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'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

Posted by BronxFigs Zone-7 (My Page) on
Tue, Mar 20, 12 at 14:42

Can a containerized fig tree be grown in just straight "Turface-MVP" together with controlled release fertilizers, and some macros and micros?

I was just wondering if this could be done?

Frank/BronxFigs


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

Hello!

Straight Turface will hold excess moisture and create a "perched water table" in the lower layers.
For this reason, it is good to mix the Turface with a non-porous grit (like granite or quartzite) to
balance the level of moisture retention. Several growers (including Al) have grown plants in Turface
and Granite. I typically add in the bark component for reduced weight, cost, and convenience.

For a vigorous, dynamic plant like a Fig, I use bark and perlite and turface as a medium, since I
know that I'll be re-potting regularly, and I want to keep the cost down.

Technically, I'm sure one could take steps to make Turface work by itself...but it would be tricky.


Josh


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

Josh...
My initial thoughts were that the Turface would hold too much moisture, but I must say, that I never thought it would create the dreaded PWT in the bottom of the container. I'm glad that I asked.

I guess that I'll just stick to the quick-draining, gritty mix.

Thanks fot he insight.

Frank


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

I grow in a turface/grit mix, in different ratios depending on the plant. Growing in ALL turface will lead to rot, because turface holds a lot more water then you'd think. It will literally stay wet for weeks, especially if you don't screen it. Basically, I just treat everything as gritty mix, in the way of screening and such, but just leave out the bark.

As for the controlled release fertilizer; skip it. You would be much better off using a full scale fertilizer, like Foliage Pro 9-3-6, which contains ALL the nutrients your plants need. A barkless gritty mix is lacking a buffer, so even watering once without fertilizer can hurt, so you MUST be faithful with your fertilizing. With a controlled release type, there is no sure way to tell when it will stop it's "controlled release", and when to reapply it. Also, you can't vary your dosage based in the season. You need more during the growing season, and less during dormancy. Nothing is more controlled then you.

Joe


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

Joe....
You saved me plenty of grief! I've been using the basic gritty mix, and also use the Foliage-Pro, and also Pro-Tekt. Why I thought straight Turface might work, I have no clue...but, I had to ask. I knew I'd get some technical answers.

Thanks for giving me some useful information. From now on, I will just use the basic gritty-mix.

Frank


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

Joe1980: What do you mean by the bark in the gritty mix serving as a buffer?


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

Because bark is an organic component, it does actually have some nutritional value, but in a VERY minute amount. Definately not enough to disregard the importance of YOU providing nutrients in the way of fertilizer though. But, if you watered once without fertilizer, it wouldn't be the end of the world. On the other hand, with literally NO bark, meaning 0% organic material, should you forget to add fertilizer when you water, your plants would have absolutely NO nutrients. Taking out the bark leaves you with a 100% inorganic mix, with NO nutrients at all.

As I said, I grow without the bark, and am having great success. I am, however, very vigilant about fertilizer, adding it to my water every time. I basically fill a 2g watering can, adding Foliage Pro 9-3-6 before I fill the can. How much I add depends on the season. The benefits of going barkless include your mix lasting forever. This is big, because when repotting, you don't have to go overboard trying to remove the old mix, because with bark, you have to replace it. Also, I personally find that without the hydrophobic bark, especially with plants that need to dry out, that watering is easier. Also, there is no bark to float to the top, and the mix ALWAYS looks neat and orderly. The biggest one though, is the shock people get when they see my plants growing in what looks like 100% coarse pebbles. Most people would never imagine that such a mix could grow anything, and that included me before I tried it.

Joe


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

  • Posted by newgen 9 Central California (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 29, 12 at 18:50

Joe,

So you're saying that I can grow my plants in only Turface and granite, provided I fertilize at each watering? I've been using Foliage Pro 9-3-6 on everything.

Can you summarize the roles of the gritty mix's ingredients?
Turface: to retain water?
Granite: ?
Bark: ?

Thanks,


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

  • Posted by DWD2 10a, Sunset 17 (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 29, 12 at 20:31

BronxFigs & newgen, There is an interesting thread about potting mixes on the Figs 4 Fun Forum that might have some useful info in it.
http://figs4funforum.websitetoolbox.com/post/Potting-mix-experiment-SemiGritty-and-Promix-combo-5732950

Good luck with your gardens!


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 29, 12 at 21:53

There really is no need for any organic component in your soils if you're supplying a full compliment of the nutrients plants normally get from the soil.

Turface supplies excellent water and nutrient retention, the grit supplies a way to adjust the water retention - there is an advantage in the need to water a little more frequently. The bark is really just filler & doesn't serve much purpose. It has ABOUT the same water/nutrient retention as the average between the grit & perlite. I include it because it's less expensive than either, but limit its presence in the soil to no more than 1/3 of the whole to insure against the possibility of structural collapse if the soil is pressed into service for an extended period.

Al


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

  • Posted by newgen 9 Central California (My Page) on
    Fri, Mar 30, 12 at 0:14

Thanks Al,

From what you know of Foliage Pro 9-3-6, do you think it's OK if I just grow my plants in Turface & grit, and fertilizing at every watering? During the growing months, I also use some foliar spray, and fish emulsion. I don't have anything in just Turface & grit, but am looking forward to testing out this medium. The water in my area is on the basic side, so do you recommend anything to lower the pH, or is that not a consideration?

Thanks!!


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

  • Posted by newgen 9 Central California (My Page) on
    Fri, Mar 30, 12 at 2:15

I just got this Muntingia calabura, previous owner said it's been in the same container for a few years. The leaves look pale, like they're nutrient deficient. I'd like to "revive" it by repotting to a larger container, and using the gritty mix. Do I need to wash away all the existing soil from the roots? Should I expect to lose a lot of the leaves due to transplant shock? Thanks!
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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

Newgen, yes, you can grow in turface/grit. Al explained why, so I'll skip that. As for the pH of water, I use 100% rain water, which is acidic, and has the benefit of not having chlorine, fluoride, and other chemicals found in water. Not to mention it's free. The day I switched to rain water was probably the most significant day in all of my plant growing years. I no longer get the brown leaf tip problem, and my plants seem to have gotten all around healthier since. If you're looking to stick with tap water, then vinegar can lower the pH, but I'm not sure how much to use per gallon, as I've never done it. I'm sure a search will give you the answer, because if I recall, it has been discussed.

As for your repotting, yes, you'll want to remove ALL of the old soil, because having 2 different types in the pot will cause problems. I like to use a bucket or tub of water, that has sat for a day to get to room temperature. Dip the rootball in the water and gently tease the soil out of the root ball. It may not be necessary to pot up though, especially if you need to prune roots. I'm not familiar with the growing season in California, but here in Wisconsin, it is WAY too early to be doing repotting projects. You may be better served to pamper the plant until summer, which is the best time to repot tropicals.

Also, you can skip the foliar spray, because a plant's roots are the best route for nutrients, and if you fertilize correctly, foliar spray doesn't do much good. Also, you'll need to be mindful of rain, because if you leave your gritty mixed plants out, you can have a washout problem.

Joe


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

And what, precisely, is the evidentiary basis for the proposition that containerized Turface, watered from above as the casual gardener would ordinarily water a fig plant, retains excess moisture? And if Turface "retains nutrients," why is frequent fertilization so necessary?


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 31, 12 at 12:19

Excess moisture means more moisture than what would be ideal. The statement by Josh is based on his practical experience and the science that promises Turface, especially unscreened Turface, will support a perched water table that varies in height according to particle size. Since this can be avoided by using a 2/3 fraction of larger particles (bark and grit), I agree that water retention is in excess of what I would consider ideal from the plant's perspective.

You conclude that frequent fertilizing is necessary. It may or not be. How often you should fertilize hinges largely on soil type, watering habits, and the concentration of the fertigation solution. When you purposely flush the soil at every watering to keep the TDS in the soil solution at a minimum, you're going to have to fertilize more frequently - regardless of any soil component's CEC.

Al


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

Here's the bottom line: you, and others, have spoken of having to water containerized plants twice a day during the summer. That may well be ideal for the plant, but it makes the mix of dubious value to the casual gardener. And I can now state for fact certain that water poured over Napa Floor Dry goes through it like loose through a goose. You have suggested that such materials may do a better job of absorbing water if left in contact with it longer. It is not immediately apparent how the person with a few plants sitting on the patio can put this into practice. Perhaps install a bunghole spigot at the base of the container, to let the mix soak for a while before releasing the water? With all respect, I don't think the "science is settled" here.

It wasn't me who concluded that frequent fertilizing is necessary. I inquired why it would be necessary, if Turface retains nutrients.


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

Whitecap, you seem upset.

Are you responding to what Joe wrote?
If so, he said that if you leave your containers out in the *rain,* then the nutrients could be
washed out prematurely. Maybe I missed a different post...?

Secondly, the idea of having to water twice a day has not arisen from Gritty Mix users.
Quite the opposite, in fact. I regularly explain that the Gritty Mix holds a lot more moisture
than most folks assume.


Josh


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 31, 12 at 16:03

My suggestion was probably to water slowly and make sure you cover the entire surface to expose all areas of the pot to moisture so it doesn't simply run vertically through the soil. If you have a 3 foot long planter, you can't water one end of it and expect the entire soil mass to enjoy your efforts - especially when using fast-draining soils.

If I have ANY containers I need to water trice per day, it's because I'm a bonsai practitioner and have many plants in very small soil volumes because that's what pleases me - esthetically. Not only does the gritty mix hold good amounts of water, it's adjustable by varying the ratio of Turface:grit. My lengthy practical experience with the gritty mix tells me that if someone has to water a plant in the gritty mix twice per day, the soil was probably made with particles too large.

Al



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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

I believe whitecap is skeptical, and has not tried growing in a gritty type mix. I think just about everyone is skeptical of any type of gritty mix, because it seems impossible and/or not practical. I was one of those people; I though for sure I'd have to water at least every day, and that using gritty mix would be a hassle. I gave it a shot, and I was pleasantly surprised. I can usually go about a week between waterings, sometimes more, sometimes less. I don't recall much talk about watering twice a day by any gritty mix users, but I do recall the skeptics, including myself, assuming that you'd have to, and asking that question a lot. I also recall the anti gritty mix people making that accusation.

As I've noted in other posts, I do find that water runs through gritty mix quite fast, leaving dry areas. My solution is the trusty turkey baster, where I reapply the water from the collection tray until I feel I've watered thoroughly. Otherwise, you would indeed be wasting a lot of water.

As for fertilizing, as you can imagine, in nature, plants have a constant supply, rather than a burst of nutrients, then none, then a burst, then none, which is what they get when you choose to fertilize every other week, or more. Applying a lower dose, at every watering, is better, at least in my opinion. So, if you fertilize while growing in gritty mix, then water without it, you can easily rinse away the nutrients, which is why you're best off fertilizing every watering. As I said above, letting your plants be rained on can also rinse away nutrients, unless of course you apply some after the rain.

I have to ask though, whitecap, have you tried growing in gritty mix of any type? As Josh said, you seem a bit riled up, and I wonder why?

Joe


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

Mad? Me? Of course not. I do wish I had come across the experiment of alan.oz confirming the depressingly low rates of water retention of these materials (Gritty Mix Water Retention--Sanity Check thread, 1-27-12) before I blew $30 on Napa Floor Dry and reptile bedding. I've yet to see an adequate rebuttal of his observations. To say that these materials will absorb more water if they're allowed to soak in it is hardly encouraging. Likewise the suggestion that particles less than 1/8" might give better results.

As for frequency of watering, I had in mind a comment Tapla made on the Maples Forum on 12-22-05: "I'll need to make the watering rounds daily, for some plants more frequently (in the middle of the summer)" (Potting Soil Mix, 11-23-05.) But let's cut to the chase: just how often do you "Gritty Mixers" have to water your mature container plants during the summer? (And please don't suppose I haven't sifted through the archives in quest of an answer.)

Perhaps "frustrated" would be a more apt characterization. I didn't come here to stir up a debate. I have plants to repot. The gurus on the Azalea Forum have instructed me that I need to get used to repotting every other year. I'm just trying to get a handle on the trade-offs involved in switching to different potting materials.


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

I think Al (Tapla) waters more because he works mostly with bonsai, meaning small pots. Obviously small pots means drying out faster. I'll let him chime in on that though. For me, I have some bonsai trees in the making, but not in the small pot stage. I water every 3 or 4 days in the dead of summer, but mind you, I live in Wisconsin, where you can count on one hand how many days hit 90 degrees or more per year. I have to say though, again, that my personal situation has shown a LOT of improvement since going from typical Miracle Grow, to gritty mix. My only complaint is that things grow TOO good, notably roots, which fill their pots quick, requiring annual repots.

Joe


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 31, 12 at 23:06

Did you not hear me explain in my post above that I have a LOT of bonsai plants in very small volumes of soil - thus the necessity for me to make daily rounds. You assumed that I'm watering everything daily, but such is not the case, though that wouldn't bother me at all. Honestly, if convenience is your most important consideration, you should be growing in something that maximizes water retention.

Most woody material, when it's young, is going to need repotting every year or every other year in conventional soils. You can get an extra year, maybe two, out of the gritty mix because it's durable, and drains so well you can grow in much larger soil volumes w/o concern about your plant being over-potted.

You have 3 experienced gritty mix users telling you you're making a mountain out of a mole hill ..... and you're ready to throw up your hands in defeat before you even get started. I think it's too bad you're so easily swayed, but hey - your choices are yours to make.

Al


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

  • Posted by newgen 9 Central California (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 1, 12 at 1:23

Let me ask you gritty users this simple question: I planted a bare root Shinseiki pear in a 20-gallon pot 6 weeks ago. I water it twice a week, each time holding the water nozzle over the pot and moving it around to make sure I have all areas sprayed. I do this for at least 2 minutes. As expected, lots of water runs out the bottom. When I scoop up the top 1" or so, the mix below that layer still appears darker color, meaning it is still damp. When should I water again? When the top 2" are dry? or 1" like I have been doing? I am a little worried about this pear plant. I also planted a bare root 21st Century pear, in conventional potting mix, and it has leafed out profusely, while the Shinseiki hasn't shown ANY growth at all. What am I doing wrong? Maybe the Shinseiki is a late developer? Should I pull it out of the pot to inspect?

Thanks,


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

You haven't answered my question. I'm hardly surprised, given the defensiveness on this issue, but I thought that Joe might be able to recall his "two-a-day" devotionals of last summer (Re: Balance Between Water Retention and Drainage for Container Mi., 8-29-11 at 18:25.) But even once a day in Wisconsin translates into twice daily in Central Texas. And watering with a turkey baster? For cryin' out loud.

This may be just the thing for piddling with bonsai, seedlings and the pot of peppers on the apartment balcony (assuming you can't find more productive applications of your time), but it looks like a certain formula for disaster for mature plants in Central Texas. And for the benefit of any fellow Texans who may wander through here, let me suggest a little experiment: fill a container with Napa Floor Dry, pour a copious amount of water over it, and observe what happens. Like I said, like loose through a goose.


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 1, 12 at 11:16

Newgen - I wouldn't pull it up. When you first transplant, you need to keep the soil moist in the part of the pot occupied by roots. If your root system goes deep into the pot, you're probably over-watering - especially if you didn't screen or are using ingredients finer than ideal. Just be patient - it will come around when it's ready. ;-)

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

I know of many friends & acquaintances in FL, TX, and SoCal growing in the gritty mix with excellent success. No one is defensive about the mix because no one really cares what you choose to grow in, but some of us are defensive when it comes to the idea there's a boogieman behind every tree waiting to sabotage your growing efforts. I've never tried to coax anyone to use a superior soil, and I'm not going to start now. If you don't think it's for you, then don't use it. It's pretty simple. No one OWES you an explanation or answers to questions framed in accusation. At this point it looks more like you're determined to fail so you can say "I told you so", and that's not an attitude that inspires the proclivity to piddle around trying to help.

Best luck to you.

Al


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

Whitecap, I had to search to find what you're talking about, and I did. A couple of things though; in the post I made that you brought up, if you read it, you can clearly see that I was talking about the 5-1-1 mix, and I was also growing peppers, which in the heat of the summer, were quite large. Peppers grow much faster then bonsai trees, tropical plants, succulents, or pretty much any type of container plant. Growing vegetables is a different beast then growing tropicals, and is not what we're talking about here. It seems a bit odd to me though that you're searching old threads to find something incriminating.

Anyway, as Al said, I really don't care what you choose to grow in. You really should try using it before throwing it under the bus though. Try it, and if it works out for you, great, if not, then you can come back and discuss why. All I know is that I was skeptical, but read other people's success stories and tried it out. It's working out great for me now, and that's all I need to convince me to keep using it. I also don't have a ton of plants, maybe a total of 15 in gritty mix, so I have no problem "piddling" around them. I also have become quite fond of them, as I've had them for quite some time now. I have no problem sitting down and watering them with a turkey baster, and I get the added benefit of being able to notice any problems while I do so.

I think rather than going back and forth, it comes down to this: If you have your heart set on NOT using gritty mix, then DON'T. But sitting here arguing against it, without having any experience, doesn't do you or anyone else any good.

Joe


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RE: 'Turface-MVP' as a growing medium

This is my third season using the gritty mix and comparing to other mixes. In my climate, about a mile from the coast in OC, CA, I have concluded that it is too difficult to keep the gritty mix moist/fertilized enough for heavy feeders outdoors on my deck -- rose, citrus, and mandevilla. In the intense sun and dry air here, the gritty mix dries out and doesn't easily rewet or hold enough moisture or nutrients for something like a rose bush that can grow 2 feet in one week.

On the other hand, the plants that don't require much water, suffer severely when overwatered, and don't use so much fertilizer have done spectacularly better in the gritty than in other mixes -- ficus (indoors), cactus, and succulents. I have some cool pink-spined cactus and some sort of blue escheveria (I think) that my husband pulled from the desert, that have grown unbelievably well in gritty mix -- better than they ever do in their native habitat. When transplanting, I found that the cactus's fine feeder roots were only at the VERY BOTTOM of the pot, the only place that was moist despite frequent watering (daily in spring/summer/fall, every 3 days in winter). This was in a mix of screened turface and bark (no granite).

This year, I plan to plant rosemary, thyme, and maybe California poppy seeds in gritty mix -- all plants that thrive in dry, poor soil and hot sun in my climate.

For roses, I have compared 2 grown in gritty mix with 2 grown in other mixes, side by side, as well as my 7 or so years' previous experience with other mixes. I wanted to switch to gritty, hoping that I could go several years before needing to repot. However, it is undeniable that in the gritty mix, I have gotten a fraction of the blooms, around 1/4 of the number I get with other mixes. Last summer, as I experimented, I found the roses did better the more I fertigated, up to 2X per day with 1T/gal of fertilizer. In the hot sun and dry air, the gritty mix dries out and doesn't easily rewet/retain moisture. Also, from my research it seems that FP 9-3-6 is not ideal for roses. I got more blooms adding some superbloom formula to make a more balanced ratio. But still, roses in other mix far outbloomed roses in gritty no matter what I did.

I probably won't be able to repot any roses this year, so I plan to try a CRF in conjunction with frequent watering with my drip irrigation system, in hopes of getting more blooms than last year.

I have a similar problem with my lime tree, which has had nutrient deficiencies despite daily fertigation with a lot of FP. It had suffered loss of leaves in its growers pot before repotting into gritty, but 9 months later it has the same number of leaves as before (few) and continues to be deficient in nitrogen. As with the rose, I plan to add a CRF and frequent drip irrigation watering and hope that will help.

A mandevilla, another extremely vigorous grower/heavy feeder in our climate, began to decline after 1 week transplant into gritty mix, continued to decline, and looks absolutely horrible now. It was gorgeous, lush, blooming and growing vigorously when I transplanted it. There was absolutely no doubt that it hated the transition to gritty, and has never recovered.

So to answer the OP, I think I could grow a containerized fig in just turface, outdoors in MY climate of intense hot sun and low humidity. But if using CRF, I'd use very little, because my ficus thrives on a tiny bit of FP and gets leaf burn easily with too much fertilizer. However, given my experience with ficus, I'd use pumice, perlite, and bark along with the turface, even for someone like me who hates to water frequently.

Comparing my experience with others who post here, I have concluded that climate makes a HUGE difference in how plants are going to perform in any mix. You cannot assume that a mix successful in your climate is going to work well in a different climate.


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