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Peat-Based Container Mixes

Posted by tomat0 10a (My Page) on
Fri, Apr 13, 12 at 21:48

So, my previous posts were unable to be posted. :/

For anyone who uses custom/bagged peat-based mixes, what is your mix and your experiences?
Using organic fertilizers vs synthetic, and dolomotic lime pretty much a standard in any mix to adjust pH, any of those practices as well.

50/50 perlite, 33/33/33 vermiculite, 5-1-1 mix, etc.
Just curious to what everyone is using and their results. :)


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Peat-Based Container Mixes

The only peat I have used in several years has been in my seed starting mixes, and I am moving away from that use also. The way it reacts to water or lack of water is my problem with it. It is either too wet or crusted on top, as it shrinks when water is withheld. If allowed to get a little too dry, it resists accepting water. I am now switching to bark based mixes even for seed starting. Al


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RE: Peat-Based Container Mixes

Bark and peat both become hydrophobic when dried to a certain extent.
Are you using fine bark for seedlings?

Tapla, you had a good post on a different thread of mine. Where are you? :(


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RE: Peat-Based Container Mixes

I tried using bark fines, or screenings with my regular peat/vermiculite mix, but it did not add any advantage. The bark based mix I am using, contains regular sized bark with course sand and volcanic rock, but no peat or vermiculite. It still has a small amount of shrinkage and an even smaller tendency to become hydrophobic if allowed to become too dry. Al


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RE: Peat-Based Container Mixes

I was hoping for more responses. :(

I'd like to try the 5-1-1 mix for more "durability" than an all peat/perlite mix if it does hold up of course. It does sound like it will.
Fortunately, I have a source of 3/8" mini bark that's relatively inexpensive.

Tapla!! Could you provide some clarification?


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RE: Peat-Based Container Mixes

I use 50% last years mix (basically compost) and 50% leaves.
Wood ashes and organic liquid nitrogen for fertilizer.
Definitely only a 1 season mix. Has worked very well for the last 2 years I've done it. Now starting year 3 doing this.


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RE: Peat-Based Container Mixes

I have found 5:1:1 much better then peat based, and much more forgiving of watering errors, or even leaving containers out in the rain.

I use a peat mix for seed starting only (Pro-Mix) as 5:1:1 is a bit of a challenge to use for small seeds, but transplant to 5:1:1 very soon after the seeds pop up.

Currently, I have a mix of 5:1:1 and and Pro-mix in 3" containers for tomato and pepper seedlings (due to 5:1:1 materials being frozen outside), and the bark based mix is doing better. I am actually surprised that I actually have to water the bark based less often then the peat, even though it has better drainage.


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RE: Peat-Based Container Mixes

For several years I used a mixture of 3 parts common dirt, two parts peat, and about 2 lb of vermiculite for a 2.5 cu ft (35 gal) container. Mix it with a little water in a wheel barrow with a couple of hand fulls of 13-13-13. That will grow about anything except bell peppers. If you are growing peppers don't add the fertilizer.

Now days I use Miracle Grow potting soil mainly because it's very convenient, much less work, and I don't have to dig holes in my yard anymore.


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RE: Peat-Based Container Mixes

Peat is an exceptionally good base in my opinion. I mix something like 40% peat, 35 perlite and 25% compost.

I generally mix in compost and some espoma soil protector each yr. Use the same base over and over.

Some of my earlier mixes have vermiculite in them. Vermiculite breaks down rapidly and I would never use it any new mix.

I garden strictly organically.


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RE: Peat-Based Container Mixes

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 27, 12 at 22:10

TomatO - sorry I'm late to the party. ;-)

I've been playing with soils for a long time - 25 years +. I used to think that because they were what 'everyone' used, soils based on peat and compost must be best. I tried them and found them problematic in the shallow containers I was growing in. You simply can't avoid or deny the fact that soils based on fine particulates (peat, compost, coir, garden/topsoil .....) all hold SIGNIFICANT amounts of perched water that inhibits root function and health. IOW, they have inherent limitations that are significant. I started looking into WHY these soils are limiting, and discovered it was their small particle size. From there, it took a while to work out how to put soils together that still held good amounts of water, but little PERCHED water - soils that held most of their water inside of the soil particles instead of between them, and held enough air to ensure rapid drainage and good gas exchange, which in turn promoted the root function/health prerequisite to good plant vitality.

A 'GOOD' soil is one you can water properly, that is to say copiously enough to flush accumulating salts from the soil without the fear of the soil remaining saturated so long that you need worry about root rot, and provides the aeration/drainage essential to good root health. From the plant's perspective, there is little doubt that the soils based on larger particles are better. They also make it much easier on the grower and provide a much wider margin for error. The price you pay comes in the form of having to expend some effort in making the soils and more frequent watering. To be fair, you can usually MAKE the 5:1:1 mix for less than half of what you pay for commercially prepared mixes, so that's a big plus to those who would like to realize a little sweat equity when it comes to soil choice.

I can tell you how to make do with water-retentive soils, but in the end they still aren't going to perform near as well as the soils with better aeration/drainage for several reasons.

I have no stake in what soil(s) you choose, but I do want to see you do the best you can. I try to give you information based on sound science that makes it easy for you to head in the same direction I and so many others have gone. If I had found a way to make a soil more productive and easier to grow in than the mixes I use. I'd share in a moment. I haven't; and the truth is, I left bagged soils behind more than 20 years ago and never looked back. About the closest I get to anecdote when reconciling my choices is in relating my own practical experience with various media. Instead, it's been much easier to carry the message by offering sound science top billing.

Also, since you asked, synthetic fertilizers get a distinct nod for efficiency, best results, most foolproof, reliability, and grower control. If you have a problem with your supplementation program and you're using synthetic fertilizers, I can usually tell you how to fix it in 5 minutes. If you're in a nutritional jam and you've been using this and that organic soil amendment or fertilizer as a source of nutrients, you're stuck. There is no way to tell what is immediately available, potentially available, or when what's potentially available will become actually available. There's just so much guesswork involved it's difficult to see how you couldn't be operating under nutritional limitations that arise from too much or too little, often both at the same time.

That's the view from here. YMMV

Al


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RE: Peat-Based Container Mixes

Capoman, how is the bark-based mix doing better?

Tapla, Imagine how I felt when I scrolled all the way down, but not "all" the way down--to where your response was covered. I was thinking, "hm... maybe Tapla thinks I'm a peathead and had too many to deal with. :P

I'm not going to refute science and facts... I never do. I think I have a decent grasp of how soil and container culture work to know that organic container mixes aren't the best method (even if they work for some time). That's why I'm seeking clarification.

For my in-ground plants & trees, I stick to organic fertilizing. It works wonders (nature) and sometimes I swear my fruit trees are trying to kill me kindly. I have a huge sweet tooth...

For containers, however... I use synthetic fertilizers. This could be anything from orchids to mother of thousands to that "lucky bamboo" from the grocery store. My family thinks my nutrient solutions are "biohazard concoctions." It's quite funny. :P

I've actually made the 1:1:1 mix last year but that was more for bonsai. I'm asking for clarification and improvement with peat-based mixes and the 5:1:1 mix sounds about right. I have a source of 3/8" mini bark for $25.50 a scoop (1/2 cu. yd) but not sure if it's ideal.

It's not as uniform as Kellogg's Orchid Bark Seedling, but that's $11+ a 2 cu ft bag.

Something that really boggles me is that I have seen peat-based and coco coir-based mixes perform very well. I believe they're suitable, until they begin breaking down in a few seasons time. Is the 5-1-1 mix THAT much better?

May I contact you via email for quicker response, Tapla?


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RE: Peat-Based Container Mixes

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Apr 28, 12 at 11:15

I've been unable to answer many of the emails sent to me because of a lack of time. It's not unusual for me to get 15-20 emails each day at this time of year. I haven't been around the forums all that much lately, either. Spring is a busy time for me because of all the work that needs to be done on my bonsai and in the gardens, so I can't spend as much time with you guys as I'd like to. Fortunately, there are a lot of really bright & dedicated growers that have embraced most of the concepts I usually share, who are doing a really good job helping everyone. Heck - I'm hardly needed around here any more, and that's fine with me. All I ever wanted was to make sure you guys were getting straight info so you could make informed decisions about what's right for you. For the most part, you're getting it, and if it happens that you aren't, someone usually steps up to clarify things - a GOOD thing.

Peat mixes can be made to perform well if you understand and learn to cope with the perched water issue (see embedded link in my post above). When a planting is mature, so the soil is very well colonized by a heavy root mass, most plants do well in a peat based soil. The critical times for peat-based soils are when plantings are newly established, when temps are low enough to inhibit growth, during prolonged periods of rain, and while over-wintering perennial plants like trees, shrubs, and more herbaceous material.


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RE: Peat-Based Container Mixes

I'll be using that 3/8" bark above to make the 5-1-1. Could you suggest any possibly amendments to the 5-1-1 mix but without sacrificing performance? Compost for peat is one option I have in mind.

Initially, my pursuit was for an "organic" container mix so that I can dump into my gardens without worry. Certain mixes containing large/expensive particles like granite and/or clay don't make it very reasonable to do so.
I use a lot of organic amendments for my garden (compost, blood meal, bone meal, guano, etc.) and was hoping I could do something with them, even if they're only used <20% of the mix.

If you could generalize, how long would these perform and last, using the 5-1-1 as a benchmark? I'm just trying to standardize a mental image.
- 5-1-1 bark/peat/perlite
- 50/50 peat/perlite
- 20/20/20/20 coco/peat/compost/perlite/pumice

As with any forum, contributions are always welcomed and I appreciate any input from anyone, both constructive and suggestive. I understand there are many lurkers and shy flies. I hope some of my questions are shared by others as well. :)


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