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New Gritty Mix User Questions

Posted by mizbrendab 8 (My Page) on
Sat, Mar 3, 12 at 17:22

Hello plant lovers,

This is my first post. I spent the last week reading voraciously about soil and water and nutrients and roots. . . After years of watching my beloved plants wither in the winter and early spring, I feel I have a new understanding of what's going on in those pots. And I have a new respect for them all for making in from one year to the next in the unfavorable conditions I have created for them.

I spent the last two days buying: Repti-Bark, Granite Grit, Turface MVP, and Foliage Pro 9+3+6. Last night, I sifted the Turface and granite. I feel ready to mix a batch, but I have a few clarifications I'd like to feel good about first.

1) I had quite a lot of fine Turface left after sifting, but only a few cups of granite fines and dust (out of a 50 lb. bag), so I'm worried that the granite might be too big. (I will try to learn how to post pics of my materials so folks can comment on what they can actually see.)

2) I have read about sifting and rinsing and I wonder if I need to do both. I have sifted, but rinsing seems like a bigger chore. When I water well, am I not essentially rinsing? (or maybe the fine dust just gets trapped?) If I do need to rinse, is it important to dry the granite and Turface before storing it in plastic containers?

3) The bark is definitely bigger than the other materials, so I just want to verify that it will work. It's also expensive Repti-Bark from a pet store, so if anyone in the Seattle area knows of a better bark source, I'd love to hear of it.

4) What concerns do I need to have with tap water? Should I let it sit to let the chlorine out? Do I need to test the ph and possibly add vinegar? I plan to fertilize weakly with Foliage Pro 9-3-6, so I haven't added anything else for micronutrients to the mix.

5) Does anyone have suggestions for using the leftover Turface fines? I don't have a garden, only containers. Can you plant in Turface only? What plants would like that? Could you use the fines or only the larger pieces for that?

6) Lastly, I am wondering if I should really repot anything right now because it sounds like it's not the best time to bare root them. I have a huge variety of plants, indoor and outdoor containers, small and large, tropical, evergreen, palms, etc. I am thinking maybe I should just start with a few that seem on the verge of death (but then they might die anyway and I won't know if it was something I did wrong with the new mix or a result of strain that was irreversible. . .).

Okay, 'nuf for now. I will leave those questions with you all and work on getting some pics up.

Brenda


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

Here goes my attempt at pictures:

These are my materials. The bark on the bottom is the Repti-Bark which I plant to use. The top bark is orchid bark which I decided wasn't as good. Maybe I will screen it and try to use it up a little at a time. . .

These are the sifting leftovers:


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Why do I have to change the subject line?

Okay, that didn't work. . . trying again.
(Does anyone know how to delete a post?)

These are my materials. The bark on the bottom is the Repti-Bark which I plant to use. The top bark is orchid bark which I decided wasn't as good. Maybe I will screen it and try to use it up a little at a time. . .

These are the sifting leftovers:


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

And another question!

I mixed up a batch, put it in a pot, set it in water to soak (I had not wetted the bark before), and after 15 minutes pulled it out to drain. After all the water ran out, I tipped it like Al has described and more water drained out. Does that mean there is perched water? If so, does that mean I have too many small pieces?


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

The bark needs to be screened, as well.
Bark particles for Fir should be between 1/8 and 1/4 inch. After screening the Repti Bark,
you probably won't have much in the optimal size-range.

I've never seen such poor quality Orchid bark, either.


Josh


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Mar 4, 12 at 14:45

Welcome to the forum, Brenda! I'm excited for your plants and can't wait to see how you do with the new soil! ;-)

1) What are you using for granite? What did it say on the bag that might better give us an idea of it's size?

2) Rinsing isn't required (I don't), but it does help to remove dust. No need to allow anything you rinsed to dry before storing - just don't put a lid on it until everything is dry. Composting bark in the absence of O2 creates a lot of acidity.

3) You should be able to find bark (cheap) where you live. Call the mill at Shasta Forest Products (530) 842-2787 or email them [ info@shastabark.com ] to see who distributes the product near you. I'm guessing you should be able to get fir bark in 1/8-1/4 for under $15/3 cu ft.

4) Only in water purification systems that are throwbacks to the 50s & 60s will you find a volatile form of chlorination. This is because of it's short half life. Newer forms of chlorination use chloramine, which doesn't gas off like the previously used compounds of chlorine. The fluoridation process (of drinking water) has always used a compound that is nonvolatile, so it too, remains in any water left out to rest for any length of time.

In fact, since some evaporation will occur while water is resting (especially if it is in a container that has a lot of air exposure at its opening - like a pan or bucket) the level of chlorine, fluorine, and other solutes becomes more concentrated as water rests and a fraction of its volume evaporates, leaving the solutes behind.

Don't worry about pH. Trying to maintain a 'certain pH' is an exercise in futility. If a hobby grower tells you (s)he maintains a certain pH for certain plants, be extremely skeptical. It takes regular and very frequent testing and adjusting with a variety of chemicals that depend on regular soil analyses. If you're using FP and your pH is close, your plants will have access to everything they need.

Your other concern with tap water would be an accumulation of dissolved solids therein contained, but your use of the gritty mix should render that issue moot, so long as you take advantage of being able to water copiously when You DO water.

5) I use Turface fines in hypertufa projects, raised beds, for plants in VERY small containers,
Photobucket
and I recently started mixing it into the 5:1:1 mix in small volumes when I think I might need some extra water retention.

6) Where do you live, and what (specifically) are you wanting to repot?

Is the woody material @ 12:00 in the picture above redwood/redwood bark?

Al


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

Thanks for responding.

The granite came from a feed store and was sold as grey granite poultry grit, size #3. The packaging says it is from Canada, a company called IMASCO.

Thanks for the lead on bark; I will look into it tomorrow. I used the Repti-bark because I had read and written in my notes that it could be used right out of the bag. I had also noted that if bark is slightly larger, it's not a big deal in the way that a small amount of perlite won't change the drainage of pudding (that was your example, I think). Do I understand this correctly?

The water info detail is great! More myths I'm working under! The action principle I'm taking away: use tap water fresh with FP and water very well so as to avoid accumulation of dissolved solids. On that pH note, I have written down watching for yellowing leaves that could be Fe deficiency due to pH, then add vinegar to clear it up. Is that something I should do, or am I guessing without enough knowledge of the reason for the yellowing?

Nice acorn pot! If I use the fines for that kind of mini project, how big does the container have to be before I worry about a PWT because of particles that size?

I live in Seattle, WA. I have a variety of succulents and cacti that I think will thrive in this mix. I have two very large ficus: a rubber tree and a fiddle leaf fig. A very sick ponytail palm. And gangly jade. A large schefflera which has been dropping leaves. A tall dracaena with yellowing leaves. A plant I only know as oak ivy. There are more, but there's a start of the indoor plants. . . Honestly, I love the idea of having all the houseplants in the gritty, but I also want to wait until a more advantageous time to do it. But for the plants losing leaves, I'm wondering if it's better to help them now because waiting a few more months will strain them too much.

The orchid bark at the top is fir bark from Whitney Farms. I had not intended it for this project, but found it when unpacking my gardening supplies and thought I would put it on here for comment.

Another question: what specifications are recommended for the sphagnum moss in the 5-1-1 mix? I've been seeing long fiber. Is that correct?

Lastly, I found the following in an older post: "If any of you guys are going to use the gritty mix, I would add a tbsp of gypsum per gallon of soil (when you make it) for extra Ca and add 1/4 tsp Epsom salts to each gallon of fertilizer solution - even if you use the FP fertilizer." This seems contradictory to other things I've noted.

Thanks again.
Brenda


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Mar 4, 12 at 22:42

I'm unfamiliar with how they grade that particular brand of granite for size, but the cherrystone I use is graded #2, so it's possible it's a bit large. About 1/8" is ideal for the granite.

If 1 of the ingredients is larger than the other two, the soil will retain the drainage/aeration characteristics of the two smaller ingredients, but if 2 of the ingredients are larger, the soil will retain the characteristics of the two larger ingredients. So, if your granite and bark are larger than ideal, it means you'll be watering more than if the components were closer to the ideal size.

I don't think you'll have any pH of deficiency issues, so let's cross that bridge if we come to it. ;-)

You can use the Turface fines in small pots if you use a wick and you watch your watering. You want a large plant for the volume of soil so it uses water quickly. You can also double-pot until the plant is well rooted, then remove it from the larger pot.

Yous succulents & cacti will LOVE the gritty mix - even if you want to grow them in very shallow pots. All of your woody material will love it, too. It really makes things very easy - almost foolproof for you.

I can't tell you when to repot. On one hand, it makes no sense to wait if you think the plants are circling the drain. On the other hand, if you think they'll be ok til Father's Day, I'd wait. I realize there's a BIG gray area there, and all I can tell you is 'use your best judgment'.

Use sphagnum peat. It's the decomposing fine stuff that comes in bales by the cu ft and has pieces of sticks & stuff in it - not sphagnum moss, which is the whole, undecomposed material from the top of the bog.

Disregard the older post. It's from when I was transitioning over to the 9-3-6 and wasn't yet sure if you could eliminate the gypsum & Epsom salts.

Al


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Picture of current mix

Here's my current mix:


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having so much fun

I was rambling to a good friend about all the things I've been learning here. He said he hasn't seen me so excited for a while and that my energy is contagious. That's was a happy geek I am.


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I meant

. . . WHAT a happy geek. . .


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Mar 4, 12 at 23:00

I try to make it a point to tell people that are obviously excited about learning something new or have new hope because they discovered how to correct something that was giving them fits w/o them even knowing it, that their enthusiasm feeds us all. It's true. Who among us wouldn't much rather get involved with someone who wants to climb than try to push someone up a ladder. People who are dedicated to or passionate about what they are doing are just soo much more fun to be around.

Al


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

Hey, Brenda, Al will get you hooked in no time ;-)

It used to be said that Repti-Bark could be used straight out of the bag,
but that proved not to be the case as more and more folks found the particles too large.
Unfortunately, there is no editing at this website, and so those older posts still stand.


Josh


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Mar 5, 12 at 7:56

I don't use Repti-Bark, but what I get from the many conversations I've listened in on is that it comes in two sizes, one of which is more appropriate for the gritty mix than the other. I think Jodi has addressed that issue, so maybe she'll stop by and offer her input.

Al


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

Hey! Welcome, Brenda!

After some complaints about differing sizes of bark within the Repti-Bark realm, I did a bit of checking... and it seems that the small and medium sized bags carry the finer stuff, which is what I use... while the large bags are filled with larger pieces.

I can only figure that reptile owners must need larger and more for larger reptiles... even though it states nowhere on the bags that there is a size difference, and I think I read that the company said it's all the same... but it doesn't appear that way from our view.

This year, my plan is to go to Oak Hill Gardens orchid growers and obtain their bark, which I've been told comes in a nice grade for our uses.

But I see that Al has hooked you up nicely with options, so I think you'll be fine.

So, the moral of the story is... if you must use Repti-Bark, buy the small bags. That's how I've been dealing with the issue.

But I did also want to say... isn't it exciting to learn new concepts, to learn exactly what's happening under the soil surface, and get a better "look" into why we do the things we do?!

Once I found Al's articles, I knew I had just struck gold! The concepts are so logical and sound... and it all makes sense to me now! For decades, I had been going along with the general industry, not even thinking in a more scientific way... and it's all so basic and easy the way Al has written it! He's done all the work for us, generous being that he is! :-)

I expect there will be a slight adjustment period, when you first begin using the grittier mixes... but we're all here to help. I had a little adjusting to make, myself, not being used to anything other than bagged, peat-based silt... but it all came together.

Welcome, Brenda... and many fine years of "new" gardening to you! :-)


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

Brenda

I also bought bag of larger, #3 (Canadian) grit, labeled "HEN size 1/4", so larger than recommended for the mix. But I knew when buying it & I am using it on top of soil for "decoration" (I tried to sift it hoping for some smaller particles, but got negligent amount). There is also another size labeled "CHICK size 1/16 to 3/32" - it is too small: after sifting I did get some 1/4" out of it, maybe 1/7th of the volume at best (I bought that since they did not have #2 at the moment & needed smaller amount for now-not worth it for large amounts). So I have lots of small particles left over that I'll use in the raised beds eventually...Rina


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

The place I bought the granite also sold #2, so I will return for that. When I looked at it, I thought it seemed small and that there would be a lot of waste, but I guess that is the learning process.

I have put a few plants in my mix and they seem fine so far. I am having to water every day or two. I'm assuming the water retention is low because of the large sizes. I will try adding extra Turface to experiment with it a bit. I have been putting wicks in each pot to help me with the watering while I am getting the hang of things and that has been really helpful in knowing how quickly things are drying out.

I had read the comments about Repti-Bark varying in size, but when I bought mine, I could not see a difference between the three bag sizes available.

I called Shasta Forest Products. They told me that they do not ship any product farther north than Medford, OR, so I wouldn't be able to find it here. They gave me a lead to a place called Beaver Bark in WA, but they are four hours away and only sell by the yard.

I also found a place just south of Seattle called Burien Bark. I will have to go there to see their product. It looks very fine to me from the pictures. I'll include a link to their page for comments.

Here is a link that might be useful: Burien Bark


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

Hmm... I would say definitely stay away from anything cedar. Cedar is toxic to pets, and can cause liver and kidney failure, among other issues. It looks too big for our purposes, anyway...

I don't like the red fine, either... too fine, I think.

I'm undecided... I can't really tell if the dark fine is pieces, or if it's that composted... if it's too far composted, I don't think it will cut it.

Al, what do you think? Josh, Mike, anyone else? What is your opinion?


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 8, 12 at 14:48

I didn't see anything that looked too exciting. The medium bark is about the closest pictured, but looks like it'll need screening. I'd also bypass the cedar chips/bark/mulch.

Al


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

is this pretty close to the gritty mix?

http://www.amazon.com/Multi-Purpose-50-Mix-Imperial/dp/B004HMCR2G/ref=pd_sim_sbs_lg_2

Product Description
Multi-Purpose 50/50 Bonsai Soil Mix is made with Small Aged New Zealand Monterey Pine Bark, Turface MVP and Small Granite Chips. This fresh made small batch Bonsai mix is an excellent multi-purpose blend of ingredients designed for great drainage, excellent oxygen circulation, stable PH and nice durability. Half organic and half inorganic, each of the elements play a unique role in making this mix extraordinary. The pine is an aged pinus radiata imported from New Zealand. The granite comes from America and is also known as poultry grit which naturally contains silica known for helping in strong root development. Turface MVP is a calcinated clay medium which is fired at 1200 degrees which expands the clay to form tiny air pockets. This means it can hold moisture and oxygen but doesn't become saturated. The result of bringing these unique mediums together is a terrific all-purpose Bonsai mix that lasts, that promotes great drainage and aeration, that looks as good as it works and that won't compact.


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 8, 12 at 19:30

It sounds like it's close.

Al


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

My source for granite at #2 size fell through. They only have limestone at that size which I believe would be a pH problem. So now I"m on the prowl again. Is perlite an option as a substitute for granite?

I have a new lead on bark and will check it out tomorrow. Fine orchid bark (fir) from Steubers in Snohomish. Any NWers out there know about it?


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Mar 9, 12 at 7:56

You can substitute screened coarse perlite for the granite if you like. ;-)

Al


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

Today I went hiking several hours north of Seattle. On my way home, I spotted a feed store and stopped in. They had Cherrystone Grit made from 100% crushed quartsite rock in growers size #2!! I was excited and bought a bag, but I want to double check that this will work. I believe I have read that others use "cherrystone." Farther down the package it lists hazardous materials as quartz silica and aluminum oxide. Maybe this is my source?!


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Mar 9, 12 at 20:40

It is - that's exactly what I use in the gritty mix. Great score! ;-)

Al


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

Hi Al,

I know this is an old page, but I was also under the assumption that I would need to add gypsum to my gritty mix and epsom salts when watering. Is that incorrect? If I use Foliage Pro to fertilize does that mean I can skip the gypsum and epsom salts? I'm working on my first batch of gritty and have written a lot of information from other posts, so I guess it didn't occur to me I wrote down anything outdated.

Thank you.


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

No gypsum or epsom salts needed with Foliage Pro.


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

I haven't been able to find a local source for gypsum. I use foliage pro when the plants are inside, but I like to use Osmocote when they go out for the summer. Do I need the gypsum with the Osmocote?

I have some azomite that Cricket Hill recommended for use with tree peonies. Would this be of any benefit?


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

An overly simplified explanation would be that gypsum supplies calcium and sulfur. If your fertilizer already supplies those, you don't need the gypsum.


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

Thank you, oxboy!


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RE: New Gritty Mix User Questions

Yes, good answer.
Osmocote is quite good as a general fertilizer. I like the 19-6-12 formula, which is very close to the 3:1:2 ratio. The only thing to remember is that the Osmocote won't last as long in the mix, given the thorough way that we water the Gritty (or 5-1-1) mix. I expect my 4-month formula to be exhausted, or nearly so, in three month's time.

Josh


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