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Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
Sun, Jun 5, 11 at 22:17

I first posted this thread back in March of '05. Thirteen times it has reached the maximum number of posts GW allows to a single thread, which is much more attention than I ever imagined it would garner. I have reposted it, in no small part because it has been great fun, and 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 the exchanges provide helpful information. Most of the motivation for posting this thread another time comes from the reinforcement of hundreds of participants over the years that the idea some of the information provided in good-spirited collective exchange has made a significant difference in the quality of their growing experience.
I'll provide links to some of the more recent of the previous dozen threads and nearly 2,000 posts at the end of what I have written - just in case you have interest in reviewing them. Thank you for taking the time to examine this topic - I hope that any/all who read it take at least something interesting and helpful from it. I know it's long; my hope is that you find it worth the read.

Container Soils - Water Movement and Retention

A Discussion About Container Soils

As container gardeners, our first priority should be to ensure 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/compost/coir. 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 I'll 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 in 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:

Container soils are all about structure, and particle size plays the primary role in determining whether a soil is suited or unsuited to the application. 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 a nutrient supply in available form sufficient to sustain plant systems. Gas Exchange - it must be amply porous to allow air to move through the root system and gasses that are the by-product of decomposition to escape. Water - it must retain water enough in liquid and/or vapor form to sustain plants between waterings. Air - it must contain a volume of air sufficient to ensure that root function/metabolism/growth is not impaired. This is extremely important and the primary reason that heavy, water-retentive soils are so limiting in their affect. 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 and retention of water in container 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, water's bond to itself can be stronger than the bond to the object it might be in contact with; cohesion is what makes water form drops. 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 .100 (just under 1/8) inch. Perched water is water that occupies a layer of soil at the bottom of containers or above coarse drainage layers that tends to remain 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 said to be 'perched'. The smaller the size of the particles in a soil, the greater the height of the PWT. Perched water can be tightly held in heavy (comprised of small particles) soils where it perches (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. If 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 and the production of noxious gasses. 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: If using a soil that supports perched water, 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 simply drain better and hold more air. 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?

I already stated I hold as true that the grower's soil choice when establishing a planting for the long term is the most important decision he/she will make. There is no question that the roots are the heart of the plant, and plant vitality is inextricably linked in a hard lock-up with root vitality. In order to get the best from your plants, you absolutely must have happy roots.

If you start with a water-retentive medium, you cannot improve it's aeration or drainage characteristics by adding larger particulates. Sand, perlite, Turface, calcined DE ...... none of them will work. To visualize why sand and perlite can't change drainage/aeration, think of how well a pot full of BBs would drain (perlite), then think of how poorly a pot full of pudding would drain (bagged soil). Even mixing the pudding and perlite/BBs together 1:1 in a third pot yields a mix that retains the drainage characteristics and PWT height of the pudding. It's only after the perlite become the largest fraction of the mix (60-75%) that drainage & PWT height begins to improve. At that point, you're growing in perlite amended with a little potting soil.

You cannot add coarse material to fine material and improve drainage or the ht of the PWT. Use the same example as above & replace the pudding with play sand or peat moss or a peat-based potting soil - same results. The benefit in adding perlite to heavy soils doesn't come from the fact that they drain better. The fine peat or pudding particles simply 'fill in' around the perlite, so drainage & the ht of the PWT remains the same. All perlite does in heavy soils is occupy space that would otherwise be full of water. Perlite simply reduces the amount of water a soil is capable of holding because it is not internally porous. IOW - all it does is take up space. That can be a considerable benefit, but it makes more sense to approach the problem from an angle that also allows us to increase the aeration AND durability of the soil. That is where Pine bark comes in, and I will get to that soon.

If you want to profit from a soil that offers superior drainage and aeration, you need to start with an ingredient as the basis for your soils that already HAVE those properties, by ensuring that the soil is primarily comprised of particles much larger than those in peat/compost/coir.sand/topsoil, which is why the recipes I suggest as starting points all direct readers to START with the foremost fraction of the soil being large particles, to ensure excellent aeration. From there, if you choose, you can add an appropriate volume of finer particles to increase water retention. You do not have that option with a soil that is already extremely water-retentive right out of the bag.

I fully understand that many are happy with the results they get when using commercially prepared soils, and I'm not trying to get anyone to change anything. My intent is to make sure that those who are having trouble with issues related to soil, understand why the issues occur, that there are options, and what they are.

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 added 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 suffer/die because there is insufficient air at the root zone to insure normal root function, so water/nutrient uptake and root metabolism become seriously impaired.

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 have not 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.

Bark fines of pine, fir or hemlock, 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 nature's 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 - it retains its structure.

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 fine and unstable for me to consider using in soils in any significant volume as well. The small amount of micro-nutrients it supplies can easily be delivered by one or more of a number of chemical or organic sources that do not detract from drainage/aeration.

My Basic Soils ....

5 parts pine bark fines (partially composted fines are best)
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)

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)

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)

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 they can grow at as close to their genetic potential within the limits of other cultural factors as possible. 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, fine stone, VERY coarse sand (see above - usually no smaller than BB size in containers, please), Haydite, lava rock (pumice), Turface, calcined DE, and others.

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

1 part uncomposted screened pine or fir bark (1/8-1/4")
1 part screened Turface
1 part crushed Gran-I-Grit (grower size) or #2 cherrystone
1 Tbsp gypsum per gallon of soil
CRF (if desired)

I use 1/8 -1/4 tsp Epsom salts (MgSO4) per gallon of fertilizer solution when I fertilize if the fertilizer does not contain Mg (check your fertilizer - if it is soluble, it is probable it does not contain Ca or Mg. If I am using my currently favored fertilizer (I use it on everything), Dyna-Gro's Foliage-Pro in the 9-3-6 formulation, and I don't use gypsum or Epsom salts in the fertilizer solution.

If there is interest, you'll find some of the more recent continuations of the thread at the links below:

Post XIII

Post XII

Post XI

Post X

Post IX

PostVIII

Post VII

If you feel you were benefited by having read this offering, you might also find this thread about Fertilizing Containerized Plants helpful, as well.

If you do find yourself using soils you feel are too water-retentive, You'll find some Help Dealing with Water-retentive Soils by following this embedded link.

If you happen to be at all curious about How Plant Gowth is Limited, just click the embedded link.

As always - best luck. Good growing!! Let me know if you think there is anything I might be able to help you with.

Al


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

I just have to say it's pretty neat to know I'm a newbie who recently found all this AWESOME info, and now I ended up w/ the last post on Part XIII - especially when 13 is my lucky number! Go Al and all!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Congratulations, Al... on another successful flip-over! Wow... 14! Imagine that! :-)

I remain your apt pupil, supporter, and friend! :-)


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Al, I am also enjoying this so much that I will remain your faithful student and try to learn as much as I can. I am still trying to locate pine bark fines in suitable sizes here. Enjoy.
e


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

I joined Gardenweb less than six months ago and started using these soil formulas for the first time in March. In the last three months, I mixed about 350 gallons of the 5-1-1 mix and about 50 gallons of the gritty mix. My flowering annuals and vegetables are mostly in containers of the 5-1-1 while my houseplants and herbs are mostly in the gritty mix. In my part of Ohio, we had record breaking rain of about two inches a week and below average temperatures through most of April and May, followed by several days in near 90, and yet all of my new plantings have been outside and doing well.

I'd like to share one thing I learned from someone else who came before me to this forum. I don't remember his name, or I'd give him credit. Following his example, I bought a small compost tumbler and have been using it to mix all my soil components. The one I got for about $110 on Amazon is a Composter Wizard Jr. that is supposed to produce about seven cubic feet of compost. It's made up of a three-foot wide barrel that sits on rollers. You load it up and turn the tumbler by hand to combine ingredients. It's really too small to be useful as a composter, but it's just the right size for me to use as a middle aged woman with a bad back and the upper body strength of a wet noodle. In past years, I mixed my soil components on our asphalt driveway with a snow shovel. It often took several hours over three or four Saturdays, and I usually ended up in major pain. But not this year. Not only am I moderately pain free, I've also gained some pretty impressive upper body strength! Here's a photo of the compost tumbler:

I was able to make about 24 gallons of 5-1-1 or 15 gallons of gritty mix at a time with this set up. (Since the gritty mix is much heavier, I wasn't able to budge the barrel with more than about 15 gallons in it.) For the 5-1-1, my process was to add 1.5 cups each of dolomitic lime and controlled release fertilizer to 3.5 gallons each of coarse perlite and sphagnum peat and tumble a few times. Then I'd open the tumbler and wet down the ingredients a little before closing and tumbling again. After that, I'd make sure all the ingredients were well mixed before adding the 17.5 gallons of pine bark fines in several batches, tumbling a few times with each addition. I used a similar technique with the gritty mix. The one thing that is a little tricky is getting the moisture level right. If the ingredients are too dry, the fertilizer and lime don't seem to disperse as well. But if they're too wet, the tumbler is very hard to turn. In the end, I found it easier to work with fairly dry ingredients, so I had to water them very well in several layers as I filled my containers.

Here are a few of the things I have growing in the 5-1-1:

Watermelon seedlings in a wooden whiskey barrel, with ready to harvest broccoli in a cast iron pot in the background:

Eggplants in a fabric aeration container. (I replaced perlite with Turface in these containers to improve water retention because the containers wick to the ground.)

Potatoes in a 20-gallon plastic tub that have grown like crazy through two months of heavy rain:

Here are a few of the things I have in gritty mix:

A 25 year-old fiddle leaf fig I hope to nurture for another 25 years:

A variety of herbs and, lower left, an angel wing begonia I hope to rejuvenate after a nasty winter indoors:

I'm delighted to see this thread continue. Al, you are like the St. Francis of Assisi of the plant world as far as I am concerned. Thank you so much for your generosity.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by rdak z5MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 9, 11 at 10:41

Al: Thanks for the info in the previous thread stating I have to be more concerned about pine bark fines with the gritty mix.

The more I look at all the great pictures, I realized the stuff I find around here is pretty good to begin with.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

I have a dilemma. So far, I've been making the gritty mix using decomposed granite as the "grit" component. In some cases, I've filtered the material through insect screening to remove all the dust and very small particles. In other cases, I've just left it in. I've noticed virtually no difference, other than the fact that some granite dust is flushed out with each watering in the cases where I've left it in. Both options seem to drain almost instantaneously, and neither holds perched water that I could observe (I used toothpicks and an unwoven polyester wick to test).

I've been unable to locate a reasonable source of screened/crushed granite. Given these limitations, any advice on which option to use? I live in Houston, so blistering heat and sun is a potential pitfall for the outdoor plantings.

I have located 3 economically reasonable alternatives to granite:

1) lava sand, a mix ranging from dust to the ideal particle size
2) expanded shale, a mix ranging from dust to the ideal particle size
3) "horticultural" charcoal, prescreened to the ideal particle size, but with few details as to the source or alkalinity (it's fertilome charcoal)

But my head is spinning trying to figure out if these are suitable replacements, or if I should just leave well enough alone. I've had good results from the mixes I've already made, but at least part of this can be attributed to the vigor of the plant species I've picked so far. For example, here's some pictures of a heartleaf philodendron that started out as a 6 inch cutting in early march. I know some of the pieces of bark and granite are too large, but these are mostly outliers that have drifted towards the top. The bark pieces are legitimately too large, but I'm not inclined to repot right now.

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Any advice from Al or anyone else would be greatly appreciated! Sorry for the superfluous detail.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

From Al's post "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, fine stone, VERY coarse sand (see above - usually no smaller than BB size in containers, please), Haydite, lava rock (pumice), Turface, calcined DE, and others.

Haydite is expanded shale.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Thank you again for this good information. I cant express anymore just how perfect this mix truely is. I have used peat based mixs (like most potting soils are) and found that it just hold too much moisture. Thanks for this great mix.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Yes as always: Thank you Al for introducing this to us!

If your plants are doing ok, I would stick to what you know and have. Sounds like you understand the PWT thing and have it under control.

I would substitute perlite,shale, pea stone or lava sand if the particle size were in the perfect range, if that was all I had access to.

Very beautiful plant by the way. I love the idea of climbing the phone,

Mike:-)


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by Jay5 none (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 12, 11 at 17:37

I am glad I found this site also as well as Al's mix.

I have 6 tomatoes,1 each, 4 bush cucumbers,2 each, and 4, yellow squash, 1 each, in 18 gallon containers and they all are doing very well.
I have to lend a hand with pollination but it's worth it.

They get about 5 hours of continuous morning sun so the mix must have a lot to do with how well they are doing.

Many thanks Al.

I do have a question if I may.

I mixed in Miracle Grow 3 month SRF. How often should I also give the half strength water soluble fert, MG?
I am thinking once a week.

Thanks again.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Hi Jay

I wouldn't use anymore fertilizer unless you see a deficiency of some kind. It is better to under fertilize than to over do it. If it is a three month one, it must work very fast in the soil at this time:-)

Better than to be safe than sorry. You take the chance of burning them out or accumulated salt damage.

Cheers

Mike


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Thanks for the compliment Mike, though I'm not sure what you mean by "phone"? I've always wanted to surround myself on all sides with greenery when I'm going to bed and waking up... and sometimes it just doesn't make sense to sleep outside. Thank god for impossible to kill vines like philodendron and pothos.

Jay5, I agree with mike, especially if the miracle-gro already contains all the micronutrients. If you must use the extra fertilizer, flush thoroughly when you water and go even more dilute than 1/2 when you fertilize.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Jay: I have to respectfully disagree about fertilizing your vegetables. Tomatoes and cucumbers require a lot of fertilizing, much more than houseplants or most perennials. With them, I add Osmocote plus, a 6-month controlled release fertilizer at the rate of about 1 tablespoon per gallon of potting mix. If the potting mix is like 5-1-1 and has no other source of nutrients, I start giving them a complete soluble fertilizer like Foliage Pro at one half dose weekly when they start noticeably fruiting, which is usually about six weeks after I plant them out. In my climate where we have a lot of rain in May and early June, I believe that fertilizer is used more rapidly due to leaching, especially nitrogen. I wouldn't do this with my houseplants, which grow much more slowly. I agree that you must be careful not to overfertilize, but I do think vegetables that can grow as much as an inch a day and produce many pounds of fruit in a short season need extra help in the confines of a container.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 12, 11 at 20:56

Hi, guys. Sorry I haven't been around much. I've been very busy in my own gardens & getting containers established, as well as taking care of a ton of chores associated with my bonsai endeavors. There has also been a lot of illness in my extended family that has required a lot of my attention.

I thought I offered a heartfelt thank you to all who offered such kind words ..... at least I know I wrote a thank you, but I see in never made it to the thread, which means I prolly messed up while trying to post it. Everyone has been so kind, ant the forum has really been a great place to hang lately, so thank you all very much for the support & the nice compliments. I really appreciate it.

GT - as a substitute for granite, you'll need to make some adjustments if you use:
1) lava sand (make sure the size is appropriate - if you want about the same water retention as the 1:1:1 gritty mix, use about 4 parts lava sand, 3 parts bark, and 2 parts of screened Turface).
2) expanded shale (same as above)
3) "horticultural" charcoal (same as above)

When you post pictures that are too wide to fit the column, column width is automatically adjusted to fit your pictures, which means that everyone else reading the thread subsequent to the picture posting will have to scroll sideways to read the offerings, so please keep that in mind when you post and consider resizing.

Jay - it sort of depends on how much fertilizer you added. If you watch leaf color, your plants will tell you when they want to be fertilized, as they'll start turning a little lighter green. I pretty much fertilize everything but veggies on a schedule that's tempered by ambient temperatures, but for veggies I keep a close eye on foliage color and rely on that as my guide.

Thanks again everyone!

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by Jay5 none (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 12, 11 at 22:47

Thanks for all the tips.

I added MG about 3 weeks after planting as the leaves looked less than the green I thought they should look and they responded well.

I have since added MG at half strength once and might back off until they start fruiting.

The mix drains well but holds moisture well also. I like knowing it's hard to over water. I water very well about every 3 or 4 days. We have had some hot weather here but since they get only morning sun I think they dry out less.
I use the finger test along with the wooden skewer test.

I sowed some basil seeds in with two tomatoes and they sprouted well also.

As far as the fert I just want to keep them fed before they get yellow.

My wife asks me when I am going out to take a look if I am going to check on my children.

I am sure everyone here knows how it is.

Anyway I think the SRF needed more time to integrate into the mix when I added the MG the first time.
They look great now, a rich green and are blooming and I'll be getting squash in a few days.

So far I am pleased as you can tell.
It's nice seeing something work out as hoped.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

I am still trying to locate the ingredients for Gritty Mix and I found a source for fir bark that is a good 2 hours drive from here but on their web site it says that the bark is heated to 400� to dry completely vs. Reptibark that is not heat treated. Does heated or unheated make any difference for use in gritty mix. I appreciate an answer before I commit to a 2 hours drive!

Emmanuel


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Al, Larry and I wish you peace during this time of hardship. We're always here, should you need to hear a friendly voice... but you know that. You and yours are in our thoughts and prayers.

I continue to follow your articles and work with much interest, and am always learning something new and useful. My growing world has expanded so much within the past couple of years...

Nice pictures, everyone! Such healthy plants! I enjoy seeing the results of using better mediums! Keep the photos coming!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

"When you post pictures that are too wide to fit the column, column width is automatically adjusted to fit your pictures, which means that everyone else reading the thread subsequent to the picture posting will have to scroll sideways to read the offerings, so please keep that in mind when you post and consider resizing."

Ah, I'm spoiled by a very large monitor and didn't realize, I apologize. Will do in the future.

I'm sorry to hear about the illness... my thoughts are with you as well.

@esebastaian - I highly doubt the heat treatment will make any difference other than to greatly reduce the moisture content when you first get it. So you may want to soak it in warm water overnight, otherwise the hydrophobic nature of dry bark may be to much to overcome.

In fact, Repti Bark is labeled as "Not heat treated--allowing bark to absorb and retain moisture more rapidly." Once the bark has been wetted the first time though, I can't imagine a reason it would continue to have different hydrodynamic properties.


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 14, 11 at 21:40

That's great news, Jay. I'm glad for you, and that things worked out well for you!

Emm - there really isn't any advantage in having a bark that was heat-treated, unless there would be some initial advantage in the fact that the high temps probably killed off any fungaluglies that might have been in hiding. I've never had an issue with any of the bark I've used, so if there WAS an advantage, I wouldn't count it as significant.

The gritty mix never really gets hydrophobic. Even if the bark was to dry down to a completely dry state and become extremely hydrophobic, the Turface doesn't, so it would readily absorb water as it passes through the soil, and water would still adhere to the surface of the granite. After the initial watering, water slowly diffuses from the granite and Turface into the bark, trumping it's tendency toward hydrophobia within no more than a half hour ..... probably within 10-15 minutes. A second watering at that point will rehydrate the entire soil mass,. no matter how dry it was initially.

Thank you, Jodi, you're always soo kind! I really appreciate the support of all my friends, and the patience of everyone that emailed me but didn't get an answer. For those wondering ..... my youngest sister (44) passed away last Friday after a lengthy illness and a series of battles with infections following a surgery she had last summer. My brother/business partner has also been hospitalized with a blood disorder, so I've had to devote more time to the business than I'm accustomed to. Between the familial issues and the attention due my own garden & bonsai trees, I haven't been able to be around near as much as I was in the recent past, but I do miss the fun of being around all of you. ;-)

GT - I hope I didn't (and didn't mean to) come off as chiding you about the pics - it was more FYI than anything.

Take good care, all.

AL


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

I began using Al's gritty mix this year and am quite happy with the results to date (lemon trees). I did not use gypsum though. Should I be concerned with this omission?


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Hello Everyone,

Al, I'm so sorry to hear of your sisters passing as well as having your brother having health issues...I hope you and your family are doing well at this sad time in your life...with the help of family and friends, you all will be helped by the love that they have for you all...Please let us know if we can do anything to help!!!

Laura in VB


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Very sorry to hear of your loss and family hardship Al. Though we miss your sage advise and your help in taking care of our plants, we all understand your need to take care of family, business, and your own plants.

Thanks for all you do, and you're in our thoughts.

Blake


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Whoa Al, so sorry to hear of your loss. Please accept my wish for you that these difficult times will soon pass by.

And let me also thank you for the help you offer to so many.

Jim


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Al,
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond in detail considering your troubles in the last 2 weeks. Although, I am new to this forum, just from reading all these posts it is easy to see that you are very well liked and well respected among the forum members. I for one admire your generosity and guidance in here. I would also like to offer my condolences and say I am very sorry about your loss and will keep you and your family in my prayers. Thank you again for your advice and directions.
e


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 15, 11 at 21:41

Kiropod - I experimentally stopped adding gypsum to the gritty mix not long after I started using Foliage-Pro fertilizer, which is somewhat unusual in that it contains the right amount of Ca (based on the amount of N it contains). If you're using a fertilizer that doesn't contain Ca, you probably should be adding gypsum to the mix. If your fertilizer doesn't contain Ca, it's probable that it is inadequate in the Mg department too, and that you should also be adding Epsom salts to your fertilizer solution in small amounts each time you fertilize.

Laura, Jake, Jim, and Emmanuel - you are all very thoughtful, and I'm touched by your sentiments. All my forum friends have been very supportive and soo considerate; so thanks again to everyone. It is a difficult time, but I've found that the kindnesses expressed by you guys on the forum, and others I know, do make a real difference.

Take care.

Al


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Thanks for your reply Al. I do use Foliage-Pro per your advise.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Al - if you have the moment - how important is the peat portion of the 5-1-1? When I make it, the fines are sifted through 1/4" and 1/16" screen, and everything between those sizes is used. My reasoning was that because there are some pretty small particles still left over (1/16" to 1/8") there was no need to add peat.

Problem is, two pepper plants in the 5-1-1 mix are wilting all the time, as are citrus plants, no matter how much I water them. Is it because my mix is roughly 5 parts fines, 1.5 parts perlite?


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jul 30, 11 at 23:17

Really, the peat fraction is only there to increase/adjust water retention, and '5-1-1' is a guideline. If your bark is quite fine or contains a high % of fines, no peat, or a reduced amount would be necessary. If the bark is coarse, you might need more peat than the 1/7 presence 5:1:1 yields to get a convenient amount of water retention.

I can't say for sure why your peppers are wilting, but it's likely from either over or under-watering. Peppers tolerate rather dry soils quite well, so if you're watering when the soil is still moist and the plants are wilting, you're probably over-watering or there may be a lingering root problem associated with over-watering in the recent past. High root temperatures can also cause impairment of root function and/or root death, which could also be an issue. Hydrophobic soil is another potential issue if you're allowing the soil to dry down TOO much.

Al


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Hello AL
An old man from faraway land wants you to suggest a potting mix from following avaiable materials.
coco coir, rice husk,Broken bricks, stone chips any size, leaf compost, cow manure, wood shavings, saw dust, coarse river sand, sandy loam, loam, garden soil built on sandy loam, charcoal and rice husk charcoal.
I make my own fertiliser mixes.
Pine bark, Perlite, peat moss is not available here.
Except for July & August the summer is hot and dry and winters mild and dry.
Arif


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I found almost all the ingredients for gritty mix and 5.1.1. I had hard time finding good pine fines. I guess no surprise there! I am having difficulty locating hardware cloth in 3/8" size. I must have called close to 50 hardware stores in NEPA and central Pa with no luck. Does anyone knows where to get some?
tx
e


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Has anyone had any problems with growing plants in whiskey barrel liners? The plastic liners do not have any drainage holes. I have impatiens and nasturtiums in miracle gro potting soil in these liners. The soil seems to stay very wet. Do these liners need drainage holes, or is the problem with the type of potting soil I'm using? The plants have not grown much in the two months I've had them planted. The plants stay alive, but barely. Our summer has been very warm and humid for WI.


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d bender: You MUST have drainage holes in any pots that aren't porous.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

d.bender: I suggest you read the beginning of this post. If you did, you'd know that you must have drainage, and Miracle Gro potting soil is almost always going to be too soggy to grow anything well. I have impatiens and nasturtium growing very well in Al's 5-1-1 mix in Southwest Ohio where it has been extremely hot and humid.


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I can vouch for Ohiofem from personal experience. I've been using the 5-1-1 for the first time this year, my wife insisted on using the MG soil we had on hand for her plants. I've had much more success with growth, and fewer pest and disease issues then she has, even though she has many more years of growing experience then I do.

In some cases, we actually bare rooted plants out of the MG to put in the 5-1-1, and the plants recovered very quickly. Where you can see the difference is the root health. Plants lifted out of MG always seem to have yellowish thin roots and often girdle the pot. The roots out of 5-1-1 were always very healthy looking white roots. I also see no transplant shock when up potting in 5-1-1. I just pull a few outside roots loose from the root ball and up pot.


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Aug 7, 11 at 21:42

Sometimes the ingredients for either the 5:1:1 or gritty mix can be a pain to find, but the upside of making the effort is usually a soil that offers a much wider margin for error and greater ease in raising consistently healthy plants. In many cases, growers having little success have turned their growing experience from frustrating to rewarding with some calculated consideration given to aeration and structural stability. It's not unusual to find growers with very little experience producing plants that are healthier and more attractive than the plants produced by growers stuck in the 'Miracle-Gro (and similar) potting soil rut' who have been growing in containers for years.

I think part of that reason lies in the fact that growers new to container culture don't have to 'unlearn' all the information many consider to be carved in stone.

In a similar vein, I'm a concealed weapons instructor and qualified to teach other disciplines as well. I find that those taking training that have had no previous exposure to firearms learn faster and become more proficient faster than many of the hard-heads that already know it all. The reason is exactly the same as that offered above - the newbies don't have to unlearn anything and aren't resistant to letting go of previously learned behaviors that often tend to be limiting.

Getting back on topic - I'm with everyone else, in that growing outdoors in containers sans drain holes is pretty much an exercise in futility. If a swampy soil doesn't bite you, it's likely that accumulating salts will.

Al


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Turface

Hi everyone, I just bought two bags of Turface All-Sport from a John Deere store in town. What was confusing is that they had both All-Sport and All-Sport Pro, and the guy at the store had no idea what the difference was between them, other than that Pro is slightly more expensive. On top of that, the Turface web site doesn't even list All-Sport as one of their products. Does anyone know what the difference is between the two? I took a look at it when I got home, and the grain sizes seemed to be pretty close to fine perlite, i.e. the kind I normally find at garden/hardware stores, probably no more than 1/8". I was expecting something more coarse.


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  • Posted by filix z5 maine (My Page) on
    Thu, Aug 11, 11 at 6:17

Congratulations Al. And many many thanks. I havent posted for a while because I have been so busy with my 50 plus containers. And my blueberry garden that started out in containers and are now in raised beds. "that you also helped me with". Raised beds with turface! This year I got my first real crop! Fresh blueberries every morning. My containers are doing very well. I will have to post some pics. I am also very sorry to hear about your sister. And now your brother is not doing well. My heartfelt prayers and thoughts are with you and your family. Thnks for being such a willing helper to so many of us. Filix.


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Aug 11, 11 at 22:58

Matt - you're asking about a product that Profile (Turface) packages for John Deere. I'm guessing that the All-sport-Pro would be similar to Profile's own "Pro-League"; and would be unsuited to use for those of us wanting to build lots of aeration into our media for containers. I'd stick with the All-sport unless the JD dealer can definitively tel you the other product has a larger particle size. As far as I know, MVP/All-sport are the largest particles.

Al


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Thanks!

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Aug 11, 11 at 23:00

Oh shoot! Thanks, Filix. I meant to thank you before I sent my message & got distracted. I appreciate the kind words!

Al


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OK, thanks for the input. I'm glad I decided to get the All-Sport rather than the "Pro." I don't know why they need to change the name of the products for John Deere - it makes things rather confusing, especially when the dealers themselves don't really even know what they're selling. I actually went and looked at the spec sheet for MVP, and compared that to a chart of sieve sizes that I found on Wikipedia, and it seemed like what I got probably is the same as MVP. Here's the analysis from the spec sheet, with my addition of the sizes from the US standard mesh scale (there's also a Tyler scale that is slightly different).

MVP® SIEVE ANALYSIS:
+6 mesh (3.35 mm/.132 in) 15.0
+8 mesh (2.36 mm/.0937 in) 31.5
+12 mesh (1.7 mm/.0661 in) 18.9
+20 mesh (.85 mm/.0331 in) 30.9
+30 mesh (.60 mm/.0234 in) 3.1
+40 mesh (.425 mm/.0165 in) 0.5
Pan 0.1

(And apparently the forum won't display groups of spaces, because that chart is all nice and lined up in the message window :( )

There's one other thing that I've been having a hard time figuring out. I ended up getting a bag of hydrated lime, because I didn't realize at the time that lime came in so many different forms, and even though I actually asked for dolomite, the guy at the landscape supply store that I went to gave me the hydrated. So anyway, I figure that I should still be able to make use of what I have, as long as I'm careful not to use too much and burn the plants, but in all the searching I've been doing online, I haven't really seen any specifics on how much to use per cubic foot (or other volume unit) of medium. I saw in one place someone was saying to use about half as much hydrated lime as you would ground limestone. Do you have any opinion on this? Would half the amount listed in the 5-1-1 formula be a safe amount? On the bag that the lime came in, it lists amounts to use per surface area for in-ground plantings, and for potted plants it says to mix 1 TBSP into 1 gallon of water and apply this solution once a year.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Al, you are very right. Although I have gardened in soil for several years, this is my first attempt at pots. My wife has been doing pots for years, and has been very hesitant to try what is different then what has mostly worked for her. She is now coming around and now is asking me "Can you mix a batch of that stuff up for me, I need to repot something", LOL. The results speak for themselves. One thing that is nice about the 5-1-1 is that you don't need to concern yourself about plants being out in long periods of rain. In the past, she would have to move her MG soil plants out of extended periods of rain due to slow drainage.


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You are not kidding about that!

Since Al introduced me to these mixes, I have never had to worry about relentess days of rain with my plants, a mojority of them being plants that hate wet feet.

I grow many succulents, gardenia, and citrus and after years of lossing them to rot, I can finally, might be able to keep alive long after I am gone.

I think I am finally getting a following over here in my area since many friends I know have given up on citrus and now are willing to try what they call a new concept.

Thanks Al many times over for all the success I have been having over these last few years!

Mike


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Bump, Bump, Bump!

What is this doing on page 5?! It really needs to remain on the front page, as it's so helpful to so many gardeners!

This is the foundation of all container plantings... what you should know before embarking upon the adventure! :-)


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  • Posted by filix z5 maine (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 2, 11 at 7:58

Regretfully Al I have to point out one mistake you made. you taught your pupils too well! And I being a pupil will kick your behind when it comes to Elephant ear leaf size! :) The gloves come off!:) Filix.


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 2, 11 at 16:44

Lol! OK Dude! En garde! I have a line on a truly large cultivar for next year, but I'm afraid that because I only have a 20 gallon container for it, and you have that 5,000 gallon THING you grow in, that you'll prolly put a beat down on me, but we'll see - I'll give it a go.

Here are some 4" leaves on a Ricinus communis (castor bean) growing in tiny bonsai pots in August with a month yet to grow
Photobucket.

PS - I lied about the bonsai pots to unnerve you!!

Al


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Al,
Hello. First of all my condolences for your sister's passing, and your brother's illness. I have been following and reading all your threads learning from you and all the others for the last 6 months, while I was recuperating from a broken leg. This is an amazing thread and I have enjoyed it very much.....However!!!! I spent 13 hours yesterday washing all my orchids, screening all the ingredients for the gritty mix and potting up all of them, and then realizing that the turface I used is the allsport pro!!!!! Please tell me what will happen if I don't go through all that hard work and change them all over again. I told the John Deere salesperson I wanted allsport turface and he gave me the pro, and I didn't notice until too late. I will try to buy the other one for my citrus and bougainvillea etc. (My leg was like an elephant's at the end of the day).

I am also amazed at all the things you seem to be so proficient at. How do you get the time?

I lived in Michigan for 45 years, and if you were close, I would have loved to drive by your beautiful garden and just admire.

This is my very first time writing, and I don't know if you'll get this message or not, but I'm hoping to hear from you. Thanking you in advance for your time,
Soussan.


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Oct 3, 11 at 20:59

How very kind of you to take note of my familial misfortunes. That you would mention them is touching, and I feel honored that you chose this thread on which to join us! Thank you. I'm very pleased too, that you've found value in my offerings and comments, as well as those of all the other great people here at GW.

Lol - I am a pretty busy guy; and as for the proficiency thing, I usually throw myself into whatever I do with a good measure of enthusiasm, which is very helpful. You might already know that is was my quest for a good degree of proficiency at bonsai that proved a significant blessing when it came to acquiring what knowledge I have of plants and related sciences. I've discovered it's pretty much true that plants are plants, so if you understand say orchids well, you understand trees and herbs well too.

Ok - I can't stall any more. I think you might have a problem with a mix too water retentive for your orchids, though I don't profess to be an orchid expert. I actually think the particle size of Allsport & MVP are already a little to small to be ideal, even after screening, but it works because of the larger particle size of the grit and bark I use. Can you tell me what type/size grit and bark you used, Soussan?

I'm pretty sure we'd both enjoy it if you took a tour of the gardens, and I'm sure you'd prolly leave with an armload of plants and cuttings. I sent out I don't know how many rooted plants today (30-40) to 6 different people - no room for them indoors & frost probably won't be held off much longer - it's getting impatient.

We can talk about wicking, too, if it's feasible.

Al


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Al, thank you so much for answering so promptly - I wasn't expecting it. I was in the Japanese maple in containers thread, and again I was astonished as it seems that you were the expert there, too. I have a question about those, too, but I suppose I can't ask it in this thread?

I bought the developer/layer grit and the pine bark fines (Virginia).

Do you think the orchids will die in the allsport pro?

Thanks again for all and any help you cangive and do, so generously, to everyone.

Soussan.


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 4, 11 at 10:14

I'll admit to being more than just a little worried about the particle size of the type of Turface you used, which is why I was trying to get a handle on the size of the remaining particles. If they're too large, the Turface won't stay well incorporated - if too small, you have a water-retentive soil with inherent issues when mixed with orchids. Until you can do the next repot, is wicking your pots a possibility? I'd hate to see you watering in sips to try to keep water retention in bounds because of the salt build-up that type of watering promotes.

More kind words - thank you again! I enjoy growing and learning as much as I can about growing so I can be more proficient at it. What works out nicely is that I also enjoy sharing what I've learned & validated through my own experiences, looking at the sharing with/helping others part as a perfectly natural extension of my affection for growing things. I guess I have a nurturing nature, as do ALL the gals AND GUYS here that participate; though some of the guys might never cop to that. ;-)

Why not ask your tree questions at the "Trees in Containers" thread? I'll link you to it below.

Take good care.

Al

Photobucket

Here is a link that might be useful: CLICK ME, just one easy click and you're there!


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Welcome, Soussan! Hi, Al!

I'm a huge fan of Al's enthusiasm... it's definitely catching! And I'm an avid student of his knowledge, philosophies, and methodology. I've learned that growing anything doesn't take luck, or a green thumb... it takes knowledge. The trick is plowing through everything available on the internet and figuring out what's fact and what's fiction! The good news is... Al has done all the hard work for us, and I've found that most of my successes are due to following his very sound advice!

The reason I'm posting is because I love orchids, and though I live in a climate and local environment that is not exactly conducive to orchid growing, I've had more success with the use of a slightly larger "Gritty Mix" rendition than with any other "orchid mix" on the market.

I used 100% fir bark pieces, poultry grit, and perlite. The ratio contains more bark than the other ingredients. So far, my Dendrobiums are absolutely thriving in it!

My main issue is dry air. As we know, most orchids prefer humidity, which I simply can't seem to maintain. I've abandoned trying to grow the orchid types that need a higher humidity, like Catts and such... and I've stuck with Dens and Phals... though the Phals are not doing as well as the Dens.

I've also got a nice Cymbidium backbulb started, but I added a handful of regular potting soil to the gritty mix for it, since it prefers a slightly more "normal" style of plant growth, if you get my meaning.

In my own estimation, and from my experience, you'll eventually get a feel for the ratios of ingredients you use for different types of plants, based upon their needs and your environment, and other factors. It all comes together after a little experimenting. But there's no question that the medium is the most important factor in container growing, and the gardening industry does not offer what most plants really need or want!


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Been reading GW for about a month, but wish I had seen this topic earlier.

Lots of good information for newbies in the posting, but I don't think it would be prudent for me to apply the change in soil just yet.

Today, though, I have learned several interesting mistakes I have made in the past, and today.

The price for learning gardening is, apparently, dead plants, but maybe you can help save a few lives Mr. Al.

I recently decided I wanted to try two new hobbies: bonsai and propagating Japanese maples via grafting. As such, I purchased 25 green JMs for rootstock, and will begin collecting and ordering scion wood when the trees start going dormant.

But, today I potted 25 Japanese maples, and potted all of them incorrectly. Firstly, I put packing peanuts in the bottom (why? because one of my pots had peanuts in the bottom, and I thought, well, someone knew why, and thus continued the trend). Secondly, I was unaware of root flare, and planted all the plants below their grade. (New things I learned here, this evening). Lastly, I removed the soil around the roots, bare-rooting, I think it was called on a thread I recently read. The trees are still seedlings, so I might not trim them back, but I haven't decided. I wonder if defoliating them would be of any use.

So... I'm thinking my trees have been very much abused, today. So, tomorrow, I'm going to reduce the grade, expose the flare and maybe wick the bottom of the soil (I used a peat moss, top soil and perlite mix) on top of the packing peanuts.

Should I wait to change the soil until later in the year, giving the trees a chance to "relax" from their stressful two days, or go ahead and change the soil now? I won't be able to find all the ingredients to the gritty mix for several weeks, and am unsure as to how much difference a substitute will work in the mean time.

Next thread on my to-read, dealing with water-retentive soil...


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Howdy, Dkkelso! Welcome aboard!

For young maples, I'd recommend starting with the 5-1-1 mix.
It is lightweight, economical, relatively easy to make, and very easy to use.

Don't defoliate your plants, please. That is a technique used for older, established plants.

I think Al will give you some great advice. In the meantime, put your potted trees
in a shady, protected area. This is not the best time of year to be re-potting. Spring,
just before buds begin to move, is the best time. Maples hardly notice the root-work.


Josh


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I have a brazilian rain tree (BRT) which needed a lot of root work in order to start its transformation into bonsai. I have been growing bonsai for about 6 years and while, I feel I will always have a lot to learn, 6 years has given me a decent base of knowledge. I had also gained much additional knowledge from members of the bonsai site forums which I belong to. All of this led to a BRT being re-potted into strait unscreened turface with pretty heavy root work. After hitting a dead end on the other forum I began searching for more information on using turface as a growing medium. This thankfully lead me hear to Tapla's great information! At this point my BRT was in a room with humidifier running, and me digesting as much information as possible about Container soils and Tapla's Gritty Mix.

While the humidity helped, the BRT continued to slowly deteriorate. I learned from Tapla, here on Garden Web, that unscreened turface was holding far to much moisture. I preformed an emergency repot into Tapla's gritty mix, which is equal parts turface, granite and fir bark, all screened of course. While preforming the re-pot it was very apparent, to me, how much unscreened turface acted like compacted clay. Not a good environment for a trees roots. After the repot, I ended up creating a humidity dome out of a dry cleaning bag and the tree sprang back to life! I kept the tree in the humidity dome for two weeks and it has now been back in it's normal environment for over a week and new buds are starting to break! The combination of bare rooting the tree, heavy root work, bad soil mix leading to a double repot and a new soil proved to be almost more than the tree could take. If I ever find myself needing to do work as drastic as this in the future I will begin using the right soil mix and a humidity dome directly after the re-pot. I am now beginning to acclimate my tropicals including the BRT to my new 400w metal halide fixture. I will be keeping a very close eye over the weekend as I do not want to contribute to stress the tree would probably not be able to take at this point.

Thanks again for all of the help, and I felt an update was in order as this tree really put me through the ringer, but appears to be on the mend. A very special thanks to Tapla as your willingness to share the wealth of knowledge you have is amazing and humbling.


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 7, 11 at 15:19

DK - Sometimes there is a hidden tax on our efforts that comes in the way of reduced growth/vitality/yields, and as a result of our ignorance. I don't mean 'ignorance' in a negative sense, rather in the classic sense of simply not knowing or understanding certain principles that could save us from the effects of certain limitations. In this thread, that would be the limiting effects of a not so hot soil. A more positive perspective might be that through being empowered by improved understanding and a broader knowledge base we can eliminate the probability of any hidden tax on our efforts arising from soil choice. It doesn't have to be dead plants; sometimes it's just reduced growth and/or vitality we sacrifice on the altar of convenience or ignorance (again in the classic sense).

Josh is right - it would have been much better had you waited until spring to do your repotting, but I don't think I'd leave the plants in a mix of topsoil and peat, regardless of how much perlite you added. It's the 'perched water' that kills, & perlite has very little effect on the ht of the PWT until it becomes a very significant fraction of the soil - >75-80%.

Defoliation or pruning the canopy is often used as a protective measure when repotting temperate deciduous trees in active growth phase, but not when potting up or transplanting w/o significant root disturbance. An example of when defoliating or a significant reduction of the canopy might be appropriate would be when collecting trees (in leaf) from the wild or lifting a trees established in the landscape. If you DON'T prune trees in these circumstances, they inevitably shed foliage and branches because there will be no (or few) fine roots near the bole and you essentially end up with a very large cutting with a full canopy - something's gotta give & it will be the canopy due to lack of ability to move water.

I would work on learning to make an appropriate soil with promise enough to allow trees to grow very near their genetic potential; but in the meanwhile, I would do SOMETHING to get the trees out of what they're in now ..... even if that means only heavily amending a peat based soil with perlite & wicking. It will still be better than what they're in now.

If you want to live with what you have them in now, partially burying the pots will turn them into small raised beds, hydrologically speaking, and employs the earth as a giant wick to help remove the excess water that I'm worried will give you fits.

Good luck!

Octoberust - I'm really glad to hear your BRT seems to be recovering nicely. It sounds like you have a pretty good 'feel' for where your tree is in terms of energy reserves, which is something that often doesn't come to bonsai practitioners so soon (6 years is 'soon') :-) unless they've had some good coaching or have been singularly diligent in their studies, so let me applaud your efforts before I thank you for the very kind words you offered.

Take care!

Al



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Thanks Al and Josh. I'll work to correct what I can. I ended up putting 9 trees in the ground in a corner that gets good partial shade and altered the grade this morning.

If I could put them all in the ground, I would, but I'm working with a very finite amount of yard, which is why I'm going pot heavy. I'm going to attempt a re-pot with a 5-1-1 mix very soon, or at the very least, adding the wick to remove the perched water.

I felt the potting was necessary because the trees were in a 3.5" container, and appeared to be little more than air-layerings, for the most part.

We'll see how it goes. Pity, too, as some of them had really good color, and might have been able to propagate those growths (though it wouldn't have been a named cultivar, it still would have been a nice enough tree for me to learn on).


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There are many a ways to skin a cat, but finally it is the Local climatic conditions to which you have to fine tune your mix. USE ONLY LOCALLY AVAILABLE MATERIALS. The basic ingredient of Taplas Mix is pine bark, what if it is not available?


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 11, 11 at 17:09

This thread is much more about understanding a concept than it is about following recipes, and the concept is valid regardless of the climate. Plants need air in the soil in Pakistan as much as they need air in the soil in the US. The recipes are simply proven ways you might reach the worthy goal of a soil that is durable and retains enough air porosity at container capacity (when the soil it saturated) to ensure plants will at least have the opportunity within other cultural limitations to grow as near their genetic potential as possible, while heavier, more water-retentive soils ensure they can not.

If pine bark or the other ingredients in any of the recipes are unavailable, and you want to apply the principle, you'll need to do some research and find what IS available, what the next best thing is, and move forward with the hope it works as well as the ingredients you're lacking.

I remember you showing up in my email several times over the last several years and my trying to help you - especially when you first contacted me as Brigadier General Arif (I hope that's the correct name - I'm going by memory and it's been about 5 years since we first talked). I think that during our exchanges, it became pretty clear that what was available to you in the way of potential ingredients was extremely limited.

Still, what is most important can be found in the text above that defines the basic principle, and in the subsequent conversations that discuss the function(s) of the ingredients and what would make one ingredient more appropriate than others.

I do a lot of hand holding of forum members and offer a lot of behind the scenes assistance when it comes to advice and finding materials that at first seem difficult to obtain, but sometimes near complete unavailability of appropriate ingredients and the fact that someone is on the other side of the world proves to be prohibitive of making much progress. About the best I can do for you is point to the information in this thread and answer your direct questions when I can.

Take care.

Al


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Bump!

Seriously... this needs to stay on top! :-)


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Suggestion... the next time you need to re-copy this for a new thread, Al, perhaps we should NOT reply to it, so it stays on top as a "FAQ" type of informative piece.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

And again... bump!


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Again... bump...


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  • Posted by filix z 5 maine (My Page) on
    Wed, Nov 30, 11 at 16:53

I just bought 5 yards of pine bark. It came in a large dump truck. I will need all 5 yards for one container. My Elephant Ear needs room to grow. :) I Wish I could find a Power screen. You know those ones they use to sift loam. They are powered by disel. But I would need 1/2 screen or even 1/4 screen. One of those could go through 5 yards in about 5 minutes. The sifter that screens the grower grit must be pretty small. Then I could bag all that fine bark " bark fines" and live happily ever after. Just dreaming. Filix.


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I wish I could get my Colocasia to go to sleep for the winter! I will be looking around for a larger container next spring, though! I think I underestimated its growth... it definitely could have used more root room! On a good note, I've got my bark all ready for a 511 mix!


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Pudding, indeed. I was noticing today that the very water retentive soil I was replacing looked a lot like sludge. Al, you said you hoped I had questions by the score... I think I'm just about there! : ) And more links still to click...

What impact does soil PH have on plants?

Miracle-Gro potting soil, how bad is it? I used it to repot today... It was kind of an emergency and it looks like better soil may take time. It may not be ideal, but I've used it before so that I know that it at least won't kill the plants outright, which is more than could be said of the other soil/sludge. There was some rusty looking brown/orange stuff on the surface of the old soil/DE that looked like mold. Some of the roots were slimy and brown, on both plants... guess the schefflera noticed after all. More so than the pothos, apparently. A few roots on the schefflera were rotted all the way through and withered. I clipped most of the brown ones. Hopefully it'll turn out okay... anything with roots makes me very nervous. On which subject, if a root is slimy and brown but NOT withered or rotten all the way through, does it have a chance of recovery?

I've never heard of a wick before joining here. Where can I get one? Or is it something that's more commonly made at home than bought?

Is a more water retentive soil ever preferable from a plant's pov? The reason I ask is, I had a peace lily once... When the stems started rotting and falling off, I assumed it was from over watering. So I cut back on the water. Didn't help. Eventually I found a youtube video that said they like to have their feet wet, and dramatically increased watering, and kept it wet. What was left of it started looking better, before developing a major gnat problem.

I've heard of perlite and sphagnum peat, and gypsum sounds familiar... wait, isn't that used for drywall? Gypsum board? ...

But I haven't heard of the other things. At least, not in this context... I mean, I've never heard of a use for pine bark that doesn't involve it being attached to a pine tree. Where are these things available? Are they available in small amounts?

What are pine bark fines?

Lime vs. gypsum... what?

What is Turface and where should I look for it?

Any chance Gran-I-Grit is available at Home Depot?

Never heard of cherrystone, and what's CRF?

What's calcined DE? That's about the one kind I haven't heard of... the food grade stuff is great for keeping the spider population down when sprinkled behind furniture, and works well on gnats, but apparently retains water a lot. I don't think I want that stuff (food grade DE) near soil again.

If repotting isn't a problem, is the organic or inorganic mix better for the plant in general?

What would you recommend for a Persian Shield plant in Phoenix, Az? I know nothing about that plant and there's contradictory information online.

Thank you!


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Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth is completely different than Calcined DE! One never wants to confuse the two! Food grade DE can be ingested... Calcined DE cannot!

Food Grade DE is just silica, mined from the earth, and is powdered... it's taken internally for a variety of reasons, such as eradicating parasites, helping to lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol, improving digestion, and it has a host of other uses.

The name, itself, is a misnomer... DE are tiny diatom shells, not earth. Diatomaceous Earth means "Earth having to do with or composed of Diatoms", but DE is not "Earth" at ALL. Earth is soil.

The particular diatoms in Food Grade DE are microscopic, prehistoric one-celled algae-like water plants whose ancient shells are harvested from one of only a few previously undisturbed large freshwater sources known in the world where the shells did not scatter and mix with other materials.

Calcined DE has been treated at a temperature above 1000 degrees C. The purpose of this is to further harden the exoskeletons of the diatoms in order to create a better filtering agent. The process causes the amorphous silica that makes up the exoskeleton of the diatom to turn in to crystalline silica. This is a benefit if the diatomaceous earth is to be used as a filtering aid, however crystalline silica can be toxic to humans and animals when inhaled. Calcined diatomaceous earth is not used for animal feed and is not food grade.

The above information is very important, and parts have been taken from various websites containing facts about the two different types of DE.

I'll let Al or someone else answer your other questions... I just wanted to be sure anyone reading understands that there are HUGE differences between the different types of DE.


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Dec 2, 11 at 16:11

At either extreme, pH can can kill a plant. These extremes usually don't occur, however. In most cases, the impact of soil pH is seen in its effect on how soluble/available nutrients are. Here is a chart that shows availability of the essential elements at varying pH levels. FWIW - 'ideal' container media pH is approximately one whole pH point lower than the ideal pH level of mineral soils.

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Don't drive yourself crazy trying to chase the ideal medium pH - it's not going to happen & it's a perfect exercise in futility. Concentrate on making a good soil and using a good fertilizer. If pH gets out of whack, there are some simple things the hobby grower can do to correct the problem, but if I were you, I'd put the pH issue on the back burner for now.

When it comes to soils, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but not every beholder's eye is as educated as the next ...... and not having had the experience growing in a well-aerated and free-draining mix, the heavy soils crowd has no basis for comparison. It's only AFTER you've changed to the well aerated soils that don't have the inherent limitations of heavier soils that you can appreciate the difference in plant quality and in how easy it is to achieve. Personally, I think MG and other soils based on fine particulates are rather poor choices. Perhaps some idea of how it all balances out can be found in the fact that so far, thousands have switched to a soil with better aeration, with practically no one turning back to a heavier soil. As well, many of the heavy soil crowd are advocates for 'amending' the soil as it comes from the bag, illustrating that many are trying to mitigate the inherent limitations.

Whenever you prune roots after root rot is discovered, always prune back to sound tissue.

I use strands from a 100% rayon mop head for my wicks. Buy them at Ace Hdwe, Walmart, wherever you find them. Avoid cotton.
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Photobucket

Almost NO plants in containers like wet feet. Most thrive when the soil is about as damp as a wrung out sponge. Why? Because that water:air ratio MAXIMIZES air retention while ensuring enough moisture for the plant. Even bog plants don't like wet feet in containers. This has to do with the type of tissue formed in roots. The plant in wet soil develops a root type that allows the plant to get the O2 needed for root function/metabolism through the top of the plant (aerenchyma instead of the normal parenchyma). When the soil dries down a little, these roots are then very inefficient at absorbing water and nutrients. IOW, the plant cannot handily make the transition from the less desirable wet soil to the more desirable damp soil; nor can it readily make the reverse adaptation.

If I skip a few questions - it's because spoon feeding you the answers isn't going to help. You need to understand the context as well. Also, some of the questions have been answered many times on the forums. I'll help all I can, but you'll need to pitch in and do some snooping around, too.

Turface is clay, baked until it is ceramic-like. Tell me where you live & I'll help you find it. No chance Gran-I-Grit is available at Home Depot or any other big box store. Look to farm feed stores & elevators that cater to rural populations likely to raise their own fowl. More after we know where you live.

Cherrystone is also used for chicken grit. It's quartzite, mined in MN. CRF is 'controlled release fertilizer' - like Osmocote and Dynamite. The 'calcined DE' we're talking about is also fired at high temps until it's ceramic-like. Many buy/use NAPA Floor Dry, part #8822.

Whether a container media is organic or inorganic isn't important from the plant's perspective. What IS important is that the plant finds a favorable ratio of air:water in the soil, and that you're supplying the proper nutrition. From your reading, you should by now know that container media is much more about its structure than what it's made of. I've been tinkering with soils for well over 20 years, and I haven't found anything better than the gritty mix. There was a LOT of thought that went into building that particular soil, but the 5:1:1 mix is very close on it's heals. I think the gritty mix is superior only because, properly made, it holds no or practically no perched water, where the 5:1:1 mix usually does hold a small amount of perched water.

You'll find so much contradictory information online because almost everyone operates on assumption. They assume you're using the same soils that they are, and that you'll be pleased with what pleases them. Hobby growers are notoriously poor observers, and very prone to making up science to fit their observations, instead of questioning what they THINK they are seeing because it doesn't mesh with what we know of science. Our GW houseplants forum has a fair amount of notoriety for advice from only a tiny but vocal minority that flies in the face of science and sound horticulture.

Here are 2 posts I left today on different threads on another forum site. They should help you understand why there is so much conflicting information available.

"I'm a very strong advocate of using very well aerated and fast draining soils, simply because they remove all this angst from the shoulders of the hobby grower.

Linda - the quickest way to a green thumb has far less to do with experience than it does with knowledge. When you learn all you can, and then let your practical experience validate your knowledge, you'll blow right past those that rely on experience only as their teacher. The reason for that is, w/o knowledge we make up science to fit what we think we are seeing. IOW, we jump to a LOT of erroneous conclusions that a little knowledge would immediately have invalidated. Instead of properly questioning our observations and perceptions because we lack the knowledge needed to see they don't fit with what we know of science, they become dogma and a part of what we have "learned". It's often easier for beginners to reach "green thumb" status than gardeners with many years of experience; that, because it's more difficult to 'unlearn' the long-held beliefs before you get the facts straight than it is for a beginning gardener to simply get it right from the outset."

and a little later, this, on a different thread:

"I just commented on another thread that education (knowledge) is what puts us on the fast track to 'green thumb' status, not experience. If we ask ourselves the question, 'Is doing something wrong or ineffectually again and again in the same way for a half century worthy of being called experience'? - most will answer with a resounding 'no'. Knowledge is key because w/o it we have no way of knowing when we're doing something wrong, or when our efforts are less effective than they could be. Too often we make up science to fit our observations, instead of questioning our observations when they don't fit with what we know of science. Getting the basics right so we CAN question our observations and not mistakenly adopt them as dogma is the reason for my starting this thread. My hope is that everyone that follows it will end up with an improved growing experience through better understanding."

Al



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Jodik, DE is pretty interesting, even aside from its miraculous spider preventing abilities. I first encountered it in biology class... looks pretty neat under a microscope, although many of the exoskeletons are at least partially crushed. That's still the Food Grade DE I'm talking about though - the only kind I've used so far.

Forgot to mention... I wouldn't recommend scattering it behind furniture unless you have a vacuum cleaner with a hepa filter to clean up later - even if it's not actually toxic, the food grade DE is still a lung irritant. But, it's also awesome for killing spiders.

Al, with my luck if I tried to adjust the PH I'd get it too far in one direction and kill the plant. Just curious, because PH isn't something I usually associate with potting soil... or other potting medium, as the case may be. Just read that it could do... something, while in this forum, and was wondering what exactly.

We have three string mops here, and I'm pretty sure one of them was never used to mop up harsh chemicals. I'll have to see if I can find out whether it's cotton or rayon.

I'm in Phoenix, AZ., and there's actually a feed store near here I drive past fairly regularly. I'll have to stop there once I remember for sure which street it's on/next time I see it, and see what they have. Since a google search on turface turned up results having to do with soil for bonsai trees, there's a store in the mall I want to check... At least, I think I want to check it. I may change my mind after seeing what the parking lot is like in December...

I'll look around the forums and internet to see what else I can find out. Thank you for the detailed answers, pictures, graph... helpfulness in general! : )


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When you're looking at poultry grit, you want to go for a product that's made of 100% granite chips... stay away from the oyster shell and medicated starter grits. By grit, we mean rock... small pieces of crushed rock.

I use a product called Manna Pro poultry grit, which states right on the bag 100% crushed granite chips. It requires screening to remove the fine particles, and it could use a rinsing to remove dust, but other than that... I find it perfect as an inert, inorganic ingredient for my mediums.

My husband and I are very familiar with food grade DE... we both use it for health reasons, and have found it of wonderful benefit. It has helped lower my husband's high blood pressure, and has had noticeable effect on how we both feel. I even use it as a supplement for my dogs, to prevent and control internal parasites.

Let me expound on what Al wrote above... I think it's most important that you learn HOW the faster draining, grittier mediums work, and WHY they work. Once you understand that, you'll know exactly why the various ingredients were chosen and why they work together so well. I think the only thing that's missing from the article at the beginning of this thread is a list of locations to find the various ingredients for the 511 or Gritty Mix... and we'd be happy to help if you can't locate something.

It's also very important to understand that growing in containers is vastly different than growing in the ground. The two have extremely different environments, and where Mother Nature helps to control and balance everything in a garden setting, it's up to us, the grower, to control everything in a container environment.

I find it much better to save any organic methods for the garden... and stick to more inorganic methods where container growing is concerned.

Hope this helps... Happy Growing!


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Dec 3, 11 at 10:34

Thanks, Jodi!

For Turface MVP or Allsport in Phoenix:

Simplot Partners (623) 879-0839

Horizon - Store & Corporate Offices (602) 276-7700

Also, any of the several Ewing Irrigation stores will have it, as will the John Deere Landscapes dealer - ck Yellow Pages - it'll be easy to find.

Make sure the 'grit' you get is grower size and not made from shellfish.

Al


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Jodik, thanks for the tip. I plan on looking up the ingredients and finding out the properties of each one so I know more about how it works. Seems like a good thing to know.

Yet more reasons why food grade DE is awesome. : )

I've never grown in the ground... with the caliche here, I'd need a rock hammer just to dig the hole. And not being a fan of desert plants, anything I actually want to plant would get fried by the sun immediately.

...Except for bottle brush plants, those are kind of neat. No outdoor garden for me, though.

Thank you!

Al, thanks for the company names and numbers!


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No problem, Kris!

When looking for poultry grit, look for a farm oriented store or supplier... in the Midwest, we use such stores as Blain's Farm & Fleet or Rural King... and occasionally you can find supplies for poultry and other farm animals at grain elevators, tractor and implement suppliers, or other such places. Actually, the guys at a John Deere dealership should be able to point you in the right direction. :-)

Not everyone across the country will be able to find the exact ingredients in the exact medium recipes... but as long as you keep the concept of the mixes in mind, you will most likely be able to find various inert substitutions that will work in a similar fashion.

If you're unsure, please don't hesitate to ask... we're more than happy to help!


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Al,

I just spent the last 3 days reading through all 14 pages and took notes to help me digest the information.

Most of my initial questions have already been answered. I like your teaching style. You have a wonderful way of explaining things in plain English.

When I have some more time and after I organize my thoughts I'll have some questions for you and/or some of the gang here. (I see your knowledge has rubbed off on more than a few people here.:))

For now I just want to say I appreciate the time and effort you spend sharing your knowledge and say Thank You!

JT


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Dec 10, 11 at 13:32

Your questions will help not only your self, but others as well; so they're very welcome; and we're all looking forward to them.

I hope that your gratitude is soon doubled. I don't mean your gratitude to me; I don't really covet gratitude, even though I try to let people know how much I appreciate it when it does happen to come my way. What I meant by that is, you've already expressed your gratitude for some one else's effort on your behalf; I'm also hoping that at some point you can pause long enough to be grateful for any increase in the satisfaction you get from growing as a result of the new things you learn.

I probably haven't explained that well, so maybe my musing will help what I said to be better understood. I'm grateful too - grateful that I can take a lot of satisfaction from the idea that I might have helped you and others. I'm not proud - just thankful ...... for the fact that I can and have learned enough to be able to help; that I can communicate my concepts/ conclusions/ perceptions; that I have the motivation to help; that I have an audience in you and others, making it possible for me to help; grateful especially, for the wonderful friends I've met here ...... The list is longer, but you get the idea. A thankful heart is a good thing - having one makes life easier, better, and more rewarding for yourself & everyone we touch. So thank you again.

Meet Pooch - I think he's smiling at my ramblings.:
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Al


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Oh, Al! You are so sweet. I saw your other photos of him peaking out of a plastic bag, and I can tell you are smitten. Pooch is lucky to have a guy like you fall for him. I have no doubt he'll grow to his full genetic potential under your care. Loving other creatures, whether plant or animal, helps us human beings grow too. I am grateful for you and your generosity. You've helped me grow too.


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Dec 16, 11 at 12:49

Thank you very much, Robin - that was such a kind thing to say.

I don't want to stray too far from the track here, but I think a lot of people who take greater than passing interest in their plants are nurturers by nature. Yes, even all the burly guys who are reluctant to cop to a nurturing personality, too. ;-) To me, it is no surprise that it would follow that most of us would gravitate toward nurturing a pet or two - just another moiety of our nature.

The cat's a hoot - especially after dinner & a cat nap when he gets the 'night crazzies' and goes racing through the house, up and down stairs, jumping over furniture, hurtling past ..... nothing but a blur, only to stop and watch his backtrail for whatever imagined demon happens to be bent to his spore on that particular night. He's a heart-warming distraction, but I still miss Ticen, my late dog.

Al


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Al, you got a new buddy? How wonderful! Pooch is beautiful... and I can tell, very happy to have your attention!

I'm allergic to most felines, but there have been a few that didn't cause me asthma and hives! I've loved each one I've had, and each has had the most delightful personality, full of vim and vigor... or is it pi$$ and vinegar?! ;-)

I don't know... I just wish I could find another that wouldn't cause me undue itching, and one that Maia, the bulldogge, wouldn't look at as a yummy snack! ;-)

I know exactly what you mean when you explain being "grateful"... I'm so very grateful that what you've done has caused me to enjoy greater success in something I've loved doing for as long as I can remember! I'm grateful I made the effort to learn, and I'm grateful I have the means to share what I've learned so others can experience greater success and joy!

See my new thread on First Orchid Buds - Gritty Mix! :-)


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Hello Everyone,

Al,

Pooch looks like he is a very happy kitty!!!

What a cute picture!!!

Im sure he is enjoying all of the attention he is receiving at your home.

I hope you have a Merry Chritmas!!!

I often think of my beloved Chelsea, she was a beautiful Yellow Lab and I truly miss her...

Hi Jodi,

My allergies are the same as yours!! : )

I certainly understand what youu mean, i wish that i could have a kitty, they are so much fun..but i wouldnt be able to breath...UGGGG!!!

Being "grateful.." I certainly am for all of the blessings in my life...

Also for all of the wonderful information that is shared and taught to us.

Thank you Al, for the time you give and for all that you share..

Merry Christmas to all...

Laura


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Al and the rest of Gardening friends,
I have been very busy with work and have not had a chance to visit this page. I hope all is well with you guys and would like to wish you a Happy & Healthy New year!!

Emmanuel


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Dec 30, 11 at 18:20

Thank you very much, Emmanuel! Three cheers for the new year and another chance to get it right; let it begin in a blizzard of sparkling resolutions! ;-)

My resolution: Be less worried about what I eat between Christmas and New Year, and MORE worried about what I eat between New Year and Christmas.

A toast to my friends: Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man. ~Benjamin Franklin

Al


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This week marks my one year anniversary as a member of Garden Web. It's been a wonderful year of learning, and growing indoors and out. I am more excited about and fulfilled by my gardening activities than ever before. Thank you Al for all that you've taught me and your generous spirit. You and all the wonderful folks I've met here have made this a year I will treasure for the rest of my life. I wish you all a happy new year and bountiful growth.


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Dec 31, 11 at 21:42

That's very kind of you, Robin. It always pleases me immensely to feel that I might have played a part in helping someone to a greater degree of satisfaction from their gardening experience. That's the main force behind why I spend the time I do at GW. Take care & have a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2012!

Al


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One thing I never quite understood is how 1/8" to 1/4" fines decrease/eliminate a PWT. My containers always have some PWT after watering. Is it that the PWT is reduced and plants have an easier time with suction, so that they don't have to strain as much, or is it that these size fines eliminate a constant PWT in containers? 1/8" fines still have enough capillary action to retain water.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

1/8-1/4 are about the same size. When you have the same size particals your air porosity goes up as there is not big and small particals to fill in each others gaps.

After finding out you need 1/8-1/4" I really dont know how I could use Pine Fines this year, its hard enough to sift to get 5 or so gal of pine fines from a 2 cu ft bag of mulch but if I sifted to 1/8-1/4" fines I would be getting 1-2 gallons of product. I can't search anymore for pine fines. ;)


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jan 8, 12 at 13:37

I think we've talked about this before?

Perched water disappears when GFP (gravitational flow potential) is greater than the soil's capillarity. With particles of consistent size, this occurs at a particle size of slightly larger than .100", so a soil mass with a consistent particle size of 1/8" (.125) would hold no perched water.

It is possible to mix particles >.100 with particles that ARE .100 and have some perched water, but it quickly disappears as average particle size increases.

Al


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RE Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

What about a consistent partical size of 5/16"-5/8" like the hydroton used in hydroponics?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

^ I am sorry for asking that above, I have been trying to find pine fines and can't. I know peat based is not the best so I have been looking anyway around using it, even self watering with hydroton!!!!

I found coco chips for a good price, how can I use these in place of pine?

Thanks!!! I cant wait till spring, I will post pics this year of my 5-1-1 results!!!!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Hi Al/all,
So I'm pretty sure that I over-limed my mix a little bit. I took my que from the "Small batch" recipe above. I doubled the peat and perlite to 1 gal each, doubled the lime to 1/2 cup, but didn't double the pine, I used a 5 gal bucket (the 5-1-1 was stuck in my head). It would appear that I've used an extra tbsp per 7 gal of mix. I can't believe I'm just noticing this now, my mix has been "cooking" for about 10 days now, and I'm just about ready to plant! How much of a problem is this?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

DaMonkey,

I would just find some more pine bark to add to your mix. Not only could the lime be problematic, but the excess peat is going to make the mix less porous and more water retentive. If you're eager to plant, I wouldn't worry about the "cooking" process. Al has said it is beneficial, but not necessary, and I've planted in my 5-1-1 immediately after mixing with good results.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

I agree with Penfold.

Also, I've never waited two weeks to plant in the 5-1-1. Never had an issue.


Josh


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Ok, that sounds reasonable. I have a few cu ft of pine, no problem. However. Maybe I'm missing something. I used 5 gal pine, 1 gal perlite, 1 gal peat in my mix. This is obviously a bit skewed from the "small batch" recipe, but right on the money for the 5-1-1 ratio. So how is there excess peat in my mix, as you state?

Side note: I live in Miami. Mild water retention is probably less of a problem for me than for some of you, highs are already in the mid 70's, and it will only get hotter. Not to mention that it goes weeks on end with no rain at this time of year, months sometimes.

That being said, is additional pine still the best course of action?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

The confusion comes from your post:

"I doubled the peat and perlite to 1 gal each, doubled the lime to 1/2 cup, but didn't double the pine"

So, you made 7 gallons of mix, which would call for 7 Tablespoons of Dolomitic Lime.
But you added a half cup, which is 8 Tablespoons (thus, 1 Tablespoon extra). That shouldn't
be a major problem. In fact, you could probably flush your mix and remove a good deal
of Lime that hasn't reacted yet.

I'd personally just add another gallon of 5-1-1 to your current batch and call it a day.


Josh


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV'

Gotcha, re-reading my post "but didn't double the pine, I used a 5 gal bucket", I could(n't) have been more clear. My apologies.

I actually have flushed it, at the one week mark. This because I added some Azomite to the mix as well, assuming that it was OK. I later found out from Al that this may not have been the best choice of product, and he recommended that I flush prior to planting. To be safe I figured I'd give it a double flush...lol...looks like that may have worked out for me. I'll give everything a good shower again on Friday night before the Saturday morning plant-out extravaganza.....

Just kidding around on the (n't) by the way!!

Thanks Josh! Thanks Penfold!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Hey Al, all,
I wanted to share something with you, and how happy I am about it, and how thankful I am.

I was on a thread earlier, soaking up info, and Al was talking about how perlite can hold many times its weight in water. I remember thinking..interesting stuff. Then just now I was reading the original post of this thread for the tenth time and came across the line "Perlite simply reduces the amount of water a soil is capable of holding because it is not internally porous.", and I thought...wait a second!! How can those 2 things be true? You all know the answer I'm sure, but I didn't!! So I went on the hunt. I found that perlite has a close cell structure with tiny cracks all on its surface that hold onto water.....and that the total retention is dependent on particle size distribution and total surface area, therefore, coarse perlite holds less water than fine.....and that's how those 2 things can be true! That exploration really drove home the principles of adhesion, retention, and particle size in container media.

Before I found this place I would have used it because its good for the soil, because people used it with success, not because I actually knew why. I just wanted to share that, and the excitement that I'm feeling about mastering this craft and learning so many new things.

I feel great!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 11, 12 at 22:37

I gave a presentation to a local chapter of a national organization (Women's Farm and Garden Association) this afternoon. During, I announced that I was going to ask a rhetorical question, so there was no need to answer; but when I asked, "Who thinks experience is the best teacher?", at least 2/3 of the hands in the room shot up. I then asked the question, "What if the accumulation of experience was resultant of doing something ineffectively or inefficiently, even wrong, over and over again? Would that experience then be of any value?" Everyone agreed that it wouldn't. I then went on to explain that learning by experience is relying on the trial and error method. The only chance you really have of learning anything is if the error half of trial and error comes back to bite you, and you have the sense to try something different next time. You can HOPE it works better, but it could also be worse.

Filling your head with facts doesn't always work either; but at least with a head full of facts, you have far greater potential to become a better gardener than those who insist on relying on being bitten as a learning tool. With a head full of facts, you have the opportunity to validate what you've learned through practical experience. I think this is by far the best way to learn and what puts you on the fast track to a green thumb.

Additionally, with some knowledge at your disposal that is rooted in fact or science, you can doubt yourself. What I mean by that is, gardeners are usually very poor observers. Often, our explanation for what we THINK we are seeing is our imagination at work - making up science to fit the view. I think I have a pretty analytical mind, and as observers go, I think I'm more astute than the average bear. Still, the first thing I do when what I think I'm observing doesn't fit with what I know of science is doubt myself. I'll always look for another cause for the observed effect when science says I'm wrong. You can't do that when you depend on experience ..... If you have to explain it off the cuff, you have to make something up.

If you are working with someone who is willing to follow instructions by rote, they can literally be a better container gardener overnight than someone who has been depending on experience for 20 years or more. I see it here all the time. The gardeners that really end up excelling, are the ones with enthusiasm, those that look for the answers to the question "WHY?". There are plenty of those hanging around here. Welcome to the group. ;-)

Al



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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Thank you Al. I truely hope that being part of this group will allow me to contribute, in some small way, to the learning and success of others through my own exploration. Cheers!


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 12, 12 at 8:10

Many who started out in the same position you're in are now helping others learn the importance of good soils, air in the root zone, the basics of fertilizing containers, the ins and outs of organic vs synthetic fertilizers - a whole host of topics. It's very interesting to watch those interested in acquiring knowledge and information grow; and we all grow together. I know that I have grown a LOT in my knowledge base since I've been here. One of the things that helps me grow is I won't operate at beyond the limits of my knowledge. If I WANT to post and I'm not absolutely certain that what I say is scientifically sound, I go looking for confirmation that my offering is solid. That frequent research often finds me reading deeper into the topic at hand, often to conform that the context within which the information is offered is congruous with the context in which I'll be commenting. Every little tidbit we learn ends up fitting into the puzzle somewhere. It may not be able to see where it fits immediately, but once you get the basics under your belt, like assembling the border of the jigsaw puzzle, the faster you can get the rest of the puzzle put together.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Al is correct, and I've experienced that process myself. My wife, who has been gardening in containers for many years is now asking me to make soil for her etc.

My first attempts at containers were due to her experience. She was always getting decent results with MG potting mix due to her experience with it. Although I had experience with outdoor and hydro, I was unfamiliar with containers. I started off using MG mix, and had all kinds of issues, mostly due to water retention, root rot and damping off. My wife was able to make it work for her, and could feel the need to water and such by experience/instinct.

I did a lot of research trying to figure out why it was so difficult. I then came across Al's posts on the various subjects, and it all clicked in. I switched to 5-1-1 mix (I mostly do annuals such as peppers and such). All of a sudden, all my problems were gone, and I felt I had a much better understanding of both the soil and nutrients (Thanks Al!). Now my wife is asking me questions, and asking me to make up soil mix for her. She is seeing that I am now getting superior growth and less problems then she was with her familiar soil.

I think her experience allowed her to do the best that she could with what she had. She always had few problems, but wasn't getting the full potential from plants that she could have with additional knowledge. With the knowledge I gained from researching, I surpassed her container gardening with knowledge, and now she is benefiting from the same knowledge.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 12, 12 at 15:33

Lol - itsa beautiful thing - isn't it? Photobucket

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Hey guys,
This is my first post here so, here it goes.
I have about 8 years of experience growing rare fruit trees in south Florida (my grandpa has an acre of land which I spent my entire child hood at, we grew mangos (nam dak mi, Julie, florida gold, kitt, and about twenty others), lychees (hack ip, Brewster, sweetheart, maratious, and a few more), a plethora of annonas (custard apple, sour sop, sugar apple, rolinia, and several atemoyas), jaboticaba, zapotes (white, black, mamey) and about thirty other species), now I live in Orlando, and in an apartment. My balcony has about 15 different pots and planters (I miss the land, but this will do), I grow tomatoes, peppers, herbs (greek oregano, thyme, chive, shallot scallions, rosemary, and what ever else I feel like making into an annual) beans, succulents, a tropical pitcher plant (nepenthes x Miranda), a rose bush, and several other vegetable depending on the season. In other words, I�ve got a produce section on my balcony.
I have been reading Al�s posts lately because I thought I was the only one who used such chunky mixes in my pots. I was pleasantly surprised to see I am not. I do mine slightly different but now I will be trying a combination of Al�s and mine this season, I am curious to see how it works. My usual mixture is this:
2 parts perlite (for aeration)
1 part vermiculite (for the CEC and slight water retention)
1 part pea gravel, crushed lava rock, or whatever (for more aeration and for the roots to bind to)
and this is where my big difference is
1/2 part LIVE "soil"

What does that mean? I keep a bin that I put some compost in (not very much at all) and cover it with water. This forces anaerobic composition, not the normal aerobic, and it produces a group of very interesting, smelly microbes. I use the liquid to dress another bin full of bark, a little peat, and greensand. Now, the anaerobic organism will start to die off and be replaced with aerobic organisms (these are the best friends a gardener can have). After a few weeks, the mixture is a living breathing soil loaded with micronutrients from the greensand and other things that have broken down.
Will this compact? Not really! The greensand (yes I know it is small and fills the holes, but there is not that much in the mix) is incredibly beneficial to soil structure, making the soil more colloidal, and colloids don�t compact in a small time frame (they don�t breakdown for years), and the microbes also improve the structure, and help breakdown other unused, trapped nutrients so the TDS does not grow ("the TDS wont grow if you flush it like your supposed to" you say. True, but it will increase with time, because you will never flush the medium completely, that require al lot of water. And these nutrients will be transformed into other forms that are more readily taken up by plants in most cases). I use MG 12-4-8 (not a coincidence, I�ll explain latter) and this uses ammonium as it�s source of N. N is the only macro nutrient that can be taken up in both a cation: ammonium (NH4+1), and an anion: nitrate (NO3-1), while ammonium stays in the soil longer, and improves the uptake of several other nutrients (namely P, S, and other anions), it is not the plants preferred source of N. plants will take up 4 nitrate ions, for every one ammonium ions, so nitrates should be at least present. When ammonium is used by microbes, it naturally turns into nitrate via the nitrogen cycle, this means less work for me, and all of the benefits of these microbes, and my fertilizer for that matter.
If you ever want to become a better gardener, try hydro for at least two seasons. You�ll learn more about plant nutrition and health then you would in several years of regular gardening. That�s why I use a 3:1:2 fert, Al is 100% correct, it is the perfect balance for plants (in the ground, this statement is still true, but there are so many other variables that it is more beneficial to use different ratios to address specific deficiencies) and if everything is balanced then there is no need to worry about limiting factors. Yes I still use a foliar application of several chemicals (mostly trisert K+, and keyplex, great for micronutrients) but that is just to help the plants more, they are not necessary.
I�d love to hear critiques, advise, comments, whatever.
Bob


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Would 'Diamond Pro Calcined Clay Top Dressing' and 'Pros Choice Red infield conditioner' be a replacement for Turface MVP? They seem to the right size particles but wanted to check with you first? John deere wants $22 a bag for turface all-sport and the diamond pro is only $12.

Here is a link that might be useful: Diamond Pro


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Hi, Al and Jodik,
Thank you both so much for your postings to my Oct.'11 question. First of all, a very happy 2012 to you and all the others whose posts I've been reading and following up on. I've not replied earlier as I've been so busy with a now 2 1/2 year old granddaughter and family and computer problems, etc. etc.

Al, on the very next day of your advice, I went back (with granddaughter in tow) and exchanged the MVP, and went through the very difficult and time consuming job of screening etc., and repotted all the orchids, Bougainvillea, succulents, jade, epyphillium and Meyers Lemon. I went through two bouts of spider mites with the ML and after nearly killing the plant with the Bayers, reverted back to the alcohol, detergent and water solution and twice taking all the plants outdoors when the weather was in the 60's and hosing everything over and over again , spraying again and then bringing them all in in the evening and hoping that the Meyer Lemon would survive all through these
treatments.

I can now say that the Meyers Lemon seems to have survived. (It never dropped any leaves, although they were curled and orange colored (probably from lack of real nutrients (I bought a gallon of FP online, went to Michigan for a week, happy that it would arrive when I returned, only to get an email stating that they no longer had it)! I finally found an 11oz bottle locally, and since then, it seems to be thriving. I now have some blossoms opening and I'm thrilled. Got this tree from Bordine's in Rochester, Mi. about 20 years ago.

The orchids are almost all in spikes and seem to be doing well, although the leaves look awful. I put them out on the patio, where we have no shade, for
about 6 weeks in August and the leaves are all pitted and chewed and ugly. But still, I'm very happy. I lost over 30 BEAUTIFUL specimens when we moved from MI to VA almost 7 years ago, and since then none of the orchids had spiked.

Question: Since I was using the plastic pots with lots of holes in the, the window screening I used went pretty much all the way up on the pots to keep it in place. Consequently, the weight of Al's gritty mix does not keep it flat. Is this a problem?

The Turface, to me, still seems too small, and how can I optimally break down the large bark fines to be able to use again? Also, how can I use the gritty mix in large pots (13 year old japanese maples grown from seed) so that the pots will not break my back?

Thank you, Al, for listening (I hope) to all my rantings. I do hope I get some answers as I have to start screening and getting ready for repotting etc.

I shall try to keep active, but I am always reading the threads.

Soussan.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Would 'Diamond Pro Calcined Clay Top Dressing' and 'Pros Choice Red infield conditioner' be a replacement for Turface MVP? They seem to the right size particles but wanted to check with you first? John deere wants $22 a bag for turface all-sport and the diamond pro is only $12.

I used Pros Choice Red for a few years before my local John Deere began carrying MVP. There's definitely a difference in the particle size. Whereas the MVP is relatively uniform, the PCR has widely varying particle size - from dust up to about 1/8". I'm not familiar with the Diamond Pro, so I can't comment specifically on that product.

You might ask if your JD could offer a better price on the MVP. My local dealership is charging me $10 for MVP and I would assume the wholesale cost is similar among dealerships.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jan 14, 12 at 14:19

MK - it looks like it should work. How about trying a bag & letting us know. The proof will be found in how much of the product passes through a screen the size of insect screen. It would be great if it was a little larger than Turface, which I've always found a little too small for me to consider perfect.

Soozi - that's great news about the ML! Strong work! Was the FP you got their 9-3-6 formulation?

Did I know you live in MI? What large city are you near?

The screen condition you described isn't a problem other than how it appears, that is unless how it's situated has reduced the soil volume to something inappropriate. I usually cut a circle to fit the bottom of the pot; or, if the holes are on the sides of the container too, I cut several strips that cover 2 holes - one on each side of the pot opposite each other.

Turface too small? What does it say on the bag? If it says MVP or Allsport, you're fine.

I can't do much about the weight of the gritty mix - it sorta 'is what it is'; and what it 'is', is heavier than the 5:1:1 mix, but you could sub perlite for the granite if you wish. You could always go to the 5:1:1 mix, too.

I hope that caught all your questions. If not, you know where to find me. Good to see you back!

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Bloomfield Hills in MI, now near Leesburg, VA. When I'm ready to transplant the JM into the gritty mix, and after the root pruning and top pruning, should I put them in smaller pots? I've noticed in some of the photos posted that large sized plants are in a relatively smaller pots. This way, I'd use less of the gritty mix.....does that sound feasible?

Also, I noticed some webs again on the bougainvillea and the weather isn't such that I can take them outdoors to flush. What is he best way to eradicate them (and other pests, if they are lurking) forever

The fertilizer (9 3 6) runs down into the saucer quickly, and it doesn't get absorbed by capillary action as the gritty mix is a little suspended in the screen, I think. So far, I've just let it stay that way, but then I thought maybe it needs more air circulation, and that maybe I should remove the water. It seems as if it's not soaked enough. What do you suggest? Should I soak all the plants in a bucket until saturated and then drain? For hygienic purposes I'd rather not. Thanks again for all and any advice....

Soussan.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Hi all, this is my first time posting here. I wish I'd discovered this forum sooner, since I grow exclusively in containers. I've got a couple of questions:

1. I've taken away from this the idea that the 5-1-1 mix is better for annual plantings, whereas the gritty is better for long-term plantings. Correct? Is this because of the peat in the 5-1-1?
2. Is there a good substitute for peat?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 16, 12 at 12:24

Soussan - There is no upper limit to the pot size you can use when using soils that support no or little perched water. 'Over-potting' is a function of excess water held in small pores between fine soil particles. No fine particles = no perched water = no over-potting. If you want to determine the lower limit to your plant's best advantage, it should be large enough that by the next time you repot, roots are only congested to about the point where the root/soil mass can be lifted from the pot intact. A little beyond that is fine because you'll be pruning away the limits imposed by congestion, but try not to let the plant languish in a small pot with tight roots. It restrains growth and saps vitality.

If your bougies have mites, you can try any of the following - listed in order of effectiveness:
* Water in a spritzer
* Water & rubbing alcohol @ 50/50 in a spritzer
* Water & insecticidal soap per directions in a spritzer
* Water & summer/perfect/all-season horticultural oil
* Pure, cold-pressed neem oil, such as that packaged by Dyna-Gro
In a 1 qt spritzer containing 1 pint of hot water, add 1/2 teaspoon Murphy's oil soap or other true soap and 1 tsp neem oil. Shake well & add 1 pint rubbing alcohol. Spritz/saturate plant, making sure to drench leaf undersides & cover leaf axils. Shake container frequently while spraying. Use all the mix or discard when finished spritzing.

100% coverage is important with all the above apps.

I'm not sure what you're asking about the 9-3-6 - maybe you can rephrase? I water from a 2 L Dramm watering can that I've fitted with a homemade fine nozzle so water comes out slowly. I saturate the surface, allowing the water to run through quickly. The Turface and bark absorb enough water as it passes through the soil. I let the effluent in the collection saucer evaporate because my pots are raised above the effluent & there is no way for flushed salts to get back into the container.

Hi there, Weirdflowers! Welcome!

Technically, the gritty mix is better for annuals, too; but the 5:1:1 mix does almost as well, so I use that for short term plantings - like annual mixed plantings & veggies. Because the gritty mix is more durable, has even better aeration, and if made correctly - very little or no perched water, I use that for long term plantings. The rule of thumb I've established for myself is, if it's a 1-2 year planting, it's usually the 5:1:1 mix; 2 years or longer and it's the gritty mix.

That isn't to say that the 5:1:1 mix isn't serviceable for a longer time frame; it outlasts peat/compost-based soils many times over. Pine bark breaks down at about 1/4-1/5 the rate of peat & coir, even slower compared to compost. When you factor in the bark's larger size, it's not unreasonable to think that 7-10 times the serviceable life of other soils based on finer particulates would be closer to the norm. Normally, the point is rendered moot because the planting usually becomes extremely root bound and a repot needed before the soil sees the end of its serviceable life.

The question about a good substitute for peat requires a contextual answer. As a small fraction of container media, you can substitute coir, compost, rockwool, ground pine bark, vermiculite ...... When you get into substituting for peat in larger fractions, then chemistry plays a more significant role (pH, chemical composition of the substitutes ....).

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Hello, Al!

Soussan, do you pre-water the mix before fertilizing?
I do a pre-watering, a fertigating, then a light post-watering that rinses the solution off of
any leaves that I might have splashed in the process.

You don't want your plants to sit/soak in the effluent from the fertigation.
Rather, try a very fine watering tip (as Al mentioned) and fertigate slowly and thoroughly.
Also, try the pre-watering technique and see if that saturates the mix better.


Josh


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Al, thanks for the detailed post. My mention of 9 3 6 was because in your last post you asked if that was what I had used.

Josh, thanks for your input. I have not pre-watered as I thought the plants would be saturated and thus unable to absorb the fertilizer. A very silly question: what is fertigation? Also, where do I find a watering can with a very fine watering tip? Home Depot? Thanks again, both Al and Josh.

Soussan.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 19, 12 at 11:25

Fertigation is watering and fertilizing at the same time. It's a common term in the greenhouse industry, but we use it a lot here because many of us fertilize at low doses frequently; some, like me, every time they water.

I use a Dramm 2-Liter watering can. It comes with a fine rose nozzle, but I found that the tips we buy for caulking cartridges fit tightly over the end of the water outlet; and because they are tapered, I can cut them off to any diameter I choose to regulate the flow. If you want, I'll take a picture. Better yet - if you decide to buy one of the cans, I'll send you a couple of the homemade nozzles.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Again, Al, I thank you for all your kindness. Is Dramm the make of the watering can? So sorry to sound so clueless. Is it available at HD? Thanks for the offer of photo. It really would help.

Soussan.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 19, 12 at 21:26

You can do a quick search using the search words Dramm 2-Liter water to see what the watering can looks like. Here are the nozzles I made:

Tip not yet cut on this one
Photobucket

installed over end of spout
Photobucket

I doubt you'd find the watering cans in a big box store. Probably in a large store that catered to houseplant growers or maybe a greenhouse op that has a lot of accessory items. We had a salvage company in town that used to sell them, but they don't carry them any longer. ;-(

the narrow tips make it really easy to saturate the entire soil mass and reach back into hard to get to places.
Photobucket

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 23, 12 at 17:13

A question arose on another forum today about whether or not Scotts Premium (houseplant) Soil was a good soil. I think my reply might be a useful addition to this thread, so I think I'll add it:

At another forum site, I wrote the following because someone had asked if Scott's Premium Soil was a 'good' choice. You may find it of interest.

Is Soil X a Good Soil?

I think any discussion on this topic must largely center around the word "GOOD", and we can broaden the term 'good' so it also includes 'quality' or 'suitable', as in 'a quality or suitable soil'.

How do we determine if soil A or soil B is a good soil? and before we do that, we'd better decide if we are going to look at it from the plant's perspective or from the grower's perspective, because often there is a considerable amount of conflict to be found in the overlap - so much so that one can often be mutually exclusive of the other.

We know that grower A isn't happy unless he is squeezing every bit of potential from his plants, and grower Z isn't happy unless he can water his plants before leaving on a 2-week jaunt and still have a weeks worth of not having to water when he returns. Everyone else is somewhere between A and Z; with B, D, F, H, J, L, N, P, R, T, V, X, and Y either classically ignorant (it just means they're not aware there is a difference) or they understand but don't care.

I said all that to illustrate the futility in trying to establish any sort of standard as to what makes a good soil from the grower's perspective; but lets change our focus from the pointless to the possible.

We're only interested in the comparative degrees of good and better here. It would be presumptive to label any soil "best". 'Best I've found' or 'best I've used' CAN be useful for comparative purposes, but let's tackle 'good', then move on to 'better', and finally see what we can do about qualifying these descriptors so they can apply to all growers.

I would like to think that everyone would prefer to use a soil that can be described as 'good' from the plant's perspective. How do we determine what a plant wants? Surprisingly, we can use %s established by truly scientific studies that are widely accepted in the greenhouse and nursery trades to determine if a soil is good or not good - from the plant's perspective. Rather than use confusing numbers that mean nothing to the hobby grower, I can suggest that our standard for a good soil should be, at a minimum, that you can water that soil properly. That means, that at any time during the growth cycle, you can water your plantings to beyond the point of saturation (so excess water is draining from the pot) without the fear of root rot or compromised root function or metabolism due to (take your pick) too much water or too little air in the root zone.

I think it's very reasonable to withhold the comparative basic descriptor, 'GOOD', from soils that can't be watered properly without compromising root function, or worse. I also think anyone wishing to make the case from the plant's perspective that a soil that can't be watered to beyond saturation w/o compromising root health can be called 'good', is fighting UP logic hill.

So I contend that 'good' soils are soils we can water correctly, that is we can flush the soil when we water, without concern for compromising root health/function/metabolism/. If you ask yourself, "Can I water correctly if I use this soil?" and the answer is 'NO' ... it's not a good soil ... for the reasons stated above.

Can you water correctly using most of the bagged soils readily available? 'NO' I don't think I need to point to a conclusion.

What about 'BETTER'? Can we determine what might make a better soil? Yes, we can. If we start with a soil that meets the minimum standard of 'good', and improve either the physical and/or chemical properties of that soil, or make it last longer, then we have 'better'. Even if we cannot agree on how low we wish to set the bar for what constitutes 'good', we should be able to agree that any soil that reduces excess water retention, increases aeration, ensures increased potential for optimal root health, and lasts longer than soils that only meet some one's individual (and arbitrary) standard of 'good', is a 'better' soil.

All houseplants, unless grown from seed, have the genetic potential to be beautiful specimens. It's easy to say, and easy to see the absolute truth in the idea that if you give a plant everything it wants it will flourish and grow; after all, plants are programmed to grow just that way. Our growing skills are defined by our ability to give plants what they want. The better we are at it, the better our plants will grow. But we all know it's not that easy. Lifetimes are spent in careful study trying to determine just exactly what it is that plants want, to make them grow best.

Since this is a soil discussion, let's see what the plant wants from its soil. The plant wants a soil that contains in available form all the essential nutrients, in the ratio in at which the plant uses them, at a concentration high enough to prevent deficiencies yet low enough to make it easy to take up water (and the nutrients dissolved in the water). First and foremost, the plant wants a container soil that is evenly damp, not wet. Giving a plant what it wants, to flourish and grow, doesn't include a soil that is half soggy for a week before aeration returns to the entire soil mass, even if you only water in small sips. Plants might do 'ok' in some soils, but to actually flourish, like they are genetically programmed to do, they would need to be unencumbered by wet, soggy soils.

We become better growers by improving our ability to reduce the effects of or eliminate limiting factors, by clearing out those things that stand in the way of the plant reaching its genetic potential. Even if we are able to make every other factor that influences plant growth absolutely perfect, it could not make up for a substandard soil. For a plant to grow to its potential, every factor has to be perfect, including the soil. We'll never manage it, but the good news is that as we get closer, our plants will get better and better. It's that one little factor that we willingly or unwittingly overlook that limits us in our ability and our plants in their potential.

A 2-bit plant in a $10 soil has a future full of potential, where a $10 plant in a 2-bit soil has only a future filled with limitations. ~ Al

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

All houseplants, unless grown from seed, have the genetic potential to be beautiful specimens.

Off topic here, Al, but why the qualifier for "grown from seed..." Is this a distinction between hybrid and non-hybrid plants? I don't grow a lot of houseplants, but this inspired my curiosity.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jan 24, 12 at 8:13

Many seeds have genetic mutations that predispose them to disadvantages that affect survival, vigor, appearance ...... Could you imagine what the earth would look like if every seed that was produced sprouted and grew to the species potential insofar as genetic vigor goes? Most houseplants are clones of plants selected for specific genetic traits. Clones, having the same genetic material as the parent material, share the same potential for growth, vitality, resistance to disease/insects ..... Since we know that when the plants left the greenhouse, they were more or less perfect, we can be sure of their potential. With seeds - NOT so sure - thus the qualifier.

This isn't to toot my own horn, but you can generally tell who knows what they are talking about by how they treat their absolute and close to absolute statements. They know how and when to use terms like many, most, almost all .... because they understand that what they are about to tell you may not apply to all plants. Some things ARE absolutes, and they aren't afraid to use them (all, every, never, always, none/no .....), but to save themselves from a lot of time spent arguing for having used an absolute, they use a lot of qualifiers.

I knew that if I said, "All houseplants have the genetic potential to be beautiful specimens", I would be wrong. I added the qualifier to make myself closer to absolutely correct, and in the hope someone would notice and ask so I could run on some more. ;-) When we are trying to help others, credibility is a very important asset. That (qualifying) is one of the ways I try to guard my own, another is trying never to operate at beyond the limits of my knowledge.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Well said, Al. Thanks for the reply.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

I have only just discovered the amazing Al's mixes threads on GW. I was already using something similar to the gritty mix for my small (and until recently, neglected) bonsai collection. In a few weeks, I will also use my mix when I harvest quite a few landscape plants to begin the conversion to bonsai. I plan to completely leave bagged soils and peat behind, even for the herbs we grow every year. As I embark on a lot of planting and replanting, I hope someone can help me fine-tune my approach. So I could use some clarification on the purpose of granite grit and using the mix for annuals (herbs) from seed.

I have been using Turface-type material and screened pine bark for a while. I found a local source for Turface MVP ($10 per 50#) just recently. In many years of looking, I have never found a reliable commercial source of pine bark fines. I have access to the slash pile of a small clearcut which gives me as much screened pine bark as I am willing to make myself. I screen to 1-4" to 1/8" and soak and rinse to remove sand and critters.

What is the role of the granite grit in the mix? Is that to create volume with less water retention than the Turface, so the mix dries out more quickly or the PWL is lower? I haven't been using any non-retentive material in my soils.

Why the gypsum? Is that just to buffer the pH?

How can gritty mix be used for herbs? Does it require starting from seed in a fine soil (peaty) and then transplanting, or does anyone actually start their seeds in the mix?

Thanks.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jan 24, 12 at 14:38

As a bonsai failure in my first attempt, I started to study, concentrating on soil science and physiology, primarily. Before I knew HOW, I decided the properties a good soil should have, then I worked toward trying to build those properties into the soils. One of the properties I found desirable was adjustability. I discovered that with just Turface & bark, I needed to add more bark than would allow me to guard against soil collapse, so I came up with crushed granite. I actually discovered it placed on top of a piece of cardboard in a miniature conifer assortment from Iseli's. Since it was white, I presumed it was to reflect light onto the lower foliage and help keep the soil cool. I never asked them why they mulched with it, only where they got it. Then, I started searching for a source, and found several.

As simple as the gritty mix is, there is a LOT of thought that went into it. The bark is kept at a fraction 1/3 or less, and the grit and Turface make up the remainder in a ratio that can be varied to adjust water retention. The soil is designed and screened so almost all the water is held INSIDE of soil particles. This makes the entire soil mass a healthy place for roots, regardless of container depth and when last watered. There is a lot more, but those are some highlights.

Gypsum is used as a Ca source when you're using a fertilizer that doesn't have Ca. If the fertilizer doesn't have MG, I suggest you also include a small amount of Epsom salts in the fertilizer solution when you fertilize. Many of us have simply started using Foliage-Pro fertilizer, which has both Ca and Mg, as well as all the other nutrients essential to normal growth. This allows you to set aside concern for supplying Ca/Mg through the gypsum & Epsom salts.

I regularly use the gritty mix to start seeds & cuttings. Usually though, I'll cover seeds with a thin layer of peat or Turface fines.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

I've got to ask a question and I feel stupid for asking it. As I understand, one of the purposes of the 5-1-1 is to lower the perched water table as well as to have a better draining soil. However, I'm coming to the conclusion that you shouldn't use the 5-1-1 in a self watering container because of the perched water table being lower. In other words, does a well draining soil cancel out the benefits of a self-watering container?
Anyway, if someone can get me straight, I'd appreciate it.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 25, 12 at 17:42

I think the potential for best growth can be had in containers watered regularly from the top, but there is a lot to be said for the convenience of SWCs.

Physically, a soil has to be very water retentive to wick water high enough to wet the entire soil mass. That is why SWCs so often employ a vapor barrier atop the soil. You can use a coarser soil with the vapor barrier because water vapor condenses on the barrier & drips down to wet the top of the soil. In general, container soils that wick water high enough to wet the entire soil mass are too water-retentive to offer best growth/vitality .... and soluble salt accumulation can also be an issue in any SWC because it's essentially a closed system with no way out for the salts that go in, except into the plant. A high TDS/EC (salt) level becomes more likely as the planting matures

If you use a variation of the 5:1:1 mix in a SWC, you'll need to increase the peat fraction to something like 5:3:1, but in the end it depends on how fine the bark fraction is.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Thanks for clarifying that Al. For now I'll stick with watering the regular way and I'll see how it goes this year. Looking forward to trying the 5-1-1 and hopefully a bigger harvest.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 25, 12 at 20:24

We're ALL pulling for you!

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Regarding Al's mixes: in Europe where I live two types of Sphagnum peat are being sold (usually mixed together) - 'white peat' and 'black peat'. One is harvested from the top layers of peat and is less decomposed (white) and the other is from the deeper layers, more decomposed (" H5 - H7 according to Von Post scale"). I'm confused because black/white peat is not being mentioned at all in the discussions here. Which one should I use for Al's mixes?

p.s. Thank you Al and the others for your time and patience in helping everyone here :)


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 26, 12 at 17:02

What we use would probably be right in that H5-H7 classification. We usually refer to H1 and H2 as sphagnum moss ..... maybe sometimes H3, too. Product mined from the lower strata that we would be using are more degraded and usually referred to as sphagnum peat. We most often use sphagnum moss in air layers, but often as a pick-me-up (tonic) for roots of stressed plants, too.

So glad to see a European visitor! Welcome! ..... and thank you for the kind words.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Al, what would H10 peat be used for, all I know about it is that it is pretty much muck and won't decompose any more. Can you buy it in the US? What are its uses?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 26, 12 at 18:00

..... don't know. I know the lower grades of peat are high in salts & inappropriate for most Ag applications. It's probably used as fuel (I know some European power plants are (were?) fueled by low grade peat) or treated as a waste product. It might be used for humification of highly leachable soils, but don't rely too much on anything I said - I'm mainly making only partially educated guesses.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

That would make sense, if they can burn lignite they can burn that stuff. That might be the step below lignite, I didn't even think of that.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Al, I was very happy to have had the issue resolved with your speedy and to the point answer, but then I stumbled upon your post I linked to below. Now I'm confused again :( " It's light to medium brown in color, is formed primarily from Sphagnum moss, and is the least decomposed of the general categories of peat." - this seems to describe what's called 'white peat' here - less decomposed, light in color, not 'black peat' which is in H5-H7 range. I'm sorry if I'm nitpicking, but I'm new at this and I'm trying to get my facts right. I used to grow a garden with my dad when I was a kid and enjoyed it thoroughly, I finally have a chance to do it again and I really really want it to work :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Peat vs. Peat moss-is there a difference??


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jan 28, 12 at 10:00

I'm sorry - I think I misread her question.

Most of our peat is broken down into unrecognizable particles and quite fine - cocoa brown in color when dry.

Al


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Someone needs your advice

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jan 28, 12 at 10:06

Hey guys!

If anyone would like to encourage a newbie over on the houseplants forum who is trying to decide whether to use a well-aerated mix or a bagged soil, or to offer your thoughts, you'll find the thread at the link below.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: Someone needs your advice .....


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

hello posters : ) its Dr. Tecnico , saying hello to all here, here is a link to a video , that all interested to see what basic compacted soil can look like after sometime even with proper watering , the plant in general can look ok but when you search the roots and the underneath of the soil you can see a diferent world : ( , could have also given the link to my post on this topic , but it disapperared : O , misteriously : O , with no trace : ( , lol , but no problem ; ) , Dr. Tecnico gonna fix that up when the ingredients arrive and show my transformed peace lily : ) in Al's 5-1-1 mix , hope you enyoy the video oh and by the way pay attention to the bugs and insects thriving inside that soil , : O yikesssss lol , happy gardening to all ; )

Here is a link that might be useful: peace lily in basic soil


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Feb 3, 12 at 20:22

Thanks, Conrado. I don't know what you'd been working on when you tried to post your latest thoughts on your thread, but I'm sure it would have been interesting.

Take good care.

Al


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hello Al, glad to see u , yes was really long post took 2 hours to round up all the facts and points , but well just posted my video so others can see the things that can happen to "basic un ammended soil " when soil is compacted by time and water gets in the base of the roots , by the way , on this "vacation" lol from my early retired post :p , i have taken time to see the forum and see the wow :O all the plants and beauty they can give when really treated well : )
and giving them "pent house " type soil-medium for them to thrive ; ) , have to state that at first did'nt understand your concept of the aireated mix , but as you kept explaining and i searched the facts and concepts , it was more clear and reasonable : ) , that plants in well drained and well aireated soil-mediums can do there best : ) , thanks for making clear the concept.

Conrado


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Hey tecnico, so good to see you here! :-) And maybe it's a good thing that the other post disappeared...

I'm glad you found your way to Al's posts! *Learning* about container culture is what finally gave me the confidence to start growing houseplants again. Nothing like a little education!

In fact, my peace lily has gotten so lush that it's already outgrowing its container. I honestly think the air in my house is cleaner with all the new greenery.

But I must confess I didn't watch all 15 minutes of that video... ;-)


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hello ssmdgardner , thanks for the greeting : ) , yes indeed it sure makes sound this concept just waiting to get on hands with to see it in action FPV : ) , do you have pics of ur peace lily ??? could u post it here , dont if its appropiate : ( , but maybe it could help other posters see how a good root system makes plants flourish : ) , jeje well the video was edited by the way the whole process took around 35 min so imagine : P , next time will use a more danceable music jeje


Conrado


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Al sent u a message to your inbox


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

a friend of mines bought a sansiveria plant ( aka - snake plant / mother in law tounge ) and was wondering after buying it from the nursery if it could be planted in the 5-1-1 mix or the grity mix and if the soil that the plant comes with should be taken of ( rinsed - washed ) to use it in the mix or can it be left on ? dont know if taking it off would make any harm or stress on the plant or does with either of the mixes could it make a happy medium transition ?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Feb 4, 12 at 10:43

Yes, please bare-root the plant before transitioning it into a dissimilar soil. If you mix soil types, especially if they are radically different, one part of the soil will always be either too wet or too dry. Sans tolerate being bare-rooted very well - just make sure the plant gets no direct sun for at least 2 weeks after the repot.

Another thing you'll learn, if you stick around, is that our houseplants need regular repotting, which is different than simply potting up into a larger pot. Repotting includes removing the old soil and pruning off many large roots that serve no purpose other than to act as conduits.

Some people are not motivated to see that their offerings create more light than heat. They will ignore or obfuscate all facts and reason in an attempt to justify their own needs, forgetting about yours entirely in their quest to avenge some wrong they perceive as having been done to them. I'm sorry you got caught in the middle of that.

Thanks for the kind words, SS - much appreciated!

Al


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got pic of the peace lily

thanks Al : )

SS, do you have pics of your peace lily that you can post ?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Hi Tenico,

Just wanted to say that im glad your posting again!!!

I did receive your email and ill get back to you about the Plumeria in PR. You had asked about my time in PR. Just a thought brings to mind...Luquillo Beach and El Yunque are some of my favorite places. I was there at the lost falls before they were discovered before the tourist had a trail marked to get there!! Long ago.. LOL!!! : )

That is where i fell for the "Coqui" frogs...love those little guys!!!

You live in a beautiful place and im sure all of your plants and trees will flourish with the wonderful mixes that you are exploring...

I wish you all the best and i will follow up in your request!!!

So i want to get back on the OP and say that you will have much success with this mix and im excited to hear how your plants will love this concept. Keep up the enthusiam!! Its quite contagious!! : )

All the best to you!!!

Laura


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

thanks laura how good to see u : ) , and yes will be waiting for your mail on the plumeria's : ) , you know what ? : ) i've been reading a lot and have many projects in the ink bottle , this hooby looks promising : ) and yessss it contagious i looked at your plumerias and i want them , looked at marquest rubber tree and i want them , looked at someones citrus trees ( dont remeber who it was ; P ) and also want them inclusiveeee saw some orchird of josh ???? ( a lot of people so dont know it was his : P ) and also want themmmmmm , you guys and gals, are gonna make me invest in manyyy plantssss lol , but thats the point of planting , seeing how to make the best of plants in the best ways , take care laura : )

Conrado - Dr. Tecnico


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

found this at autozone -auto parts store ; read somewhere on the forums that "dry floor" could be used in place of perlite or turface , until now perlite is being dificult to find in small bags other than the MG :( , havent searched for turface but will : ) , so took a pic of the ingredient on bag , could this be useful as a replacement for perlite or turface ?

its a "dry-floor" small rock type absorbent ,sold in a BIG 8 lbs bag for only 2.90 , so what you think about it ? by the way read that SILICA warning : O , is it dangerous to use ????? for or the plants : O ???? if so well then will keep looking for another substitute , thanks : )

Photobucket


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Feb 5, 12 at 22:22

..... not dangerous to the plants, but you do want to avoid breathing in the dust, as you would any other dust from dry soil ingredients. Size is important for the gritty mix. Ideally, you would want a product that is stable and in the 2.5 - 5 mm size range.

Because it is internally porous, it would be a close replacement for Turface, but holds much more water that perlite, which only holds water on its surface.

Al


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

hello Al , how ya doing : ) ? so in that case turface or perlite would be the right way to go right ? i still have more places to keep looking either the perlite or the turface , so i should keep on looking right : ) ? and by the way talking about searching should i look for a smaller pot for my yet to be "operated" PL , cause the pot acording to some where i read , should be a 1 or 2 inch bigger than the roots , so upon dividing the PL the roots will be small for that big pot it is in now , by the way what is the correct way to measure the pots , have read about 5 inch - 8 inch , etc etc , is that the height , how do i know which size is my pot ????


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Al, check your inbox sent u a message about the fertilizers

by the way Al , i sent you a message about the fertilizers , in your inbox ; )

Conrado


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Well,
yesterday I attempted to make my first batch of 5-1-1 but I am not sure I did it right. I used these ingredients:
http://www.lowes.com/pd_92118-66882-92118_0__?productId=1112345&Ntt=pine+mulch&pl=1¤tURL=/pl__0__s%3FNtt%3Dpine%2Bmulch&facetInfo=

http://www.lowes.com/pd_156581-446-74278300_0__?catalogId=10051&productId=1036853&UserSearch=perlite&Ntt=perlite&N=0&langId=-1&storeId=10151&rpp=24

http://www.lowes.com/pd_328590-10799-1310502_0__?productId=3319756&Ntt=peat+moss&pl=1¤tURL=/pl__0__s%3FNtt%3Dpeat%2Bmoss&facetInfo=

and a some dolomite garden lime for which I cannot find a link for, but it was real powdery.

My formula was roughly 7 gallons of Pine bark, 1.3 gallons each of perlite and peat moss, and about 9 tablespoons of garden lime.

I mixed it all up and planted some mustard seeds in it, but I have this feeling that I goobered this up by using pine mulch and not pine fines. Did I use the right stuff?


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Skycopp, I'm also in MD. I can help you find all the ingredients. Are you closer to Baltimore or DC?

I just recently learned (I think yesterday) that there are different grades of perlite. The kind I get is very coarse, but from what I understand, MG perlite tends to be very powdery.

Your peat moss looks ok, but you might not have needed that lime. See how your peat moss package says it's enhanced? Sometimes they already have the lime included to adjust the ph. Al can probably give you a better answer about the lime.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

I'm actually in the Gaithersburg and Rockville area.

Thanks for your comments, this was a test batch before I really started to get going with my tomatoes and peppers.


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local nursery

The best bark fines I've found are at Behnke's Nursery. They have a huge garden center in Beltsville and a smaller one near you in Potomac.

Just ask for "pine bark fines." You'll notice immediately that the texture is totally different from "pine mulch."

They also carry Espoma perlite, which has a nice coarse texture

I actually get my peat moss in huge bags at HD or Lowes.

Al recommends that you screen the ingredients. I've never planted seeds in the 5:1:1 mix, but I imagine this screening process is particularly important for seeds, as you don't want them to fall through coarse pieces of bark and fall to the bottom. (I'm hoping someone with more experience will chime in here.)


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Thank you for the tips!!
I didn't even know about Behnke's. I have a Meadows Farms Nursery (http://meadowsfarms.com/Home.aspx) just down the road, but they are closed until March. If Behnkes is open, I will have to stop in and get those items you mentioned. Hopefully the prices are not too high as compared to Lowes, because I'm really needing enough to fill ~50 containers.


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RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

Glad to help! Behnkes is most definitely open.

I've been to both nurseries, and IMHO, there is no comparison :-)

Pine bark fines are definitely more expensive than regular pine mulch. I'd say probably twice as expensive, but well worth it.

I'm still hoping someone else chimes in with specific advice about starting seeds in the 5:1:1 mix.


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