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Issues with gritty & 5-1-1 mixes

Posted by Joe1980 WI 4 (My Page) on
Tue, May 31, 11 at 19:49

Ok, let me first start by saying that I have been getting excellent results with ALL of my plants, since switching to 5-1-1 and gritty mixes. I have my tropicals in the 5-1-1, and all succulents in gritty mix. I have also been exclusively using Foliage Pro 9-3-6.

Anyways, the issues I am having is with watering. I've recently posted on the gritty mix watering thing, but I figure I'll add them both here in one post, so a discussion can ensue. With both mixes, I am noticing that obviously water runs right through, but it seems that the middle of the container that I water does not get wet. At first, with the 5-1-1 mix, I thought maybe I was waiting too long to water, but I went to water my peppers today, which were only dry in the top 1", but semi-dry beneath, and upon watering, it was coming out the holes immediately. The top 1" or so gets good & wet, but when I scrape away the top layer, it's still dry underneath. As I've said before, when watering a clear container for jade cuttings in gritty mix, the middle wouldn't get wet, just the top & bottom.

I would like to know if anyone else has this problem with either of the 2 mixes, and how you combat it. I know some have said to spray it down good with the hose, and then water with fertilizer. However, for my indoor plants and succulent, I like you use ALL rainwater, and it's always mixed with my maintenance dose of Foliage Pro. I do NOT want to be wasting a ton of water. Here's what I've started doing: I put a tapered hydraulic line cap, which is just a plastic cone type deal, into the drain hole, pour in my water, wait, then pull the plug & let it drain. Does anyone see a problem with this method?

Joe


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Issues with gritty & 5-1-1 mixes

Joe:

Are you bare rooting before you put them in these mixes?

Exactly how are you making these mixes? Can you describe it to the tee.

You shouldn't be having this problem at all. It has me baffled too.

Sorry about it and I hope you get to the bottom of it:-)

Mike


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RE: Issues with gritty & 5-1-1 mixes

I make them exactly as directed. I use a 1 gallon container so measurement, and add my lime or gypsum for each gallon.

For 5-1-1: 1 gallon scoop of pine bark fines, tbsp of lime, 1 gallon scoop of peat moss, tbsp lime, 1 gallon of pine bark fines, lime, 1 gallon perlite, lime, 1 gallon pine bark fines, lime, 1 gallon pine bark fines, lime, pine bark, lime. You get the idea. I mix the peat & perlite between to make mixing easier, and the lime throughout the process. After all the ingredients are in, I add 1-2 gallons of water to moisten it up good. I mix it up a whole bunch, then let it sit for 2 weeks if I can. I dunno, maybe I am thinking it's wetter then it is, and waiting too long. It just seems to me that even when the top 1" is dry, the lower portions of the pot are moist yet, so I hold back on watering. Then of course the dry pine bark will repel water.

For the gritty, plain & simple. Sift the turface with aluminum screen til I have 1 gallon, and pour it into my storage tub. Add a tbsp of gypsum. Add a gallon of #2 cherrystone grit, already screened, washed, & dryed. Add gypsum. Then, I prescreen my pine bark fines to remove the bigger pieces with a 1g icecream pail that has 3/8" holes drilled in it. Then, I screen that with aluminum screen to get rid of the small stuff. Do that until I have my gallon, and toss it in the storage tub. Add my gypsum, then thoroughly mix it up.

Joe


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RE: Issues with gritty & 5-1-1 mixes

Oh, and I do bare root whatever I plant into them, although I didn't wash the roots of my pepper seedlings. With my portulacarias, desert rose, and jades, there is no issue, they are thriving in the gritty mix. I have not had any wilt problems, because I have dealt with the watering well before that point, mainly because I am aware of the issue. The pine bark fines fit the bill too, with a good majority being small particles, with a moderate amount of gritty mix size, and some slightly bigger pieces. I'm not going to be detered by it, but I am just wondering if anyone else has had this happen. I know there was a thread in here about someone's peppers wilting, and it turned out to be the same issue, the soil was dry underneath. Basically, if I can plug the drain, i do, otherwise I have to put the pot into a tray, water, and with a turkey baster, I have to keep reapplying the water over about an hour just to get the whole container moist.

Ok, now I know some say to soak with the hose sprayer first, then apply foliage pro water. Like I said, I have been anal about using rain water for a few years now, because my plants responded with better health, due to my hard water, or the alternative, softened water. I used to get the crust from my water, until I switched to 100% rain water. I'd like to stick with all rain water, but at this rate, I'm going to run out because I'm using it faster then I'm gathering it. Mother Nature isn't helping me out on that either, having only collected about 15 gallons all spring.

Joe


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RE: Issues with gritty & 5-1-1 mixes

Rain water is ideal, but just acidifying your hard water will probably give you similar results without the salt issues of softened water. 1-2 oz vinegar (2-4 tablespoons) per gallon is the usual recommendation, using standard 5% acidity vinegar. If you're "priming" the mix with hard water, and then thoroughly soaking to the point of free draining with rain or acidified water, you should be able to realize virtually most of the benefits of using rain water.

As for the wetting issue, once the mix is wetted the first time, it will accept moisture quite readily. If you let it completely dry out, then you'll have problems again. This is even more true for peat than for pine bark - it's very hydrophobic when very dry. It's kind of like trying to add a small amount of dry flour or cornstarch to a large glass of water - it just doesn't work. Flushing the pot with a weak, but constant flow of water over a longer period of time (several minutes) is one option. Letting the pot sit in a larger pot full of water for a half hour or so (bottom watering), or gently working the water into the soil are other potential solutions to this problem.

In my experience, plugging the container and then flooding it with water is NOT a good solution for when the mix is very dry. In fact, that large amount of immobile water results in floating, separation of the particles, and very little moisture penetration. When I first started making hte gritty mix, I would make a large batch, then try to wet it when I actually wanted to use it. My method was to put the relevant amount of dry mix into a container without drainage, and then top it off with water and walk away. Doesn't work.. just results in a floating layer of mix, a lot of water, and saturated mix at the bottom. When you try to drain this out into a container with drainage, it stays extremely water logged and won't drain on its own. I know what I'm describing soundds bizarre, but its happen over and over and over. My guess is that the water floods and enlarges the spaces in BETWEEN particles without penetrating much INTO the particles.

Ideally, you should pre-wet the dry mix by actively mixing it while adding a small spray of water, getting the whole mixture damp. Once you've already potted in it, this is obviously impossible - but the options above have worked for me.


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RE: Issues with gritty & 5-1-1 mixes

I had a recent scare that turned out to be this exact problem. I had a Thai Ornamental pepper that turned from this:Photobucket
To this:
Photobucket
over the course of 24 hours, DURING a rain spell. I was freaking out about what could possibly wilt my pepper like a drought during RAIN. The problem was that I had been watering in small amounts due to the rain and the top few inches were soaking wet, while under a certain point was absolutely bone dry, thus hydrophobic. Water was soaking into the top layer and running straight down the sides and out the bottom in sort of a dual-moisture layer situation.

I used my hose shower setting and sprayed deep down into the roots and stuff to get the mix moist again without flooding it. The plant has bounced back fully and thank god it kept its fruit! Since then I have been experimenting, and it simply takes significantly longer for the mix to soak up water than it does for water to drain out of the bottom of the container. Meaning you need to water until a LOT of water runs out of the bottom to ensure the mix soaked up adequate moisture.


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RE: Issues with gritty & 5-1-1 mixes

Good luck, guys!
Yes, water thoroughly when watering!
Many of us are so used to watering in sips (from growing in peat-based soils)
that we don't fully saturate our containers. Once roots colonize the mix completely,
you'll notice a change in how the planting holds moisture.

Stick a dowel, chopstick, or kabob skewer into your containers to check for moisture.


Josh


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RE: Issues with gritty & 5-1-1 mixes

Glad you were able to save your pepper Phil! It's amazing how fantastically plants can rebound.

One correction - in my earlier post, when I was talking about the problems with trying to wet the dry mix in a container without drainage, I was talking about the 5:1:1 mix, NOT the gritty mix.


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RE: Issues with gritty & 5-1-1 mixes

So at this point, I'm going to have to say that I must be underwatering if my pine bark is regaining its hydrophobic properties. I guess my problem might still be the peat mix mentality, because I am making sure not to overwater, and in the process, probably not watering enough. It just seems that when I check my pots, the top inch or 2 can be bone dry, but underneath it seems moist to me yet. So, then I wait til it dries a bit more, and alas, watering problems.

Joe


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RE: Issues with gritty & 5-1-1 mixes

Ok I am just baffled now. I have 2 large pots, one that I put a big elephant ear bulb in, and the other had (that's right....HAD) cannas in it. Both were in the 5-1-1 mix. I planted them about a month ago, kept them inside and put them out in the day time when temps were above 60. I kept them out unless the temps dipped below 50 at night. Anyways, I went to check to see how moist there were just a bit ago, and of course, top inch or two bone dry, but moist below. My elephant ear has sprouted, and is growing taller each day. But, no cannas. I had a tiny little sprout last week, so I figured it's time to dig and see whats up. Sure enough, they were all rotten. I'm not chalking this up as a mix issue, but probably too cold of a spring issue, although the elephant ear is alive and well. I've never tried either of them, so maybe cannas need more warmth. But, even though my jalapenos are doing good, I am starting to worry. With today's winds, the top 2 inches of the 5-1-1 mix were bone dry, after watering yesterday. As always, moist below that. Hopefully I don't kill everything I plant this year, because that'll soil my reputation as never killing anything. 2 of my bonsai starters, a chinese elm and cotoneaster, are looking like crap too, probably due to the barerooting I gave them. They are in gritty mix. I am having some bad luck so far this year.....

Joe


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RE: Issues with gritty & 5-1-1 mixes

  • Posted by rdak z5MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 5, 11 at 10:02

Joe, have you tried adding a couple drops of soap to your water to act as a wetting agent?

Might that work?


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RE: Issues with gritty & 5-1-1 mixes

I think the answer is not watering soon enough. I made some observations with the 5-1-1 mix, in that even though it may seem moist to the human touch, it's actually not really that moist. So, when watering sooner, it is working fine. Thanks all for the replies, and from here on out, I'll just have to be more diligent with my watering.

Joe


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RE: Issues with gritty & 5-1-1 mixes

Joe,

Just some confirmation here: I did the same thing on the first couple 5-1-1 mixes I used. I was mistakenly treating the 5-1-1 with the same mentality as the peat-based soils: unless top is bone dry, don't water (mistake). If made correctly (mostly meaning correct particle size) and a correctly sized container, it can still handle excess watering without hurting the plant too much. Basically the margin for error is "nicer" with the 511 vs. the peat based mixes... you can lean on the over-water side first, until you see signs you are truly over-watering.

But as with all the mixes, it's usually better to just water some first, then make another round and go back again and apply the "rest" of the water it needs until some drains from the bottom. The extra time for it to soak in helps deal any hydrophobic bark or peat.

Glad you got your situation figured out.


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RE: Issues with gritty & 5-1-1 mixes

Joe,
Am I reading your second post correctly and that you are adding 1 Tbs. for each ingredient? If so, I believe it should be 1 Tbs. for one (small) batch.
Gail


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RE: Issues with gritty & 5-1-1 mixes

1 Tablespoon per gallon of mix.

Josh


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RE: Issues with gritty & 5-1-1 mixes

Gail, you are reading correct, I add one tbsp for each gallon of mix, which is what the recipe states. I purposely mix by the gallon to simplify the liming.

Joe


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RE: Issues with gritty & 5-1-1 mixes

Hi Joe,
I was confused and wrong in my thinking.
Thanks, Josh.
Gail


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