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Al's 5:1:1 or something else

Posted by rakin 7b (My Page) on
Thu, Feb 20, 14 at 20:46

Okay, This is my second question concerning container tomato and cucumber plants. I now need advice on potting medium. I am seeing a lot of you like the 5:1:1 mix, so I am very interested in this. However, I am very new to container plants and completely new to veggies. My questions are

1) How does a plant receive nutrients from this mix? Are you all using supplements for all the needs of the veggies?

2) I have some worm castings and Black Kow left over from my raised beds, can I use this in combination with the 5:1:1, and if so would this change any requirements? Or is this a bad idea? Perhaps just as top dressing?

3) I currently have the following items on hand: worm castings, Black Kow, pine bark fines, perlite, peat moss, epsoma's blood meal, lime, tomato tone, pea gravel, and osmocote. I'm open to purchasing any other items needed, but using just what I have, please give me your best combinations for container tomatoes and cucumbers.

I'm open to any and all suggestions. I'm just in the early learning phase for containers and want to get the best possible combination.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Al's 5:1:1 or something else

It's really worth reading the Container Soils - Water Movement and Retention thread if you want to know the answers to your questions. First, it is very hard to meet the nutrient needs of a plant in a container with just the soil components, so many of us rely on chemical fertilizers instead of organic components. Also most additions like compost, worm castings and manure interfere with drainage in a container, making it harder for the roots to get air. Additions like blood meal and bone meal need soil microorganisms to break them down to a useable form, and it can take a long time and exactly the right conditions to keep those microorganism alive in a container.

You have what you need to make the 5-1-1 mix many of us like. It is 5 parts pine bark fines, 1 part sphagnum peat moss and 1 part perlite plus 1 tablespoon of dolomitic lime per gallon of mix. I like to add 1 tablespoon of Osmocote 15-9-12 with micronutrients to each gallon as well. And I like using Tomatotone during the season.

Here is a link that might be useful: Container Soils -- Water Movement and Retention


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RE: Al's 5:1:1 or something else

I agree with Ohiofem.
5-1-1 is not for the organic growing. It is a "soil less" medium of different sort than things like MG or Promix. Since the components are ALMOST bare (as far as nutrients are concerned) and there is no micro herds in them, one has to use synthesized fertilizer and trace elements and has to control the pH by adding lime. Adding things like worms casting, compost will be defeating the purpose of 5-1-1.

I have been just studying it so far and have never used it before. But I think it offers a better alternative to the commercially bagged potting soils AND it is less costly as well, if you are willing to get your hands dirty and mix your own.


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RE: Al's 5:1:1 or something else

Ohiofem, I'm confused. Above you seem to be advising against using compost in a bark-based mix, but a few hours ago you said you use compost in place of peat in the mix you plant your own lush tomatoes in. Am I missing something?

Rakin, I recommend reading the link Ohiofem provided, as well as the Fertilizer thread. Let those concepts guide your mix, but not dictate it. Experiment with your own mixes, find what works best for different purposes. There's a lot of variables to take into account, and one single mix won't work equally well for all plants in all situations.


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RE: Al's 5:1:1 or something else

OJ: I do substitute compost for some or all of the peat when using the mix in fabric Smart Pots that are on bare ground. The earth acts like a giant wick so the pot is more like a mini raised bed, and there is no perched water table. The roots actually grow through the bottom of the pot into the ground. When making 5-1-1 for regular containers, I don't use compost.


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RE: Al's 5:1:1 or something else

Thanks Ohiofern, seysonn. I read the posts last night. It was very educational. One thing that I am still confused about is if the 5:1:1 will work in a self watering container. Correct me if I am wrong, but it sounds like this mix is not the best for swc. That's ok. I don't mind watering frequently if I get the best outcome. Just trying to be clear.

OffbeatJenn, I will probably be experimenting for years. But that's half the fun!


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RE: Al's 5:1:1 or something else

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

"How does a plant receive nutrients from this mix? Are you all using supplements for all the needs of the veggies?" It receives them in exactly the same way plants in any other mix or growing in the earth receive them - they absorb them in the form of salts. In this case, it works best if the grower assumes responsibility for providing for the plants nutritional needs while remaining focused on the soil's structure. It's very difficult to come up with a soil that's structurally appropriate and will still provide well for the plant's nutritional needs. The soil particles would have to break down very quickly to provide the needed nutrition, and still there is no guarantee the variety of nutrients or the ratio of nutrients would be appropriate; additionally, rapid breakdown of soil particles is just another way of describing the soil's structural collapse .... and that's a very important consideration.

I have some worm castings and Black Kow left over from my raised beds, can I use this in combination with the 5:1:1, and if so would this change any requirements? Or is this a bad idea? Perhaps just as top dressing? There aren't any hard/fast rules, but why add worm castings and sand with a little manure in it (the black kow)? Both have the potential to clog up a lot of soil porosity, and don't add anything in the way of nutrition you can't provide more efficiently with a synthetic soluble fertilizer. If a little X is good, it doesn't necessarily follow that a little more X is better. Look for the easiest way to provide ALL nutrients so they are always available at a favorable concentration and in the right ratio. You can easily achieve that end with an appropriate fertilizer, but you can't achieve it by adding a little of this and that because it has something potentially good in it. In order for a nutrient to realize it's potential, it has to be needed and used by the plant, and not duplicated from multiple nutrition sources or in the soil in excess. Whatever you add to your soil (chemically speaking) that is superfluous, has only the potential to limit.

I currently have the following items on hand: worm castings, Black Kow, pine bark fines, perlite, peat moss, epsoma's blood meal, lime, tomato tone, pea gravel, and osmocote. I'm open to purchasing any other items needed, but using just what I have, please give me your best combinations for container tomatoes and cucumbers. If the pine bark fines are appropriate in size, I would just start with the 5:1:1 basic recipe (or see Robin's comments) and use Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 + Pro-TeKt 0-0-3 for the tomatoes.

Al


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RE: Al's 5:1:1 or something else

RE: "Let those concepts guide your mix, but not dictate it."

This may be true, but I HIGHLY recommend your first batch ever of 5-1-1 consist of the vanilla cookie-cutter ingredients so you get a basic idea of how the ingredients come together, how the (trans)planting works, watering, feeding, etc. Follow the instructions and proportions to the letter. This way you get a feel for the basic principles before you start playing mad scientist. People occasionally come on here bad mouthing 5-1-1 after failed attempts -- and it turns out they never constructed a true 5-1-1 in the first place.

People want to get fancy and creative right off the bat when all along the basic 5-1-1 will likely serve in 90% of climates and situations. That's one of the beauties and core tenets of the mix.


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RE: Al's 5:1:1 or something else

I agree with Oxboy. The first year I used 5-1-1 strictly by the book. I still use that recipe for all my hanging baskets with flowering annuals, many of my container vegetables and several houseplants. I modified the 5-1-1 for the vegetables in large Smart Pots after two years of sticking pretty close to the original mix. I honestly don't see a huge difference between the original 5-1-1 and the modified version except a little more water retention in the mix with DE and compost. It is still primarily (70%+) pine bark fines.

One thing that I am still confused about is if the 5:1:1 will work in a self watering container.

The 5-1-1 is not recommended for self watering containers because they need a mix that will wick water into the container. Raybo, the inventor of the EarthTainer, recommends a mix of 3 parts peat, 2 parts pine bark fines and 1 part perlite for SWCs.


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RE: Al's 5:1:1 or something else

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Feb 21, 14 at 17:44

You too, guys? ;-) I was going to make a comment about that issue as well. The 5:1:1 mix and gritty mix basic recipes are generally much more versatile than they get credit for. One of the reasons people run into problems is because they rely on a recipe instead of an understanding of how the concept can be implemented. then they blame the recipe w/o even understanding that blaming the recipe is pretty ample proof they don't yet understand the concept; and that's because the soils are very adjustable for water retention. I realize that gaining a working knowledge of the concept overnight is a tall order in some cases, because some people don't quite fully understand how everything connects at first, which is a pretty good reason not to start thinking you need to add peat/sand/compost .... to the gritty mix right off because you're 'sure' you're going to need more water retention.

The basic recipes, made correctly are very good places to start. I have friends in FL, TX, and SoCal, all over the US, using the gritty mix in something pretty close to the original recipe, with maybe a change or two because of locally unavailable ingredients or to tweak water retention.

Also, and the point I really wanted to make is, once you get a feel for what your soil needs to offer YOU individually in terms of water retention, you shouldn't need to change your soil hardly at all to accommodate different plants. I grow trees in the same soil I grow succulents in the same soil I grow houseplants in the same soil I grow cacti; and, all of my mixed plantings and veggies go in the same 5:1:1 mix every year. I make only 2 soils, one for long term plantings and one for plantings whose life will be limited to one year, for an incredible variety of plant material.

Al


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RE: Al's 5:1:1 or something else

Thank you Al for answering me personally. I believe I will take everyone's advice here and use the original mix. After reading all of the information, it sounds like the best place to start, and hopefully I will not need to make any changes. It's so nice to have some well thought out and scientific thought behind the strategy.
I think that I will just do away with the swc and just water myself as needed.
And thanks for the specific suggestion on fertilizer for the tomatoes. That is one less thing for me to think about. Should I fertilize more frequently than the package recommends or just stick with the 10-14 day schedule?


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RE: Al's 5:1:1 or something else

I would never grow tomatoes the way these guys suggest. Everybody is different. I talked to a commercial tomato greenhouse owner and do it her way. The tomatoes were very impressive. She uses 1/2 peat 1/2 compost, trace minerals and calcium nitrate for fertilizer. The only problem with this method is it is easy for the mix to get too wet if it rains a lot. The more compost, the easier it is for rot to occur. So I added perlite or pumice to the mix. Results are fantastic. I also use beneficial fungi and bacteria via MycoGrow and Biota Max. I add dry molasses to feed bacteria. I foliage spray a couple times with Epsom salts, use powdered kelp as a foliage spray too, or just water with it. Azomite or green sand can be added too. Also throw a little worm castings in there too.
Here is an example of some tomatoes grown this way.


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RE: Al's 5:1:1 or something else

One of the problems with this method is tomatoes often grow well over 6 feet high and you need a good support system. You have to try and keep the PH around 6.5. I use mushroom compost because it is basic.Also my tap water is very basic, lime can always be used too. This is a completely different approach. The 5-1-1 is a soilless dead mix. None or little bacteria. Almost hydroponic In this living method fungi attach to the roots and supply nutrients to the plant, so root aeration and such is not as important. No perlite or pumice is needed if grown in a greenhouse where you can control moisture. I cannot, so use it.
Soil biology also helps create structure for the roots.
It's probably possible to skip the Calcium nitrate and go completely organic by adding organic fertilizer like Tomato-tone. I eventually will try this.I like organic because the nutrients stay in the soil. When using soluble much of it runs out the bottom. Even though NPK numbers are smaller, you get a lot more bang for your buck with organics.

This post was edited by Drew51 on Sat, Feb 22, 14 at 13:01


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RE: Al's 5:1:1 or something else

Drew those tomatoes are AWESOME!!


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RE: Al's 5:1:1 or something else

I've never grown a tomato that didn't grow at least 6-feet high....

Drew, do you have pictures of the tomato plants that you personally have grown with the method above?

Josh


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RE: Al's 5:1:1 or something else

"I believe I will take everyone's advice here and use the original mix."

That's a smart decision. I grew a few tomatoes in pots filled with Al's 5-1-1 mix last year, and I was very pleased with the harvest. A simple fertilization strategy that Al and others here advocate has worked well for me -- premix 1 tablespoon of controlled release fertilizer (Dynamite All Pro Select, etc.) per gallon of potting mix and then apply a weak dose of Foliage Pro + Pro-TeKt at every watering (1/4 strength or so). Since I typically water every couple of days or so, that adds up to about 1 tsp of Foliage Pro per week.


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RE: Al's 5:1:1 or something else

This is why i use beneficial fungi, mycogrow has the proper species for all vegetables.


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RE: Al's 5:1:1 or something else

"I've never grown a tomato that didn't grow at least 6-feet high...."

No kidding. That's not all that remarkable.

"Drew, do you have pictures of the tomato plants that you personally have grown with the method above?"

I'm a bit puzzled by Drew's suggestion that he's already grown a tomato crop using the method that he mentioned. I got the impression from the thread that he started in December (linked below) that it was a recent discovery for him. Am I misunderstanding something, Drew?

Here is a link that might be useful: Tomatoes in 4 gallon pots


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RE: Al's 5:1:1 or something else

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Feb 22, 14 at 14:51

There was a guy last year that promised that if you followed this one particular method ....... well, here's the direct quote: "If you follow her system, your tomato plants will become so big that you must support them with 7 foot tall concrete reinforcing wire cages. The 'method' actually would have been problematic if someone tried it as a form of conventional container culture because of all the fine material the soil was made of, but since the method included partially burying the containers, it was actually a method that utilized the containers as small raised beds. Drew's pictures of someone else's tomato plants are attractive, but we don't really know how they were grown. A couple of questions about the plants were posed that related to validity in the linking of photos to methods on the thread Shazaam linked to upthread, too, but so far no answer.

Al


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RE: Al's 5:1:1 or something else

"If you follow her system, your tomato plants will become so big that you must support them with 7 foot tall concrete reinforcing wire cages".
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^6
That is pointless.
Why would one grow tomato for its size, foliage ?
I grow them for their fruits an systematically prune them, stop fertilizing or cut back at some point. Of, course I am talking about growing in ground now, not in container.


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