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Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
Tue, May 26, 09 at 21:15

I first posted this thread back in March of 05. Seven times, it has reached the maximum number of posts to a single thread (150), which is much more attention than I ever imagined it would garner. I have reposted it, in no small part, because it has been a wonderful catalyst in the forging of new friendships and in increasing my list of acquaintances with similar growing interests. The forum and email exchanges that stem so often from the subject are in themselves, enough to make me hope the subject continues to pique interest and hopefully, the exchanges provide helpful information. Most of the motivation for posting this thread again comes from the participants reinforcement of the idea that some of the information provided in good-spirited collective exchange will make some degree of difference in the level of satisfaction of many readers growing experience.

I'll provide links to the previous seven threads at the end of what I have written - in case you have interest in reviewing them. Thank you for taking the time to look into this subject - I hope that any/all who read it take at least something interesting and helpful from it. I know it's long, but I hope you find it worth the read.

Container Soils - Water Movement and Retention - A Discussion About Soils

As container gardeners, our first priority should be to insure the soils we use are adequately aerated for the life of the planting, or in the case of perennial material (trees, shrubs, garden perennials), from repot to repot. Soil aeration/drainage is the most important consideration in any container planting. Soils are the foundation that all container plantings are built on, and aeration is the very cornerstone of that foundation. Since aeration and drainage are inversely linked to soil particle size, it makes good sense to try to find and use soils or primary components with particles larger than peat. Durability and stability of soil components so they contribute to the retention of soil structure for extended periods is also extremely important. Pine and some other types of conifer bark fit the bill nicely, but Ill talk more about various components later.

What I will write also hits pretty hard against the futility in using a drainage layer of coarse materials as an attempt to improve drainage. It just doesn't work. All it does is reduce the total volume of soil available for root colonization. A wick can be employed to remove water from the saturated layer of soil at the container bottom, but a drainage layer is not effective. A wick can be made to work in reverse of the self-watering pots widely being discussed on this forum now.

Since there are many questions about soils appropriate for use in containers, I'll post basic mix recipes later, in case any would like to try the soil. It will follow the Water Movement information.
Consider this if you will:
Soil fills only a few needs in container culture. Among them are: Anchorage - A place for roots to extend, securing the plant and preventing it from toppling. Nutrient Retention - It must retain enough nutrients in available form to sustain plant systems. Gas Exchange - It must be sufficiently porous to allow air to move through the root system and by-product gasses to escape. Water - It must retain water enough in liquid and/or vapor form to sustain plants between waterings. Most plants can be grown without soil as long as we can provide air, nutrients, and water, (witness hydroponics). Here, I will concentrate primarily on the movement of water in soil(s).

There are two forces that cause water to move through soil - one is gravity, the other capillary action. Gravity needs little explanation, but for this writing I would like to note: Gravitational flow potential (GFP) is greater for water at the top of the container than it is for water at the bottom. I'll return to that later. Capillarity is a function of the natural forces of adhesion and cohesion. Adhesion is water's tendency to stick to solid objects like soil particles and the sides of the pot. Cohesion is the tendency for water to stick to itself. Cohesion is why we often find water in droplet form - because cohesion is at times stronger than adhesion; in other words, waters bond to itself can be stronger than the bond to the object it might be in contact with; in this condition it forms a drop. Capillary action is in evidence when we dip a paper towel in water. The water will soak into the towel and rise several inches above the surface of the water. It will not drain back into the source, and it will stop rising when the GFP equals the capillary attraction of the fibers in the paper.

There will be a naturally occurring "perched water table" (PWT) in containers when soil particulate size is under about .125 (1/8) inch.. This is water that occupies a layer of soil that is always saturated & will not drain from the portion of the pot it occupies. It can evaporate or be used by the plant, but physical forces will not allow it to drain. It is there because the capillary pull of the soil at some point will surpass the GFP; therefore, the water does not drain, it is perched. The smaller the size of the particles in a soil, the greater the height of the PWT. This water can be tightly held in heavy (comprised of small particles) soils and perch (think of a bird on a perch) just above the container bottom where it will not drain; or, it can perch in a layer of heavy soil on top of a coarse drainage layer, where it will not drain.

Imagine that we have five cylinders of varying heights, shapes, and diameters, each with drain holes, and we fill them all with the same soil mix, then saturate the soil. The PWT will be exactly the same height in each container. This saturated area of the container is where roots initially seldom penetrate & where root problems frequently begin due to a lack of aeration. Water and nutrient uptake are also compromised by lack of air in the root zone. Keeping in mind the fact that the PWT height is dependent on soil particle size and has nothing to do with height or shape of the container, we can draw the conclusion that: Tall growing containers will always have a higher percentage of unsaturated soil than squat containers when using the same soil mix. The reason: The level of the PWT will be the same in each container, with the taller container providing more usable, air holding soil above the PWT. From this, we could make a good case that taller containers are easier to grow in.

A given volume of large soil particles has less overall surface area when compared to the same volume of small particles and therefore less overall adhesive attraction to water. So, in soils with large particles, GFP more readily overcomes capillary attraction. They drain better. We all know this, but the reason, often unclear, is that the height of the PWT is lower in coarse soils than in fine soils. The key to good drainage is size and uniformity of soil particles. Mixing large particles with small is often very ineffective because the smaller particles fit between the large, increasing surface area which increases the capillary attraction and thus the water holding potential. An illustrative question: How much perlite do we need to add to pudding to make it drain well?

We have seen that adding a coarse drainage layer at the container bottom does not improve drainage. It does though, reduce the volume of soil required to fill a container, making the container lighter. When we employ a drainage layer in an attempt to improve drainage, what we are actually doing is moving the level of the PWT higher in the pot. This simply reduces the volume of soil available for roots to colonize. Containers with uniform soil particle size from top of container to bottom will yield better and more uniform drainage and have a lower PWT than containers using the same soil with drainage layers.

The coarser the drainage layer, the more detrimental to drainage it is because water is more (for lack of a better scientific word) reluctant to make the downward transition because the capillary pull of the soil above the drainage layer is stronger than the GFP. The reason for this is there is far more surface area on soil particles for water to be attracted to in the soil above the drainage layer than there is in the drainage layer, so the water perches. I know this goes against what most have thought to be true, but the principle is scientifically sound, and experiments have shown it as so. Many nurserymen employ the pot-in-pot or the pot-in-trench method of growing to capitalize on the science.

If you discover you need to increase drainage, you can simply insert an absorbent wick into a drainage hole & allow it to extend from the saturated soil in the container to a few inches below the bottom of the pot, or allow it to contact soil below the container where the earth acts as a giant wick and will absorb all or most of the perched water in the container, in most cases. Eliminating the PWT has much the same effect as providing your plants much more soil to grow in, as well as allowing more, much needed air in the root zone.

In simple terms: Plants that expire because of drainage problems either die of thirst because the roots have rotted and can no longer take up water, or they starve/"suffocate" because there is insufficient air at the root zone to insure normal water/nutrient uptake and root function.

Bark fines of fir, hemlock or pine, are excellent as the primary component of your soils. The lignin contained in bark keeps it rigid and the rigidity provides air-holding pockets in the root zone far longer than peat or compost mixes that too quickly break down to a soup-like consistency. Conifer bark also contains suberin, a lipid sometimes referred to as natures preservative. Suberin, more scarce as a presence in sapwood products and hardwood bark, dramatically slows the decomposition of conifer bark-based soils. It contains highly varied hydrocarbon chains and the microorganisms that turn peat to soup have great difficulty cleaving these chains.

To confirm the existence of the PWT and how effective a wick is at removing it, try this experiment: Fill a soft drink cup nearly full of garden soil. Add enough water to fill to the top, being sure all soil is saturated. Punch a drain hole in the bottom of the cup and allow the water to drain. When drainage has stopped, insert a wick into the drain hole . Take note of how much additional water drains. Even touching the soil with a toothpick through the drain hole will cause substantial additional water to drain. The water that drains is water that occupied the PWT. A greatly simplified explanation of what occurs is: The wick or toothpick "fools" the water into thinking the pot is deeper than it is, so water begins to move downward seeking the "new" bottom of the pot, pulling the rest of the water in the PWT along with it. If there is interest, there are other simple and interesting experiments you can perform to confirm the existence of a PWT in container soils. I can expand later in the thread.

I always remain cognizant of these physical principles whenever I build a soil. I havent used a commercially prepared soil in many years, preferring to build a soil or amend one of my 2 basic mixes to suit individual plantings. I keep many ingredients at the ready for building soils, but the basic building process usually starts with conifer bark and perlite. Sphagnum peat plays a secondary role in my container soils because it breaks down too quickly to suit me, and when it does, it impedes drainage and reduces aeration. Size matters. Partially composted conifer bark fines (pine is easiest to find and least expensive) works best in the following recipes, followed by uncomposted bark in the <3/8" range.

Note that there is no sand or compost in the soils I use. Sand, as most of you think of it, can improve drainage in some cases, but it reduces aeration by filling valuable macro-pores in soils. Unless sand particle size is fairly uniform and/or larger than about BB size I leave it out of soils. Compost is too unstable for me to consider using in soils. The small amount of micro-nutrients it supplies can easily be delivered by one or more of a number of chemical or organic sources.

My Basic Soils
5 parts pine bark fines
1 part sphagnum peat (not reed or sedge peat please)
1-2 parts perlite
garden lime (or gypsum in some cases)
controlled release fertilizer (if preferred)
micro-nutrient powder, other continued source of micro-nutrients, or fertilizer with all nutrients - including minors

Big batch:
2-3 cu ft pine bark fines
5 gallons peat
5 gallons perlite
2 cups dolomitic (garden) lime (or gypsum in some cases)
2 cups CRF (if preferred)
1/2 cup micro-nutrient powder (or other source of the minors)

Small batch:
3 gallons pine bark
1/2 gallon peat
1/2 gallon perlite
4 tbsp lime (or gypsum in some cases)
1/4 cup CRF (if preferred)
micro-nutrient powder (or other source of the minors)

I have seen advice that some highly organic (practically speaking - almost all container soils are highly organic) container soils are productive for up to 5 years or more. I disagree and will explain why if there is interest. Even if you were to substitute fir bark for pine bark in this recipe (and this recipe will long outlast any peat based soil) you should only expect a maximum of two to three years life before a repot is in order. Usually perennials, including trees (they're perennials too) should be repotted more frequently to insure vigor closer to their genetic potential. If a soil is desired that will retain structure for long periods, we need to look more to inorganic components. Some examples are crushed granite, pea stone, coarse sand (see above - usually no smaller than BB size in containers, please), Haydite, lava rock (pumice), Turface or Schultz soil conditioner, and others.

For long term (especially woody) plantings and houseplants, I use a soil that is extremely durable and structurally sound. The basic mix is equal parts of pine bark, Turface, and crushed granite.

1 part uncomposted pine or fir bark
1 part Turface
1 part crushed granite
1 Tbsp gypsum per gallon of soil
CRF (if desired)
Source of micro-nutrients or use a fertilizer that contains all essentials
I use 1/8 -1/4 tsp Epsom salts per gallon of fertilizer solution when I fertilize (check your fertilizer - if it is soluble, it is probable it does not contain Ca or Mg.

Thank you for your interest.

Al

If there is additional interest, please review previous contributions to this thread here:
Post VII
Post VI
Post V
Post IV
Post III
Post II
Post I

Some readers might also be interested in a discussion about fertilizer strategies for containerized plants at the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fertilizer Strategies for Containerized Plants


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by ruet 8, Madrid, Spain (My Page) on
    Wed, May 27, 09 at 4:20

A monstrous amount of knowledge in well over a thousand posts... And even more happy container plants as a result!

Assuming one cannot find Dolomitic Lime in their area, how early would you add gypsum to the 5:1:1 mix before planting anything into it?
What sources of gypsum are acceptable assuming "garden gypsum" is not available anywhere?
Also, what would you add, if anything, to correct PH upwards? If I recall correctly vinegar is used to adjust downwards...

Congratulations and Thanks Al! :)


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

I think Al and all the contributors to the previous seven threads should be very proud of this achievement. Seven previous threads, all at 150 posts per thread. Incredible!

Basically, if there's anything you need to know about container gardening, watering, soil building, fertilization, root pruning, etc. the answer will be somewhere in this 8-part thread. There's an amazing amount of information in these posts and I've gained considerable knowledge about container gardening just from reading these threads.

Before reading the first part of this thread I used organic peat-based potting soils, added rocks and sand in the bottom of containers for better drainage, and overwatered and overfertilized plants regularly. Now I'm growing conifers in 2/3 non-organic soil, watering and flushing salts every few days, fertilizing lightly every week, and seeing *far* better results than I used to.

Thanks again to Al for starting this thread way back in 2005, and also to everyone who posted a question, answer, or comment. My plants sure appreciate it!

Regards,

Dave


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, May 27, 09 at 9:00

Ruet - I don't think that with most plants you would notice much difference in Ca availability if you use the soil immediately after adding gypsum. Dolomite is less soluble (though much depends on the size of the particles - finer powder = more surface area = added solubility) than gypsum & is better added to your soils a couple of weeks before you use them. That said, it's not the end of all things if we use soils with either dolomite or gypsum as soon as we make them.

Gypsum is gypsum is CaSO4. I wouldn't use drywall (especially that from China) ;o) or other building materials, or other gypsum products with possible phytotoxins in them though.

You can use quick/hydrated lime to adjust pH upward. Don't use this method until I look it up to make sure I'm correct. I THINK you add a cup of hydrated lime to 5 gallons of water and stir. Let it settle overnight & siphon off the water above the bottom sediment. I think you then add a cup of the solution to every gallon of fertilizer solution to raise pH approximately 1 point (say from 5.0 - 6.0). Of course it would depend on what fertilizer you are using and other factors. Again, don't use this method until I check it out - I'm @ work now & I need to check a text that's @ home.

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

... kind words, Dave, and Ruet. Thank you.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, May 27, 09 at 17:30

Ruet - from one of my previous posts:

Calcium hydroxide, hydrated lime, and slaked lime [Ca(OH)2] are the same thing, and are made by mixing quicklime, aka Calcium oxide [CaO], with water.
If you want to try it, the easiest way for you to raise the pH safely/quickly and supply some Ca is to mix 1 lb of Ca(OH)2 in 5 gallons of water. Allow it to set/settle overnight. Siphon off the supernatant only (not the sediment - the sediment is not used), dilute it 2 parts supernatant to 1 part water, & apply as you would normally water.

Don't use this method if you have CRFs in the soil or have recently fertilized with ammoniacal N, as it can cause enough ammonium release to burn plants.

If you need more info, let me know. This seems like you need to proceed cautiously & I think it would be helpful if you had some way of testing soil solution pH instead of advancing by guesswork. I'd hate to see you lose plantings.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Al,

Do you use the 5-1-1 mix for seed starting as well? The bulk of my problems (other than the Miracle Fruit tree I asked you about on the fertilizer thread) arise when transplanting from a moist peat mix to yours. It seems like the mix is a little coarse though so losing the seeds into the soil could be a problem when seed starting.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 1, 09 at 14:58

Most of my seed starting is dedicated to tree seed. I either use a 3" layer of 100% screened Turface with the seeds spread over that & then covered with the Turface fines, or I use the same set-up but with a little peat moss in the screened Turface.

A SUPERB seed starting mix would be 4 parts of Turface:1 part chopped sphagnum moss (not peat moss - sphagnum moss - do it in a blender or food processor).

Photobucket

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Al- what do I use to screen the gritty mix? And am I correct in remembering that the 5:1:1 does not need to be screened?

Thanks!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 2, 09 at 20:28

Use a #10 screen (10 squares to the inch) or insect screening. No need to screen the 5:1:1 mix unless you have a lot of inordinately large pieces that should be removed.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Pfft. . . Okay, after I actually read it, your explanation is not so daunting at all!

Sorry, I think I was just too overwhelmed at the time of my last post to really absorb (haha!) this. I got through it about two minutes ago and I'm already trying to source the ingredients.

Question: Switching soils midstream? I have potted my most recent batch of seedlings in the MG Organic Potting Mix in small containers with the intent of transplanting when they are more established and I am more, er, solvent. Would it be detrimental to transplant from the MG into your mix?

Jessica

ps-Any suggestions from anyone on retailers in the Newington/Middletown CT area much appreciated!

Here is a link that might be useful: Also, didja see my tomato?! I barely did a thing and I'm so proud!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 2, 09 at 22:46

Awww! That tomato will be an eater in no time, I bet!

You should only run into a little setback like you would with almost any transplant, but the plants should perk right up & take off in no time at all. You mainly run into problems when you pot-up a plant with a firm root mass into a dissimilar soil. Small soil volumes of seedlings, especially when you make sure the roots aren't encircling, won't be a problem.

What ingredients are you trying to locate?


Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Not sure if I should post it here, but did not think it was worthy of another thread. My Okra is doing OUTSTANDING in 511. WOW! Growing Zeebest, , anyways, they are huge and green and the picture of health. Been growing for a couple of years now, and this is the best they have ever looked. They just started to produce (mature), so am hoping with this picture of health comes earnest production.

Started them from seed, they really took a while to get going. I was thinking possible duds :) but they really came out to be champions. First year growing Zeebest after someone on this board recommended that variety.

Everything is doing great unless otherwise noted.

Other items in 511
------------------
Cucumbers (the love it)
Cantaloupe (they love it)
Watermelon (not sure if watermelons are as excited as cucumbers and catealoupe are about 511 :))
Blackberries (growing like mad)
Blueberries
Tomatoes *

Just bought these plants and are in 511 temporarily until get to next pot size. Should be her 6 months until more permanant planting (whether pot or ground)
---------------------
- Strawberry Tree (Not doing well, but heard does not transplant well)
- Mango Tree
- Fig (looking very nice)
- Barbados Cherry

* Tomatoes :(
The heartbreak. I just do not know what is going on here. Do not know if it is soil, infection or what. But I am killing plants left and write. Tried our local extension and they cannot help me. Plants look great, flower and just start to show fruit and BAM, dying leaves, loss of turgidity it is killing me and wost of all my Tomatoes.

Can't blame it on the soil, I am close to summer, have to wait for next year. Maybe heat, bugs, who knows.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Al and everyone, just wanted you to know that my conifers are doing extremely well in the gritty mix. I haven't taken any photos but I should do that. The concolor firs are unreal in size and the roots were huge when I potted them up in April. Only 3 years old, grown form seed, and they are so lush and green it's hard to believe. This is their second full season in the gritty mix, the first season they were in regular peat-based soil.

I also have a couple of 2-year old white pines that are nearly 12" tall and still growing, also from seed.

I think the big difference is the oxygen levels and salt flushing with the gritty mix, plus the weekly fertilization (1/2 strength MG 24-8-16 plus 1/4 tsp Epsom salts). This is the first season I fertilized in this fashion, plus the first season I added gypsum to the gritty mix.

I would say that anyone thinking of growing conifers or other woody plants should try the gritty mix on a few plants. You won't regret it!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 5, 09 at 17:56

Thanks, Dave. ;o)

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 5, 09 at 18:48

Oops - missed your post, Linchat. Sorry. I found it in my email. ;o)

I'm super-glad most of your plants are doing well. It ALWAYS pleases me to hear that things are working out for GW growers.

I don't know what to think about the tomatoes, though. That's a poser. Are the stems rotting at the soil line? Did YOU start them from seed? Notice any visible rotting of the stem tissue that would affect water movement before they collapsed? They aren't in old soil - so that one of the wilt diseases might be in play? That's what it SOUNDS like, but I'd be reluctant to suggest it if they are in fresh soil. What are you using for fertilizer?

Perhaps someone else will have an idea that might help you out?

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

This is the second year in a row that my tomatoes failed in the 5-1-1. So weird, every other plant I've got loves it (we're talking dozens of different kinds of plants).


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 5, 09 at 19:05

Obviously, all my plants appreciate it too - even the tomatoes, though. I'm not sure what's up w/you guys? I hope we can find out here soon, hmm?

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Linchat, while I am not the world's foremost authority on tomatos, I do have a passion for growing them (oddly, moreso than eating them). If you can post or email me a pic of a damaged plant I will do my best to help you narrow down the potential causes.

There was a time I considered tomatos bullet proof in my hands, but then I had a year where early blight destroyed all my plants in ground, containers, hybrid, heirloom alike before they could even fruit.

I understand the heart break and would love the opportunity to *try* to help you.

I can assure you it isn't the 5:1:1 mix as I am sure you know, but if we don't get a handle on the cause then it may strike again next season.

I am very confident we can get your next tomatos season to be highly productive.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

All I can say is WOW!!! I can't get over the number of posts on this thread...absolutely amazing!!

Thanks Al, for all that you do for us, helping us so tirelessly...We REALLY do appreciate you!!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

I agree with puglvr, this is an amazing thread! wow, it's a great resource of information. Most excellent Al, thanks!

I bought a bag of pelletized gypsum for use in my containers and I've only used a portion of it. Can I store gypsum over the winter in my barn (unheated) and use the remainder next season or is gypsum only good for one season?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Here are this pics of the tomatoes. I was starting to wonder if this is fusarium wilt.

Hope the pics are good enough.

These are all different varieties of Tomatoes. Beefmaster, Patio, Better Bush... Ugh.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jun 6, 09 at 10:40

Pardak - thanks so much! Gypsum has a very long (forever almost?) shelf life, though it may clump after time. Just break it up & use as usual if it does.

Linchat - if you can rule out over-fertilizing, you should look next to a fungal issue. I asked if you were reusing old soil (this is a good time to add a plug for fresh soils. The practice, combined with clean containers, goes a very long way toward eliminating disease carry-over.), but you didn't answer?

If it is fungal, you should read up on early blight, which is extremely common in tomato crops. Those plants would be too far gone, but prophylactic treatments with several fungicides can help prevent it from occurring and guard against other leaf diseases such as leaf mold, gray leaf spot, and Septoria. Do a search of Google Images & a net search for more info on 'early blight' & see if you don't think that the issue.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Linchat, your 5-1-1- mix should be fine to use and unrelated to your problems IF you fertilize frequently.
I think you have several issues going on at once.

1) (climate) Your in zone 10B S. Fl and now really isn't the time to grow tomatoes. You have to battle the rain, heat, disease, and bugs of the summer. As an aside, night time temps are too high for large tomatoes to set. (yes, I know they say you can grow cherries but you still have to deal with aforementioned problems).

There has been drenching rains for 2 weeks (?) and the rainy season is only beginning.

2) (disease) Can't see fusarium (soil borne disease) as a cause as you are using soilless mix.

If you have spots first and eventual necrotic coalescing over whole leaf that can point to early blight, bacterial spot, etc.

I have 2 plants that look exactly like picture 3 and they are growing in peat-based mix. The decline did not start off with spots-- only yellowing leaves. They are in an EB so rule out nutritional deficiency. I was on another forum and someone mentioned powdery mildew as a possible culprit-not the white powdery type (Odium...) but the one that starts out with yellow blotches (LT). I think that is a possibility though I did not see distinct yellow spots 1st.

3) (Nutritional) Pic 2 of the bush tomato does look like a nutritionally deficiency as well. From another post, you used a granular organic fertilizer (Tomato Tone) but then didn't fertilize for a month. Organic fert. an be trickier to get it right. You did mention you also gave one shot of MG so that should have helped for an immediate release but you need to use something frequently in containers when growing tomatoes. I am experimenting with liquid organic fert. and applying frequently and comparing with hydroponic ferts. BUT again there are too many other side issues (rain, temps) to contend with.

I am afraid I would rip all those plants out. Start again in the fall. OR if you want to go with a cherry now stay on top of it with fungicides/bactericides as Al mentions but you will have much better results later in Sept./Oct. I have a few cherries to experiment with but I know it is an uphill battle in rainy tropical-like summers.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Very interesting. Im learning so much from all this discussion thanks to Al and everyone else here. Its like a new dimension to soil (lol).
Im new to this kind of soil and im excited to try it on my bulbs because ive been having problems with regular soil and its drainage. Can you guys please expain to me what is salt flushing, how do you do that, and how do you know when you need to flush away salts?

Thanks so much


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

farkee,

Thanks for the elaborate response. These plants were handled a bit different then before. But results are the same. Awful death.

These were planted in 511 with a 9 month fert which includes minors (The home depot dynamite version that lowes sells, forgot name). What I have been doing is about every two weeks I fertalize with MG (1.5 TBL to 3 gallons (half dose)) as I have seen recommended here. During all these rains I was fertilizing once a week with MG.

What stinks as that all of these plants were beautiful. Just outstanding, and then this wretched problem occurs.

Guess I will just have to hold out till fall. They all will end up or already look like picture 3. I have a brandywine that is following that path now. None of my tomatoes have escaped this dreaded (disease?)


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jun 6, 09 at 14:30

Thanks, Farkee. Your reply was insightful & something someone from so far north of the Mason Dixon Line doesn't often consider.

SC - Ideally, 'salt flushing' should be going on continuously in our conventional container plantings, taking place each time we water. One of the prime reasons I choose to build soils that retain little perched water is so that you can fertilize frequently at low rates with no concern for the soluble salts from either your fertilizers or irrigation water building up in the soil because you flush them out by watering beyond container capacity (total soil saturation) to the point where a significant enough fraction of your irrigation water exits the container, carrying accumulating salts with it.

If you cannot water to this degree, you should still flush the soil every 2-4 weeks while the plants are growing robustly. If you think root rot because of a slow soil will be a possibility after flushing, there are strategies like employing a wick, tilting the container, or partially burying the container in the ground, along with others, that can help avoid the overly saturated soils that can occur in many, if not most 'out-of-the-bag - intended for container' soil products.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Al, thanks for letting me know about the gypsum. Glad to hear it won't go bad over the winter!

Another question if I may. When using the grit mix is it better to soak the pine or fir bark and turface ahead of time before adding it to the container or is it better to use dry ingredients, place the plant in the container, then water? I think I read that pine and fir bark are hydrophobic at first?

Thanks.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jun 6, 09 at 20:01

You really don't need to worry much about hydrophobia when using the gritty mix unless you're using organic fertilizers. The Turface absorbs water readily, so even if the soil is completely dry and the bark component very hydrophobic, the Turface isn't. The Turface readily absorbs water, which then moves into the hydrophobic bark by diffusion. When you water the second time, or the next time you water, the bark will no longer be hydrophobic. I.e. unless you let the soil dry down to below somewhere around 30% water content (way past feeling dry), in which case you'll be right back (close) to where you started.

Don't worry about the hydrophobia though. Most people panic at first because they think the soil isn't holding enough water and tend to water much more often than necessary.

Take care.

Time to go watch the Red Wings. ;o)

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Thanks again Al for taking the time to share that advice. I really appreciate it! The pine bark in your 511 mix is not readily available where i live except as coloured mulches. Sometimes we do get "undyed" mulches. Not sure if the dyes used are phytotoxic. The Turface isn't available either. I really want to get the good results you guys here have obtained, so im trying to work around and find other substitutes locally available, keeping in mind the principles you have outlined.

Siam


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 7, 09 at 10:01

Oh yeah - I just looked at your user page, and you really DON'T live 'the next block over' from anyone here, do you? ;o)

Ideally, you would be able to look for, and be able to find someone with more than a basic knowledge of soils/container media in your area. I might suggest that you actually walk into a botanic garden or public plant-related enterprise and ask to talk to the person there that takes care of their containerized plants or the one that builds specialized soils. I've established friendships with several people in these positions & we help each other often & regularly exchange new information and ideas. They are usually very willing to share what they know. They also usually have the valuable information that can lead you to sources for what is used locally.

If you can locate a bonsai club in your area, the right person can be a treasure trove of information. I'll set myself aside from the treasure trove thing so I can say that I owe at least 90% of what I know about soils, probably physiology and many other aspects of plant husbandry, too, to the research I realized was going to be necessary if I was going to be able to keep large plants alive in tiny containers. Accomplished bonsai practitioners will always be excellent container gardeners - if they weren't, they couldn't be accomplished, so seek them out for the info you're looking for. Who knows - you might even fall in love with those lovely little trees. ;o)

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by filix z5 maine (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 7, 09 at 15:40

Al can you use the gritty mix over and over. I have some annuals in it "and doing great by the way" and I thought why cant i use this again. Even if a flower gets some disease, there must be a way to flush out the soil. Little bleach maybe? filix.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Al,

Thanks again for the advice. I think the gritty soil mix would be easier to make when all ingredients are dry, but wanted to make sure the pine or fir bark actually absorbs water. Sounds like once it's mixed with turface then watered a couple of times the bark does absorb water.

Thank you.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 7, 09 at 16:44

Filix - I have raised beds with a soil similar to the gritty mix in them, so I just turn the used mix into those beds. I know others often reuse soils, but I don't. I suppose if you were going to reuse the gritty mix, you could just let it dry, screen it, and mix what's left into an equal portion of fresh soil, but again, I don't reuse it.

Pardak - It's easier to make/mix when dry, but I still moisten it just enough so there's no dust to inhale from the micro-nutrient powder or the other ingredients. It also makes the mix more homogeneous if you mix it while slightly damp.

I put the bark in first, then the Turface, then the grit on top, and the grit is what I moisten before mixing. You're also correct in what you said about it being easy to water after the initial moistening, including the bark component.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Thanks again Al for the great advice. I'm sure my plants appreciate all of your advice!

BTW, I know you said that gypsum can be stored for many years and essentially never goes bad, but what about fertilizer? I have some miracle grow 12-4-8 liquid and 24-8-16 granular. Can they also be used for several seasons or do they lose potency after one season.

Thanks again Al.

John


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 7, 09 at 20:12

They don't really have a shelf life, but sometimes the granular products absorb a considerable amount of water from the air (salt does this naturally). When this occurs, the granular texture breaks down as some of it dissolves and the product becoming more concentrated on a volume basis because it holds less air. You need to use LESS of the fertilizer to make a solution of a desired strength. How much less depends on how liquefied the product has become.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Great idea Al. I was thinking about doing just that. I am a member of the horticultural society here, and i dont get much help from them, they mostly about sales. I will keep looking for someone who can help, but until then i am basically on my own.
Thanks again,
Siam.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 8, 09 at 9:26

Well, good luck. It's actually frustrating - not to be able to help more.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Over the weekend I noticed that the largest of the conifers I'm growing, a 3-season old concolor fir in approximately a one-gallon container, now has roots starting to grow out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the container. This is amazing since I just potted up this tree in March and did quite a bit of root pruning at that time. Major root growth for sure!

A large part of the credit for this rapid growth goes to the members of this forum. Without the help of you all I would probably still be growing these trees in regular garden soil without knowing anything about the grit mix, proper fertilization or watering frequency, gypsum, epsom salt, etc.

Thanks everyone!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

thanks for your answer al, but since i posted the last
question to you i have a place in riverside ca. that
has d. g. screened in 5 to 50 screen sizes.
i will be useing turface and granite only what size of
granite should i get ? and what ratio should i mix them ?.
i have my watering on a timer i can set it to water two
times dayly if need be, what do you think ?
thanks again al, les matzek



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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 9, 09 at 17:33

If you have that many options, take all the material that passes through 6 mesh but won't pass through 9 mesh.

For the record, 6 mesh = #6 sieve size, but 9 mesh = #10 sieve size.

I would screen the Turface through a #10 screen or insect screening and discard (use elsewhere) the fines, then mix the Turface & rotted granite @ 1:1 or 3 parts Turface:2 granite

You'll need to stay right on top of your nutritional supplementation, but the soil should work well for you, even w/o the bark.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

thanks al,
a-i granite already screens and bags the different sizes of
the granite in to 80 pound bags.
they will let me see the different sizes before i buy it
should i get the bag that is the closest to 3/16" in size ?,also should i fertilize 1/3 or 1/4 strenght when
i water ?.

best regards les matzek


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 9, 09 at 22:47

Get material that is as close to 1/10 - 1/8" as you can (.100 - .125).

If you fertilize each time you water, 1/8 - 1/4 recommended strength is all you need. Decide based on temperature & how robustly the plant material in the container is growing.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Hello Al,
I have enjoyed reading your writings and benefited from your knowledge and experience. Many thanks for your patience and generosity.

If you would please, I have a comment and a question.

In one of your posts you mentioned that you bought a Pomegranate tree from Fuji Bonsai Nursery. I thought "What - Pomegranate in Michigan?"

Last week I had to go from San Francisco to Los Angles, and decided to visit the nursery. I met Roy the owner and some of his associates. He asked me how I found out about his place, and I told him "Al from Michigan" bought a Pomegranate tree from you! To help with his obvious confusion, I added, "you know....Al the Tapla?" Roy looked a little concerned and even more confused. I was about to help him further by asking if he knows justaguy, but my better judgement prevailed. By this point the only thing Roy was sure of was that he had met just another nut from San Francisco!

Kidding aside, while I could not help Roy place you, he felt strongly that he must know you, as he would not sell a Pomegranate stock to just anyone in Michigan. I'm not sure if you have been to Fuji, but in case you have not, it�s a fabulous place. I took a few pictures for you. A link to the album is below.

So far this year I am successfully growing many vegetables using the 5-1-1 mix in Danville CA. For a first time container grower, this is a testament to the effectiveness of your mix.

I am about to experiment with three self-watering containers made of wine barrels cut in half with the following mix:

7 part bark fines
2 part peat
1 part perlite
1 part vermiculite
1 tbsp garden lime/gallon

My question is do you still think this is a good mix for such a large container? If I were to do a side by side experiment in the three half-barrels, what changes would you make to the above mix? For example I was planning to do the first container with the above mix, the next one with 6 parts bark and 2 parts vermiculite and the third with 5 parts bark and three parts vermiculite. Any suggestions?

Here is a link that might be useful: Fuji Bonsai Nursery


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 10, 09 at 9:08

Hi, Maxsio - Thanks for the kind words. The soil you were asking about should work just fine in a SWC, but much depends on how fine the bark is. If they are really fines, something like Fafard's aged fines or a little coarser, you should be in good shape. Be sure to let us know how you fare.

I've been at the same bonsai events as Roy many times and have had a number of brief conversations with him. I've attended a few of his show critiques and taken a couple of his juniper workshops, so I'm sure he would recognize me, though he probably doesn't know much about me. He's a bonsai master and I'm just another student. ;o) The tree was a birthday gift ('05 or '06) from a friend in Fremont who had stopped at the nursery on my recommendation. She was really glad she did. I still have the tree, and it prospers. I used it last spring (or the spring before) in a repotting demonstration for a bonsai club. I probably have around 100 tropical or tender trees in various stages of development, so keeping a tree as genetically vigorous as a pom healthy is no big trick. ;o)

An aside: Roy provided all or most of the trees used as props in the Karate Kid movies. ;o)

Glad you stopped by. Take care.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

hi al,

another question for you if you do not mind, i live in the hi desert area of southeren ca. i took the advice of the
tomato lady of las vegas (leslie doyle) she advised me to uncover my greenhouse i had it covered with 60% shade
cloth that tomatoes need all the sun they can get ?? what
do you think ? i can cover the green house back again if you think i should.

it gets above 100 degrees here quite often in june,july,aug.,sept., the nights stay close to 70-80
degrees

thanks al, les matzek


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Sun is good, excessive heat in the green house will be a problem. Can you supply them w/ ventilation to cool the green house off? You probably won't get any fruit set in those temps. The green house will be much hotter than what you listed.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 11, 09 at 20:35

Les - the upper part of the plant will tolerate temperatures much higher than 100*, and they'll tolerate all the sun you can give them as long as there is air movement to disturb the boundary layer (layer of still air around the leaves) so the leaves can't overheat from solar gain. What they WON'T tolerate is root temperatures in the mid-90s or higher. Temperature will begin to impede root function/metabolism somewhere around 90* and by the time root temperatures hit around 120*, the plants are dead.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

hi al,

i built a sub-terraing raised bed, it is 24"wide by 96" long by 28" deep in the ground, to fill it i used 6 cubic
feet of pine bark fines, 3 cubic feet of number 3 corse
perlite, 3 cubic feet of spagaum peet moss, 3 cubic feet
of compost, 2 cubic feet of composted steer manure.

the other 3 bed's i will use your gritty mix, if i have to replace every thing it will be very costly,how can i re-use it ?

thank' al

les matzek


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jun 13, 09 at 21:25

Subterranean? Why can't you use the soil as it is?

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

hi al,
it is pure sand all the way to china.
is there any way i can amend the bed's ?

les matzek


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jun 13, 09 at 22:14

I'm lost. What are you trying to achieve, Les?

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

hi al,

i guess i cant relate what i am trying to do, i would like
to use one of your mixes but here where i live it is next
to impossible to grow anything except maybe catus because
of the very hot summers.

i though if i put your mix below the ground it would keep the soil so much kooler ? hopeing to help the plants
survive.

i read on one of your other post that you put your mix
that you used from the year befor in your raised bed"s ?.

what i am trying to do is to re-use your mix without
haveing to replace the whole bed if possilable ?.

thanks al.

les matzek


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 14, 09 at 11:55

I don't know if I'm following you or not. You could try:

Cut the bottom out of a plastic pail & bury it. Fill it with a mix of:
2 NAPA floor dry
2 Michigan (reed/sedge) peat (not sphagnum)
2 very fine pine bark
1 vermiculite
and see how that holds water in the sandy soil. If it doesn't work, then start reducing the bark component.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Hi Al,
First I'd like to thank you for your patience and for writing such a great thread!

I am from Brazil and I just can't find pine bark fines anywhere. The best I could find was uncomposted pine bark in big pieces.. 1 inch or even bigger. Will these do or should I do something to make them smaller?
I will use the mix basically for my window boxes (petunias and geraniums).

Thanks again!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

I just read threads VI and VII and now I know I need something much finer.. 1/8"?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 15, 09 at 8:35

Yes, the highest % of pieces in the 1/8 size range would be ideal. Perhaps a chipper, if one is available?

Thanks for the kind words. ;o)

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Hi Al. I understand that you grow some of your continaer plants using only Turface, without any granite or bark at all. I think I might like to try that Turface-only method and experiment with a couple of my small pine, juniper and fir seedlings.

I do have a couple of questions.

1. Do you water the Turface-only containers more frequently, less frequently, or about the same as continers using the standard grit mix (Turface, bark, granite)?

2. If growing in Turface only, should I adjust the fertilizing frequency and/or fertilizer solution strength compared to the grit mix?

I assume you would contine to add 1/4 tsp/gallon of espsom salt to the fertilizer solution when using MG 24-8-16 water soluble fertilizer and add 1 tbsp/gallon of gypsum to the Turface to supply missing minors in the MG fertilizer, correct?

Anything else I'd need to change or consider when using only Turface for growing woody plants in containers?

Thanks Al.

Regards,

Dave


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 17, 09 at 10:02

1) Less frequently

2) Fertilize as you would fertilize THAT plant material if it was in the gritty mix. IOW, you don't fertilize the soil, you fertilize the plant. As an aside, I'll just take a minute to mention that is a good thing to remember as being a stark difference between container culture and growing in the ground. In the garden, you can feed the soil and the plants can pretty much take care of themselves - nutritionally, but in container culture, you really need to consider feeding the PLANT as your number one priority when it comes to providing all the essential nutrients for normal growth.

You have the MgSO4 and CaSO4 application correct, except that the Ca, Mg, and S missing in MG fertilizer aren't minors (micro-nutrients), they are all secondary majors (macro-nutrients). ;o) It's a technicality, I know, but I also know you would like to be aware of it.

Nothing else needs to change except you need to get used to the difference in water requirements.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Al,

I was wandering and I think you are against the idea, but soil reuse on 511? How long do you think someone can get out of it? I would rotate plants of course. Just for seasonal vegetables btw. (not for tree's or anything permanent)

Also, I found a post that I missed in regards to the tomatoes. That was all fresh soil and new containers. They are doomed. :)

But everything is is doing well. One of the other plants I have in the soil now is a Grumichama. It is really a pretty plant, thick, shiny leaves and great tasting fruit. But it along with many of the other sub-tropicals / asian plants are doing well in the soil. Used a citrus CRF on most of the sub-tropicals. I could not be more pleased.

I have a strawberry tree planted in 511, I bought the plant at a plant show on a whim, it was cheap. It does not look so good, but #1. it could be very well how the tree is supposed to look! I am not familiar with it, but it is producing / flowering. Leaves are very droopy. Maybe it is its look. :) #2. Supposedly they do not transplant well. I am leaning to #1, I think it might actually be healthy, as it is growing, all the leaves are green and the tree is fruiting.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 17, 09 at 13:53

A conifer bark-based soil will retain its structure approximately 3-5 times as long as a peat-based soil. Theoretically, if you keep adding fresh pine bark to old soil & treat the old soil primarily as the peat component of a 5:1:1 mix while leaving any additional peat out, you should be able to reuse it indefinitely. But you're correct, I don't recommend it.

I use the 5:1:1 mix for a year & then it goes into the garden or compost pile. If I DO put something in it and the soil gets pressed into 2 years service, it always does fine. I guess my guideline is - I replace it when I repot.

I can't help much with the strawberry tree (Arbutus - right?) except to tell you it doesn't like wet feet at all.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Al,

Thanks for the advice. Much appreciated!

I think you mentioned that you repot your pines in July, so maybe I'll move a pine or two over to the all-Turface soil and give it a try.

I'll remember to water less frequently and use the same fertilizing schedule as the gritty mix.

Good catch on the secondary majors. I'll try to remember that as well.

Again, thanks for your time.

Dave


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Well, my tomatoes just died in the mix. Last week it was the celery. Maybe my pine bark was too big. Would that alone cause the mix to hold too much water? I never thought too much water would end up being a problem for me! LOL! Yesteday I noticed one was totally wilted. I dug it up and there were hardly any roots, just like the celery. I started these from seed and I'm sure I planted them deep. Today the other one started fading. I am tempted to go to the nursery, buy some big ones and replant, but if it's the mix, those might rot out too. It is VERY moist. I dug down on one side to make sure the soil was packed well into the wick basket, it was. I am taking the red plastic off the top to see if that helps dry it out some, and keeps the water moving up and out, so to speak. Other pots with mix are not doing well, it seems only the lettuce likes it. Anything in pots with last years MG and Schultz is doing ok. Perhaps we've just had more rain than I realize, I dunno. I had hoped for a boatload of success this year, between the balcony, and I scored two plots in our community garden (still not a large space) but next year, I'm going to be very cautious about starting from seed and the soil I'm using.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 18, 09 at 8:59

Somewhere, there was a fatal flaw. If you want to comb through the wreckage together, I bet we can figure out what it was.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

hi al,

i hope you can give me a different word that composted peat
humas would be called ?.

thanks again, les matzek


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 18, 09 at 10:10

? Are you referring to reed/sedge peat or Michigan peat? It's usually more like a muck - suited to raised beds, but not containers.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

hi again al,
the article i read said composted peat humas i guess you
have never heard of it at least by that name ?.

well anyways can you tell me why the reed/sedge peat will
work in the ground but not in container's ?, also where
could a person get the reed/sedge or michigan peat at ?.

thanks again my friend, les matzek


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 18, 09 at 13:33

There is a thorough explanation in my original post, but basically it's because the particle size of the reed/sedge peat is too small. It clogs macro-pores & retains an immense amount of water, raising the level of perched water in containers. In garden soils or raised bed soils, the earth below the soil acts as a giant wick & pulls perched water from the soils, allowing you the favorable option of making the use of reed/sedge or Michigan peat in those soils.

I have no idea if they sell the reed/sedge/MI peat in CA, but you should be able to get it at garden centers if they do.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Hey Al,
I was going to buy dolomitic lime today but when I got to the store there were 3 different types:

Dolomitic Lime A
CaO: 45 to 48%
MgO: 6 to 10%

Dolomitic Lime B
Cao: 35 to 38%
MgO: 12 to 15%

Dolomitic Lime C
Cao: 33 to 36%
MgO: 16 to 20%

Which one should I buy?
Thanks!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 18, 09 at 15:37

Buy the B. It has the most favorable Ca:Mg ratio for soils in which you're not trying to correct a deficiency of one of the elements.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

msaunt, so sorry you lost your plants. What fertilizer were you using this year, and how were you using it? Also, is this a covered self-watering container, like an EarthBox? Also, when and how did you plant your tomatoes (from seed, indoors, then transplant, or plant them outdoors)? I sensed you are growing in a self-watering container because you said you took off the cover and that you checked the wicking.

It has been very wet for some of us (it's pouring as I type this) but a cover should prevent water from getting into the box, so the only water is what is being wicked. So, if the mix is wet, it's potentially wicking and holding onto too much water (I suppose it could have started out too wet, too). Some mixes do that. I don't use Al's mix in my EarthBoxes so I can't comment on how it does, but before I paid attention to how these work and when I assumed they were like gardening in soil, I did use inappropriate mix in my EBs and had much too much water!

Hopefully with some more details we can figure out what's happening to your plants and help you decide if buying new plants will resolve the problem.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Thank you Al, and Lathyrus.

well, I used Butterfield Farms Pine Bark Mulch, Sphagnum Peat Moss from HD, and Perlite. Added Schulz 16 12 12 All purpose slow release plant food, and added some lime (the right kind) to the pile going into tomato pots and boxes. I have this SWC http://www.cleanairgardening.com/gardenkit.html It's a two piece affair, and last year I noticed the top kept falling into the bottom. The only thing holding it up are the two wick baskets, and a narrow lip all around the edge. So this year I cut about 12 lengths of 3/4" pvc pipe into the right lentgh to act as little columns. I drilled holes into the columns so they would hold water and not minimize the amount of water in the chamber too much. These boxes come with a plastic sheet that just lays on top of the soil and is held down with 4 stakes. A fertilizer strip is attached to the bottom side of the sheet, so it lays on top of the soil. I did not reorder a new sheet this year, I simply dug a little trench, added some more fertilizer there, covered that over a little with mix. I put a sheet of red plastic tomato mulch film over the top, staked down like last year. I have to add additional stakes to hold down the sheet, as my place is windy. Therfore, water can collect on this sheet and roll down the sides into the pot. My plants were Park Seed Better Bush Improved Hybrid ISI. They were small as I didn't get to start them til April, but that hasn't stopped other varieties I started at the same time from thriving. I just went out and took a picture and will put it on my Shutterfly site.

In these photos (the last 4 in the album) you can see the one bigger plant (about 5" tall and kinda bushy) has fallen over at the soil line. The other is totally wilted, but not dried up, and is the one that had a tiny root ball. The soil is soaked, and I have teeny black gnats all over the surface of this box, and other pots. What are those things? They don't seem to be harmful but I'm not sure. You can also see the green 'slime', which I have on several of my pots (see my celery post from last weekend).

And that's all I know!

Thanks for any advice you can give me.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pam's Garden Summer 2009


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 19, 09 at 22:12

The soil looks like it's completely saturated, & the (it looks like) liverwort or algae (can't see clearly enough to identify) growing on top of the soil is reason enough to believe it is as well. The gnats are almost surely fungus gnats & also denizens of saturated soils. We need to know now, if the box is malfunctioning, assembled wrong, or what made the soil so water-retentive.

Can we start with what your assurance the box is assembled properly and has not malfunctioned? If we can, the next logical step is to take a closer look at the bark. What does it say on the bag about what it's made of? A picture of it on a piece of white paper with a coin or something for a size comparison? It was sphagnum peat from a bale & not reed/sedge peat from a bag? You did use perlite & not vermiculite? I don't see much perlite in the mix. Did you add fertilizer to the soil AND use the strip in the trench you dug? Perhaps over-fertilizing is a player in this, too?

Any 5:1:1 mixes I have made would not hold that much water, so I'm leaning heavily toward it being a problem with the soil, which will probably lead us back to the bark component - but maybe not. Let's see what you have to say.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

I certainly can't add much to Al's post. Al asked about the box and how it functions. I am wondering if any of these pots have any type of overflow hole. If this is outside and you've had rain like I have, without a hole and with the rain able to soak the soil, it would be much too saturated. So, as Al said, could be the bark component or could be the way container is itself.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

good morning al,
i have a question for you witch i hope that you can answer
for me ?. is there any way a person can make a soil mix
that would have everything a plant need,s to have good
growth and produce without any fertilizer,s added ?.
thanke al.
les matzek


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jun 20, 09 at 12:06

Yes and no. You can, but it will always be ephemeral. In container culture, you'll always be responsible for ensuring that your plants have all the essential elements they need to grow with good vitality. The discussion would be very involved & would require a good understanding of nutrition in order for you to get anything out of the conversation.

Is a soil amendment (blood meal, cottonseed meal, bone meal) a fertilizer? If you answer yes, then we have to answer no to your question, because you cannot pack enough of these nutrients into the soil at any one time for the supply to last an entire growth season. If you answer no, I say "Why not?" When they break down, they supply exactly the same nutrients that soluble fertilizers supply and that plants use.

It's unclear if your question allows the use of CRF's. If it does, then 'YES', you can make a soil that includes a CRF which includes ALL essential elements that would allow you to keep plants in good vitality (from the perspective of having all the necessary elements available in a favorable ratio) for the entire growth cycle.

If anyone tells you they made a soil that lasted the entire year with no added nutrition (unless they used CRF), suspect the veracity of the claim or be sure their plants suffered. They may not have been able to recognize the plants were growing with less than their potential vitality, but they certainly would be. Container culture just doesn't work that way, any more than hydroponics does.

One possible exception, in case there would be argument with what I said, would be the scenario in which a small amount of plant material would be growing in a very large container; then, it might be possible, but even here, I'm envisioning a handful of straggly weeds in a big pot that don't look particularly full of vitality. ;o)

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

thank's al
i can see by your answer that you have a much higher
education then i have (i did not finish the 8 th. grade ) i can't understand some of your words because of the
my lack of education but thanks for giveing me your
help.
also al i put a peice of rope in one of my container's
i made a circle on the bottom of the pot and i left
about one inch sticking out if i wait for it to get
dry won't it be to dry on top for seedlings ??.
thanks much al.

les matzek


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jun 20, 09 at 16:05

Really sorry about the words, Les. If you think there's anything you'd like repeated in different terms, let me know & I'll rephrase it.

When the seedlings are first planted, you need to make sure the top of the soil is moist enough that they don't wilt. When the planting is new, you should watch closely and be sure to water at the first signs of wilting. After the roots have grown into the entire soil mass, you should water when the wick feels dry right where it exits the container. When you start having difficulty keeping up with water requirements, pull the wick out.

BTW - leave at least a couple of inches of wick dangling below the pot, unless the wick is resting on the soil.

Take care.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

thank's al.
what does btw mean ?, also the 2 inches of wick sticking out is on concrete is this o.k.?.
thank's once again.

les matzek


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jun 20, 09 at 18:40

btw = by the way

You should raise the container so the wick hangs a couple of inches below it but doesn't touch the concrete or the puddle that forms under the container when you water. You could set it on bricks, 4x4 blocks or 2x4s on edge, for example.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

I'm back! I've got pictures of the mix (in a windowbox that is still dry) and the mulch I used in the mix. I don't have the bag so I don't know what the company claims the mulch is made of, other than pine bark.

I also bought some MG Mix to replace the soil in my balcony pots. It was all I could find at 3 nurseries that didn't have the moisture control stuff. Picked up 4 new tomatoes. I spoke to a neighbor who is badly in need of some mulch, so I'm going to spread my old 'mix' on his plot, and he can dig it in or let it sit. If I hadn't covered my plot in landscape fabric I'd dig it into my own space.

I also took pictures of the mix in NON-swc at my mother's place. All those plants are thriving well. There is some green stuff on the surface of some.

Regarding the overflow hole - these are all bottom fed swc, so they automatically overflow. I've seen it happen in periods of heavy rain.

High winds today were pleasant, but when I got home many of my plants on the balcony were dessicated or had broken stems. I had just taken the row cover off a couple of them, so I've replaced it, and will probably add it to some pots that haven't had it yet.

I'm still uploading the pics, so it might be a few minutes before they make it onto my site.

Pam

Here is a link that might be useful: Pam's Garden Summer 2009


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 21, 09 at 10:31

I don't know what to tell you, Pam, except the soil is holding a LOT of water. The bark has LOTS of sapwood/heartwood in it, too. The only reason It would hold that much water in a wicking situation is if most of the bark particles are very fine/well-composted, and are a large % of the mix (more than 1/3).

I'm really sorry you're having difficulties, but the 5:1:1 mix, altered slightly to be suitable for SWCs, is working very well for lots of folks. If your box doesn't have a design flaw & is assembled properly, you should almost certainly look to the bark as the source of your problem.

I don't know if you're too discouraged to try again, but I want to at least voice my encouragement & remind you that we're here for any help you need.

Take care.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

top of the morning al,
can i use just turface or floor dry to grow veggie's in ?.

thank's les matxwek


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 21, 09 at 13:38

If you want to, you can, but it's more expensive than the 5:1:1 mix. I'm not particularly impoverished, but I still choose the 5:1:1 mix for all my veggies & floral display containers.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Thanks for the encouragement Al. I have just emptied half the box, and when I got down to the wicking chamber, the soil actually smells sewage like. So it's best to dump it, let the boxes air out, and start over. Trying to mix my own soil when I have this small balcony was very ambitious for me anyway. I had to do it at my mother's garage, and lug over buckets and bags of it in my car. As long as I'm in this housing situation, I'll just stick to the pre-made container mixes. I still love the SWC concept, you should see all the lettuce I just harvested!

Ok, off to carry my smelly soil 8 floors down to the outside, pray for me that I don't spill! This has got to be some good stuff for someone's garden.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 21, 09 at 14:17

Aww! We're all sending you a cyber-hug. ;o)

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

hi al,

the reasoni asked you about using turface by it,s self
maybe i will not be able to over watering if i water
once a day , or more if i see any wilting.
what does the word impoverished mean ??

thank,s al.
LES MATZEK


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 21, 09 at 16:54

impoverished = poor


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Dump was successful. I dumped 3 flower boxes, the tomato box, a 6" pot and the 2 12" celery pots. Washed, bleached (lots of green algae in the flower boxes), and refilled the tomato and celery pots, and 2 small 6" pots, and half a flower box. That was 2.5CF of MG, so I will need one more bag that size to refill the rest of the pots. Still want to dump one more flower box, and at least one other large pot, maybe more. When I dumped the celery/beet pots I just harvested the beet greens and pulled them out. I will leave the celery by itself now.

My neighbor was thrilled to get all the good 'muck', and others were jealous. They'll be glad to hear I still have a couple more pots to dump and share!

I also installed my tomato cages, but I guess that's for another forum! Let's just say it's been a long day of gardening and I still have to scrub dirt out of my bathtub, since that's where the washing/bleaching had to occur. A couple more evenings and I should be done. I'm looking forward to not doing anything more strenuous for the rest of the summer but some pruning and watering. Oh, and harvesting. Lots of harvesting.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

msaunt, I was thinking of all your hauling and scrubbing and what a shame if that were to happen again. Maybe it might be worth it to set up just one of them and see how it wicks first. I was also wondering how wet the mixture was when you put it in. It's easy (I think) to get the mixes tooooooo wet. There is probably some rule of them, but I just go by feel. At first, it is a bit wet, but still crumbly. As you add more water, the mix starts sticking together. If it crumbles, it's still dry. It should 'just' stay together and when squeezed, no water should squeeze out. Maybe a drop, but that is the limit. If it's more wet than that, it's too wet.

If you put the mix in a container and pack the corners correctly, you shouldn't need to add any water from the top anymore. Let it sit outside, unplanted, for a week. If the top dries out, then potentially you need to cover or mulch it, or maybe add something else that wicks better, like a bit of vermiculite. If it stays damp, all is fine as is. If it gets more wet...then the mix needs to be changed to something else.

Forgive me if this is stating the obvious and what you've already tried.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Hi all. Over this past weekend I repotted a small 2-year old white pine, about 10 or so inches tall. Originally it was growing in the grit mix (bark/granite/Turface combo) but thought I'd try growing it in 100% Turface as a test. I've not tried growing anything in 100% Turface so thought I'd give it a shot.

When I removed the pine from the plastic container there was a good deal of moisture in the bottom half of the grit mix but there was no sign of any perched or standing water. And this was after a heavy rainstorm the previous evening. If anyone on the fourm was was wondering about the grit mix possible holding too much water, or even a PWT, I'd say this really shows how well the grit mix holds enough water for plant usage but not too much water and promote root rot.

The pine tree roots were in great shape and showed lots of recent growth. In fact, they had reached the bottom of the container in several places and had grown into the insect screen at the bottom of the container.

Anyway, the grit mix looks really good for growing woody plants without holding too much water. I don't know much about growing veggies or other plants in the grit mix but I can vouch for the effectiveness of growing woody plants in the bark/granite/Turface mix.

Thanks to Al again for the encouragement and the wealth of information. After seeing the root development of the pine there's no way would I *EVER* use a bag of MG or similar peat-based soil for growing woody plants.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

I was looking for some information and stumbled across this article about the physical properties of container media. It's assumption is that the container is using bark as the primary component. If you take the link on the page, the author also shows you how to determine the water holding capacity of a particular container.

Here is a link that might be useful: Good explanation of container characteristics


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Hi all. Quick question. If I were to use diatomaceous earth (DE) in the gritty mix instead of Turface, would I adjust the mix ratio slightly by reducing the amount of DE and adding a bit more granite?

I believe DE holds more water than Turface but I wanted to ask the experts here just to be sure.

Thanks.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 26, 09 at 8:45

It will vary by person and application, but screened DE does hold more water than screened Turface, and for your application I think what you're suggesting is a reasonable course. Maybe
4 bark
5 crushed granite
3 screened DE

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Thanks for the fast reply and for the confirmation Al. Glad to hear that I was on the right track.

Forgot to ask this in my above post, but if using DE rather than Turface I still need to add gypsum (1 tbsp/gallon) to the mix and add epsom salt to my fertilizing solution, correct?

Also, do you have any plants growing in 100% DE? I know you have some growing in 100% Turface, just didn't know if you could or should grow woody plants in pure DE like you can in Turface.

Thanks.

Dave


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 26, 09 at 10:36

Yes, add the gypsum & Epsom salts as you do when using Turface. I don't have any plants in just calcined DE. Why don't you try it & report back - a good project for you. ;o)

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Thanks again Al.

Yes I'd be happy to try this and report back to the group. However, other than pines I have nothing that could be safely repotted at this time of year. I don't believe my other conifers (spruces and firs) would do well if repotted during July, especially with all the hot summer temperatures.

I may have a small pine that I can experiment with. I'll see what I have and let the group know if I do this.

Thanks!

Dave


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

hi al,
i am useing your 5-1-1 mix the bark i am useing is made by
sequioa bark co. it has red & white & doug fir bark is this
o.k. ? the reason i am asking you the above question the
ghrowth is very very slow ?.
i am feeding my plants m.g. 1/4 strenght every time i water ( epsom salt to ).
one more question please my ca. wonder pepper plants are
doing very good lots of peppers and flowers most of the
peppers have black or maybe purple patches on there sides
not all of the side just in spots.
they do not have ber i will also ask jag because you said
he has grown more peppers than you ??.
thanks for trying to help me.

les matzek


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Hi Les. I'm not sure I fully understand your questions, but it's been my experience that using the gritty mix (1-1-1 made of conifer bark, Turface, and granite) has greatly helped my woody plants and made them grow large and healthy in a fairly short time. I know you are using the 5-1-1 mix, and I have not tried that so I cannot offer any detailed response to your question.

In general, I believe that a soil mix that provides significant amounts of oxygen and nutrients to the roots will benefit the plant. I grow only woody plants (trees) in containers but I believe the same principles should apply to many other types of plants.

If you are watering correctly and adding a very weak fertilizer with epsom salt each time you water, then your plants should be doing well. Again, I'm not an expert on this topic like Al or JaG and I don't use the 5-1-1 mix, but I know from experience that the gritty mix along with weekly "weak" fertilizing is doing wonders for my trees.

Maybe others can give you better ideas.

Good luck.

Dave


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Hi Al,

I have been using the gritty mix for quite some time. Some plants are doing great, showing amazing new root growth, clonized the new mix quickly such as my banana shrub, new roots everywhere.
But I just have this gardenia plant, it was so pot bound but showing lots of new growth. So I did the potting up, not a whole repot though. Here is what I did.
I followed the recipe of Al's gritty mix, using pine bark, Turface MVP and Grower girt with ratio of 1:1:1. The only variation to me is that my pine bark is only a bit bigger and irregular sizes, some pieces are as big as 0.8 inch. I mix them well, they look nice. It's heavy and drains really fast, much faster than the 5-1-1.
When I pot up the gardenia, I teased apart the tangled roots, remove as much old soil as possible. Then I put the old root ball into a container only two inches wider in diameter. I also use a chop stick to gently remove the air pots. Then water it really well.
My problem is that the old root ball always dries out no matter how I water, I have to merge the whole container into water every the other time. So far the root has not colonized the new gritty mix yet. Why the gardenia didn't grow new roots into the new mix? The old pot mix is peat and bark based. BTW, the gardenia is having full sun from early morning till 1pm and our humidity was a bit low, but it's catching up nicely.

Al, could you please post a close up picture of your ingredient of gritty mix? I will shot a picture of mine too for you to have a look. My concern is that my pine bark is a bit bigger. But will this alone cause any major problem?

Thanks

YT


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jun 27, 09 at 10:25

Here's one made with pine bark:
Photobucket

And another made with fir:

Photobucket

Photobucket

If you look closely, the last 2 pics will show a little vermiculite in this particular batch, but it's rare that I use it.

I just repotted a really unusual Impatiens from the 5:1:1 mix into the gritty mix & it requires twice/day watering for now ... until it gets its feet under it, then I'll be able to water once/day or maybe even every other day. The problem is likely that when you water, the water runs through the gritty mix & wets that, so you think you're done. Because you have 2 distinctly dissimilar soils in the same container, I would expect that you would have some watering issues. If you trickle water around the bole or water the original root mass very slowly by applying water to the soil around the trunk base so it can soak into the old soil, then finish up by wetting the gritty mix, you'll probably be ok, but I expect you might have to make this a habit, until spring, when you can get the old soil out of the root mass.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

lesmatzek209: I finished 12th grade, work on computers and do programming BUT....one of my favorite web sites is http://dictionary.reference.com/. You can even click the button and hear the words. Hope I don't sound condescending, just sharing what helps me.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Thanks Al, I appreciate it.

My pine bark is too big, actually twice as big as yours. What would be the problems for the barks being too big, I guess the mix would be less water retentive. Right? I am going to take a picture of mine mix tomorrow.
What kind of tools I could use to chop it smaller, I remember you mentioned chipper. Could you recommend a model? I have the pine bark mini nuggets, but it's still too big and the quality varies so much for different bags.
YT


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jun 27, 09 at 21:37

If the other 2 ingredients are the right size, the bark being too large isn't that large a problem. It DOES reduce the room for the roots, but it really won't much alter the drainage or aeration characteristics of the soil (again, if the other 2 ingredients are the right size).

I have no idea what model chipper would be suitable - sorry. I've never used one, and I have no difficulty locating suitable bark.

Good luck. ;o)

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Thanks Al for your fast response.

The other two seems alright. I have a plant and feed company locally, they have the Turface MVP and the chicken grower girt, the owner is actually knowledgeable with container garden too. He knows many bonsai grower here. When I was talking about the girt and the moment he knew that I was doing container gardening, he told me the grower size and strongly recommended the turface MVP too.

In your second picture, is that a quarter?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 28, 09 at 0:12

Yes - those bonsai guys usually know where to find soil ingredients or how to twist someone's arm to get them to stock them. ;o)

The second is a pic of the same soil as the third, just a close-up. All three coins are dimes.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

I have planted a 1 year Tango mandarin citrus in a 8"x 8" wire (hanging type) basket with a coir liner. This for me is an experiment, as I am trying to maximize growing conditions for citrus (opposed to plastic pots). To offset the quicker loss of water, I have included a bit more peat to the mix to retain some moisture (instead of 1 part, closer to 2 in a 5-1-1 mix).

Incidentally, I bought a large amount of what the bag said was spagnum peat earlier this summer, but now looks to be the smaller, denser type when compared to your picture of the spagnum you posted.

Do you see any inherent error in attempting this? Thanks for your help. Laura


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 28, 09 at 19:17

No errors, but I think you'll need to be ever at the ready with the watering can. ;o)

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

good morning al,

i am building 26 inch wide by 16 foot long by 26 inche,s deep raised bed,s in my greenhouse, how can i make a good
true soil (not potting soil) to fill them with ? thank,s.
ps they are on concrete floor,s.
les matzek


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 29, 09 at 9:10

There are recipes that give very good starting points in the very first post at the top of this thread. If you have specific questions about how to alter them to achieve a specific soil trait, then be sure to ask.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by filix z5 maine (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 29, 09 at 15:43

Hello Al. Hope you don't mind me asking something I should know by now. Is the reason why you like composted pine bark in the 5.1.1 Because you might get nitrogen problems with uncomposted. Or because composted is easier to get better size? The reason I ask is because I can get uncomposted for such a good price. And i don't want to go through the problem of having to try to compost it , if i don't really need to. Thankyou. filix.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 29, 09 at 16:11

You can use uncomposted PBFs if you have them, with no problems. You're right though, there is a tendency toward reduced N immobilization in the partially composted product. Remember too - particle size is the key consideration. I'm using Fafard's Aged Pine Bark this year & am finding it too fine to suit my style of growing (which means I should probably have added at least another part of perlite in this year's soils). I'm hoping things straighten out soon as the plantings get fully mature, and I see evidence that it is. I'll be returning to my regular source of bark for next year's soils.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Thankyou Al. I also figure when I buy fresh bark, I know whats in there. This year i tried some very old bark "30 year or more" That was ground up recently and some fresh fines mixed in. Who knows what was in there. I have a couple of containers with morning glorys that are just sitting there. Hardly growing at all. Hope i wasn't to heavy handed with the lime. I never measure that stuff.

On another note.Remember My friend with the window boxes? I thought he was going to bring that faster mix by fafards. Well he showed up with the same peat based junk. I think the guy at the greenhouse talked him out of it.I could have cried. Then I tried to talk him into at least putting a wick in the bottom of his 30 gallon cement containers. He looked at me like I had two heads. He was sure the rope would block up the holes. So thats four tree form six foot gardenias in almost mud. He asked me if I wanted them at the end of the summer. I cant Imagine trying to over winter those in that soil. filix.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 29, 09 at 17:48

Different strokes ..... :o)

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

I've decided to get some African violet leaves and start plants. Since this is a plant that definitely hates wet feet, but needs regular water, a container environment is basically what is used. Some people wick their containers and others use capillary matting. Yet others place one container inside a second container - such as an unglazed pot inside a plastic pot, allowing the water to move through the unglazed pot. And, yet another group puts water in an outer pan for an hour, letting the plant take in the water it needs, then dumps the unused water.

I have purchased two containers - one style that wicks, and one with capillary matting. I figured I'd try that style first.

Now I just have to decide what mix to use. Many people use a 1:1:1 of peat, vermiculite and perlite. Some throw in 2 parts of perlite.

Anyone here have any experience with these plants grown in a container environment?

I'm also posting in the AV forum; most people there stick with the 1:1:1 or 1:1:2. I figure I'll follow their lead on the starting of the leaves, but just wondering if there might be an alternative for the mix for the plants.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 30, 09 at 9:31

I've had very good luck using the gritty mix for AVs.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Glad to hear you've used it for them. I thought the gritty mix would work in terms of drainage and not staying too wet and even potential pH. Not sure why I thought it might not be "delicate" enough - thought maybe the roots would have a harder time with it.

May I ask how you were watering? I'd be using a wick, most likely.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 30, 09 at 15:04

I watered from the top, being as careful as I could not to soak the crown - easy to do with such a fast soil.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Yesterday, when watering my conifers growing in the gritty mix, I noticed several of the trees had roots growing out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the 1 gallon containers. They are sticking out about 1 or 2 inches. That's really amazing since I heavily root pruned these trees in March and April when they were potted up and the roots were nowhere near that size.

I removed about 1/4 to 1/3 of the roots at that time and already they've recovered enough to stick out of the container. Must be a very healthy root system being built in those containers.

Anyway, should I cut off the roots sticking out of the containers? The containers sit directly on top of the soil and might actually begin growing into the soil if they are not pruned.

Thoughts or suggestions?

Thanks

Dave


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 1, 09 at 9:56

I would allow them to grow into the soil, which will speed their development, but not so long it becomes a problem to lift them. The drawback is that the plant will develop it's feeder roots on the roots extending aggressively and build its canopy based on water/nutrients those roots are capable of supplying , so when you lift them you need to be conscious of other cultural conditions (temp, wind, sun exposure) so you don't jeopardize adequate water/nutrient uptake when you lift them (usually not much of an issue with pines, but can be problematic with spruce/fir).

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Al:

WOW. Learned through another posting that there was a couple of soil gurus in the container gardening section and I guess they were right. It is to late in the season for me to try your soil mixture and I didnt even lighten my soil mix in my cucumbers or melons at all, did in my tomatoes. I want to try the wick in the melons and cucumbers, to try and rid the containers of some of the water. Should I just use a untreated piece of cloth rope and push it into the soil, how far out the top do I leave the wick (hanging over the side)?

These are my cucumbers and melons, relatively:

Below are some of my tomatoes:

My potatoes:

Any help you can provide would be helpful, thank you and Happy Gardening!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 2, 09 at 14:02

Hi, CGG. Welcome! ;o)

Hello, My Friend

Your plants look like you're doing just fine & don't need a whole lot of help. Good job!

I use strands from rayon mop heads. I JUST got this in my email yesterday from a friend in CA. She sent it to me because she knew I'd prolly want to share the info with others. It seems that you can buy the mop heads at Ace hardwares, but not ALL of them, but this one is sold @ Wally World. Here's what she says: "Here's the info on the rayon mop head. Brand is Mainstays Home (Walmart's house brand), clear bag with a wide taupe and sage green band across the front, product called 'Cushion Head Jumbo Rayon Mope Refill', SKU 4683100014. Actual manufacturer J.W. Manufacturing Co, Mineral Springs, AR 71851. ( made in the USA ;-) ) There is a cotton version in similar packaging so advise your friends to check label carefully."

You only need to push the wick far enough into the drain hole so it stays put. You should allow it to dangle at least 2-3" below the container, or allow it to be in contact with soil below the container. Alternately, burying your container a few inches deep so the drain holes are in the soil will accomplish the same thing.

Take care.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Thank you so much. I would have bought cotton, not rayon. Again, great post, keep up all the helpful info. Happy Gardening!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Fascinating....I went to a couple of big box stores yesterday to see if I could find ANY of the things in the gritty mix. Only one was available - pine park mulch, but it looked a bit small for the gritty mix. I literally wrote down every potential alternative and none were to be had.

It's actually worse being in a large city than in the suburbs or country. No one assumes that city people want to garden! In the houseplant section, I couldn't fine ONE pre-made mix that didn't have fertilizer added. Since my bike in my primary mode of transport, this makes it a bit difficult to do some of this stuff.

Fortunately I can rent a car through the car sharing program I belong to. It just seems so odd to me that I'd have to do that.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 2, 09 at 21:20

If you read carefully, you'll find lots of useful tips (upthread) on where to find the ingredients. The only thing you MIGHT find at a big box store is the bark. The other ingredients will take some scouting. There is a Turface (MVP) locater here (cut paste to your browser):
http://www.profileproducts.com/en/sports_fields/wheretobuy.htm

The granite can be had at rural feed stores/grain elevators. You want Gran-I-Grit 'grower' size or #2 cherrystone. An alternative to Turface is NAPA floor-dry - available at NAPA Auto Parts stores.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

al I am wanting to overwinter some hot peppers this year
they will be in 1 and half gallon pots with water pans underneath will this be enough
I am also planing to use the gritty mix with CRFs in it
but my goal is to not have to re pot them untill next spring is this even remotely realistic with a plant that grows as fast as most peppers do I'm thinking it will take them longer to fill the pot with the gritty mix but maybe I'm wrong from what I've read thats what most would use for perennial bushes and from what I've read that what peppers are so is this a good idea
would you modify anything mix wise to do this
thanks al
btw I have many happy veggies because of what I've learned from your posts so thank you


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Angel,

The gritty mix will be fine for overwintering your peppers.

What is the purpose of the water pan under the pot?

Unless you keep your peppers under HID lighting indoors I wouldn't worry about them growing too fast. In most cases overwintered peppers don't grow much until days have lengthened considerably. Until then they tend to start looking like crud and some varieties will simply die. It's just the way it goes.

I would recommend a root pruning and a top pruning before potting for overwintering. I would recommend the pruning of the roots and top growth be drastic. Both should just be remnants of their former self. Less stuff for bugs to attack, less leaf mass to transpire water in typically dry winter homes etc. You don't even need to leave any leaves on the plant, the drastic pruning will result in it pushing out new growth instead of having to deal with the old growth that isn't well adapted to the indoor conditions.

If you don't prune this way and instead bring the entire plant inside you will most likely just watch as it drops leaf after leaf over the winter anyway ;)

Anyway, the gritty mix is a good choice for overwintering this plant. It's not a bad choice for growing it outside either.

You might wish to head to the hot pepper forum on GW and do a search on overwintering for some experiences others have reported and the techniques they use.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Jul 3, 09 at 12:19

Where will you be over-wintering (light/temps)?

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

the pan under the pot will be to catch any water that comes out of the holes when watering then dumped as I understand the peppers don't like to set in standing water they are only seedlings right now so do I still need to do the pruning if so can you kinda give me a how to on that I've never overwintered anything that wouldn't get along on it's own I can however hang a florescence light over them to get them more light but I've already figured out that not anything compared to the sun what if I just prune the top I think I can handle that but the roots do scare me a little the temps would be somewhat low like between 65 & 75 f I was sorta hoping to still get a few peppers there bhut jolakia and a few others so I don't need many but I think I know what you all will say you can't have your cake and eat it to but I still want to do it anyway and put them in a bigger pot next year would I have to prune next spring it don't stay cold here long so they won't be inside long maybe 3 mo. I did a search on the pepper form and read a lot of post but thought well I'll get als and jags advice first because there advice is priceless I remember the first time I saw the gritty mix I thought how can anything grow in all them rocks well lets see I'll take this sad half broken seedling and put it in that just to see that thing started growing like a weed and is loaded with green cayenne it has a funny looking 90 degree bend at the base were it was broke but thats the dogs fault anyway sorry so long I do ramble at times


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

the pan under the pot will be to catch any water that comes out of the holes when watering then dumped as I understand the peppers don't like to set in standing water

Very few plants do. Thanks for that explanation.

they are only seedlings right now so do I still need to do the pruning

No. the pruning is for large, well established outside plants coming in for the winter and having to adjust to much lower light/humidity/temperature levels for the duration.

I was sorta hoping to still get a few peppers

Not likely when overwintering without strong supplemental lighting. Even if it does occur I wouldn't allow it as it will just sap energy from the plant for something that won't develop properly. What you are hoping for with overwintering is survival, not thrival, unless lighting, temp and humidity issues are addressed. Otherwise think low stress for the plant, not high.

Anyway, I would be happy to discuss this with you further, but if you would like to do so I recommend it be taken to a separate thread in this forum or a thread in the pepper forum. It is a bit off topic for this thread.

Please don't take that as criticism as it's not at all meant to be, just saying that to go multiple iterations on this thread on the topic of overwintering peppers seems out of scope to me for this thread.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

ok I meant no disrespect I just had a lot of questions about things I had not thought about I will use the gritty mix for my soil medium which was my real question for this thread anyway I'm sorry bye.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Just an update, and thanks again everyone for all your advice. The repotted plants are doing very well in the MG. Now, we've just had about 5 days of rain, so even the tops of these have some algae if they were under row cover. ugh. I'm letting everything 'dry up' for a couple days. I had a couple of pots left with the old soggy mix at my mother's house. I had to repot one of her tomatoes yesterday as the root ball was dying, that thing was totally waterlogged after all this rain. On the plus side, anywhere I dumped the old mix, plants are thriving. There are two more pots at Mom's with the old mix, and then it's all gone. I bought another 2.5CF of MG yesterday, so it's at the ready if those get too wet. I think those pots have better drainage holes so maybe that's saving them.

Thanks again everyone, I learn tons on this site!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

I finally got around to screening my pine bark and got some napa floor dry and screened that w/ window screen. Repotted a couple house plants and pulled some lettuce out of the garden that I want to keep from bolting and grow under lights indoors. I'm going to start some more lettuces for indoor growing also.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

I've just mixed up some 5-1-1 and it looks great for growing all kind of flowering plants and veggies. It's probably too late in the season now to plant in it but next year I'll try this for most of my tomato plants.

For the grit mix, can I substitute pea gravel for the granite? I see end of season sales on gardening supplies like pine bark and pea gravel and wonder if I could use a 1-1-1 mix of pine bark, turface and pea gravel in containers for woody plants? A 50# bag of pea gravel is about $2.00 on sale, which is close to what I pay for a 5# bag of granite. Would pea gravel make the soil drain too fast? the gravel looks to be between 1/4" and 1/2" in size but the edges are rounded instead of sharp like granite.

thank you.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 13, 09 at 9:54

To get the most benefit from the soil, you need to have the ingredients reasonably uniform, equal in size, and around 1/8". You could probably get the soil you suggest to work, but it won't be as plant friendly as if you used granite instead of peastone. It would be better if you screened the peastone & only use what passed through a 3/16 screen but didn't pass through insect screening.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

From what I know of container gardening you could probably use the pea gravel in soil in place of the granite, as long as the pea gravel was fairly small and close to uniform size. Problem is that the pea gravel I've seen varies in size quite a bit within individual bags so as Al said above you should screen the gravel if you use it.

I'm not sure it makes a difference when watering, as neither the pea gravel or granite absorb/release much water. I believe the larger the gravel the faster the water would flow out the container. Al can answer that, he's helped me a LOT with this kind of stuff. The smaller the gravel (1/4" to maybe 3/8") the better I think.

I know the granite has sharp edges and gravel much rounder edges, but I'm not sure if the plant roots would care about that too much. Again, might be an Al question.

I pay about $1.50 for a small bag of granite at the local feed store. They also carry 50# bags but I'm not sure of the cost.

HTH

Dave


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Hi everybody! I seem to be having a fertilizer problem. I posted on the FoliagePro thread, but haven't received an answer.
I've been using the FoliagePro for a couple of months now, and I noticed a big difference between two containers, one of which has nasturtiums and bronze fennel, and another which has nasturtiums, ornamental oregano, and lemongrass. The nasturtiums in the latter container are lush and blooming well; the nasturtiums in the former container are scrawny, with yellow leaves and infrequent blooms, and the bronze fennel is dying at the tips. I know I was giving less FoliagePro fertilizer to the scrawny ones, but when I gave them more, nothing happened. Now I remember having given the pot with the oregano some organic fertilizer, 3-1-2 alfalfa meal. I sprinkled some on the scrawny ones and will keep you posted. I would note that it is VERY finely divided, almost a powder, so I'm hoping it will eventually go out through the screen on the bottom. I am watering all containers the same, and all drain well. I can put a finger down into the mix and just feel the barest moisture at the fingertip, and then I still don't water if nothing is wilting or it looks like rain.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 15, 09 at 20:12

Same soil?

You said you were giving one container less FP than another & it wasn't doing as well. My guess is the dosage you were using + the additional FP you provided was simply not enough.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Just upthread there were a couple of posts regarding the use of granite vs. pea gravel in the gritty mix.

I called the local feed supplier and a 5-pound bag of grushed granite (aka "grower's grit") costs about $1.50 and a 50-pound bag costs $6.00. The cost is quite reasonable compared to gravel.

If you had access to both granite and pea gravel I'd personally go for the granite. As Al said both would probably work in the gritty mix but I've had good luck with the granite in the past and see no reason to change. The granite from the local feed store is fairly uniform in size and contains very little dust.

I've read on several websites that sharp rock like the granite encourages fine root development and root splitting but I'm not positive that's true or not.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

When looking through this forum (and others on GW) I've noted that many list members ask about when to water their container-grown plants. I recall that Al (I believe) posted an answer to this a while back and suggested inserting a toothpick or pencil into the container soil and leaving it there for a few minutes to check for moisture. Basically, if the toothpick came out damp then there was probably enough water in the soil for plant use. If it came out dry, then the plant should be watered.

In larger containers the top few inches of the gritty mix can be very dry but the bottom of the container can be fairly damp so I decided to use wooden skewers (the kind used for kebobs on the grill) instead of toothpicks. The skewers are about the length of chopsticks but thinner and have a sharp end. A bag of 100 skewers costs about $1.00 or so and can easily be trimmed to whatever length you desire. Most of my containers are less than 12" deep so these work great.

Simply insert the sharp end of the skewer into the container soil and push it down until the sharp end is at or near the bottom of the container, being careful not to damage plant roots. After about 30 minutes or so remove the stick and check the dampness, then water if necessary.

I keep the sticks in the containers all the time and check them every day or two, depending on the weather. Basically they work like an oil dipstick works in a car engine.

If you have very deep containers then you'll need a longer stick but the idea would be the same.

Just wanted to share this tip with the group.

HTH

Dave


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

^

Great tip Dave

This is my first year using the gritty mix and it always looks dry from the first inch down. Sending wife to the Dollar Tree store tomorrow!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Thanks buzzsaw but it's not my original idea. Al and others came up with the suggestion and I just modified it to meet my particular needs.

I find its a fairly reliable gauge of dampness in the container soil, especially with the gritty mix. The top couple of inches of soil can be bone dry but down near the bottom of the container where the roots are it's still quite damp.

Before using the wooden skewers I watered every couple of days because the gritty soil looked dry near the top. Now I find myself watering less frequently since I know the roots still have enough available moisture.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Notice: I am not looking for help, simply posting something that others may empathize with or find as astounding as I do (we often assume that because someone specializes in something that they really know what they are talking about. I know that's not true, but still am surprised when it happens.)

So, I'm still on the hunt for products I can use to make different soil mixes that are a bit faster than what I'm using now. I want to do some experiments both with wicking large containers and wicking small containers, like for small houseplants.

I have a friend who works at a florist and I mentioned it to her. She said she works with many of the growers so maybe they would know where to find these products. Today she was over, so we called the grower she thought might help. This grower has been growing flowers in greenhouses for many years. Tracy called, explained I was looking for some things, then turned the phone over to me. The conversation went something like this.

"Hi Betsy, thanks for taking time to take to me. I do mostly container gardening and am looking to change my potting mix" blah, blah. "So, I'm looking for the following things, pine bark...."

"Oh, why don't you just use my mix?" Great! I think. She's got one already made with bark in it.

"What's it made of?" I ask.

"Well, it's all natural soil. We don't believe in soilless mixes, especially not in containers. I mean, how are plants going to get nutrients, especially the minors?"

"Um, from a fertilizer that supplies the minors?" I offered.

"Oh, but that's not the same. You should try our mix."

"Thank you, but that's not what I want to do at this time."

"But, all of our customers love it! You really should try it."

I won't go through the rest of the painful call, but suffice it to say, she didn't have what I wanted, nor could she point me to someone who did. I'm sure I'll get them all eventually, but I'd much rather get them easily in one place since I mostly ride a bike and will have to borrow or rent a car to run this all down.

Just hoping anyone else who's had problems with this might get a chuckle out of the story. And, also, pointing out how amazing it is that even people with a LOT of experience can know very little when it comes to science or research.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Jul 17, 09 at 9:27

The combination of complacence and 'experience' can be a dangerous thing. It leads to rigidity and a tendency toward a closed mind. I'm dealing with a person at another forum site now who laments that her soils are compacted and waterlogged, yet she resists any suggestions about how to relieve the problem while she clings tightly to the idea that more fine organic ingredients to 'feed the microherd' are the answer.

My latest post pointed out that if she'd been more amenable to suggestion, she wouldn't have to suffer the source of her lament. It will probably anger her, but at this point, it's not an exercise in trying to educate her, it's more about those listening in to the conversation. Her combination of what she thinks is experience and a closed mind are very effective limits for her.

Often, people think that they have seen improvement in their growing skills that they are at a pinnacle with no room for improvement. Often, the argument "It works for me" is offered as though it carries some kind of weight in a discussion, when all it really means is "I'm happy with the status quo and am willing to accept the limits any of my less than ideal practices have placed on me. One of the reasons I like this forum is because there seems to be a minimal number of participants with a closed mind - even if they don't agree with what I or others say.

Getting back to the experience thing. If you do the same thing over and over again for 10 years, what 'experience' is there in that? Show me someone who has tried something 20 different ways over the course of 3 years, and I'll usually trust their judgment before that of the person with more 'experience'. Doing something wrong or inefficiently and simply declaring yourself content while refusing to consider other options is really not a big plus in the experience dept.

Results are a subjective thing and what rings your bell may not be acceptable results as far as I'm concerned. The reverse could just as easily be true.

Note: wherever I said 'you' above, it was the 'collective you' and not aimed at the previous poster. ;o)

His post reminds me of something I wrote a while back on the Houseplants Forum. I might go looking for it & see if it's appropriate for this forum. I know it sparked considerable interesting comment there.

Al



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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Al and lathyrus that's a great thing to remember. Not everyone is willing to try new things or experiment with new ideas, especially when it comes to growing plants.

I hope readers of this forum understand that anything I post here is only meant as a possible suggestion or alternative, like the posting above regarding the use of wooden skewers for testing soil moisture, or possibly growing container plants using only Turface. Under no circumstances am I suggesting that anything I post is the "only" way or the "best" way to do things. I learn by trial and error, just like everyone else.

For instance, I've read both here on GW and other sites that some gardeners insist on using only organic fertilizers for their container-grown plants. Al and others have mentioned that using organic fertilizers in container soils may not be the best way to go due to a general lack of microorganisms in container soils and delays in organic ferts breaking down into usable forms. In spite of these issues some members still insist on using them, and I have no problem with that at all. To each his (or her) own I say.

All we can do on these forums is come up with possible alternatives and suggestions for making improvements in how our plants are grown. If some members choose not to make changes and continue to use their current methods then it's their decision to make.

As you can tell, I prefer to experiment with different soil mixes, fertilizers, etc. but I realize not everyone else wishes to do so.

Thanks

Dave


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Hi all. Over the weekend I opened up a fresh bag of Turface (actually Shultz Soil conditioner) and noticed that this particular bag has a fairly high percentage of fines. I only screened a small part of the bag but found that maybe 30% to 50% of the bag consisted of fines that passed through insect screen.

I also noticed the particle color of this particular bag was more reddish/pinkish than the previous bags of Turface or Schultz I've bought in the past. Seems to work the same, just more fines and different color than what I'm used to.

Besides using them for seed starting, what else can I do with these fines?

I could add them to my garden soil or add them to planting holes when new trees or shrubs are planted as a soil amendment perhaps.

Any other suggestions?

Thanks

Dave


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 20, 09 at 9:01

Don't add to planting holes. Current practice is to backfill planting holes with native soil only. I use the fines in hypertufa or mix them into my raised beds.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

Thanks for the tip Al. As always, you are a fountain of wisdom. =)

Question: Do the turface fines absorb water just like the larger pieces of turface? I have not tested this yet but it would seem logical that they should absorb water as well as the regular pieces.

I will use the fines and some grated sphagnum for seed starting and add the rest of the fines to our raised garden beds.

Thanks!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

I am trying to revive a long lost raised bed. Adding kitchen garbage, soil (from a store bought bag), and mixing (lots of mixing) with the sand. Could the fine/fines also help in this situation?

Not too many choices to grow anything other than trees in our 'dirt'... Truck loads of garden soil would be required to recreate the raised beds that once were. I call it my sand patch experiment. Since I have such great luck with propagating succulents, I am hardening some off for eventual planting in the sand patch (it gets tons of sunshine). Our lot is completely surrounded by these old raised beds, and was wondering what to do with all of the teeny stuff left over (after all that sifting). Though hypertufa sounds pretty cool, might like to get my hands wet in that one of these days....

You know, I do believe you will have to start another thread soon. Imagine that! Soil is such a cool (not hot =D) topic.

Thanks as always,
Shannon


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 20, 09 at 13:23

They would help only marginally, and not as much as OM. They have lots of internal porosity, and they hold water well, but their limited volume when mixed into a bed won't make a significant difference.

Mmhmm - a new thread soon. Whooda thought soil was so interesting. Nerd alert! Lol

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement and Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 20, 09 at 13:26

Oh, BTW. I'd appreciate it if you guys would hold off on posting until I get a chance to set up the links to previous posts & can post it as the 150th to this thread. Thanks! I'll get to it later today when I'm finished at my REAL job.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention VIII

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 20, 09 at 15:47

If you have interest, you can follow the link below to the continuation of this thread. Thanks for making this fun!

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention IX


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