Return to the Container Gardening Forum | Post a Follow-Up

Frustrated, & Confused on Al's 5-1-1

Posted by jennypat Zone 3b NW MN (My Page) on
Sun, May 15, 11 at 13:05

I give up! I am so frustrated and confused I am ready to quit.

I thought I would try these mixes for my potted ornamentals this year. Since they are getting such rave reviews. Remembering that I live more than an hour from the the nearest town I need some advice.

I have always put my ornamentals into Miracle grow potting soil. I read here, (hundreds of messages) that I maybe should do the 5-1-1 mix and 1-1-1 mix (for succulents). So I went shopping, I wasted hours looking for pine bark, even in bags that I could screen, no luck, the nearest I found was bags orchid bark. I got 2 screened them and ended up with less than 1/2 of one that was within the right size range. Now what do I do with the rest?

I wasted more hours looking for "Turface" no luck, I see Napa carries something that is a substitute. But I am NOT going back to town for at least 2 weeks. And I have pots to plant NOW! And I am on a tight budget, I have already spent more $$ than I had budgeted.

SO using the products I have on hand, how would you guys suggest I move forward?

ON hand I have:
2 bags of miracle grow potting soil (purchased a couple months ago)
2 bags of Perlite
1/2 bag of screened Orchid bark sized under 1/2"
1 1/2 bags of screened Orchid bark over 1/2"
1 bag of granite poultry grit (what do I do with the screenings left over?)
1 bag of lime
1 bag of cactus soil (left over from a previous project, I intended to use for my succulents)
1 container of "Soil Moist" (I usually add this to my dry pots)

I will be planting Geraniums into some hanging baskets, that will be located in a hot dry location. (this is where I usually use the soil moist)
The other pots will hold various Dahlias, Succulents, Geraniums, Begonias and some herbs. Some of these will be in full sun, a few in shade. Some are hold overs from last year and are already in pots.

I really wanted to get this done by today, but I guess I will wait another day or two. It's going to get down into the 30's the next few nights anyway, so I don't want to put them out yet.

Thank you
Jenny P

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Frustrated, & Confused on Al's 5-1-1

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, May 15, 11 at 13:21

I'll try to unconfuse you, but please don't take this like I'm scolding you - there's none of that in my tone. I understand your frustration, because finding ingredients initially and especially when you're feeling pressed for time, tends to increase the frustration factor.

First, you're asking about 2 different mixes, which I can see you understand. Making the 5:1:1 mix does indeed hinge on finding an appropriate sized bark. If you find it, you generally have a usable product for the gritty mix, with a little screening. New Ulm Mining mines cherrystone in MN, so most rural feed stores should have the grit, which you probably already have. Let me know where you live, and I'll locate the nearest Turface source, OR, you can substitute NAPA Floor Dry (part #8822?) for the Turface. I think that CarQuest also has a product that some said was superior to Turface in texture/size.

I guess my suggestion would be to fall back on what you already know for now, but with the list of ingredients you have it would be difficult to make a medium that allows you to take advantage of a highly aerated & durable soil, unless it was around 80% perlite & grit, and that probably won't fly because of insufficient water retention. Don't let your frustration get the best of you. If you remain patient, but keep looking for suitable bark when you have the opportunity. You'll eventually find it. I know that might not help you this year, but it sure will next year.

Good luck!


RE: Frustrated, & Confused on Al's 5-1-1

Al! Thank you for the quick answer.
I did some research and are no listings for Turface anywhere near me. We do have Napa, but as I said, it's an hour away. I will do my usual planting for my ornamentals.

Am I understanding it correctly in that the Turface or Napa product are a Substitute for the bark? I hope so, because I think I looked at EVERY bag of bark in town, and other than the cocoa hull mulch, nothing came close, (except the Orchid bark in the small bags).

Does the Napa product weigh less? Some of these pots come into the house for the winter, and they weigh a TON. It takes 2 of us to haul them in and out, not to mention down the steps to the basement. I am going to be re-potting a couple of these sometime soon. And can wait until I find the appropiate product for them.

Jenny P

RE: Frustrated, & Confused on Al's 5-1-1

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, May 15, 11 at 21:15

No - there really is no substitute for the bark, unless perhaps you wanted to substitute CHCs. Turface and the NAPA Floor Dry are somewhat interchangeable, just as perlite could be substituted for the granite in a pinch.

The Calcined DE weighs a little less than Turface when it's dry, but it holds more water, so weighs about the same or a little more when wet.

Best luck - good growing!!


RE: Frustrated, & Confused on Al's 5-1-1

I just found some at K-mart if that helps.

RE: Frustrated, & Confused on Al's 5-1-1

Master gardener, what did you find at K-mart? The bark? or the Turface type product?

RE: Frustrated, & Confused on Al's 5-1-1

The bark. I finally found bark/multch that was soil grade not mulch grade. I have mixed it with the perlite, moss, and lime. Now it is sitting moist untill the ph rises a little then I will plant. I tryed using long fiber sphag. with some other palnts but I dont think I will try that again it seems to hold too much water when it rains. I have worked with soilless but I tend to favor growing in really good soil. When you grow in soil it does the work for you feeding and buffering ph.

RE: Frustrated, & Confused on Al's 5-1-1

  • Posted by jbclem z9b Topanga Ca (My Page) on
    Tue, May 17, 11 at 5:19

Master Gardener, what do you mean by soil grade? Is that a reference to size? And what was the K-Mart bark called? I just bought a 2 cubic foot bag of Earthgro Ground Cover Bark, it's supposed to have a maximum size of 1/2" although there might be some pieces larger. According to Earthgro, it's either pine bark mulch or (in the West) what they call Western bark mulch. It looks pretty good to me, but I'm new to the 5:1:1 and 1:1:1 mixes, so I'm not sure. It's available at Home Depot, Orchard Supply Hardware, and probably other stores.


RE: Frustrated, & Confused on Al's 5-1-1

here where i live its called (soil prep) its a fine bark. out west

 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!

Return to the Container Gardening Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.

Learn more about in-text links on this page here