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Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

Posted by cliss IL (My Page) on
Fri, Jun 25, 10 at 16:12

Hi, all...

I'm new here, having recently decided to move from "owning a few houseplants" to "owning more houseplants than I really have room for." :) I've been reading with interest the discussions on container mixes, but I'm having a difficulty that I haven't seen addressed yet. I live in an apartment on the South Side of Chicago (in Hyde Park), and I don't own a car, nor do I have any car-owning friends who could drive me around for a "container mix scavenger hunt". This makes tracking down various ingredients a huge challenge -- the only place I've found that sells Turface Allsport, for instance, is in a (for me) remote suburb, as are most of the serious gardening, nursery, and feed stores. And renting a car just to get the ingredients is more expensive than just having things shipped!

I did have to rent a car last weekend for another reason, so I did a little extra driving around and picked up some things. When I got home, though, I discovered that the pine bark fines were infested with some kind of insect larvae -- something I'm really not able to deal with in my apartment.

So, I'm now trying to find somewhere to get pine bark/fir bark fines, using public transportation, in Chicago... Anyone have any suggestions?

Possible local resources: My local grocery store has been known to sell Hoffman's, Black Gold, Schultz, and Espoma brand potting products, so I might be able to order something... Does anyone know if these brands make anything appropriate? (Black Gold sells a fir-based Orchid Bark; has anyone seen their fine or medium-size variations?) There's also an Ace hardware, but they don't have anything in stock, and I don't see anything on the main Ace website that looks appropriate. Am I missing something? (If I special order something, I'll feel committed to buying it, so I'm hoping someone can give me enough information to be confident I'm getting the right thing before I order...)


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

Hi Cliss, I'm on the opposite side of the city and also don't own a car.

I found a Napa somewhere and got the oil-dry product they sell that is diametaceous earth. I never found granite here, and only this spring did I find fines in the city. Home Depot is carrying a brand that some people here have used (I went through all the old posts and wrote down everything that was used by someone and carried that with me for months).

What I noticed is that the brand - same identical label - varies tremendously from batch to batch. I found some old ones and new ones side by side. One was a too fine and the other was 1" chunks! I went to another Home Depot a few days later. There I found a batch that was a bit fine, but absolutely workable for my self-watering containers. I'd also use it in the 5-1-1, but it might be too fine for the gritty mix unless you used less Turface or Napa stuff.

Granite - I'm clueless. I convinced a friend to let me use his car and drove to a feed store just south of I-55. Without that car, I'd still not have all the components over a year after I started looking.


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

Cliss,

Welcome to the board. The people and the help they provide are wonderful.

I live in Hyde Park too. It is a scavenger hunt. I went to Tinley Park once for Turface--any place with a Farm Service store is remote from Hyde Park, indeed. Now I use the floor dry compound from NAPA. Luckily enough, there is a NAPA auto parts store a few blocks from the store in Summit where I get the granite. Who knew there was a chicken feed store at I-55 and Harlem? The first time I bought 500 pounds of Gran-I-Grit, the clerk asked just how many chickens I had.

I get my fines from very nice people at an orchid warehouse in Dundee [50 miles out I-90]. That is a schlep. The fines are very high quality.

I'm glad to share. Let's figure out a way to get you some gritty mix. Nothing I clicked on came up with a way to email you; when I click on my id, the option to send me an email comes up. See if it does for you. We should be able to figure it out.

red_chucks


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

Yeah, I have run across the feed store at I55/Harlem -- that's where I got my Gran-I-Grit, when I had the car rented. Best thing about that place is its name: "The Feed Store". Ha! Definitely worth knowing about. The Pioneer Garden & Feed Store out in Villa Park is good, too, great people, just impossible to get to from Hyde Park without a car.

red_chucks -- Thanks! I've just sent you email... And it looks like there was a box that needed to be checked on my profile for sending email; it's checked now.


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

Cliss,

I'm working Hyde Park area (54th & Woodlawn) for the next couple of weeks (one or two days per week) and I use the pine bark mulch from Home Depot - lately it has been very fine chips which I think is exactly what you are looking for. Let me know if you need a bag dropped off. I'm in Cicero and normally am in the Oak Park area but I had someone call me to work on a garden renovation/garden install and I though why not - it's a real pretty section of the city and not too far from where I live.

Just drop me a email through gardenweb.


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 27, 10 at 14:20

I'd like to comment on how nice it is to see people volunteering to help others. It's refreshing. I find it a little strange that I'm sitting here feeling good about the fact that someone I don't even know volunteered to help someone else I don't know. ;o) I tip my hat to you, GNG.

Al


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

This is a very NICE thread indeed...its so wonderful to see people that don't even know each other willing to help one another,giving their time.

You see what you've started Al with your wonderful Mix? Do you think people would go through all this trouble if their plants didn't do well...I think not! Thanks Al...we appreciate it...had you not introduced us to this mix...so many of us would have missed out on growing wonderful and healthy plants. You started this wonderful train ride for all of us. So many different states and countries all come here to learn more about this mix...May it continue for many many years to come. Strangers helping strangers... Pretty amazing indeed!


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

I live in the Bucktown neighborhood and have been using a modified version of Al's mix since 2005. Every year getting the right pine bark is an adventure. Last year I found the 302 Golden Trophy at Home Depot and this year both Home Depot and Menards had it. But you have to be careful. The 302 bags vary from pallet to pallet. One pallet will have bags with very very large chunks and another pallet will have perfect bags of fine pine bark. This year I got into an argument with a guy driving a forklift at Menards who parked a pallet of the good stuff where I couldn't get it and insisted I pull off the open pallet which was totally unacceptable. He wouldn't even believe me after I showed him the difference.

If you don't have a vehicle this would be very difficult to haul on the CTA unless you're just getting one bag and have one of those grandma shopping carts. Also, it's kind of late to be mixing soil isn't it? I ended planting on June 1.

Al's mix also requires perlite. There's a garden place in west downtown at 1000 W. Randolph down the street from Harpo Studios that sells the 4 cu. ft. bags for $20. Best price I could find. They only take cash.

The best nursery in the entire Chicagoland area -- and I've been to practically all of them over the years, is Gesthethme (spelled wrong) on the north side at Ashland and around Peterson. I think that Ashland bus actually might go close to Hyde Park but that would be a long bus ride.


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

I agree with Al and Puglvr ! :) It is really nice to see someone willing to help another.

Pug, what you say is so true! This is the first season I have plants doing awsome! Just got more bark and pearlite today. :)

I had to laugh at my son today.. He just turned 13 this month. and has worked with me 10 yrs now in the garden.
We got some plants today at home depot, and cactus. He tells me while checking out, "mom we need to get these in Al's mixes so they live"...

Even children are learning. :) I'm glad my son has a head start and wont be killing plants for 10 yrs like I did. ;)
We both thank Al..

Best wishes!
JoJo


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

gonativegal -- Thanks for the offer; I'm hoping to connect with red_chucks, but if our schedules turn out to be hopelessly incompatible, I might be in touch. :)

mea2214 -- I'm growing houseplants, so the timing matters a bit less, especially since I'm using artificial lights for some of them. My big thing is getting rid of peat and compost; I bought a number of succulents, which I've repotted using four or five different brands of commercial cactus/succulent soil... All of which use peat or compost as a base. The plants seem OK, but I'm getting tired of the fungus gnats. And yeah, I'd probably have to get a shopping cart to really transport anything on the train/bus.

I went up to Gethsemane last Friday, actually... It's about an hour on public transportation from Hyde Park, plus 10-20 minutes of walking. They had a number of nice plants, but -- besides being kind of expensive -- the three plants I was most tempted by all had spider mites, so I'm not sure how much I trust them.

1000 W Randloph -- that's B.A. Florist & Nursery? They're on my list to check out, but I haven't actually been to them yet.


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

There is a Straight Dope Chicago forum.


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

I should qualify my best nursery in Chicago comment. I meant best nursery for seedlings for Spring planting. Gethsemane has the best variety and you'll find herbs and various veggies there that no other nursery will carry. Over the years some of my go to nurseries scaled back their spring seedling selection only to concentrate on landscaping like bushes and trees. Perhaps there isn't that much money in selling 4 packs of seedlings and that most people prefer generic herbs like basil and oregano. Gesethemane is more expensive but some of those plants can't be had anywhere else. Every year I take a trip there to load up on red habeneros when they get their first shipment which they still sell in 4 packs. Any place else will sell the habs as single plants. Since I buy about 60 of these a year, buying in 4 packs is still much cheaper even at their inflated 4 pack prices. This year I also got some interesting varieties of eggplants that no other place had. They also had some hardy snapdragons that grow three feet high which are right now putting up a decent fight against the morning glories. Since I never perused their houseplant section I don't know how good or bad that is.

You might want to look into a Go or Zip car. They have a bunch of reserved spots in that parking lot on 53rd and Lake Park Ave (or whatever that street's named. It's across from that Borders and the Bank). Apparently you can sign out a car for a few hours and bring it back.


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

  • Posted by batya Israel north 8-9-10 (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 28, 10 at 13:42

Where were all you Chicago folks when I spent 4 months there recently and yearned for gardening pals? There is a place in Evanston called the Talking Farm, which I found through a little mag called Edible Chicago. There seems to be a few places which have good gardening chops advertised there. The farm on the Skokie/Evanston border may have the knowledgeable folks for resources, even if you can't get to Evanston.
I'm coming back to town for a week tomorrow, then back here to where there ain't no rain and the leaves don't turn like nature intended. Peace, Batya (longtime lurker)


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

Yeah, Gethsemane did look like a good place for outdoor garden plants -- didn't check the prices, since I'm not in a position to do outdoor gardening, but it looked like a great selection and good health.

There's an up-front cost to both Go and Zip cars that makes the economics vs. the occasional car rental very interesting. It's not *quite* worth it for me, though that would change quickly if I started renting cars more often.


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

Some employers pay for Zip Car's yearly fee. I'm guessing that you'd know that if your company did so, but you might check into it.


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

Not that this thread is about rental cars, lol, but I use IGO and am very happy with it. The cost of rental includes insurance and gas, which makes it less than renting a car from Enterprise (for me).


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

  • Posted by lolear 5b - Chicago (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 29, 10 at 14:47

If you aren't averse to the burbs, Anton's in Evanston has a really good selection of both ornamentals and veggies and herbs. Never tried them for Al's mix components but it's worth a call. Also Lurvey's in Desplaines. I love that place. Most definitely better quality plants than Gethsemane and cheaper. Great variety. Got my straw bale there when I needed straw for mulching the veggie garden. Worth a trip.


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

I just want to reiterate the comments that it is so wonderful seeing people being so helpful when one is in need. I wish I had the same kind of gardeners around me for I find myself so clueless about some things in gardening. I miss the "chew-the-fat" kind of talks DH and I always had. He always had ideas to share. I get all mixed up about Al's mixture and always come up emptyhanded especially when it comes to the Turface and "fine" stuff. Peat, Perlite and stuff like that I can find but the other leaves me with open hands. We live in a little town and I just simply don't drive to the big cities anymore. Thanks, people,for being so nice to each other since all of the political stuff leaves you wondering what has happened to common courtesy.. - Barb


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

As of this morning, I'm the proud owner of three cubic feet of prime gritty-mix-quality fir bark. Thanks, red_chucks! (He even brought over some pre-mixed stuff to show me what it should look like!)

Now to figure out which plant gets "the treatment" first... ;)


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

I wanted to let current Chicagoans know what I've found in my search for gritty mix components. I can't find Turface in the city, but as a substitute one of the NAPA Auto Parts I called has NAPA Floor-Dry #8822. It's at 5151 W Fullerton Ave., 773-745-7600. For Gran-I-Grit Belmont Feed & Seed confirmed they had some; they're at 3036 W Belmont Ave., 773-588-1144. I haven't had luck finding fine pine/fir bark. The closest thing Home Depot in the South Loop/University Village had was cedar mulch. If anyone has found some pine bark lately, let me know. I'm mostly near Uptown or the Loop.


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

Unfortunately, the best source I found for bark in the area a) definitely requires a car and b) isn't going to be around much longer... Oak Hill Gardens up in Dundee has *perfect* fir bark. Unfortunately, they're moving to Madison, WI; their last day is next Friday (6/15/2012).

I haven't found a better source sans a car, suggestions welcome.

(BTW, another option for grit is the Feed Store in Summit Argo, which *is* reachable by public transportation... Barely. Or it was before the most recent CTA reschedulings, I haven't checked since then.)

(I wonder how long fir bark keeps...)


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

  • Posted by twj20 5/6- near Chicago (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 7, 12 at 22:37

I live in the north suburbs of Chicago and have had some luck getting pine bark fines from the HD in Glenview and Deerfield. Getting to these places may require a car, unfortunately. If you do make the effort, look for Golden Trophy Pine Bark Mulch #302 for around $3.20-$3.50 per 2 cubic ft. bag. Beware though, size of pieces and amount of sapwood can vary wildly between batches and/or stores. For the most part I've been lucky and have been able to get the good, mostly useable stuff.


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 8, 12 at 5:59

For the gritty mix, you can get perfect fir bark for about $2 for 3 cu ft, and it's prescreened, at Oak Hill Gardens in Dundee. Paste addy to your browser:

http://www.oakhillgardens.com/htm/supplies_growingmedia.htm

Al


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

Al,

You probably mean $20 ;-).

They are moving soon, I better get there fast!


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

They had maybe five or ten bags when I was there yesterday. Whenever they close next Friday (6/15/2012), any remaining stock (and there isn't a lot left) goes to Madison.


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

Cliss,

I thought of you last week when I found pretty good aged pine bark fines at Lake Street Landscape Supply at Wood and Lake not far from downtown. It had no big pieces and a little very fine material. elleven, it should be close to you.

Glad to hear you are still container gardening, cliss. Hope it is going well.

Thanks for sharing the (bad) news that Oak Hill is moving. I too will call and see if they have anything left. I thought Dundee was far (50 miles from the South Side), but Madison is 150 miles. There is always something.

red_chucks


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 11, 12 at 10:18

I did mean $20 - not sure what happened to the zero. So sorry - good catch.

So they're moving to Madison, WI? That's gonna stink for me!

Al


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

Yeah, Oak Hill Gardens is merging with another orchid nursery and relocating. I'm hoping that another nursery will buy their land and greenhouses, but I'm not betting on it.

red_chucks - Yes, I'm still accumulating houseplants. Nearing my limit, though, I think, I've only got so much room for lightshelves... :) Thanks for the tip on Lake Street Landscape Supply, I'll have to look them up... How are their prices?


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

I went to Oak Hill Tuesday. They said they had plenty of bark. The owner was always nice to me. Didn't say anything about my filling a Corolla with bags of bark. The plants were picked over. There were some specimen plants left--sold and waiting for the purchaser to come back with a big enough vehicle to get the plant home.

I noticed that the bark comes from Yreka, Calif. We can see if we can get a Chicago store to buy a skid, or one of us can become a wholesaler, maybe. [Mark Twain said that Yreka got its name because the residents used the letters from a bakery sign backwards, and they lost the b.]

Al said a while back that when gardeners become strong with the way of the grit, they find they can grow plants without bark. The bark is the least important part of the mix. This may be a chance for us to spread our wings.

cliss, the aged pine bark fines are about $5.50 for 1.5 cubic feet at Lake St. Landscape. By the way, if you need some Gran-i-Grit, I have a stash. That's a long way on the bus.

To keep track of supplies in Chicago--the NAPA store on Harlem just a few blocks south of the feed store with Gran-i-Grit closed. [In the golden age, not only were they close to each other, but there was a Krispy Kreme in between.] The store on Grand around Damen didn't have the calcined diatomaceous earth (#8822) oil dri when I went there. I have started buying it at the NAPA at 47th and Cicero.

red_chucks


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

Hey all, I just wanted to let those in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs know that Schwake Stone on Rand Road in Des Plaines has crushed granite/grit/cherrystone. Just an FYI...by the way i love this sites info.


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

I've never been able to find bags of the pine bark locally with the exception of reptibark at Petsmart. I've purchased 30 or so large bags over the past few years. Its probably a lot costlier, but it got the job done and my lemon trees are doing great.


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RE: Al's Mix in Chicago -- without a car

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 20, 12 at 21:18

Where is locally, K?

Al


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