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Problem with Gritty Mix

Posted by CJ-Speciosa none (My Page) on
Thu, Apr 25, 13 at 14:27

I've recently poured through many of Al's posts in regards to the proper soil structures and have since transplanted many of my house plants into his "gritty mix." It's been a few weeks thus far and I've noticed a bit of a problem. This stuff drains so fast and drys up so quick that by the time I have to water again, I still have a tray full of water underneath the plant that I now have to get rid of.

If this is the way it's supposed to be, it seems like a bunch of unnecessary work, especially seeing as they were all thriving to begin with.

Should I not water as much when I do water?

I understand the purpose of this soil type, and it works great for that, but if I'm gonna have to go around dumping trays of water out before each watering, I'm thinking of going back to potting soil......

Any thoughts?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

Not sure why you repotted plants that were doing fine? Not that there's anything wrong with that, I try to do that as well and often advise others to do so as well, but in anticipation that the organic stuff in the pot has broken down and if not done soon the plant will start to become unhealthy, and/or roots have filled a pot. You may have had these motivations also, but just didn't mention them.

I don't use drip saucers because that bit of standing water seems to make a huge difference, whether it's there (bad) or not (good) regardless of what soil is in the pots, which is a vast array of "stuff" at any given point in time. As a serial over-waterer, it was the only way I could kick the habit, so runoff is fine, watering is done at kitchen sink. I might have some coasters, but no drip trays.

When any mix drains instantly and doesn't wick water upwards, it's necessary to put much more water than the plant needs to soak the width/all areas of the pot. It is impossible with something like this to just water in one spot. Either of these factors can be a hardship for some people.

Only you can make that call for you.

Not that I'm impugning your judgment or anything like that, but as an objective observer, I'm also curious at the point where you created the mix, to confirm that it accurately represents the name.

My comments are pretty vague because I've not concocted this recipe myself, and have just one plant in anything close to it for less than a year, but that and my other pots do drain instantly in general, until "my" mix starts to age and decompose.


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

Thanks for the reply.

"Not that I'm impugning your judgment or anything like that, but as an objective observer, I'm also curious at the point where you created the mix, to confirm that it accurately represents the name."

You're gonna have to clarify what you meant by that statement in order for me to give you a response......


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

Um, sorry, I was trying to think of a polite, kinder, gentler way to ask if you are sure you created the same thing as "the creator," without being offensive? Because I really don't want to do that, just trying to make sure you're talking about apples'n'apples, not apples'n'oranges. I don't know how different it would need to be, to be a factor, or in what way, just trying to help the discussion start at the beginning.


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

I see. Well when I say Al's Gritty Mix, I mean Als Gritty Mix. Don't take that as me being snippy, just I don't know how else to break it down into more then the actual words.....?? I didn't think it could mean anything else as it's a pretty specific type of soil with very specific ingredients.

So....yes....it's the real deal. I have the headache of tracking down all of the ingredients to prove it.


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

I have two Dracaena Warnecki planted in this mix and also a sansevieria. I figured these two needed more drainage and more dryness then my others.


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

I believe you, not at all snippy. Thanks for appreciating the spirit in which it was asked.

Is the tiny layer of water in the saucer of such a well-drained/aerated mix is causing the plants problems? Not sure why you wait until it's time to water again to empty them. I gave up drip saucers before going to extremely chunky, instantly-draining mixes, so I really don't know. Doesn't seem like it would trouble many plants though, if it really is just a shallow film of water. Roots don't congregate in a spiral down there nearly as much when the mix has a lot more air in it, and it doesn't sound like your plants have been in their new pots long enough to have this happen yet.

The part about tracking down the ingredients is a reason I've not made the attempt. Not that I couldn't but readily admit I'm also a cheapskate and pretty darn lazy... not a good combo for accomplishing that which requires out-of-the-ordinary effort, or expense to fix something that's OK (as you said your plants were.) Not that I think most, if not all, of my plants wouldn't be fabulously happy with it, or that anybody shouldn't try it.

I think you're not enjoying the difference caused by the general principle, that it drains instantly, really must be copiously watered/doesn't wick up or sideways. Does that accurately reflect your feelings? If that's the case, I guess you'd have these choices... to alter something about how/when/where you water, to devise an alteration to what you've got now to better suit your usual routines, or completely revert to what you had before.


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

I repotted my three ficus elastica's with the gritty mix. It was done with very expensive small pine bark I noticed the same issue with water just seeming to go right through the pot and out the bottom. I'd have to water about every 2-3 days just to keep the plants properly hydrated and if I didn't they'd go really limp. Also knowing when to water was a little more tricky then with regular soil.

After about 3 weeks the plants that I had repotted were still feeling quite limp. To the eye they looked great but as soon as I touched them I could feel that they just didn't have the strength and 'bounce back' that they used to. I repotted back in 1:1 mix of potting soil and perlite and a day after the plants where more resiliant and less limp then they ever had been with the gritty mix.

I'm not saying I did the gritty mix perfectly, because perhaps I didn't, but these are my results.


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

I can't use the gritty mix indoors for various reasons, but mainly it's too much work, too messy for my carpets, etc.
I see how it could be great for outdoor containers on auto-watering. but indoors - no way jose. not for me.
so I sit and chuckle here... what else did you expect, speciosa? performs just like it says it would.... drip-drip... puddle...
I do suggest you elevate the pot on smth - so if you don't drain the saucer (and who wants to do it ?? ), the bottom of the pot is elevated and drains properly. another suggestion is in addition to elevating, put aquarium pebbles/grit into the saucer - that way you'll raise the humidity AND increase evaporation too . the water will be gone in no time at all. win-win for all.


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

Don't know what I expected to be honest. I was completely blinded by letting my plant be all it could genetically be.....lol. But damn....I have a life to live....

Not saying that to mean any disrespect at all.....just that I didn't realize what that would actually entail until I repotted with that mix.

It certainly does work great though. Thanks for the suggestions. Would sitting the pot on the saucer filled with stones be enough height for the pot or should I sit it up higher on something else? If so, any suggestions there Petrushka. (You Russian by chance?)


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

Was gonna repot this beauty.......glad I didn't.


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

I firmly believe we have to use what medium works best for us, and our lifestyles and particular situations. So what is best for someone who has more time to water, may not be best for those whose time is limited. We all love our plants, but we can't all devote as much time as some others can to them, in which case, gritty mix may not be the best choice for every situation. That being said, the few small succulents I have in gritty mix are all doing well.

Christopher.


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

here goes maranta again - loves it! yep, i am russian.
IF your pot is not heavy, you can set it on pebbles. if it's heavy and saucer is large, what I do (to save on pebbles) is turn the small clay saucer upside down and put the pot on that, surrounded by pebbles. the water drains underneath and into pebbles.
love the burgundy walls! sure is a nice back-drop for the plants!


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Apr 25, 13 at 22:54

What mediums work best for us may not work best for our plants. What mediums work best for our plants may not work as well for us as we would prefer. If you choose a mix that works the best for YOU, that's fine, and there is nothing more to say about it.

The gritty mix, made properly, is designed to hold a good amount of water - all of it inside the soil particles, leaving all the spaces between the particles filled with air (no perched water). Additionally, the gritty mix is adjustable for water retention by varying the ratio of Turface:grit. I've been growing in the gritty mix for over 20 years, and experimenting with soils for longer than that. The gritty mix is the most productive soil in terms of growth rate and o/a plant vitality I've ever used, and many others voice a similar opinion.

If you're having a problem with it, you can most probably attribute the reason to a new grower's unfamiliarity with it, repotting at a less than favorable time (now), or to the fact that it was made with ingredients that don't allow you to take from the soil what it's capable of offering. Perhaps the repotting wasn't handled well and the plant needs time to recover from the loss of roots that might have been damaged or dried out. Those are legitimate considerations, and things that need to be said. It makes no difference to me if someone chooses to change directions after traveling a path toward the gritty mix, but if they do, it's not because the mix isn't perfectly capable of producing wonderfully healthy plants, plant after plant. It can and will, because I've been doing it for years, as have others.

If you know a little something about soils, you'll have the ability to conceptualize what a perfect soil would be, so set your imaginations free. A perfect soil would anchor the plant, wouldn't hold perched water to inhibit root function, but would hold enough water to keep plants healthy for several days. It would have a considerable amount of air porosity at container capacity (when fully saturated), and be reasonably capable of retaining nutrients on colloidal surfaces. Try to picture a soil that would be better than that in your mind's eye and then share, if you come up with a better sounding concept.

Yes, there is an adjustment period associated with using the gritty mix, and you need to water more frequently than you do with water-retentive soils - especially immediately after a full repot. The fact is though, water-retentive soils that allow you to go a week or more between waterings offer that convenience at the expense of root health/function, unless you're very skillful at both watering and knowing how to ensure salts don't build up and fertilizer ratios don't get skewed. There is no judgment in that statement - it's a simple fact. If you need or want the 1-3 week intervals between waterings, you HAVE to use a water-retentive soil, and you have to accept the limitations they come with. People have been compromising in that regard for years, and I'm sure that won't change any time soon; but for those growers who WANT to ensure their plants have the opportunity to grow as close as possible to their genetic potential, they'll HAVE to use a soil that doesn't have inherent limitations related to drainage and aeration.

As I said, I don't really care what people choose to grow in, but I do care about seeing that there is enough perspective to keep those that want to get the most from their plants from avoiding what can be a very good choice from the plant's perspective. I have all my houseplants in the gritty mix, as well as all my bonsai, and I wouldn't even consider using a soil that allows a week or more between waterings as long as I'm able to make my own soils. YMMV, and that's fine.

Al

This post was edited by tapla on Fri, Apr 26, 13 at 7:37


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

Okay...okay....I should have been more clear. The subject line should have read "I have a problem with the gritty mix." Not what it currently reads.

Al: I love and appreciate all of the time and great advice you pour out into this forum for people like me who love to plant and garden. So much so that after reading ALL of your posts on soil and water movement, I went on a wild goose chase tracking down all of the necessary ingredients to make the mix in the first place.

Again, I don't mean there is a problem with the mix itself. I was just stating that I was having a problem with it. Big difference and I apologize for the confusion.

I just wasn't prepared for the extra work. If all of your house plants are in the gritty mix, how do you water? Do you bring all of your plants to the kitchen sink???


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

I do that, except those that are too heavy, the other part of the reason it's so exciting when they go outside (besides the plants like it better and have more space for me to see them better.) This discussion has some ideas about watering well-draining plants that might work for you, mid-way between walking everybody to a sink and drip trays. The saving grace is that excess water will exit a well-drained pot within a minute or two, especially if tilted, then you don't have to worry that excess water will buildup in a saucer. A soggy mass of peat can drip for hours, then continue to remain too moist for days.

Taking your plants outside soon? You may decide you like it enough to make the adjustments inside, after living with it for summer, if you have time to water more often when not worried about making a mess inside.

For me, the positives are worth it. As an admitted serial over-waterer, I love being able to go ahead and water if I can't control my urges, no need to lift and poke every plant to gauge its' moisture condition. Plants not only don't die, but grow better, look better, yellow tips a rarity when pots regularly have water flowing through, not just added until moist. If you weren't having problems with overwatering before, that's great, but "reading between the lines," I think you were, maybe not admitting it to yourself even. Water in drip saucers is the classic main symptom. I see it as an illness most plant-o-philes have, not a character flaw.

I knew what you meant, and I think everyone would like to tweak the title of a discussion or two, no problem.


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

I've decided to take the ones in the gritty mix outside and use it like it should be used, so to speak. I'm sure in this environment I will absolutely love it. If it makes as much of a difference as it'stated to, then I will probably just adjust my watering to cater to them once they're inside.

We shall see.....


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 26, 13 at 13:57

I grow about 150 plants indoors during the winter and cool months only, most of them small tropical trees/houseplants/succulents. They all get watered in place with a watering can on which I've fashioned an extended spout. I use plastic dinner-size plates as collection saucers, with the plants raised above the effluent that collects in the saucers by resting the pots on short pieces of plastic c-channel. I water almost everything every 4 days, all winter long, including the succulents. Some plants need the water after 4 days (small pots/big plants), and some don't, but because the mix doesn't hold perched water, there is no harm in watering those plants that might have gone a few more days before watering was necessary.

My reply upthread was a general reply, and meant to put things in perspective for anyone following the thread. I'm all about helping people get the most from their growing experience, and the gritty mix will go a very long way toward that end; so it's important to me that readers understand that a grower's problem with the gritty mix doesn't lie in the potential the mix offers, it lies in something the grower has done, is doing, or might not be doing. The potential is there ..... you just might need help fine tuning how you're approaching the transition.

If you do take your plants outdoors, be sure to move them into shade for several days to acclimate to the brighter light before you move anything into full sun.

Best luck!

Al


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

Do you have to go around emptying all of the saucers or does the water evaporate before your next watering?


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

What type of device are you using for watering your plants in the winter months?

Just a bit curious

Mike:-)


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

Hello Everyone,

CJ... I can understand how you are questioning why the Gritty Mix drains so quickly and wonder why you have so much water in your trays... The Gritty Mix is a wonderful fast draining mix which I use on all of my Adeniums, C & S, tropicalls, bonsai and Plumeria. Using this particular mix comes with a learning curve when it comes to watering. Believe me...we all have been there!!! You are just at the adjustment stage on how and when to water.

When I first switched over to the Gritty MIx, I found that when I watered it went straight through the mix. what I didn't get at the time, was that I couldn't put as much water in the container as I was used to doing when I used a heavier ( water retentive) soil. When I water my plants , I water with a watering can as well. I don't stay on a container to long... I water slowly and cover the entire surface area of the container that is exposed on top. Then when I see the water start to come from the bottom of the container into the plate,saucer,tray..I stop and go to the next container. I use large rubber mats that I found at Tractor Supply Store and they work like a humidity tray. The water needs to be absorbed into the bark and Turface... So, if you water slowly it can be distributed more evenly this way then by watering quickly or in one particular spot in the container. When I finish with all of my containers, I go back thru and give them a little more water until I see more draining from the bottom. Remember, I am watering slowly.. So it doesn't fill up the saucer or whatever you are using to fast. Lifting the container can be done by adding bottle caps under the container ( I use water bottle caps that I collect) four per container. This lifts the container up and away from the water. You can by plastic trays from the grocery store ( red solo....). ;-). I use these under my containers if I don't have enough room on my trays. I can't take all of my plants to the sink because I have way to many... But some do get that special attention. ( orchids). Thes rubber trays act like humidity trays as well as the water in the plates. The water evaporates in a few days...

You obviously wanted to make this great mix for your plants to give them the best...now you just have to adjust your hand when you water to compliment the mix in helping the plant grow to its greatest potential . You have given you time to make the mix and you have read about how it works and why...

Watering with the Gritty Mix can be a little challenging in the beginning, but once you get the feel of how to water with a light hand you will understand how much water to give to your plants and how often. Remember.. To use the wooden skewers if you are unsure of how much moisture is in your containers.

Once you place your containers outside for the summer, you will love taking the hose with the appropriate water attachment ( shower gauge) to water your containers. I still water my trees and then comeback and water again on the way back around the deck. The plants just love this and you can see what is going on with all of your trees this way too !

When I fertilize with Foliage Pro, I wet the soil in each container and then go back with the watering can with the fertilizer and give them their nutrition !

I hope this helps a little.. Don't get discouraged when you have done all of this work. The Gritty Mix is the best I have found and I don't want to see someone making an attempt and then be frustrated.

If I can help you .. Please let me know.

Take Care,

Laura

This post was edited by loveplants2 on Fri, Apr 26, 13 at 23:02


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 26, 13 at 21:44

Hi, Mike! Good to see you! I use a 2 L Dramm watering can with a spout I made
 photo watering003.jpg
that pretty much gives me pinpoint control over how much water goes where.

I never have to empty saucers - all the effluent evaporates during the intervals between watering - which contributes to the humidity levels in the growing area and reduces the amount of time humidifiers need to run to keep humidity around 50-55%.

Al


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

A bit curious,

...if you water a gritty mix by immersing the container in a bucket,is that better or worse than watering from the top?


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

What an ingenious idea Al! Good to see you too:-) Thank you for sharing.

At times I always wonder what others use since using the right watering devices can make all the difference in ones experience with the gritty mix.
My sister was using cups and my brother was using a water picture which was not a good choice until I showed them what I use. I use a watering can with a sprinkler attachment sold at most stores.

I would like to know what Cj uses too?
Cj, when using the right watering device, it can make all the difference for you.

I really think that choosing the right watering tool can make all the difference in how fast and how much water exits the bottom of our pots when using the gritty mix.
It does for me anyways:-)

Laura, I texted you last and not sure if you got my message after being sick for days. Hope you are well.

Mike


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 26, 13 at 22:21

If your focus is optimizing plant health, using a soil that allows watering from the top to the point where the soil is entirely saturated and at least 15-20% of the total volume of water applied exits the pot and has no means by which to find its way back into the soil is most effective for almost all plants. Immersion and allowing the soil to become saturated and subsequently drain is a fairly close alternative, but isn't quite as effective because it doesn't flush the soil quite as thoroughly as just watering from the top and allowing the soil to drain. It's also more work for a reduction in gain by comparison, and if you used the same water in which to immerse more than one plant, the gain would be reduced with each subsequent plant immersed in the same water.

I was surprised when I saw you address Laura. I should have looked further upthread, where I would have seen her contribution. Thanks, Laura. I water the same way you do, except I rarely take the time to water each plant twice, even though I know your way is better and I often describe exactly the manner of watering you described as the best way of watering containerized plantings.

Take good care. I hope all your plants are thriving (I know they are), and Mike's, too!

Al


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

Makes sense.

Thanks Al! :)


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

Laura: Thank you for the very well put response. It is much appreciated! I guess I am a little heavy handed and am certainly not spreading the water over the surface area of the mix as I should. This makes perfect sense.

Mike: I use a regular old watering can with a spout not unlike the one Al showed in the pic. After going through these threads, I'd actually prefer to get one with a shower type head on it to spread the water out and slow down the watering a bit.


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

Yes Cj! Try that....

You will be amazed at the difference when it comes to watering.
It leaves no dry spots as the water your pouring only wets the immediate area.
It will evenly distribute the water throughout and allow you to better gage how much comes out from the bottom.

Follow Al's advice about watering and get a few tips from Laura.
It is very important that a bit of water does run out from the bottom each time.
If you should decide to water just enough so that only a little bit starts to come out all winter, when you first get the chance come spring, give them all a good flush of fresh water.
I can tell you as explained that your plants will be a whole lot better off with good drainage and a lack of soluble salts in which finer heavier mixes harbor.
Beside we know that the more often you water giving the roots good gas exchange, the better off they will be.

Using the grittier and well aerated mixes that drain rapidly, don't allow fertilizer ratios to get skewed, or don't allow salt build up, is a personal choice for us for sure, but from a 'plants' perspective, it's a blessing from the reasons explained in Al's post.

Chris...Hello! Hope you have been well if you should see this:-)

Mike


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

Hello Everyone!

CJ... You are more than welcome! it will get easier as time passes and you understand how to lightly water . I have to chuckle at how I used to water, but I won't admit it now.. ;-). I have learned so much from everyone here on the forums and I know you will understand and feel good about all of your hard work into getting this mix working well for you, but most importantly for your plants! Keep up the good work and if you ever need anything... Please ask! ;-)

Mike has been a great teacher too! He has taught me many things and gives great advice.. ;-). The tip about the bottle caps came from YOU!!!

HI mike... I did text you.. Hope you are feeling better, my friend!!!!

Hi Al... I learned my ways of growing and watering from you and from your informative post. Thank you for the nice comments about my plants. They are all doing well now that the sunshine has finely decided to visit here in Virginia!!! Thank you for all that you do.... Have a great weekend! :-)

Hope you all have a wonderful day !!!

Hi Christopher.. I hope you all are warming up there in MA!!!

Take care,

Laura


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

I've finally come up with a solution I can live with! Al, remember when I was asking about this madness? Haha.

I grab a pot or large bucket and my watering can (thin nozzle) with whatever I put in it. I grab a pot, drizzle water in and let it do the massive outpouring over the bucket. When I really feel meticulous, I let the water collect in a bowl, pour that back into the pot, flow out to the bucket and do one final watering with fresh solution -- which adds a total of 15 seconds per plant.
Then I hold it sideways until the bulk of water drips out and place back in the saucer. Sure, more water does seep out but not enough to be touching the holes in the pot. I let that part be.

For the larger plants, I take to the sink and go to town.

For really small pots, I have a spray bottle with some FP in it, and I keep a pot in my lap while I watch television and spray each directly into the soil until water flows out of the bottom of those pots. It's really quite therapeutic, lol, even if I look ridiculous. Then I set aside on a tray, lining them all up to finish dripping, and once the show is over, I put them all back to their places. It takes all of 5-10 minutes once or twice a week.

Just my 2 cents. :-)

Grace


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 28, 13 at 13:18

I would discourage growers from pouring the effluent back through the soil for 2 reasons. First, the reason for flushing the soil is to get rid of the build-up of salts and keep the level of total dissolved solids in the solution about as low as it can be w/o there being any deficiencies. You're reintroducing the salts just flushed out, back into the soil. Second, the salts you're flushing out are the salts unused by the plant. If you use a fertilizer with a ratio that doesn't closely compliment the plant's actual usage, the ratio of nutrients in the soil can become badly skewed. By reintroducing the unused nutrients, you contribute to this skewing of the ratio of salts in the soil.

I think 5-10-5 is a popular houseplant fertilizer. Unfortunately, it provides more than 5X as much P as the plant can or will use. That means, if you don't flush the soil, the soil quickly becomes so full of P, that it A) makes it difficult to absorb all other nutrients via the fact it makes it more difficult for the plant to absorb water (high salt level), and B) because the level of P is so high, it causes SPECIFIC deficiencies of other nutrients because the P dominates (nearly) all the other ionic attachment sites (for nutrients) on soil particle surfaces.

Flushing the soil with a fresh charge of water or fertilizer solution 'resets' the ratio of nutrients in the soil solution to one that favors the plant. Fertilizer solution is cheap. I think I figured out that it costs me about 3 cents to make 5 gallons of solution when using Foliage-Pro 9-3-6. In that light, I think even the most frugal would have little issue with tossing the effluent on the lawn or garden.

All the best to you!

Al


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RE: Problem with Gritty Mix

Hi Laura, and Mike...saw this late.

We have had some days of 70's here, but still some cool nights...

Looking ahead to July.

Christopher


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