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deciding between the gritty mix and the 511

Posted by greentoe357 z7b Brooklyn NY (My Page) on
Sat, Jun 15, 13 at 7:08

I am organizing my research and thoughts on the topic. Have some questions, but also hope the table below and the discussion will help others. I just recently tried the 5-1-1 mix and like it very much, but I wonder what I am missing by not using the gritty mix instead or in addition. I grow decorative house plants in pots sized anywhere from yogurt cups to 10' in diameter. I am a beginner, so the mix being fool-proof when it comes to over/under-watering is important.

Check out how I understand these two mixes compare:
http://tinyurl.com/kk2435a.

I welcome your further thoughts, especially if you see something I missed or if you disagree.

The footnotes are:

(1) I read somewhere that because gritty mix particles are more abrasive, it encourages plants to grow more finer roots (vs 511 mix) as they push their way through the mix. Is it true, and if so, does the gritty mix help plant vitality?

(2) a question on versatility of each of the mix. Ideally, I'd like to deal with one mix only going forward. My apartment is relatively generously-sized, but storing and mixing components for both of the mixes is a bit too much to keep doing on an ongoing basis. Which one of the two mixes would you choose if you were me? What kinds of plants would especially miss the other mix?

This post was edited by greentoe357 on Mon, Jun 17, 13 at 17:20


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: deciding between the gritty mix and the 511

G...you are smart to ponder your situation. Here is what I know: gritty mix is very heavy. it last many, many years without much breakdown. it needs frequent watering. it is good for "woody" plants/trees. 5-1-1 Mix: it is lighter weight. it holds more water. it breaks down after a couple of years. it is quite acidic. hope this helps. goodluck


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RE: deciding between the gritty mix and the 511

If you're growing houseplants, which are perennials, gritty mix is probably the best choice. I grow many different kinds of plants in it, from clivias, citrus and ficuses to amaryllis bulbs, spider plants and plumeria. You will need to have a way of allowing a lot of water to drain out of the pots and large pots will be very heavy. My spider plant in a hanging basket weighs more than 30 pounds when it's wet, and I have to take it to the sink to water. You also must fertilize year round. But you can go two or three years without repotting. Some people go much longer. My plants have done better in gritty mix than anything else I've used. And I don't really need to water them very often when they are inside, in spite of what you may have heard.


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RE: deciding between the gritty mix and the 511

Looks like gritty mix it is. I was going to try it in any case after having already tried the 5-1-1 mix.

By the way, I noticed my link in the original post was messed up. I just updated it to this: http://tinyurl.com/kk2435a.


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RE: deciding between the gritty mix and the 511

I was able to read your pro & con list at the new URL. I think you've covered most of the difference between the two mixes. On your two footnotes in the original post, I wish someone else would chime in. I remember Al saying that it was better to use granite grit with its sharp edges than pea gravel that is smooth in the gritty mix, but I don't know how much that has to do with the health of the roots and how much has to do with keeping the mix well aerated.

As for versatility, if you're growing anything but annuals, I think the gritty mix is the most versatile. But that said, I do use the 5-1-1 for younger fast growing perennials that I know I will want to repot at least once a year. I also use the 5-1-1 for some very large plants, like hybrid tea roses and mandevillas in 15-20 gallon pots, because otherwise I would never be able to move them. The 5-1-1 is also cheaper and easier for me to make and store because it weighs less. And, although I have used gritty mix in a couple hanging baskets (orchids and spider plants), it was very difficult for me to move them to the sink to be watered.

The biggest difficulty with both mixes is finding the right pine or fir bark fines. I have been lucky in that I live near Ohio Mulch, which sells Golden Nugget Pine Bark Mini Fines, a perfectly sized bark that is uncomposted and costs less than $2 a cubic foot. I use it for both mixes, and I love it.


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RE: deciding between the gritty mix and the 511

Ohiofem, I am totally jelly that you are close to a good bark fines supplier. Which one do you mean here ( http://www.ohiomulch.com/search?q=pine+bark )? I used their #302, and the particles were a bit too big.


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RE: deciding between the gritty mix and the 511

#312 Golden Nugget Premium Mini Pine Fines


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RE: deciding between the gritty mix and the 511

Hi greentoe:

just wanted to thank you for your great post and handy chart! That helped a lot -- a lot of the soil talk here gets very detailed and this was very helpful.


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RE: deciding between the gritty mix and the 511

Need2SeeGreen (love the name!), thanks for these kind words! Really nice of you to say that.

I've prepared and used both mixes for several months now and have accumulated some observations, not all of which I've seen here. I've edited the file (http://tinyurl.com/kk2435a) and added a lot to it - check it out. As always, glad to hear if somebody has suggested additions/corrections to the table. Hopefully it'll help others decide between the mixes as well or to otherwise shorten their research.

For me personally, I definitely see now that I can't get away with using just one mix - not with the variety of plants I have and not with how well I want them to do. So, I've learned to live with all the mixes, sieves and ingredients in my NYC apartment. First World problems. :-)

It's not even two mixes. I also have an orchid mix now, a cactus&succulent mix and am slowly learning how to amend gritty and 5-1-1 mixes for different plants or for different pots or for different light/humidity levels or for many other different whatevers - like depending on how I feel about fungus gnats on the particular repotting day. :-) (Peat encourages those little buggers)

It was a pleasure to come back to this thread.


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RE: deciding between the gritty mix and the 511

Thanks for all your work and observations greentoe... you've certainly helped me along my journey in creating a Canadian Gritty Mix and in deciding what to plant in a 5-1-1 mix as well. Much appreciated.


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RE: deciding between the gritty mix and the 511

  • Posted by nil13 z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Wa (My Page) on
    Tue, Aug 12, 14 at 20:55

I don't use the official gritty mix recipe for hanging plants. The added bulk density from the gravel is completely unnecessary. I substitute pumice for less weight. I need to get my hands on some DE because I think that will help reduce the bulk density even further by subbing out the turface.


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RE: deciding between the gritty mix and the 511

  • Posted by rina_ 5a Ont (My Page) on
    Tue, Aug 12, 14 at 21:05

greentoe357

You said: It's not even two mixes. I also have an orchid mix now, a cactus&succulent mix and am slowly learning how...
if you are already using gritty, wouldn't you just use it for cacti&succulents too?
Just asking (I have just about all of my succs in gritty).

Rina

This post was edited by rina_ on Wed, Aug 13, 14 at 0:23


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RE: deciding between the gritty mix and the 511

Interesting thread...

I use "Gritty" for everything in a container grown indoors... from Orchids to Cacti, Plumeria to Hoya, Hippeastrum bulbs to tiny little Rain Lilies... and everything in between!

There's just one caveat: I slightly adjust the moisture retention in each small batch of medium I make so it will match the needs of the plant I intend to pot. Other things I consider are the size of the pot, the location it will sit in...

In other words, I tailor each small batch to the individual plant. For starting seeds, as an example, I might toss in a handful of high quality potting mix... then, when the seedlings are ready for a more permanent home, I will use a slightly more porous mix without any potting soil.

I think it better to tailor to individual needs, because the environment I grow in will be different than anyone else's. I think the basic recipes are wonderful starting points, and there are a lot of ingredients that can be substituted, or ratios changed...

It's the concept of the mixes that's most important to understand... why they work, and how they work. Once you understand that, the world of mediums and plants is your oyster, so to speak!

I water and feed on an "as needed" basis, checking each pot before adding anything. But using a more aerated, free-draining medium like the Gritty Mix allows for a much wider margin of error... there's a lot less chance I will over-water anything.


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RE: deciding between the gritty mix and the 511

Thanks for the link and keen observations. I would add that you need eye protection to screen the bark, especially if it's reptibark and gloves, as they can give you splinters!

I have to say, I prefer the gritty mix to 5-1-1. Though 5-11 is much easier to prepare.

I plant my most prized plants in the gritty mix, especially the woody plants.

Also, with some plants I don't bother planting them in the gritty mix. I've got Clivia growing with practically no soil and pelargoniums (Annual geraniums) growing in their not so good mix.

It all depends on the plant. If it's something pricey, or a favourite, I'll go the extra mile, if not I don't bother!


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RE: deciding between the gritty mix and the 511

> Thanks for all your work and observations greentoe...

I am glad that this is of use.

> I don't use the official gritty mix recipe for hanging plants. The added bulk density from the gravel is completely unnecessary.

Yes! I agree - baskets hanging on anything less than a very reliable support need granite taken out and replaced with something.

> I substitute pumice for less weight.

Note that pumice has higher water retention capacity though in all those nooks and crannies than granite chips that have smoother surface. Particularly if the pumice particle sizes are smaller, you may need another adjustment, as smaller particles further retain more water than larger ones.

> I need to get my hands on some DE because I think that will help reduce the bulk density even further by subbing out the turface.

Oh, DE is lighter than turface? I did not know, as I only tried DE.

> greentoe357
You said: It's not even two mixes. I also have an orchid mix now, a cactus&succulent mix and am slowly learning how...
if you are already using gritty, wouldn't you just use it for cacti&succulents too?
Just asking (I have just about all of my succs in gritty).

Rina, Cacti often have naturally very small root systems, which makes large pots unnecessary (not harmful, like they would be with a more water-retentive mix - just unnecessary with gritty or another very well-draining mix). With very small pots, gritty mix's relatively large particles may become a problem - the mix may drain too fast and retain too little water - depending on how often you can/want to water. So I had to adjust the gritty recipe for very small pots - I did that by simply adding a bit of fine bark and by not screening the DE. You can also simply use the 511 mix instead of the gritty, although that is my less preferred thing for cacti in small pots.

> I use "Gritty" for everything in a container grown indoors... from Orchids...

Orchids! Jodi, I wonder how they are doing, compared in traditional orchid mixes, and how your care differs in it. I have not dared to venture into gritty mix for orchids. For more moisture-loving orchids, one part each of long sphagnum moss, coarse pine bark (coarser than for gritty mix, but orchid people would probably call it "medium") and coarse perlite do the trick for now in my zone indoors. For those that need to dry out more between waterings, I've tried mixes with more bark, hydroponic mediums added (growstone in my case), and/or moss eliminated - something along those lines. I might get Orchiata next spring and experiment with it as well, for both orchids and other plants as well. But I am always interested in what other orchid people are doing, to shorten my own learning curve.

> I would add that you need eye protection to screen the bark, especially if it's reptibark and gloves, as they can give you splinters!

That has not been my experience with my bark, true-blue, but I'll check how to edit the file more generally to mention eye protection, as it's a good point. I found nose and mouth protection to be more important in my case. I'd blow my nose with brown/red looking snot (sorry for details) after screening my bark - and this is even with wearing a face mask. And I got an absolutely nasty cough for a few hours after screening perlite - not a gritty mix component, but nasty stuff none-the-less. Now the first thing I do when working with perlite is shower hose it as soon as I open the bag, in order to keep the dust down. And I stopped screening it - you can't do it wet, and it just flies too much when dry, so if I can't use it out of the bag then it doesn't get used. Maybe I can screen it with a shower head instead of shaking the screen while dry - but then perlite dust will probably plug up my drain, as I have no outdoor space to do it. Anybody has done it indoors somehow successfully?


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RE: deciding between the gritty mix and the 511

  • Posted by rina_ 5a Ont (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 13, 14 at 19:21

greentoe357

I use small (as small as possible) pots for my succulents, need to bring them all in for winter & space is always at premium. I water maybe 1/week, even less. They are all doing fine, actually much better than 2yrs ago - before I started using gritty.
There are few that have little bark added, but not many. And definitely not 5parts.

I started using more of the square pots, I find that they take little less space. Most are 4" and under, few pots with large plants are 6" or more (few large jades).
And just as Jodi mentioned, I have few other (non-succulent) indoor plants in gritty - not all yet, but slowly getting there.

Rina

This post was edited by rina_ on Wed, Aug 13, 14 at 19:24


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RE: deciding between the gritty mix and the 511

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 13, 14 at 19:55

When growers have difficulty growing in soils based on small particles, it's almost always due to excess water retention and how they have to water to avoid the soil holding too much water. If they water in sips, they have the fallout from a high level of dissolved solids and a badly skewed ratio of nutrients in the soil solution. If they DO water in an appropriate manner, they have impaired root function and the cyclic death and regeneration of a fraction of the fine roots after each watering, which ends up being an expensive energy outlay for the plant. The 5:1:1 mix is based on a very large fraction of coarse material, with enough fine material (fine bark and some peat), to offer enough water retention for even large plantings of veggies or mixed floral display containers.

Soils that hold most of their water inside of soil particles instead of between soil particles are much easier to grow in, much more forgiving, and offer the plant much more potential to grow to the genetic potential Mother Nature provided it with. In a natural progression, the gritty mix aims at eliminating ALL perched water, providing a root environment free of the perched water and the accompanying limitations.

If I had to describe an ideal soil, it would be a soil that doesn't hold perched water, is durable/ long lasting/ resists structural collapse, is consistently well-aerated from top to bottom - even at container capacity (when saturated), and holds nutrients reasonably well. That's what I was aiming for when I decided how to put a soil together that would conform to those standards. It's hard to imagine that anyone would argue the point that in order to call a "good soil" the soil should at least meet the minimal standard of allowing you to water to beyond saturation (so you are flushing the soil) at will, w/o having to worry about excess water retention limiting root function and as a result - vitality, or causing root rot.

The gritty mix allows you to eliminate several limiting factors associated with poor root health and inherent in soils based on all or very large fractions of fine material - peat, coir, compost or composted forest products, sand, topsoil .....

Hi, Rina - It's good to see you! I've been wondering what happened to you because I haven't seen you around lately. Just wanted to say HI.

"Hi" to Jodi, Robin and the rest of the gang, too!

Al


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RE: deciding between the gritty mix and the 511

  • Posted by rina_ 5a Ont (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 13, 14 at 21:55

Al

Thank you, good to see you too-I am reading everything just the same just didn't post on container or house plants forum for a while (I have been busy-sold the house,moved and so on).
Btw, Benjamina is very good looking, this year had a 'rest' from the major surgery. It is in 511 ever since and the mix still looks great. I am planning to root prune/repot next year again...but I should post about that on another thread.

The gritty mix has been very good to my plants (all of my succulents & few cacti) - should I say to me?, since they are growing better & better, and I am not overwatering.
Sometimes I omit the bark (when I run out-still not so easy to find really good one), and none of the plants are suffering.
I have been using turface in the mix, and chicken grit. Great drainage...The plants in 511 are doing great too.

Rina

This post was edited by rina_ on Wed, Aug 13, 14 at 22:00


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