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Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
Mon, Feb 6, 12 at 14:58

I first posted this thread back in March of '05. Fourteen times it has reached the maximum number of posts GW allows to a single thread, which is much more attention than I ever imagined it would garner. I have reposted it in no small part because it has been great fun, and a wonderful catalyst in the forging of new friendships and in increasing my list of acquaintances with similar growing interests. The forum and email exchanges that stem so often from the subject are in themselves enough to make me hope the subject continues to pique interest, and the exchanges provide helpful information. Most of the motivation for posting this thread another time comes from the reinforcement of hundreds of participants over the years that strongly suggests the information provided in good-spirited collective exchange has made a significant difference in the quality of their growing experience. I'll provide links to some of the more recent of the previous dozen threads and nearly 2,500 posts at the end of what I have written - just in case you have interest in reviewing them. Thank you for taking the time to examine this topic - I hope that any/all who read it take at least something interesting and helpful from it. I know it's long. My hope is that you find it worth the read, and the time you invest results in a significantly improved growing experience.

Since there are many questions about soils appropriate for use in containers, I'll post basic mix recipes later, in case any would like to try the soil. It will follow the information.

Before we get started, I'd like to mention that I wrote a reply and posted it to a thread recently, and I think it is well worth considering. It not only sets a minimum standard for what constitutes a 'GOOD' soil, but also points to the fact that not all growers look at container soils from the same perspective, which is why growers so often disagree on what makes a 'good' soil. I hope you find it thought provoking:

Is Soil X a 'Good' Soil?

I think any discussion on this topic must largely center around the word "GOOD", and we can broaden the term 'good' so it also includes 'quality' or 'suitable', as in "Is soil X a quality or suitable soil?"

How do we determine if soil A or soil B is a good soil? and before we do that, we'd better decide if we are going to look at it from the plant's perspective or from the grower's perspective, because often there is a considerable amount of conflict to be found in the overlap - so much so that one can often be mutually exclusive of the other.

We can imagine that grower A might not be happy or satisfied unless knows he is squeezing every bit of potential from his plants, and grower Z might not be happy or content unless he can water his plants before leaving on a 2-week jaunt, and still have a weeks worth of not having to water when he returns. Everyone else is somewhere between A and Z; with B, D, F, H, J, L, N, P, R, T, V, X, and Y either unaware of how much difference soil choice can make, or they understand but don't care.

I said all that to illustrate the large measure of futility in trying to establish any sort of standard as to what makes a good soil from the individual grower's perspective; but let's change our focus from the pointless to the possible.

We're only interested in the comparative degrees of 'good' and 'better' here. It would be presumptive to label any soil "best". 'Best I've found' or 'best I've used' CAN sometimes be useful for comparative purposes, but that's a very subjective judgment. Let's tackle 'good', then move on to 'better', and finally see what we can do about qualifying these descriptors so they can apply to all growers.

I would like to think that everyone would prefer to use a soil that can be described as 'good' from the plant's perspective. How do we determine what a plant wants? Surprisingly, we can use %s established by truly scientific studies that are widely accepted in the greenhouse and nursery trades to determine if a soil is good or not good - from the plant's perspective, that is. Rather than use confusing numbers that mean nothing to the hobby grower, I can suggest that our standard for a good soil should be, at a minimum, that you can water that soil properly. That means, that at any time during the growth cycle, you can water your plantings to beyond the point of saturation (so excess water is draining from the pot) without the fear of root rot or compromised root function or metabolism due to (take your pick) too much water or too little air in the root zone.

I think it's very reasonable to withhold the comparative basic descriptor, 'GOOD', from soils that can't be watered properly without compromising root function, or worse, suffering one of the fungaluglies that cause root rot. I also think anyone wishing to make the case from the plant's perspective that a soil that can't be watered to beyond saturation w/o compromising root health can be called 'good', is fighting on the UP side logic hill.

So I contend that 'good' soils are soils we can water correctly; that is, we can flush the soil when we water without concern for compromising root health/function/metabolism. If you ask yourself, "Can I water correctly if I use this soil?" and the answer is 'NO' ... it's not a good soil ... for the reasons stated above.

Can you water correctly using most of the bagged soils readily available? 'NO', I don't think I need to point to a conclusion.

What about 'BETTER'? Can we determine what might make a better soil? Yes, we can. If we start with a soil that meets the minimum standard of 'good', and improve either the physical and/or chemical properties of that soil, or make it last longer, then we have 'better'. Even if we cannot agree on how low we wish to set the bar for what constitutes 'good', we should be able to agree that any soil that reduces excess water retention, increases aeration, ensures increased potential for optimal root health, and lasts longer than soils that only meet some one's individual and arbitrary standard of 'good', is a 'better' soil.

All the plants we grow, unless grown from seed, have the genetic potential to be beautiful specimens. It's easy to say, and easy to see the absolute truth in the idea that if you give a plant everything it wants it will flourish and grow; after all, plants are programmed to grow just that way. Our growing skills are defined by our ability to give plants what they want. The better we are at it, the better our plants will grow. But we all know it's not that easy. Lifetimes are spent in careful study, trying to determine just exactly what it is that plants want and need to make them grow best.

Since this is a soil discussion, let's see what the plant wants from its soil. The plant wants a soil in which we have endeavored to provide in available form, all the essential nutrients, in the ratio in at which the plant uses them, and at a concentration high enough to prevent deficiencies yet low enough to make it easy to take up water (and the nutrients dissolved in the water). First and foremost, though, the plant wants a container soil that is evenly damp, never wet or soggy. Giving a plant what it wants, to flourish and grow, doesn't include a soil that is half saturated for a week before aeration returns to the entire soil mass, even if you only water in small sips. Plants might do 'ok' in some soils, but to actually flourish, like they are genetically programmed to do, they would need to be unencumbered by wet, soggy soils.

We become better growers by improving our ability to reduce the effects of limiting factors, or by eliminating those limiting factors entirely; in other words, by clearing out those influences that stand in the way of the plant reaching its genetic potential. Even if we are able to make every other factor that influences plant growth/vitality absolutely perfect, it could not make up for a substandard soil. For a plant to grow to its genetic potential, every factor has to be perfect, including the soil. Of course, we'll never manage to get to that point, but the good news is that as we get closer and closer, our plants get better and better; and hopefully, we'll get more from our growing experience.

In my travels, I've discovered it almost always ends up being that one little factor that we willingly or unwittingly overlooked that limits us in our abilities, and our plants in their potential.

Food for thought:
A 2-bit plant in a $10 soil has a future full of potential, where a $10 plant in a 2-bit soil has only a future filled with limitations. ~ Al

Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention

As container gardeners, our first priority should be to ensure the soils we use are adequately aerated for the life of the planting, or in the case of perennial material (trees, shrubs, garden perennials), from repot to repot. Soil aeration/drainage is the most important consideration in any container planting. Soils are the foundation that all container plantings are built on, and aeration is the very cornerstone of that foundation. Since aeration and drainage are inversely linked to soil particle size, it makes good sense to try to find and use soils or primary components with particles larger than peat/compost/coir. Durability and stability of soil components so they contribute to the retention of soil structure for extended periods is also extremely important. Pine and some other types of conifer bark fit the bill nicely, but I'll talk more about various components later.

What I will write also hits pretty hard against the futility in using a drainage layer of coarse materials in attempt to improve drainage. It just doesn't work. All it does is reduce the total volume of soil available for root colonization. A wick can be employed to remove water from the saturated layer of soil at the container bottom, but a drainage layer is not effective. A wick can be made to work in reverse of the self-watering pots widely being discussed on this forum now.

Consider this if you will:

Container soils are all about structure, and particle size plays the primary role in determining whether a soil is suited or unsuited to the application. Soil fills only a few needs in container culture. Among them are: Anchorage - a place for roots to extend, securing the plant and preventing it from toppling. Nutrient Retention - it must retain a nutrient supply in available form sufficient to sustain plant systems. Gas Exchange - it must be amply porous to allow air to move through the root system and gasses that are the by-product of decomposition to escape. Water - it must retain water enough in liquid and/or vapor form to sustain plants between waterings. Air - it must contain a volume of air sufficient to ensure that root function/metabolism/growth is not impaired. This is extremely important and the primary reason that heavy, water-retentive soils are so limiting in their affect. Most plants can be grown without soil as long as we can provide air, nutrients, and water, (witness hydroponics). Here, I will concentrate primarily on the movement and retention of water in container soil(s).

There are two forces that cause water to move through soil - one is gravity, the other capillary action. Gravity needs little explanation, but for this writing I would like to note: Gravitational flow potential (GFP) is greater for water at the top of the container than it is for water at the bottom. I'll return to that later.

Capillarity is a function of the natural forces of adhesion and cohesion. Adhesion is water's tendency to stick to solid objects like soil particles and the sides of the pot. Cohesion is the tendency for water to stick to itself. Cohesion is why we often find water in droplet form - because cohesion is at times stronger than adhesion; in other words, water's bond to itself can be stronger than the bond to the object it might be in contact with; cohesion is what makes water form drops. Capillary action is in evidence when we dip a paper towel in water. The water will soak into the towel and rise several inches above the surface of the water. It will not drain back into the source, and it will stop rising when the GFP equals the capillary attraction of the fibers in the paper.

There will be a naturally occurring "perched water table" (PWT) in containers when soil particulate size is under about .100 (just under 1/8) inch. Perched water is water that occupies a layer of soil at the bottom of containers or above coarse drainage layers that tends to remain saturated & will not drain from the portion of the pot it occupies. It can evaporate or be used by the plant, but physical forces will not allow it to drain. It is there because the capillary pull of the soil at some point will surpass the GFP; therefore, the water does not drain, it is said to be 'perched'. The smaller the size of the particles in a soil, the greater the height of the PWT. Perched water can be tightly held in heavy (comprised of small particles) soils where it perches (think of a bird on a perch) just above the container bottom where it will not drain; or, it can perch in a layer of heavy soil on top of a coarse drainage layer, where it will not drain.

Imagine that we have five cylinders of varying heights, shapes, and diameters, each with drain holes. If we fill them all with the same soil mix, then saturate the soil, the PWT will be exactly the same height in each container. This saturated area of the container is where roots initially seldom penetrate & where root problems frequently begin due to a lack of aeration and the production of noxious gasses. Water and nutrient uptake are also compromised by lack of air in the root zone. Keeping in mind the fact that the PWT height is dependent on soil particle size and has nothing to do with height or shape of the container, we can draw the conclusion that: If using a soil that supports perched water, tall growing containers will always have a higher percentage of unsaturated soil than squat containers when using the same soil mix. The reason: The level of the PWT will be the same in each container, with the taller container providing more usable, air holding soil above the PWT. From this, we could make a good case that taller containers are easier to grow in.

A given volume of large soil particles has less overall surface area when compared to the same volume of small particles and therefore less overall adhesive attraction to water. So, in soils with large particles, GFP more readily overcomes capillary attraction. They simply drain better and hold more air. We all know this, but the reason, often unclear, is that the height of the PWT is lower in coarse soils than in fine soils. The key to good drainage is size and uniformity of soil particles. Mixing large particles with small is often very ineffective because the smaller particles fit between the large, increasing surface area which increases the capillary attraction and thus the water holding potential. An illustrative question: How much perlite do we need to add to pudding to make it drain well?

I already stated I hold as true that the grower's soil choice when establishing a planting for the long term is the most important decision he/she will make. There is no question that the roots are the heart of the plant, and plant vitality is inextricably linked in a hard lock-up with root vitality. In order to get the best from your plants, you absolutely must have happy roots.

If you start with a water-retentive medium, you cannot effectively amend it to improve aeration or drainage characteristics by adding larger particulates. Sand, perlite, Turface, calcined DE ...... none of them will work effectively. To visualize why sand and perlite can't change drainage/aeration, think of how well a pot full of BBs would drain (perlite); then think of how poorly a pot full of pudding would drain (bagged soil). Even mixing the pudding and perlite/BBs together 1:1 in a third pot yields a mix that retains the drainage characteristics and PWT height of the pudding. It's only after the perlite become the largest fraction of the mix (60-75%) that drainage & PWT height begins to improve. At that point, you're growing in perlite amended with a little potting soil.

You cannot add coarse material to fine material and improve drainage or the ht of the PWT. Use the same example as above & replace the pudding with play sand or peat moss or a peat-based potting soil - same results. The benefit in adding perlite to heavy soils doesn't come from the fact that they drain better. The fine peat or pudding particles simply 'fill in' around the perlite, so drainage & the ht of the PWT remains the same. All perlite does in heavy soils is occupy space that would otherwise be full of water. Perlite simply reduces the amount of water a soil is capable of holding because it is not internally porous. IOW - all it does is take up space. That can be a considerable benefit, but it makes more sense to approach the problem from an angle that also allows us to increase the aeration AND durability of the soil. That is where Pine bark comes in, and I will get to that soon.

If you want to profit from a soil that offers superior drainage and aeration, you need to start with an ingredient as the basis for your soils that already HAVE those properties, by ensuring that the soil is primarily comprised of particles much larger than those in peat/compost/coir/sand/topsoil, which is why the recipes I suggest as starting points all direct readers to START with the foremost fraction of the soil being large particles, to ensure excellent aeration. From there, if you choose, you can add an appropriate volume of finer particles to increase water retention. You do not have that option with a soil that is already extremely water-retentive right out of the bag.

I fully understand that many are happy with the results they get when using commercially prepared soils, and I'm not trying to get anyone to change anything. My intent is to make sure that those who are having trouble with issues related to soil, understand why the issues occur, that there are options, and what they are.

We have seen that adding a coarse drainage layer at the container bottom does not improve drainage. It does though, reduce the volume of soil required to fill a container, making the container lighter. When we employ a drainage layer in an attempt to improve drainage, what we are actually doing is moving the level of the PWT higher in the pot. This simply reduces the volume of soil available for roots to colonize. Containers with uniform soil particle size from top of container to bottom will yield better and more uniform drainage and have a lower PWT than containers using the same soil with added drainage layers.

The coarser the drainage layer, the more detrimental to drainage it is because water is more (for lack of a better scientific word) reluctant to make the downward transition because the capillary pull of the soil above the drainage layer is stronger than the GFP. The reason for this is there is far more surface area on soil particles for water to be attracted to in the soil above the drainage layer than there is in the drainage layer, so the water perches. I know this goes against what most have thought to be true, but the principle is scientifically sound, and experiments have shown it as so. Many nurserymen employ the pot-in-pot or the pot-in-trench method of growing to capitalize on the science.

If you discover you need to increase drainage, you can simply insert an absorbent wick into a drainage hole & allow it to extend from the saturated soil in the container to a few inches below the bottom of the pot, or allow it to contact soil below the container where the earth acts as a giant wick and will absorb all or most of the perched water in the container, in most cases. Eliminating the PWT has much the same effect as providing your plants much more soil to grow in, as well as allowing more, much needed air in the root zone.

In simple terms: Plants that expire because of drainage problems either die of thirst because the roots have rotted and can no longer take up water, or they suffer/die because there is insufficient air at the root zone to insure normal root function, so water/nutrient uptake and root metabolism become seriously impaired.

To confirm the existence of the PWT and how effective a wick is at removing it, try this experiment: Fill a soft drink cup nearly full of garden soil. Add enough water to fill to the top, being sure all soil is saturated. Punch a drain hole in the bottom of the cup and allow the water to drain. When drainage has stopped, insert a wick into the drain hole . Take note of how much additional water drains. Even touching the soil with a toothpick through the drain hole will cause substantial additional water to drain. The water that drains is water that occupied the PWT. A greatly simplified explanation of what occurs is: The wick or toothpick "fools" the water into thinking the pot is deeper than it is, so water begins to move downward seeking the "new" bottom of the pot, pulling the rest of the water in the PWT along with it. If there is interest, there are other simple and interesting experiments you can perform to confirm the existence of a PWT in container soils. I can expand later in the thread.

I always remain cognizant of these physical principles whenever I build a soil. I have not used a commercially prepared soil in many years, preferring to build a soil or amend one of my 2 basic mixes to suit individual plantings. I keep many ingredients at the ready for building soils, but the basic building process usually starts with conifer bark and perlite. Sphagnum peat plays a secondary role in my container soils because it breaks down too quickly to suit me, and when it does, it impedes drainage and reduces aeration. Size matters. Partially composted conifer bark fines (pine is easiest to find and least expensive) works best in the following recipes, followed by uncomposted bark in the <3/8" range.

Bark fines of pine, fir or hemlock, are excellent as the primary component of your soils. The lignin contained in bark keeps it rigid and the rigidity provides air-holding pockets in the root zone far longer than peat or compost mixes that too quickly break down to a soup-like consistency. Conifer bark also contains suberin, a lipid sometimes referred to as nature's preservative. Suberin, more scarce as a presence in sapwood products and hardwood bark, dramatically slows the decomposition of conifer bark-based soils. It contains highly varied hydrocarbon chains and the microorganisms that turn peat to soup have great difficulty cleaving these chains - it retains its structure.

Note that there is no sand or compost in the soils I use. Sand, as most of you think of it, can improve drainage in some cases, but it reduces aeration by filling valuable macro-pores in soils. Unless sand particle size is fairly uniform and/or larger than about BB size, I leave it out of soils. Compost is too fine and unstable for me to consider using in soils in any significant volume as well. The small amount of micro-nutrients it supplies can easily be delivered by one or more of a number of chemical or organic sources that do not detract from drainage/aeration.

The basic soils I use ....

The 5:1:1 mix:

5 parts pine bark fines (partially composted fines are best)
1 part sphagnum peat (not reed or sedge peat please)
1-2 parts perlite
garden lime (or gypsum in some cases)
controlled release fertilizer (if preferred)

Big batch:
2-3 cu ft pine bark fines
5 gallons peat
5 gallons perlite
2 cups dolomitic (garden) lime (or gypsum in some cases)
2 cups CRF (if preferred)

Small batch:
3 gallons pine bark
1/2 gallon peat
1/2 gallon perlite
4 tbsp lime (or gypsum in some cases)
1/4 cup CRF (if preferred)

I have seen advice that some highly organic (practically speaking - almost all container soils are highly organic) container soils are productive for up to 5 years or more. I disagree and will explain why if there is interest. Even if you were to substitute fir bark for pine bark in this recipe (and this recipe will long outlast any peat based soil) you should only expect a maximum of two to three years life before a repot is in order. Usually perennials, including trees (they're perennials too) should be repotted more frequently to insure they can grow at as close to their genetic potential within the limits of other cultural factors as possible. If a soil is desired that will retain structure for long periods, we need to look more to inorganic components. Some examples are crushed granite, fine stone, VERY coarse sand (see above - usually no smaller than BB size in containers, please), Haydite, lava rock (pumice), Turface, calcined DE, and others.

For long term (especially woody) plantings and houseplants, I use a superb soil that is extremely durable and structurally sound. The basic mix is equal parts of pine bark, Turface, and crushed granite.

The gritty mix:

1 part uncomposted screened pine or fir bark (1/8-1/4")
1 part screened Turface
1 part crushed Gran-I-Grit (grower size) or #2 cherrystone
1 Tbsp gypsum per gallon of soil (eliminate if your fertilizer has Ca)
CRF (if desired)

I use 1/8 -1/4 tsp Epsom salts (MgSO4) per gallon of fertilizer solution when I fertilize if the fertilizer does not contain Mg (check your fertilizer - if it is soluble, it is probable it does not contain Ca or Mg. If I am using my currently favored fertilizer (I use it on everything), Dyna-Gro's Foliage-Pro in the 9-3-6 formulation, and I don't use gypsum or Epsom salts in the fertilizer solution.

If there is interest, you'll find some of the more recent continuations of the thread at the links below:

Post XIV

Post XIII

Post XII

Post XI

Post X

Post IX

PostVIII

If you feel you were benefited by having read this offering, you might also find this thread about Fertilizing Containerized Plants helpful, as well.

If you do find yourself using soils you feel are too water-retentive, you'll find some Help Dealing with Water-retentive Soils by following this embedded link.

If you happen to be at all curious about How Plant Growth is Limited, just click the embedded link.

As always - best luck. Good growing!! Let me know if you think there is anything I might be able to help you with.

Al


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Al, I am amazed at how much info is on just this one topic in this forum, and still new ideas are generated, and discussed on these threads whenever you post them. It is a tribute to you great work, research and teaching alike.
I started a post about well aerated soils a while ago, just trying to show how some of the components we use work, and how many are similar. I would love to hear your thoughts on it. I still haven't figured out how to embed links so all I can say is it is a little further down the container forum threads.
BTW, can't wait to see what new things come from this newest thread.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

hello Al , how ya doing : ) ? so upon you seeing the pic of the "dry floor" medium , you think the turface or perlite would be the right way to go, right ? i still have more places to keep looking either the perlite or the turface , so i should keep on looking right : ) ? and by the way talking about searching should i look for a smaller pot for my yet to be "operated" PL , cause the pot acording to some where i read , should be a 1 or 2 inch bigger than the roots , so upon dividing the PL the roots will be small for that big pot it is in now , by the way what is the correct way to measure the pots , have read about 5 inch - 8 inch , etc etc , is that the height , how do i know which size is my pot ????

by the way i sent you a message to your inbox about the fertlizer did you recieve it : ( ?

Conrado


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Greetings, Conrado!

You do not need a smaller pot for your Peace Lily. The advice to use a smaller pot almost
always applies to heavy, peat-based, moisture retentive soils. By using a well-draining porous
mix, you can virtually use any size container you like.

Also, the "floor dry" that you showed would be a substitute for the Turface.
Keep your eyes open for Perlite (which is always good to have around). Do you have a gritty
ingredients that does not hold moisture - such as small stone, quartz, granite, et cetera?


Josh


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

hello josh : ) , well the only thing that i have found is this

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

do you think this would work : ( ? i've been having trouble finding this things down here :'( , and dont know if in any case they would be in any way substitutes for the mixes ingredients :'(


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Hello, Conrado!

That gravel is slightly too large. If it were 1/4 inch, that would be useable.
If it were between 1/8 and 1/4 inch, that would be even better.

I used pea gravel (like the stuff in your pictures above) in my early mixes,
and I can tell you from experience that the mix didn't hold enough moisture or nutrients,
and the solid rocks didn't leave enough room for the roots to grow in the container.


Josh


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

well would like to know if any one can list posible subsitutes to Al's mix and the grity mix ingredients , to have moe options to watch out for : (

such good concept ( al's 5-1-1 and the grity mix ) and been having dificult to find the ingredients :( , am i the only one from PR trying to use this mix ? just asking in case someone in my area knows posible substitutes for them : (


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Feed and supply stores for farm animals such as horses, cows chickens carry items labeled as Chicken grit turkey grit & dry stall and some other porous materials that work under the same principals as the custom mix you read about problem is they might not carry items that cover the 5 part of 5 -1 -1.

5 part being being pine fines are increasing in much wider use and seem to be more popular at bonsai shops which might also carry other items to help you.( key words being, porous, quick draining and moisture retaining)

Before you venture out on the wild goose trail and come back empty handed I don't live and shop in PR an haven't visited PR in the past seven years.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Congratulations, Al, on another successful rollover! :-)

Wow! Fifteen... and counting! With this much attention, interest, and enthusiasm, I think it's safe to add the words "validated", "constructive", "beneficial", "credible" "corroborative", "substantial", "conclusive", and a few more... but I'd quickly run out of room and typing energy!

But more importantly, to me anyway, are adding the words "respect", "integrity", "fairness", "patience", and "principled"... as it applies to the person you are, the work you've done, and the generosity and honesty in sharing the knowledge you've acquired to help others get the most out of their growing experiences. You've provided huge shortcuts that many of us are extremely grateful for.

Ok... I don't want to embarrass you or make you blush too much! ;-) I just want to share my own feelings on how much your wisdom has affected my own growing success, and how it's really made me think in new and different ways, and most importantly, how honored I am to call you friend. Thank you, Al.

Here's to a great "Fifteen", and a future "Sixteen" and more! :-)


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Good morning, Jodi! Well said.

Josh


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Good Afternoon to you all!!!

Jodi... I second your thoughts!!! WELL SAID!! : )

Congratualtions Al. You have helped many here, including myself. My trees and plants have come a long way since i started understanding the concept in which you share and teach others.

For that i am truly grateful....

Keep up the good work and continue to share all of your knowledge as you do so generously. We all know you teach us because you want to and that you truly enjoy sharing... We can tell the enthusium that you have when someone finally understands the reasoning behind the ideas of what makes it all work. My trees and all of my other plants have never been so happy. Thank you!!!

Josh!!!

Good Afternoon to you!!! : )

Have a good day everyone!!!

Laura


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 7, 12 at 17:07

Wow - I appreciate sooo much, what everyone has said - it's really very moving. I love all the wonderful exchanges we've had, and I look forward to many, many more. I've always enjoyed being around doers and people with enthusiasm, and to think that this thread has helped a large number of growers to become more enthusiastic, and perhaps enabled them to take more from the growing experience, is something I count as a true blessing.

Thanks to you all for the participation and in many cases, for the help carrying the message!

Photobucket

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

hello to all , i found turface the ONLY turface available here in PR is either the PRO LEAGUE and the Green Grade ( the ones used in golf parks, they told me ) but they dont have the MVP cause they buy in pallets and only buy what is mostly used and those the only 2 they work , can i use this in the gritty mix ????????

Here is a link that might be useful: check if this turface can be used in the gritty mix


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Have you tried other calcined clay products? There are quite a few out there, although turface seems to be the most widely available. Axis, playball, any calcined de is good (if not better from what I've read).


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

hello Bob : ) , what is AXIS , playball, ???? are the other products ? where can those be found ??????


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Axis Playball
http://www.axisplayball.com/about_playball.htm

I think this is what he is talking about.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

just checked at AXIS and upon looking at this found its more smaller ( at least it looks smaller than MVP ) so what would you say ? and the coarse seems much to big : (

Here is a link that might be useful: see the size and compare AXIS


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

"But more importantly, to me anyway, are adding the words "respect", "integrity", "fairness", "patience", and "principled"... as it applies to the person you are, the work you've done, and the generosity and honesty in sharing the knowledge you've acquired to help others get the most out of their growing experiences. You've provided huge shortcuts that many of us are extremely grateful for."

Jodi stole those words right out my mouth.

For some reason, reading this thread was much eaisier than the past ones. Wow, have you made it as simple as could be.

Thank you Al for touching my plants with your magic and the lives of all of us. Thank you for your heartfelt love in our success and for us that you consider friends of yours!

Mike and of course Mom:-)


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Feb 8, 12 at 14:55

Thank you very much, Mike - Sissy, too!!

Conrado - the medium size Axis, screened, would work fine. If you have Carquest auto parts stores there, their floor dry, part #8822 will work ok as a substitute for Turface. Look into Leca in 2-4 mm size if available in PR. 'Drystall' is another possibility.

You might be able to find fir bark if you can find orchid growers. Follow the fir bark trail to a greenhouse operation or possibly to a wholesaler where you can buy in 3-4 cu ft bags, even if only 1 will last you for a long time. If need be, you can substitute perlite for the grit. I don't know if you have any John Deere Landscapes dealers in PR, but they all stock or have available, Turface MVP or Allsport. Pro League is too small for the gritty mix, but could be used in place of peat in the 5:1:1 mix if you can find pine bark.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

hello Al glad to see u : ) , well the grit for the gritty mix would'nt be no prob : ) there are a lot of poultry here so they use it , the bark have checked at HD but only at time had the bark in nugget size :( , and at walmart the had at time this one :

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Timberline-Pine-Mulch-2CF/16911966

but the turface was or maybe still is the prob : ( , upon what read looked up and called PEP BOYS , WESTERN AUTO and AUTOZONE , all auto part stores here and this is what i found

thrifty sorb:

http://moltan.com/Products/Flyers/Thrifity_Clay_flyers_10.pdf

http://moltan.com/msds/MSDS pdf/MSDS_Clay_Thrifty-Sorb.pdf

*********************

oil dry :

http://oildri.net/Downloads/OD Granular.pdf

http://oildri.net/Downloads/MSDS_1003000Aug11.pdf

***************

and this oil absorbent found at AUTOZONE , its only name was OIL ABSOBENT ( didnt take a pic of the front of bag , but took this pic of the ingredients )

http://i1115.photobucket.com/albums/k542/tecnico5/Photo0056.jpg


please check them did not put in the link section cause they were 4 links : ( , so have any one used this options instead of turface , which by the way the only company that has it here only works the GREEN and the PRO LEAGUE , which have read and Al also says is to small for the gritty mix , and called the company TURFACE where they make the product and told me they could send me a single MVP bag but the cost would be tooooo muchhh pricey :'( , they gave me the price but with that cost price of only the shipping it would be various $$$$$$ so not an option buy the 50 lb bag via them : ( , so would appreciate if any have used this products as turface subsitute , and could tell me which could be a better option : /


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

http://oildri.net/Downloads/OD Granular.pdf PERFECT!!!

If it is calcined clay, perfect! You may have to sift the tiny pieces out leaving you sizes ranging about a bb size.

Awesome for you!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

was smiling happy but then found this : (

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg040116145232.html


so my : ) went to :'( when read that post


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Hey Josh, I am sorry sorry to hear you are still ill man. Please have that checked out again if it doesn't improve. I am wishing you well and thanks!
Tecno, that Oil Dry is different thn that one posted 4 years ago. They have come a very long way since then and that stuff I posted you looks to be perfect. I have used it and it works and so do many others.
You just have to make sure you get the right stuff, not the one that acts like 'kitty litter' and falls apart, but the one that acts like 'turface', if not better and holds its structure.

Here is something to encourage you in warm P.R

Mike

Here is a link that might be useful: turface alternative


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Hi Mike,

Just wanted to say that you are so nice to help find the ingredients for Tecnico down in beautiful PR!!

You are a very kind soul and i just wanted to say "thank you" for taking the time to help...

Josh,

I also wish you well.. On the other thread you said that you were ill. Please feel better, and get some rest!!
Tenico,

Sounds like you have some great helpers here to assist you in the search! I have no doubt that you will find what you need.

Hope all is well with you!!

Take care,
GET WELL JOSH!!! : )

Laura


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Josh! YES, get well!

Hello Laura! :-)))) Yes, don't you miss P.R.? I just love that place and the warm beaches. I am in love with all the Plumeria that grow all over the place and the thousands of Orchids that hang from trees in full bloom with the chance to pluck fresh mangos and drink fresh cold coconut!
I have several citrus in my yard there and a coco!

Laura, I promised Al and others I would 'pay if forward', and it is my pleasure. If it were not for friends like Al, you, Josh, Jodi, Toni, Rhizo and others, I would have nothing to offer to date.

You are so very kind too, even more so than me and I am blessed to know someone like you!:-)))))

Mike


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

hello guys and gals

josh hope you get better : )

laura good to hear form you

mike thanks for your tips,and answers to make up the viability to find the ingredients for the gritty mix

and last but not least to AL : ) , that with your new to me concept , but well known here and many other plant forums, has made seem posible in my case to have happy plants and make them show its best : ) , thanks in advanced

so letting you all know my experiment is on pre-opening so here is the link to all you go there and well reserve your seats so when the function starts you will see the progress : ) jeje, thanks again and see you there

Here is a link that might be useful: dr. tecnico peace lily


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

I am new to the forum - in fact just joined and this is my first post. This and other related threads motivated me to join.

Over the years I have experimented with various soil mixes for both containers and the yard. These two types of growing plants are definitely different kind of beasts. Containers definitely need very good drainage. What surprised me was that tapla recommends a much faster draining soil mix and I admit it makes perfect sense. Many thanks for the ideas to try this spring.

Last year my Ficus religiosa in a round terra-cotta pot showed signs of distress when I brought it in for the winter. The plant was very healthy outside with the container buried in mulch. It had grown thick roots through the drainage holes that I needed to chop off. But they were so thick that they basically choked off the holes. I did not have any time so I took the plan out and cut off a lot of it rotting roots and just buried the plant in a pot full of turface and soaked it well. Within 2-3 weeks that thing was growing like a champ in the basement under lights.

I also dabble with bonsai. This is how I got hooked onto experimenting with soil mixes and discovered the world of pine bark, turface, haydite, perlite, chicken grit etc. I am in Pittsburgh and I have found good sources of turface and chicken grit. For pine bark I usually look for a landscape supplier but I end up sifting it for right size. I have not found a good source perlite in larger quantities. Any ideas?

One other thing I learnt doing bonsai and that is not be afraid of chopping roots when re-potting if the season is right. If I am not confident then I chop off in large wedges keeping a bit of the original root mass. Then when the plant re-establishes in the new soil, I replace the rest of the original root mass and fill with new mix. It takes time to completely replace the original soil. But once you have replaced with a loose soil mix it makes it much much easier to repot again since it easy to rake it off without much damage to the fibrous roots. I use a chop-stick (essential bonsai tool) to gently push in the soil mix in the root mass. My wife is much better at this since she has no feelings for the plants :)

A bit about what I grow:

Many tropicals (about 150 different kinds) in containers that I overwinter under light in basement. About 50 different perennials in containers that are mostly in a cold frame during winter and some that are buried in mulch in the yard. About another 100 different perennials that are in the ground that I dig up once in about 4 years to cut up the big roots and keep them small.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Hi Al,
I live near NYC and have found the pine bark fines in a couple places but it is pretty expensive. Turns out I'll be driving down to DC area next weekend and I think I may have found a much cheaper source. There is a place in Fairfax, VA, called Remington Mulch. They have three products, and I'm not sure which one would be best. Which one would you recommend? There is one that says "pine bark fines" so it sounds right, but it also says it is what is left after aged bark nuggets have been screened, so I'm thinking that the particle size might be a bit small. Or perhaps I should mix different types? Please read descriptions below and advise.

Thanks,
Rob

1. Pine Bark Nuggets
Nuggets vary in size between 1" and 3" and are a larger gradation of pine mulch. Nuggets are a good choice for mulching around acid loving plants. Pine bark nuggets help to prevent erosion and to protect plants from extreme temperatures. Other benefits include that the organic matter decomposes into humus, requires less watering, suppresses weeds, and adds flare to any landscaping job.

2. Pine Bark Mini-Nuggets
Pine Bark Mini-nuggets vary in size from 1/2" to 1". Mini-Nuggets are a good choice for mulching around acid loving plants, as they help to prevent erosion and to protect plants from extreme temperatures. Other benefits include that the organic matter decomposes into humus, requires less watering, suppresses weeds, and adds flare to any landscaping job.

3. Pine Bark Fines
Pine Bark Fines can be used as a soil amendment or as a mulch. This product consists of the very small pieces of pine bark that are removed during the screening process of aged pine bark nuggets. Because pine fines have such a fine texture they make excellent mulch for flowerbeds. As a soil amendment pine fines improve drainage, add organic matter, and help to maintain an acidic soil as they have a low pH, which is great for acid-loving plants.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Feb 10, 12 at 15:41

Thanks, Cornado. I'll get over to look at your thread as soon as I have more than a few minutes at one time to spend at the forums.

ToC - As someone who failed in his initial foray into bonsai but was so enamoured of the little trees he couldn't allow himself to give up, I have to credit almost everything I know about soils and plants to my work toward greater proficiency at tending the little trees. I think it's also a stroke of good fortune that I've found the soil science entirely applicable to other forms of container culture, and at least 95% of the physiology learned to be applicable to all plants, not just the woody ones.

You might look into bark products from Ohio Mulch and Robert's Flower Supply in OH. It may be worth a try to tell the folks at Robert's what you need. If their 2012 schedule includes an orchid show in Pittsburgh (it did in 2011), they might even bring the fir bark to the show, if you pay in advance. Both places are near Columbia Station in Ohio, so it wouldn't be too much of a trip if you're headed that way if you want to drive. I've used the Golden Trophy Landscape Mulch from Ohio Mulch many times, for the 5:1:1 soil, and I used to screen it for the gritty mix before I found a source for prescreened fir bark (in Chicago). Plus, I'm sure, if you keep looking, you'll find a source of appropriate pine bark near you. I have at least 3 regular sources within a few miles of my house I can rely on, plus many others more distant that I've found, and I occasionally find really great material at stores like Miejer, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe's ..... Don't stop looking when you fine 1 source; they often change suppliers or the supplier changes to a different size in the same pkg. Be patient - it'll work itself out.

I have about 75-100 tropical trees under lights, and another 150-200 temperate trees in various stages of development, plus all the other more herbaceous and mixed display plantings I play with in the summer. It keeps me off the streets & out of the bars. ;-)

Yeesch! I just looked out the window above the puter. I went from a pretty, soft snow falling to blizzard within just a few minutes!

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Rob, if you're coming to the DC area, you can also get pine bark fines at Behnke's Nursery. They have locations in Potomac and Hyattsville, MD. I believe it's more expensive than the $3.99 listed on that other website, so you can base it on the most convenient location for you.

It is definitely the "pine bark fines" that you want.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Went to Behnkes the other day in Potomac and they get a fresh shipment in. 2 cu ft @ 4.99.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Thanks Tapla. I will check out those places. I do attend the orchid show most of the years and also the bonsai shows. Never thought of checking them out for sources. I usually look around for landscape suppliers so that I can order in larger quantities. I live in the city and drive a small car both of which limit how much I can get delivered or pick up myself. Still it is great fun to scour around.

Anyone who supplies bigger bags of perlite. Big name stores carry these small bags good for probably 2-3 pots. Seems like it could be cheaper if I can find a source of large bags.

One more thing: Turface, Terragreen and similar products are mostly used in golf courses for maintaining that lush green - at least that is what my supplier tells me. So when I back my little car to their loading docks to pick up 2/3 bags they are quite amused.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Here are some picks of my old medium (perlite, vermiculite, pea gravel and high C compost) and my new medium (turface, perlite, crushed lava rock, crushed charcoal (I had it laying around), and high C compost). Thank you so much Al for helping me develop this new mix, and for introducing me to turface.
My new mix
Photobucket
My old mix
Photobucket
My rose in the new mix
Photobucket
The big chunks of lava rock are purely aesthetic, they're also there because I had leftovers ; )


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Al: I was planning to buy my pine bark from Ohio Mulch this spring, but from the website I thought the product to buy was the Golden Trophy pine bark mini fines, which are described as "very small, fingernail-size pieces of pine bark that are brownish in color and used primarily as a soil amendment." Are you saying the Golden Trophy product that is labelled as "Decorative Pine Bark Mulch" is a better choice? I don't see anything labelled as landscape mulch.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Feb 11, 12 at 14:21

ToC - you can almost always find big bags of perlite at larger greenhouse operations - ones where they do their own growing. I have several near me where I can get 3 & 4 cu ft bags. At one supplier, about 30 miles distant, I can get pine bark and perlite in various sizes. The perlite comes in 10 cu ft bags on pallets, but they'll repackage into 4 cu ft bags for $10! The last bag I bought from a more local supplier was $17/3 (or 4?) cu ft. Call around - you can ask about pine bark AND perlite. If you ask the right questions, you'll very often find good leads, even from the suppliers that can't help you because they usually know what their competition is up to.

Bob - you're welcome. I'm glad you found the forum & this thread helpful!

Robin - the small fingernail-size bark is what you want for either/both soils. When I went to the website, I stopped looking when I saw the words 'Golden Trophy. I guess I didn't realize they had multiple products packaged under that label. I think what I used in my soils was called 'Golden Trophy Premium Landscape Mulch, and I bought it at a big box store - maybe Meijer - not sure. I know you know what you're doing, so just follow your instincts. ;-)

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

hello : ) , Al, when you have time could you check my post on the PL : ( , dont wanna start until you check the procedure and or give me any other tips/indications and by the way answer some doubts i have before doing the procedure, thanks in advanced

Conrado


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Today I planted my 4in1 cherry tree that i got from Willis Orchards in the gritty mix.
I was going to use a floor dry as a substitute for the Turface and had bought a couple of bags. However when I went to go get the Grani-grit from a local store, I was pleasantly surprised to find Turface as well. So, I got to use Turface MVP anyway. I screened it using one of those cooking metal mesh thingies. I forgot what it's called, but I always strain out the water from my macaroni with it. Maybe it's just called a 'strainer'. Anyway, it screened out roughly ~40% of the Turface. Now I have a fine 'sandy' soil.
Question, what does everyone do with the sandy stuff that is left over? Any good ideas on what I can do with it?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Hi Skycopp,

I read about the nursery that you suggested about Pine Bark Fines in the DC area. I am planning on a road trip up into northern Va in a few weeks. Did you say that you had success?
My home is Virginia Beach and i have had a time finding a good source. TKS... : )

The smaller particles that are left from screening the turface can be used when you are sowing seeds. Some have suggested to use the gritty mix and then sprinkle the smaller fines on top to help the seeds germinate.

Hope this helps!!

Laura


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

I can't take complete credit for the suggestion of Behnkes, I originally got it from ssmdgardener. I have plenty of seed starter, but I might be amend it with some Turface fines and see how that works.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Thank you Skycopp and ssmdgardener!!! : )

I will stop by Benhnkes Nursery.

Laura


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

i need help : ( , have my PL at hold cause dont know what to do after i plant it , how to water it ? how to feed it with fertilzer that same first day or not ? or if not how many days after ? and the fertilzer how many drops of foligae pro 9-3-6 should i use per gallon of water ? should i soak the soil first and then how many cups of diluated fertizer , should i use ? do i put the PL on the shade to relive from the stress of repotting ????? have many other questions posted on my PL experiment post : ( , Al, Josh, Mike , Laura helpppp : (
thanks in advanced : )

Here is a link that might be useful: my post regarding my peace lily experiement


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

ok another question when i put the medium ( 511 or gritty ) do i have to fill up the pot or only half of it with the medium ?????


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Feb 12, 12 at 17:23

Bare root the plant, then make sure it's planted so the crown is above the soil line. It doesn't matter how deep the soil is in the pot ..... only how deep the plant is in the soil.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

ok got 2 new 6 inch pots that just seem fine in size for the emerging 2 plants : ) of the peace lily im planing to divide , but would like to know if you know of any where i can see photos on how to divide the PL : ( , thought of seeing that somewhere dont remember if it was here or another site : ( , but do you have any photos or know where to see the procedure ???? have read its about dividing the pups , but would like to see any pictures-procedure just to be sure im doing it right : ( , thanks in adavanced


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Tecnico: Mature peace lily is quite a robust plant and can be divided easily. Mine does pretty well in a terrible soil mix and flowers regularly especially when I am not paying attention. They can be easily separate with fingers by gently untangling the roots and snipping a few. If you can leave the baby plants wherever they are to grow 4-5 leaves each so that they are established. Just scoop them out and gently separate with fingers. I sometimes use a chopstick and for really entangled roots I use a 'root-rake' - another nifty little Japanese tool for bonsai. If I can I try to keep the root ball intact but with these guys it is really not necessary to be very careful.

Perhaps my attitude comes from my love for bonsai. And one thing I learnt is that most plants can take a lot of abuse before they give up. And that abuse is different from neglect.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

thanks tropico ; ) , might be a simple question : ( , but would like to know if plants , should be planted in the morning , ????? or can they be planted in the evening : / ? cause would like the planting of the PL to be in the best schedule for her , so is it best to plant in the morning or during the day than rather afternoon or evening ????


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 14, 12 at 22:15

It really doesn't make any significant difference what time of the day you do your repotting, though it is easier for plants to retain turgidity (water pressure) during the dark cycle.

As noted the plant is genetically very vigorous - you can divide with a machete if you like - it tolerates a lot of mechanical abuse without much complaint.

Al

Go Wings!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

General rule I follow is to root prune in the evening and top prune in the morning. Roots are most active during day pumping water to the leaves. In the night roots are at the receiving end of nutrients produced by the leaves. For a vigorously growing plant I sometimes do it whenever possible.

For peace lily I will not worry at all. I have yanked mine out of the pot, shaken most of the soil off it and hosed the roots with water to clean off all the remaining dirt and planted it. I think I need to do that again this spring.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Thanks Al and Tropico : ) , by the way Al , the mix ( 511 or the gritty ) has to be soaked up so its very wet before planting the PL and then after its planted do i have to water it again inmediatly ?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Al,

I have been thinking about the PWT and wicking. You mentioned that putting gravel in the bottom of a pot will not help drainage, just reduce available soil volume. I agree with this. However, I was wondering about a somewhat different scenario. Not that I am considering doing it, but more just to understand the way it works.

Let's say I had a very fine medium, like peat moss. And let's say I had a much larger organic medium, like aged pine bark fines. If I put 100% fines (1/8 to 1/4 inch) in a pot, and fill it with water, the theory is that because the particle size is sufficiently large, the PWT will be small or nonexistent. On the other hand, if I put just peat moss in a pot, there will be a large PWT. But if I stick a wick in the bottom that touches the peat and the ground below, it will drain the PWT.

So, what would happen if I filled the pot one third full of the pine bark fines, then put the peat on top of that? Would the fines wick the water away from the peat, negating the PWT? Gravel would not, presumably because it is a very poor wick. However, the fines should have decent wicking properties.

Thoughts/comments welcome.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Feb 15, 12 at 14:02

T -0 I think I just covered that somewhere?

Make sure the 5:1:1 is pre moistened. That's not necessary with the gritty mix because it rewets easily and water diffuses into the bark, eliminating it's hydrophobic tendencies. DO make sure, if you're working with the dry gritty mix, that roots are moist when you settle the plant into its new home, and that you work quickly and water as soon as the plant's settled.

Rob - in order for water to move through a dissimilarly sized material below a finer material, the material on the bottom needs to be smaller than 2.1X the size of the material above. The pine fines won't wick water from the peat above unless it is VERY fine.

Even the wick won't work entirely if the material you're trying to remove excess water from is too fine.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

The previous post made me think. How about say an inch of fines at the bottom. It will hold some water and probably lessen the need to water more frequently. Do you think there is any advantage gained or is there some other problem that I am missing?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

With reference to my previous post, I meant putting something like peat or similar fine soil at the bottom. Any thoughts as to pros and cons of doing that?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Do not do that. There is no advantage.

You don't want different layers of material with different textures.
If you were to insist on using those materials, it would be better to just mix them evenly,
and then add a wick.

Please, try using these mixes before you decide that you need to water more frequently.
5-1-1 stays quite moist - even in hot weather - as long as the containers aren't baking.


Josh


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

still uploading pics but one of the plants looks more droppy than the other : ( , should i add more water to it ????? eventhough the medium feels moist to the touch of fingers , ( just of as a fact this one that is a bit more droppy than the other 2 is the largest among the other 2 ) should i leave it like that or should i water it ???? is it a effect of transplanting and cause this one is bigger than the other takes a bit more time to cheer up ????????


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

ok pictures are ready go check them at :

Here is a link that might be useful: peace lily experiment


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

anyone around : ( , should i water my PL again today it looks so sad and droppy :( , seems as it needs water , but the mix feels sort of moist , should i feed her more water anyway ????? pleaseeee advice me


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Feb 20, 12 at 17:04

Based on the pictures at the other thread: if the soil is already moist, your plants won't benefit from additional watering. Just be patient & allow the roots a little time to colonize the soil mass; then, start to fertilize & your plants will take off.

Remember you're on people time - your plants respond to their own rhythms, which always seems to move infinitely slower than we'd prefer ....... kind of like that whole "a watched pot never boils" thing, perhaps.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

hello Al, so that means i should leave the big as it is now :( , the leaves look even more droopy than this morning : ( , but will a bit of water would help it cheer up ???? , or can i give it drinks of water very day , until she livens up ?????? Al , i see her so sad :( pleaeeee help :(

excuse my impatience :( but seeing my PL as she is now is the reason , soory : (


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Al, I'm quoting you from your original post for easy refer and following is my questions/statements. I'm referring to what you put in your Gritty Mix.
"1 Tbsp gypsum per gallon of soil (eliminate if your fertilizer has Ca)
CRF (if desired)
I use 1/8 -1/4 tsp Epsom salts (MgSO4) per gallon of fertilizer solution when I fertilize if the fertilizer does not contain Mg (check your fertilizer - if it is soluble, it is probable it does not contain Ca or Mg."

I'll probably be using Osmocote 19-6-12. I'm wondering if I'll need gypsum and/or Epsom salts for the Gritty Mix I want to make per your example. I don't see Magnesium listed anywhere on the bottle, but it does say "Derived from Ammonium Nitrate, Ammonium Phosphate, Calcium Phosphate, and Potassium Sulfate." Being that I'm pretty dense about these things, does that mean that it has Calcium? Since I don't see Magnesium listed, I guess that means it doesn't have any?
As soon as I have the money, I want to start looking around for ingredients for the Gritty Mix and put my hackberry trees and Amorpha fruticosa in it. I also have a crabapple in a one-gallon pot for a few years now that I haven't made up my mind if I want to Bonsai it or keep potting it up.
Cathy


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Al, in 5:1:1, is lime necessary if the sphagnum peat moss that I purchase says that lime has been added to it already?

Also, if I'm using homemade compost, very small pine fines, or purchased potting mix instead of the peat moss, is lime still necessary? Or do I just use less of it?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Feb 26, 12 at 17:51

Cathy - I think I would add a small amount of gypsum to the soil, maybe a tsp/gallon, then add about 1/4 tsp of Epsom salts to each gallon of fertilizer solution if you're going to supplement the CRF with a soluble fertilizer. If you're depending only on the CRF, I'd probably supply a solution of 1/4-1/2 tsp Epsom salts/gallon of water every 3-4 weeks.

SSMD - is there any indication of how much lime was added to the peat? I've never seen limed peat before, so that's a new one. ;-)

Lime supplies Ca and Mg, but it also raises soil pH when the ingredients are acidic. How you combine the ingredients would determine how much lime to use or if any is appropriate. If I knew what combinations you were using, I could make an educated guess.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

I have no idea how much lime has been added to the peat moss. Maybe I need to look a bit closer....

Sometimes I use leftover commercial potting mixes instead of the peat. So it's regular 5:1:1 ratio, but with the peat mixture replaced by the potting mix (and same with compost).

Is there a better ratio if I'm not using peat? Is pine bark acidic enough to warrant lime even when peat's not used?

TIA!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Feb 26, 12 at 21:29

Peat and bark based mixes are usually limed at the same rate, which is usually 5 lbs/yd. A pint of lime weighs very close to 1 lb.

The 5:1:1 ratio is a guideline. If the bark is quite fine, you may not need any peat at all. Once you've used the mix for a season, you'll have developed a feel for what you want from your soils & mixing them will be second nature. The liming rate for the 5:1:1 mix really doesn't change, but I suppose if you were using potting mix that was already limed, you could cut back a little on the lime.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

A few quick questions about gritty mix. I was able to find two types of pine bark, one was good, nice and dry, and screened nicely using 5/8" mesh for the initial screening followed by the insect screen to eliminate the fines. My other bag is fairly wet and more degraded. it appeard to have much more composted material and cloggs up the insect screen. As an experiment, I rinsed a small amount (using insect screen still) and lots of fine material came out during the rinse. Is this suitable for removing fines? or is this bark too far gone for gritty mix? I can always use it for 5-1-1.

My next question regards gypsum. My local farm service Co. (FS corp) was able to get me a bag, but its pelletized. Can I use it as is, or do I have to powder the gypsum first?
Thanks
Ken


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correction

OOps! I meant to say I used 3/8" for the large screening, not 5/8" mesh...Is there a way to edit posted messages on this board?
Ken


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

I just want to vent some frustration at the fact that Hope Agriproducts (makers of Hapi-Gro) seem to have changed the label on their landscapers mix to reflect a new composition. It now claims hardwood bark as the main ingredient, which is probably going to sell better for its intended use. Looking at the product, it is in fact very different - fine, spongy and unstructured with significant sapwood content and little pine bark.

I have other potential sources available to me here in Houston, but I have to admit I had gotten very comfortable with the convenience of the landscapers mix... I didn't have to screen or add any peat, just mix with perlite and lime and it was ready to go. Performed admirably and the spent medium is now the main component of a new raised bed in the front yard.

And the hunt for pine fines begins again...


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 28, 12 at 10:22

IA - I'd use the partially composted product in the 5:1:1 mix.

The pelletized gypsum IS powdered. It's just mixed with a binder and shot from prilling towers in small droplets that harden as they fall into the (of course) prills you see in the bag. It breaks down when it gets wet - the prills just make it easier to broadcast from spreaders.

Unfortunately, no editing process here.

GT - any of us that had any degree of difficulty locating a suitable bark product feel your pain.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Another question, as this thread has greatly expanded my knowledge base on optimum soil composition. I'm limited to growing my outside veggies (tomatoes and peppers) in flush-level beds, primarily along my fences. My soil is nearly pure sand, so I've been adding compost yearly to improve water retention. Now, I suspect I should be adding turface and #2 cherrystone as well. Am I on the right track?
Thanks
Ken


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 28, 12 at 11:12

Mmmmmm- probably not. Raised beds are almost the same as growing in the garden, and containers much closer to hydroponics. You need small pieces of organic matter occupying the spaces between sand grains, so compost incorporated and pine bark as mulch on a regular basis should be all you need. If you incorporate unfinished compost, you're likely to get some N immobilization, so be ready to supplement the N if you see any evidence of a deficiency.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Thanks, sounds like more compost and pine fines into the soil, with pine bark mulch (on top of the weed fabric) under the plants....


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Searching for Turface- Right in front of me all the time..
After reading Al's thread, I began looking for Turface. First, I checked all the "normal" places, nurserys, landscape supplies, farm stores, etc. with no luck. A John Deere landscape location, over an hour away carried it, but only seasonally and were currently out of stock. I finally ran accross (via internet) a FS (Farm Service) site that listed it, but was three hours away. That got me thinking. I checked with my local FS service, and yes, it was available. To make a long story short, I've got two bags ordered, and its only $11.00 per bag. (50 lb. bags) I'm very pleased, it was right in front of me all the time...


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

This should be on page 1... bump! :-)


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Apologies in advance if my question has been addressed before, I imagine that it has.

I have some miniature pines, spruce and fir that will be going into 5:1:1. They'll be fertilized with D-G FP. Since conifers typically like to grow in acid soil (or is this one of those "parroted" truisms), can (should) I omit the lime entirely? I seem to recall some qualification somewhere to the idea that "acid-loving" plants really do grow best in acid soils. That maybe they are adapted to be able to handle acidic media, but that their ideal medium would not necessarily be acidic.

So, would my conifers be happier if I include lime in order to neutralize the 5:1:1, or if I leave it out to provide an acidic growing medium?

Thanks,
Alex


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Question continued

While I have your attention I'll ask another question. There was some talk about his maybe half a year ago on the GW conifers forum, and I'd like to ask you guys' (and ladies') opinions:
My dwarf and miniature grafted pines, spruce, and firs will be getting full bareroot transplants. Is it better to perform this type of repotting now while the roots are still dormant, or right before they break bud and begin to push, which would in my area be in early May (in a normal year that is, maybe earlier after this unusually warm winter)?

Come to think of it, I believe I've seen Al state that he repots pines in July. Am I remembering this correctly? I wondered when I saw that - it seems strange to me since that's when you'd expect they'd be under the most stress, and perhaps not the best time to subject them to compromised root function. Al, if I might ask, can you elaborate on this?

So I'll expand my original question: for these three genera, when is the best time of year for a full repot?

Thanks again,
Alex


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 7, 12 at 14:57

First, I have grown pines on in the 5:1:1 mix with lime with no problems. If you're using a soluble fertilizer in containers, if you put the nutrients in the soil regularly, your plants will get them, and pH isn't as critical in container media as it is in mineral soils (the garden). I also grow perfectly healthy pines/junipers/firs/hemlock .... in the gritty mix using only FP. If I thought my plants needed a more acidic environment for their roots, I'd probably make that happen by switching from FP fertilizer to MG or another 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer that derives its N from urea. So far, that hasn't proven to be the case, however.

I repot spruce & fir here in late Apr. As soon as I get done with my deciduous plants, I move to the evergreens. Late Apr is everything but juniper and pine. When all the other evergreens are done, I do the junipers. Pines get repotted in August. Young evergreens tolerate bare-rooting better than older plants (older than say 12-15 years old). I always try to snip a few roots of the plant I'm repotting and mix them into the new soil as an inoculant.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Has anyone been able to find grani-grit in northern Virginia or the DC area? I am still at a loss in finding it.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 15, 12 at 7:51

I sent a link to the thread to Laura from VB. I know she uses the gritty mix and has helped a lot of Virginians find ingredients for soils.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Hi Odyssey,

I called Southern States in Richmond Va and they have Gran-i-grit in the Growers size. ( 804-747-9315) They also have a store in Midlothian Va. 1200 Alverer Dr. Midlothian
804-379-8111 They can order it if they are tempoary out of it. im checking for you as i write this...they have me on hold... THEY HAVE IT!!!! YEA!!! Look in the poultry section. They carry all three sizes..you want the "growers" size. I talked with a gentleman named Steve, but you can ask anyone there for help. They are wonderful people.

Good luck with your mix!!! : )

Hope this helps... : )

Laura


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Thanks Al and Laura. Laura, I remember how helpful you were a year ago when I was going to try the gritty mix. One thing or another got in the way and I didn't do it. I have the All Sport and pine fines sitting in my garage, so I need to get the gran-i-grit and finally try the gritty mix at last. Midlothian is too far for me--I am in Alexandria. let me see if I can find a Southern States closer. Thanks for your help!


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still looking

The nearest Southern States to me is in Vienna, which isn't too far, but when I called them they said they didn't have gran-i-grit. They said they only had Deere Feed, which is something with corn. :( The search continues...


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Found!

The SS in Upper Marlboro, MD had it. I can make that trek on the weekend. Whew!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

One more granite question--I found MannaPro poultry grit at a SS in Middlesburg VA. Are MannaPro and Gran-i-Grit just as good as each other?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

A few weeks ago, they had Grani-grit at the Southern States store at this location:
23000 Davis Mill Road
Germantown, MD 20876


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Thanks skycopp. I may well go on out there if I need to. Upper Marlboro SS has it too. I think Middleburg would be less of a trip for me though, but they only have MannaPro. If MannaPro is just as good as Gran-i-Grit, I'll get that. If not, I'll head over to MD.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Hi Odyssey,

Manna Pro is just as good!!!

You are more than welcome!! Thank you for the kind compliment!!!

I see you over at the Plumie Forum, good luck on your travels to Houston!! : )

Nice to see another Virginian on the forums!!

Gran-i- grit or Manna Pro..either will be perfect for you!!!

Take care,

Laura


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Thanks Laura! Yes, always happy to see someone else from the Old Dominion. :)

I didn't realize you were on the Plummie forum! Yes, I'm hoping to increase my collection in Houston. I have had such good luck with my plummies this year. I really started with them in earnest last year, and everything that rooted for me *made it* over the winter! I couldn't believe it. I even tried rooting some in September and guess what? Most rooted. I only lost 2. I stuck them in a 3rd floor window and it gets so hot up there in the sun. I guess that did the trick.

Back to gritty mix, I have a couple more questions:
--Do you screen Gran-i-Grit?

--I understand using insect screen for screening turface, but what size do you use to screen the bark fines? Do you use two different size screens for it?

Thanks again for all the help and encouragement. When my plummies go back outside, it will be in the gritty mix!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Mar 16, 12 at 7:39

I do a quick screen of grit over insect screen to remove the dust. Some people rinse it if making small batches.

Bark fines work best in 1/8-1/4 for fir bark & 1/8-3/8 for pine bark. Whether you need 2 screens of not depends on the bark you get. I'm lucky enough to have access to 1/8-1-4 for bark, so I just screen it for dust. You might need 1/8" screen, 3/8" screen, and insect screen to do the best job for the gritty mix - if you want to get the full benefit from using it. The reason I make the gritty mix is, it provides a soil that has good water retention, but little or no perched water, while it provides a well-aerated and healthy home for roots.

Best luck.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Thanks Al. 3 screens it is. I am working on locating the 3/8 and 1/8 sizes. If going to all this effort, I certainly want to do it right.

I went out to Upper Marlboro SS and despite what they told me on the phone, they DO NOT sell Gran-i-Grit at all. Grrrrr. They had 1 pathetic 5 pound bag of Mannapro, which I bought. I'll have to see about getting up to Germantown.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

I have to run to Southern States tomorrow in Germantown. I'll check on that Grani-grit for you and post it here
.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Thanks skycopp! That's really nice!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Went by this morning. They have 10 fifty pound bags (grower size) at $9.35 and they close at four. If you need more, they said that they could order and have it 3 or 4 days. Southern States is actually between Germantown and Damascus on Hwy 27.
GOOD LUCK!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Woo-hoo!! Thanks skycopp!! One bag is all I am after.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

I have learned so much from this forum that I decided to share my sources for the container mix ingredients in northern California (Sacramento area). It took a LOT of effort, but I finally did find everything. Pine bark has been impossible, but there is another bark product that works very well for a wide range of plants that need really good drainage.

1. Turface All Sport, 50 lb bags @ $17.25.
From John Deere Landscapes, 1675 Nichols Dr. Rocklin, CA 95765
(916) 408-0024 https://www.johndeerelandscapes.com/

2. Crushed granite: Manna Pro Crushed Granite Grit, 25 lb bags @ $8.49
From Tractor Supply Co. 990 Tharp Road Yuba City, CA 95993
(530) 822-7722 http://www.tractorsupply.com/
[Note on grit: Wash before mixing. It seems fairly clean, but I have noticed some floating impurities. I would love to find a cheaper product, but all of the other grits I have found are the mixes, which sometimes even include salt (!)]

3. Bark fines: Gardeners Professional Orchid Bark Seedling, 2 cu ft bags @ $15.
From Top Hat Orchids, 505 Brookside Drive, Richmond, CA 94801-1301
(510) 215-9260 http://www.tophatorchids.com/
[Note on the bark fines: This was the hardest to locate. The product is pretty intact and doesn't require much screening, unlike other products. This product sometimes comes up on google at Home Depot, but none of the stores have it. Orchid growers sometimes have it; just google your area orchid growers and get on the phone. As of last weekend, Top Hat Orchids still had a lot of bags still in stock.]


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 31, 12 at 16:06

Photobucket


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

BUMP!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

I have to say that this is an incredibly informative thread! Thank you to all who are sharing your experience and knowledge.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Hey, Al, I went ahead and linked to this Thread (the Source!) in my 5-1-1 mixing video.
When this Thread hits the 150 max, I'll update the link in the YouTube description bar, as well.

Potting Mix - making 5-1-1


Josh


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 11, 12 at 21:08

Thanks 2D1C - ;o)

Good thinking Josh - and thank you. I enjoyed the video!

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Al, for those of us who have to travel for work, wouldn't we be ok to use the gritty mix but leave out the granite and just use Bark:turface 1:1?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 15, 12 at 14:10

It's up to you, but I'd rather see you keep the bark fraction at no more than 1/3 of the mix & increase the water retention by increasing the amount of Turface while decreasing the amount of granite proportionately; OR, just add extra Turface or calcined DE.

Examples:

4 Turface
3 bark
2 granite

5 Turface
3 bark
1 granite

2-? Turface
1 bark
1 granite

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Thanks. I guess I want to know why even bother with the granite? What would be wrong with bark:Turface = 1:2?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jun 16, 12 at 19:54

Nothing at all wrong with it. ;-) If you need that much water retention, then go for it. DO make sure you screen the Turface though - you're going to have a fair amount of perched water even if you DO screen it. If I was you, I would use a wick when you don't need all that water retention, and remove it when you need an extended interval between waterings. Really though, in using so much Turface and having to deal with the perched water, there is little advantage in even using the gritty mix - might as well use the 5:1:1 mix.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

I have a question about ratios in the soil mix. I understand from the start that 5:1:1 is a guide and that we should test and adjust to suit our needs.

The recipes stated in the original post are not all 5:1:1. Given that 1 cu ft = 7.48051948 US gallons the "big batch" is more like a 6:1:1 to 9:1:1 ratio and the "small batch" is a 6:1:1 ratio.

Since the pine bark fines are the most difficult component to come by and also to produce time-wise for those of us that have to sift to make it I would prefer to stick to the original 5:1:1 ratio. To do so the "big batch" should use 25 gallons (or 1 and 2/3 cu ft) of pine bark fines and the "small batch" should use 2.5 gallons.

I'm not trying to be a math geek here. I do however want to minimize my consumption of pine bark fines and get good results.

Insights?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Paul

I make it easy on myself - using same bucket I just put 5 buckets of bark, 1 bucket each of additional ingredients into large tub and mix thoroughly...smaller bucket if making less, larger bucket if making large amount (so I don't have to count too many buckets...Easy to adjust in case you want to change to any other combination.)

No need for complicated calculations, the ratio stays same - any leftover mix is easy to store for the next time.

For my very 1st mix I used Repti-bark (very expensive in my opinion) since i could not find any other bark. It was 10quarts - easy to figure how many quarts of each of other ingredients...


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Thanks, rina_ - that's what I'm thinking, too, i.e. stick to the 5:1:1 ratio and use one container to do so. I was just wondering why the recipes were different and maybe there is something new to learn here.

Yeah, I'm not willing to go the Repti-bark route. Already I think if I do the math my cucumbers are costing me like $83 each. OK, it's not that bad but I really have put a lot of time and money into my set up (tables, containers, tools, e.g.) and I am interested in keeping the routine costs of the soil and fertilizer down. I am experimenting with soils that use home made compost, e.g., because my compost material is a byproduct of normal living.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Paul,

You are right about Repti-bark -$$$.
It is bit expensive starting out - the set up alone is big ticket. But once set up, it will last for so many years to come (only plus if one continues with gardening).
I don't shy away from using second-hand tools, containers, and anything else I find useable as long as they are in good shape. I 'inherited' few tools when I bought my house 16yrs ago, they are older than me...but really, they are now only decorations.

Good tools are necessary, so I try to buy best I can afford at the time & hopefully won't have to replace.

It would be ideal if one could get materials in bulk (hopefully less $/unit), but then a storage is a problem.

But as most of the more experienced members here claim, if you mix your own it is definitely better & less expensive.

Rina


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Hi Paul,

I was using Reptibark as well like Rina said. I really like the Reptibark, but she is right..it can be expensive. I was having a hard time finding a good source for Pine Fines here in Virginia so i would keep looking..

Since i always search when im out on the road, i did find some Pine Bark Fines..They also label them as Soil Conditioners. That might help you when you are looking.

Someone on another post suggested looking at Walmart.com

I did check my local Walmart on line and they carry this product called Timberline Pine Mulch. It is in a purple Bag and it is sold in 2 CF bags. I wish that i could remember who posted this info...but it is worth looking at your local Walmart.com and it will tell you if it is in your area. ( It is not the nuggets) It is the Purple bag that says Timberline Pine Mulch!!! It is pretty cheap too! : ) They do sell it locally for me and im sure you could locate it using the Website.

Good Luck to you!!!

Hope this helps...

Have a great day!!

Laura


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Excellent video, Josh!

I use the same type of hardware cloth, only I've placed mine over a stiff, double-walled cardboard box and made bends in the hardware cloth so it stays in place. I put the box right in my wheelbarrow so it's at my height for working... and voila!

ReptiBark can get a little expensive, unless you only need small batches, as I do. It's also been reported, and I've noticed, that the small and medium bags contain the right size bark... whereas the large bags seem to contain larger pieces. I think this may have something to do with its original intent as a reptile bedding, with the smaller bags used for smaller reptiles, et. al., if you get my drift.

Beautifully done, Josh... do you have one for the Gritty Mix, as well? That would be really sweet!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

I found 2cf fine grade orchid bark online for $16.95, which seems cheap. I'm not sure what shipping is, and they add 10% for orders under $150, but it might be a good deal for those of us who can't find fine grade bark anywhere local.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fine Orchid Bark


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Aug 7, 12 at 18:39

That's prolly exactly what I use, packaged by Shasta Forest Products in NoCal (Yreka). At least that would be my guess if you live in CA.

Hi, guys (all you August posters) ;-). I trust all is well with everyone?

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Hi AL!!!

All is fine here in VB..

Just wanted to say hi and give this thread a friendly BUMP!!!

: )

Have a great summer!!

Laura


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 15, 12 at 9:03

Will do. Thanks!

Headed over to visit my DD today & then meet friends in Chicago for some fun.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

First post here. I've read GW for years, but never posted. I had to join to say THANK YOU, THANK YOU to Al especially, but also to the rest of you who've added so much information to these threads.

I now have bags of Turface, Gran-I-Grit, and pine bark fines, I have neem oil, Foliage Pro, chopsticks,screens in various sizes etc.

Everything is getting repotted. I'm so looking forward to my plants getting through the winter without rotten roots. I'm even considering growing things I've written off for years as too hard, usually because they slowly decline as the roots rot away. It's such a good feeling to know there's something that actually works to prevent this!

Thanks again.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

I hate perlite. I really, really do. Since it's not internally porous, and doesn't hold air for plant roots, does it have *any* purpose other than being light and taking up space in bark-based mixes (5:1:1)? Does it actually provide "structure" to slow the collapse of decaying organic particles?

Other than weight, how would pea gravel or granite work any different?

I know perlite holds water on its surface, and has a higher surface area than the other options. So it would retain a little more water.

Pea gravel and granite are much denser, and pea gravel has much larger particles - so they'll probably partition out of the mix with watering... lessening their ability to provide structure.

What about expanded clay (hydroton)? I know it would hold water. Does an individual particle hold air internally even when surrounded on all sides by fine bark? It's light, but has a large particle size.. so I don't think it will migrate that much in a bark based mix.

Feel free to critique my thought process as much as you like!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

The perlite wedges in between the pine fines causing macropores. Gravel would make the mix heavy and does not hold any air. Biochar is a good perlite replacment,it may not last as long, it can be hard to find, unless you make it of course:)

hydrotone is abot 1/2-3/4" right? It could come in smaller size but I don't know. Hydrotone is expensive too.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Aug 19, 12 at 21:03

I think perlite and other similar soil amendments are more valuable in bark-based soils than in peat-based soils because of what MG1 said, which happens to be something I've noted repeatedly - that the BB-size particles of perlite, Turface, calcined DE, Haydite, pumice ..... get wedged between bark flakes and hold them apart, creating macropores. So, in that regard I think the various similar amendments can all serve to alter soils in slightly variant ways. I like perlite because it's cheap & light, but am quick to agree that it may not be the best ingredient for every application. I think that's where understanding the concept and how implement it comes into play. I think all you need to be is cognizant of the variation in water retention provided by each of the products when you decide what to use. E.g., if you are struggling with too much water retention, you might not want to use unscreened Turface or calcined DE as a substitute for perlite, BECAUSE of the additional water retention it brings to the table. Pea stone might be heavy/smooth enough that it might want to fall out of suspension (so to speak). Crushed granite or quartzite, because it is highly irregular in shape and has 'sharp' edges might be a better choice in some apps than perlite/ Haydite probably would be a better choice in MOST applications if it was available in a suitable size and it wasn't so much heavier than perlite.

Basically, in soils with predominately fine particles, perlite serves as not much more than a material to reduce water retention. In peaty soils or soils based on composted products, the small particles simply surround the particles of perlite, rendering their contribution to drainage and aeration as fairly insignificant; but in bark-based soils, perlite has that 'it holds the bark particles apart' thing going for it, which increases it's value as a contributor to aeration.

Play around with other ingredients if you like. I know a previous poster who was well-respected for his contributions grew in PBFs and unscreened Turface, and was pleased with the results.

Going over what I already said, I think just knowing/understanding the factors that drive aeration and water retention, and how to manipulate them to your best advantage is the most important message this thread carries. We all applaud anyone who puts his mind to work to find a way that best suits his own needs.

I think it's interesting that the recipes are so widely posted by so many others for the 5:1:1 and gritty mixes, but I very rarely post them myself unless asked for them specifically. I'm always busy pushing the concept because I know that's where the true value lies; but I also understand that if you've been struggling for a hundred years with a water-retentive soil and suddenly see the difference after changing to a highly-aerated soil, it's kind of hard NOT to want to share the recipe.

So I suppose the thread has the potential to help in more than one way. For those who are only interested in the recipe, it can be as simple as learning how to build the soil(s); but those who come to understand the concept and how to implement it have greater potential to gain because of their greater flexibility - PLUS, they get a couple of recipes that I have found to work exceptionally well for me, as a starting point.

***********************************************

Thanks for the kind words, DMacRae. We all like to receive compliments, but the big thrill comes from reading something like your, "I'm so looking forward to my plants getting through the winter without rotten roots. I'm even considering growing things I've written off for years as too hard, usually because they slowly decline as the roots rot away. It's such a good feeling to know there's something that actually works to prevent this!" It's really great to be able to see the enthusiasm in what you wrote, and the fact that you have something that made enough sense to you that it gave you the encouragement to start anew. I sure do wish you the best of luck!! .... and you can always fall back on this thread if you have questions you think we might be able to help you with.

Take care.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

"I think perlite and other similar soil amendments are more valuable in bark-based soils than in peat-based soils because of what MG1 said, which happens to be something I've noted repeatedly"

Yea just figured I would give greentiger87 a quik answer. Of course I learned that info from tapla.......


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Thank you guys. I think I'm going to go full speed ahead with using expanded clay. I really like the final mix it produces. I'll report the results in a couple months. Too much overall water retention has rarely been a problem for me. The perched water table and air porosity is what I'm looking for.

A local hydroponics store sells a version with particles smaller than average, though still bigger than most perlite particles. It's still much more expensive than perlite, but frankly.. it's worth it to me. I'm tired of white fuzz that never goes where I want it to, and even more tired of the clouds of toxic white dust.

Speaking of which, I'm having a really hard time convincing people that perlite doesn't have significant internal air spaces that communicate with the outside. Even when I do the demonstration with the plastic cups, they just won't believe it.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

To me, the difference rests in whether you get the smaller bags of small perlite from the grocery store... versus the coarse version of perlite that contains much larger pieces, from a garden center, and can be screened to gain the exact size you want. I like that it's lightweight, so I can move my own larger containers.

Hey, guys and gals! Alive and... well, still alive up here in Central IL, hoping to get some things worked out so we can move nearer to our children. :-)

It's great to see this thread on it's 14th go-around! It's fabulous! :-)


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Aug 20, 12 at 13:07

I think if you place a high value on trying to get everyone to recognize the information you provide, no matter how sound it is, you're going to be frustrated. Most people are able to find value in any help that allows them to see the o/a picture in one piece, instead of looking at growing as an unassembled jigsaw puzzle, but there will always be those who, for a wide variety of reasons, will simply choose to ignore every fact and all reason in favor of clinging to a myth or favorite belief that may well be shot full of holes.

If you present reliable information that is well-reasoned and you can explain why you're convinced what you're presenting is factual, you don't need to do a lot of convincing. Don't worry about who you can't convince, worry about those who are receptive and have open minds - that's where you can do some good.

The hard part comes when you encounter obvious misinformation. Do you correct it or turn a blind eye? I suppose that's a decision we all need to make as individuals. I've thought about that issue a LOT over the years. I never go looking for misinformation to argue about, but when I'm invested in a thread and it comes along, I feel obligated to everyone following the thread, as well as anyone who might encounter the thread later, to make sure that readers have at least the opportunity to weigh the good information against the bad. Obviously, this MO doesn't endear you to everyone, but if your aim is truly to help others, it's an effective way of getting the job done.

Credibility is an important aspect of your effectiveness at convincing others of which path is likely to be the most productive. We can easily destroy our credibility by operating beyond the limits of our knowledge, and can build credibility by respecting our limits. Finally, when tested by an alternate view, it's not how well you debate that determines right, wrong, or shades of gray, ultimately it's who has the facts on their side and can illustrate their relevance to the topic.

Next time you get into that discussion, try using the pudding analogy. How much perlite does it take to make a pint of pudding drain well & hold lots of air? - or use sand and BBs for the illustration. Almost anyone can picture in the mind's eye what little effect perlite or any other particle (Turface, granite, calcined DE, pea stone ....) has on the structure of soils based on fine materials, but that doesn't mean that everyone wants to recognize it because of the implication it carries that current practices may not be the best from the perspective of plant health.

Take care.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Aug 20, 12 at 13:14

Hi, Jodi! I heard your post 'ring' into my email while I was typing, but had no idea what the tone meant at the time. I've been reading you haven't been feeling well. Sooo sorry to hear that. One one hand, I know it would be great if you could move closer to the kids, but a little bittersweet perhaps, when you temper the thought with all the hard work you've put into where you live now. Either way, just know you & L are in my thoughts & we all wish the best for you both.

Take good care, my friend.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Thanks for the very useful information Al. I have a question. Is the bark a necessary ingredient? It seems you could use just granite and Turface to simplify things. I would imagine this would further prolong the life of the mix. Also, it would make dealing with fungus gnats easier for me. They feed on the bark and in the winter time and are a major pain for the tropicals I bring indoors. Thanks.

-Brett


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Aug 26, 12 at 12:55

Usually, gnats aren't much of a problem with either the 5:1:1 mix, unless you have a marked tendency toward over-watering. This, because the top of the soil dries too quickly for them to be interested in it.

You can leave the bark out of the gritty mix if you want. If you do, I'd probably increase the amount of grit in the mix - maybe 3:2, grit:screened Turface. The reason is, Turface is a little too fine to be an 'ideal' choice as a part of the soil. Going from a 1/3 fraction of soil in 2/3 larger particles to 50/50, you're going to have some perched water and more water retention in general than the 1:1:1 ratio. It will be more important to be sure you have all the nutrients covered as well. The bark does add a small amount of nutrition and does hold nutrients well for it's bulk density.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Thank you, Al... we're actually getting closer to a move, believe it or not. A lot of the issues that have plagued us are finally getting figured out, and things are looking up! I can always bring plant materials with me, so that's not an issue... dividing and cuttings will be fine.

Now, if I could only be cured, life would be great! ;-)

But seriously... we're doing better, thank you! And we're working harder than ever to make that leap toward the kids and grandkids!

Hope all is well with you! :-) Every time I see this thread roll over, I'm amazed anew at how many people have been helped... it's the doorway to growing I wish I had walked through decades ago! :-)


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

This hopefully is not a stupid question, but peat moss, once dry, is very difficult to rewet. It breaks down fast and robs air space by compressing and squeezing together and filling void spaces. Why do you add it to your mix? I am confused. Also, I understand it is not environmentally good to use it, it is not sustainable, and "farming" of the moss contributes to global warming through carbon dioxide release. One writer termed it an "environmentally bankrupt" product. Why do you use it, and what could be used instead? I read one article that said to use fine bark as a replacement, but you already have that!!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

I don't speak for Al, but I believe the rationale is that it provides water retention. It makes up a very small portion of the mix. Substitutes include coir, composted leaves, ground rice hulls... but all of these are inferior in various ways.

I've developed a strong distaste for peat as well. Many people on the forums have simply left out the peat in favor of pine bark that has a large amount of fines. Remember that the concepts are more important than the specific recipes - you'll have to experiment with different kinds of pine bark to get a feel for what kind of mix works best for you. Each batch of pine bark can arrive aged/composted to varying degrees, have varied distributions of particle size, and different amounts of sapwood.. so you learn to adjust based on what you the concepts outlined above. Personally, seed starting is the only thing I still use peat for.

One could debate the environmental merits of peat for hours, but at the end of the day you have to accept that virtually all gardening and agricultural activities are harmful to the environment in some way, even if it's simply consumption of natural resources. Much of the peat we use in the United States is from Canada, where it's tightly regulated to maintain sustainability. As far as I know, European peat moss is not so well regulated.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Hi Everyone!!

Had to bump this up for a friend who was interested in reading this wonderful information!!

As always AL, great stuff! Thank you!! ;-)

Hope you enjoy!! ;-)

Laura


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Just another bump... Hi, Everyone! :-)


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Another Bump!!! HI Jodi!! ;-)


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Hope this helps, John!!! :-)

Laura

LOL... Had to try the Edit post.. so i will add that i hope this helps everyone who love's to read this post!!!

:-)

This post was edited by loveplants2 on Fri, Nov 30, 12 at 1:00


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Nov 30, 12 at 5:24

I'll be incorporating the picture below into the original text the next time this thread rolls over. Thanks for the bumps, guys!

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by nil13 z21 Mt. Washington L (My Page) on
    Fri, Nov 30, 12 at 11:35

I know it seems obvious, but I would add a little legend showing that the shaded portion represents perched water. That way the image can stand on its own without explanation.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Live and learn (and there is so much to learn)!!! After a disaster with rotting roots last winter in my plants from traditional potting soil, this year I determined to do more research, including this site. Warning to rookies; don't take shortcuts to the advice on mixtures! Here is my tragic experience;

I looked everywhere for Bark Fines, etc. I really wanted some alder wood chips, but impossible to find, here. However, a landscape bulk company said they had medium Black Bark. I asked what that is and they said, "essentially composted medium bark". And it was black! I bought 2 yards of it and hauled it home. I had decided to skip moss because of issues about the environment. I had a little perlite, but not enough for the mix. I went to a nursery and was shocked at the price for their little bags...I needed quantity. One employee asked what it was for, and when I told him he said "Oh, we use medium bark all the time. It is very loose and you don't need perlite for space for air because the bark chunks are big so water and air can move through it".

So, I potted all my plants using the rich, chunky to fine Black Bark. End result? It never seems to dry out and it compacted down hard as a rock! Now I am struggling to keep the plants alive and wondering if I should risk re-potting or if the shock to their already stressed situation would just kill them. Oh, woe is me!

The moral of the story is we come here for advise from people with experience --- sometimes they know what they are talking about! Now, if I can just find some inexpensive bulk perlite!! (for the curious I overwinter 100+ geraniums, take 400 geranium cuttings, overwinter 50 various peppers, and a number of my wife's landscaping plants that can't take the winter (she is not happy with me) :)


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Hi Nrgrsn.

I understand it can be frustrating.. we all go through it at times looking for the right products.

Since you live in the Northwest and are around so many great sources for hardwoods.. MY first thought was Kellogs Big R. Have you searched for this? I also buy my large bage of coarse perlite at the local hydroponics store.

Josh lives out in your ares.. no sure how close, but he might be able to give you some diretion on where to find these producs. The bag of perlite that i purchased is as large as i am. I pick it up in Maryland and it last a long time Im sure you can find some Orcid, Bonsai growers who can direct you as well.

Good Luck and please let us know how you make out!!!

If you still cant find the perlite,let me know i can send this lightweght pelite to you if you would like. i know i live across the Coast, but i work for the airline and get a huge discount in shipping. I would do this for you if it will help..

Let me know..

Laura


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

ok... LOL!!

I guess i lost one!! ;-)

I wanted to bump this for some other people who might find this interesing!!!

Laura


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

tapla, you stated
"All the plants we grow, unless grown from seed, have the genetic potential to be beautiful specimens."
I am puzzled at the exclusion of "plants grown from seed".
To my knowledge and from my experience, the seed(ling) offers the greatest potential for "improvement" of the species.
It is the clone that is limited.
Unless a mutation occurs, the clone will perform to the "specs" of its parent plant. This is extremely beneficial; once one has secured the desirable characteristic(s). And here the individual's eye is the beholder.
But one must revert to seed production to select from a sea of offspring - the new and improved variety.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Dec 15, 12 at 10:01

It was a qualifying remark. When we clone plants, or buy them, we clone those plants we know to be proven performers, or we select plants that are already attractive specimens, so we know with certainty that these plants have excellent potential. On an individual basis, seedlings are in most cases more apt to be substandard (since we've already gone through the process of selecting the best from what was available) than an improvement. In any case, seeds and seedlings are unknowns, so they should be excluded from the group of plants we already KNOW to have the potential mentioned, which is why I offered the qualification.

More important is the context in which the remark was made. When we select plants to purchase or clone, we KNOW that they have the potential to be at least as beautiful as they are/were at the point of purchase or cloning. The point being made is, it's not the plant material limiting itself, it's the grower's ability to provide the cultural conditions that allow their plants to reach their potential. As hobby growers, our abilities and proficiency are defined by our ability to eliminate or act to avoid those things that limit our plants, which THEN allows them to grow as close to their genetic potential as any remaining limitations allow.

*********************************************

L - you get high marks for trying, though. ;-)

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

A comment from above:

"The moral of the story is we come here for advise from people with experience --- sometimes they know what they are talking about!"

Everyone who posts a question should have to type out these words before they can use the forum. One of the most common types of questions I see on this and other boards is "That system that's been proven to work sounds great. "Can I change part 'x' of it?" Why is it that the first thing some people want to do to someone else's hard work is to change it? If you want to experiment, you can do so without asking permission of anonymous people. Some people just seem to have the need to re-invent the wheel.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

The pictures (ghost chili) are going to be some kinds of example of ignorance of Al's guideline and then what's happened to the plants.

This plant is very similar to a guy who imprisoned in a solitary confinement by a notorious prison authority without proper treatment.

So many words I would like to quote from the Al's writings but I'll minimize as much as possible.

Al "If you start with a water-retentive medium, you cannot effectively amend it to improve aeration or drainage characteristics by adding larger particulates."

So the plant in the picture cannot effectively amend until a new soil and container are changed. The soil type the grower used is garden soil (Alluvium type), it is not an ideal soil to use in containers.

Al "What I will write also hits pretty hard against the futility in using a drainage layer of coarse materials in attempt to improve drainage. It just doesn't work. All it does is reduce the total volume of soil available for root colonization."

What's happened to my plants made me confuse before. I did repot some healthy plants in bigger containers and paid more attention. However the result I got was not so good. The other plants I grow in small containers are healthier than the big containers. Before I read Al's guideline, I thought it will be the cause of repotting and other factors. Now I realized that the reason.

Recently I lost so many repotting plants and some of them are stop growing. All those containers I have checked the soil all of them had problems of root contacts with the soil, it was too tight so it suffocated the roots I think. When I removed the soil from the containers, it was too much I can use the soil for 2 containers of its same size. I have never done gardening in my life so my hands and my mind are not going together.

Still I am confused about watering. For example how many liter or milliliter should I give to a 7 gallon container with mixed soil ( 5:1:1) and how often. Still I remember to keep the soil dry between watering and avoiding wet but moisture. What I did before was visual and the weight. Those days I did not have problems because the containers were outside.

The plant in the picture is not belonged to me. I think to give this plant a new life will be only to follow the Al guideline of container gardening. "Container soils are all about structure, and particle size plays the primary role in determining whether a soil is suited or unsuited to the application. Soil fills only a few needs in container culture..."

Thank you Al

Caelian


This post was edited by chilliwin on Mon, Dec 17, 12 at 12:30


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

The plant (ghost chili/bhut jolokia)in the tin container's fruits are not big and the plants also looks not healthy. Before it did not get much direct sunlight. The tin containers have no drainage hole and nothing mixed to the soil too.

The second picture (ghost chili/bhut jolokia) is also an example of ignorance. The fruits are better than the plant in the tin container. They used the same soil but added some pieces of mud wall (The wall is made of mud from pond, paddy straw, bamboo, shing-ut (it is a long hollow stem plant with a long lemongrass like leaves it is about 2 meters tall), cow dung, sand and lime (they painted wall with white lime as a tradition; they called it "sunu" it is edible with beetle nut. When they poured water on it, it boils with heat) as mulch. The container is an empty cement bag.

I think due to the adding of some pieces of broken wall and the container type the plants got better fruits.

Al "First and foremost, though, the plant wants a container soil that is evenly damp, never wet or soggy. Giving a plant what it wants, to flourish and grow, doesn't include a soil that is half saturated for a week before aeration returns to the entire soil mass, even if you only water in small sips. Plants might do 'ok' in some soils, but to actually flourish, like they are genetically programmed to do, they would need to be unencumbered by wet, soggy soils.".

Al "Our growing skills are defined by our ability to give plants what they want. The better we are at it, the better our plants will grow. "

The growers of these plants are not hobby gardener/gardener just accidentally they have planted these plants without a single knowledge of container gardening. These plants are examples of ignorance.

This post was edited by chilliwin on Mon, Dec 17, 12 at 12:32


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Dec 17, 12 at 10:35

Caelian - I think the thing that separates good soils from not so good soils is whether or not we can water them to beyond the point they are completely saturated without risking substantial impairment of root function, or worse, root rot. How you can or should water depends on your soil choice. If you're using well-aerated and free draining soils that embrace the concept discussed on this & other threads, it's to your advantage to water copiously, so at least 10-20% of the total volume of water applied exits the pot, carrying accumulating salts with it. If you're using a heavy, water-retentive soil that won't allow you to water in this manner w/o risking root rot, you'll need to adopt an alternative strategy.

When using the 5:1:1 or gritty mix, there is no upper limit to how much water you can apply w/o concern. You can use 100 L on a 4 L pot w/o having to worry about over-watering, but the soil should be allowed to dry down a little between waterings. Ideally, you would water just before there is any drought-related stress. That point is often elusive, so it makes good sense to use soils that don't mete out severe punishment to you and your plants because you watered before it was necessary.

I often tell the story about what a bonsai master said in a workshop I was attending. One of the participants asked, "How often should I water my juniper, Mr. Oki?" To which he replied, "Wait until it become completely dry - then water day before."

He didn't smile, but I think his eye twinkled a little. Regardless, the advice is good. Let your plants dry down, but not so much it interferes with adequate water uptake, which would also interfere with adequate nutrient uptake, which = lost potential at a minimum.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Thank you sir, for your advice.

As much as possible I have been trying to follow your writings. I started to use mixed soil but I did not follow exactly what you have written but respect the principle. Because so many materials are not available to prepare the mixed soil I want. I keep trying to explore the places it is available, may be the next season I may get what I am looking for.
Regards,
Caelian


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

wrong thread. sry. ;-)

JoJo

This post was edited by jojosplants on Mon, Dec 17, 12 at 18:57


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Wisely and kindly spoken, Al. Thank you for you're studied knowledge and willingness to share it!

Dave


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 18, 12 at 16:08

.... and thank you Photobucket for the kind comments.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by rina_ 6a Ont (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 18, 12 at 19:41

ngrrsn

On Mon, Dec 3, 12 at 17:18 you said:

I really wanted some alder wood chips, but impossible to find, here.

I just want to point out that wood chips are not same as bark.
Maybe I am just misreading, but wanted to ask anyway...BTW, you mentioned you bought 2yds of that black bark - are you using it? Did you try to screen it?
Rina


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

Hi, rina. I know wood chips are different than bark, but I saw a nursery that was using these mixed with some alder saw dust. In about a year it turned to this incredible black, rich "soil". The guy as the nursery said it breaks down better and more nutritious for the soil and depletes less nitrogen in the process. The wood chips I was seeking are about the size of medium bark in nurseries. In retrospect, I am glad I didn't try that. Works great outdoors, not sure about containers!

The black bark is essentially composted evergreen tree bark. I say evergreen because it could be a mix of a number of different types here in the Pacific NW --- hemlock, fir, ceder, spruce, etc. I didn't screen it, it seemed plenty loose initially; small to medium size in comparison to bagged nursery store bark.

It would have been o.k. had I added the peat and perlite per the formulas given here. Screening would have left just the larger pieces, but that would be quite a chore for the volume I was using!

I repotted some of the plants using the 5:1:1 formula with my black bark and those are doing much, much, better. A gardening friend said "Think of it...bark is like big saw dust. If you pack it down it gets as hard as a board". That is essentially what happened when I used the black bark alone without the the perlite and moss. ;(


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by rina_ 6a Ont (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 18, 12 at 20:45

ngrrsn

The reason I asked is that I was thinking about the N depletion...

I would definitely compost them & doing so with the saw dust souds good to me...I have to try some! I would like to find source of saw dust - I read somewhere about using it to grow blueberries. (I am planning on growing some blueberries next year - in ground, maybe few in the container but the container ones in 511 or gritty).

Maybe the black bark would have been better if it was only partially composted?
It's not easy to find proper bark.
I got some that turned to be very fine (but it smells so nice...) I have to use it in beds outside.
(Hope you don't mind my questions - I am pretty curious!)

Rina


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

In my opinion, Alder wood is the very best for smoking fish, if you're into such a thing ;-)

Josh


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 18, 12 at 21:39

I'm going to link this thread to the new one. Just click on the link below for the continuation. I want to say that I SO appreciate all the comments, the kindness, and the friendly way information is being exchanged on these threads.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: Click me and I'll take you to the new thread!


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