery pots filled with pure pine bark.

Here is a link that might be useful: YouTube Video - Growing Blueberries in Pure Pine Bark


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

You are all being so very helpful!

Thank you to everyone trying to help me and for the video's!:-)

Pretty interesting info. Now, if a lightning bolt could just hit the tree now blocking all my morning sun and knock it down so I can give my bluberries lots of light:-(

Mike:-)


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Hello all -

Has anyone done a direct comparison of the same plant that has been grown for a season in different mediums such as the gritty mix or 5-1-1 in terms of overall health, appearance, and fruit production?

Although having the same plant grown in different mediums under the same conditions would be the best comparison to determine the difference in expected growth between the gritty and 5-1-1, I am also curious if anyone has grown figs that are expected to grow at about the same rate (i.e. essentially the same genetic potential)in the same season in the 5-1-1 and gritty mix? Or if this has not been done what would the hypothesis be for the above experiment? What if both fig trees were grown in a 15 gallon container of 5-1-1 or a 15 gallon container of gritty mix? Also, any idea what the comparison would be to the gritty/5-1-1 if the tree were grown in a 15 gallon pot containing a more peat based or peat/pumice mix with compost with the pot in direct contact with the ground so as to hopefully wick excess moisture to earth? The gritty and 5-1-1 would be fertilized by synthetic chemical and the fig grown in the peat/pumice mix would get its nutrients from the previous/current chemical breakdown of the compost with perhaps enhanced uptake by mycorrhizae.

I have used the gritty mix with very good results for various plants in much smaller containers in the house.

I am really curious to know if I should expect similar growth in the gritty vs. the 5-1-1 for a fig when in the 15 gallon size containers outside this season or if there would be a significant difference in growth between the gritty and 5-1-1 mediums - of course the gritty will be extremely heavy and the 5-1-1 much lighter.

I know between the gritty and 5-1-1 one difference is I can go much longer between repots (up to 5 yrs - assuming roots do not need pruned - with the gritty but replace the 5-1-1 after 1 season due to decomposition) - but I am curious if the gritty would be expected to provide much better or similar growth of a fig tree compared to the 5-1-1 mix? I am in the Saint Louis area where summer temps can get pretty hot - last summer was a bit unusual with several weeks more than 100 but in the 90's is typical.

Thanks,
Brian


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Hello All -

Sorry for the previous repost, which is a duplicate. Please disregard. I am not sure how it got there - computer glitch. There was nothing in the message box. I had to hit refresh on the internet page window this morning and when I did it said your message has been posted. I have had to press the refresh before with no problem -- not sure why the computer decided to repost when I did it this morning.

Brian


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Brian, some of us don't need a side by side comparison:-)
My comparison has been a year by year, over the years one.

After years of growing in everything but the 5.1.1 mix, and then failing and loosing my plants, or seeing the production of my plants put out much less,not grow to to their full potential by suffering nutritional issues, stunted growth, yellowing leaves and root rot , pest infestations and a lack of vigor, that was enough for me.

Finally while using the 5.1.1, I would never go back to the old way, because I have nothing to complain about, loose, and or would want anything less than the best for my plants compared to when I used my old methods.

For me a side by side comparison may not always be reliable because so many factors may affect each plant at any time.
I am more comfortable with seeing years of consistent improvement on the same plants over the long haul and years.

It only takes an unseen pest to decline the health of a plant in a side by side comparison, ect.

Mike

This post was edited by meyermike_1micha on Fri, Feb 1, 13 at 8:33


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Hey all, well I spent an entire morning trying to track down ingredients, and ended up finding what I think is some very nice pine bark.

DWD I have to apologise and go back on what I said earlier. I went to over a dozen stores and not one of them stocked the coconut husks required, I could only find coir. No one had any of the required additives for Dave WIlsons mix for blueberries either.

In the end I gave up once finding the fine pine bark and just mixed a big batch of Als 5-1-1 mix, perhaps in a year or two when I repot Australian nurseries will have caught up with the rest of the world and stock some of these more exotic ingredients (or maybe its just my town.

Thanks to everyone for the help.

Here is a pic of the pine bark I found.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

The final mix


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

all done! I ran out and so could only fill the blueberry pots half way.


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Hi naikii,

The mix that you just made looks wonderful!

I have been following this thread with great interest as well. Most of my trees ( tropicals) and C&S are in the Gritty Mix or the 5-1-1 and are all doing great!

This mix has really helped with all of my tropicals trees growing to their maximum potential and I am always amazed at the amount of beautiful blooms that I have now that I have changed their mix from a "bagged" mix to this more aerated mix that has shown me the difference in the root system which in turn delivers me the maximum bloom production during the summer with my Plumeria and Adeniums. I have learned that this mix makes my roots happy and not have any issues with the perched water so they are not rotting as in the past using other soil.

The key to a happy and healthy plant starts at the roots...

I am always looking for another alternative for the Fir Bark that I use. could you tell me the name brand of the last pic of your Pine Bark that you are using? Looking back up thread, I couldn't tell what the brand was.

It looks great to me and if I can find it here in my area that would be helpful!

Thanks for taking the time to post all of your information... Great thread!

Take care,

Laura


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Hey Laura, it was indeed quite a chore to find anything suitable, I thought I was going to have to make do with what the stores had... The lady at the nursery actually mentioned it was a new product they had just got in.. Here is a pic for you, and best of all there is a website, so maybe there will be a phone or email to find a local stockist :)


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Hi naikii,

Thank you for your quick response!

I will check them out and hopefully find this product locally!

I hope you have great success in your growing endeavors!!

Thank you again for all of your help and for this very informative post!

Hoping that everyone is having a great weekend!!! ;-)

Take care,

Laura


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Hello, Mike, great points! Hey, Laura, I agree completely ;-)

Naikii, the mix looks really good. Well done! Now, for after-care, you'll want to put
your plants in an area protected from direct sun and wind - I put my plants in bright shade
with only some dappled sunlight throughout the day. This will help the plant retain leaves
(moisture) while the roots are "offline." In general, two weeks is a good amount of time to
allow the plants to adjust. Depending upon the plant, and the previous sun exposure, you may
be able to start increasing the sun after three days or so - I'll use hot peppers for an example.
With other plants, an Avocado for instance, I would coddle a re-potted plant for at least two full weeks.

Let us know how it goes.


Josh


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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach

Thanks for the advice Josh, I probably should should have checked in earlier, because I put them back in their original spots after repotting, in full sun.

Lucky for me they didnt seem to mind the abuse I laid upon them, including shaking off a good 1/2-3/4 of the original mix.. They didnt even pout yesterday, not a wilted or dropped leaf in sight. This morning I even came out to find that one of the figs broke a new bud.

I will monitor them for stress, and if needed move them into the shade, for now though I think I'll test their strength for another day or two.


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